Assessing Occupy

Economic inequality returns to the discussion
Mark Naison
Mark Naison, a professor at Fordham University also known as the Notorious Ph.D., recently spoke to political and activist groups on the East End. Carrie Ann Salvi

    “If Dr. King were alive today, I firmly believe he would be an ‘Occupier,’ ” Mark Naison, a professor of African-American studies and history at Fordham University, said this week.
    Speaking during the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend at a meeting of Occupy the Hamptons on Sunday, and in subsequent interviews, Dr. Naison said the Occupy movement had brought the issues of economic inequality that Dr. King had raised to the forefront of political discourse.
    “We all have to follow Dr. King’s example, and be drum majors for justice,” he said, after the group watched a video of Dr. King’s “drum major” speech. Before he was gunned down, “Dr. King was supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis and on the verge of leading a poor people’s campaign, which bore more than a little resemblance to today’s Occupy movements,” Dr. Naison said.
    Dr. Naison has been an activist since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. An eight-year resident of Springs, he suggested that Occupy the Hamptons include music at its events and focus on problems of local residents, such as housing foreclosures, the needs of veterans, and hunger. He said the Springs School did not have an adequate lunch program.
    Asked whether the Occupy movement was going to grow, Dr. Naison said, “This is just the beginning. These are the leaders of tomorrow . . . the problems are deep . . . we as a society need to do something.” He noted that the civil rights movement, shich he called one of the most important movements in American history, had begun with a student sit-in.
     Dr. Naison, a frequent guest speaker, was interviewed on ABC television when Occupy Wall Street first occurred and said he is able to address both advocates and critics of the movement. The major issues today, he said, are unemployment and the unequal distribution of wealth.
    Dr. Naison has appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor,” the Discovery Channel’s “Greatest American Competition” (as Dr. King’s advocate), and on “The Dave Chappell Show” in a skit called “I Know Black People.” His videos can be seen online, including “The Palin Effect” and “Stimulate Me,” and he has written three books: “White Boy: A Memoir,” “Communists in Harlem During the Depression,” and “The Southern Tenants Farmers Union and the C.I.O.”  
    As a professor, Dr. Naison calls himself the Notorious Ph.D. His Fordham courses include “The Sixties: Years of Protest, Years of Change,” “The Worker in American Life,” and “From Rock and Roll to Hip-Hop.” He uses rap to connect with his students, he said.
    On Jan. 7, Dr. Naison was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Southampton Democratic Club at the Southampton Publick House. Ninety-seven people attended, of which 25 percent were first-time participants. “That percentage is a first,” Grania Brolin, one of the event organizers, reported in an e-mail.
Dr. Naison’s talk included statistics on economic inequality. He reported saying that the “Walmart C.E.O. makes $16,000 an hour while entry level workers make $6.50 an hour,” and that the income in New York of the 1 percent was now 44 percent of the total state income, up from 9 percent in the 1950s and ’60s.
 “In my opinion,” he said in an interview, “people thought trickle-down economics worked. Most people thought that the very wealthy were an essential source of jobs.” The Occupy movement is tapping into the anger and frustration of youth who can’t find jobs and are saddled with student loans, he said. “Their counterparts in other countries had been doing this for months prior.”
     With the housing market collapse and the economic crisis, “the whole rationale for trickle-down economics began collapsing like a house of cards,” he said.
Because of Occupy Wall Street, Dr. Naison said, “A damn burst and a new language to describe economic inequality took hold like wildfire, dominated by the image of the 1 percent and the 99 percent.” “Occupy” became a new metaphor. “The transformation has been nothing short of remarkable,” he said.
    “These young people who are protesting have found a way of forcing our society to deal with economic inequality in a way that scholars like myself have not been able to do. . . . The protesters are giving voice to a generation that is . . . no longer needed in this society even though they are educated and skilled. They are turning this into a reality that can’t be ignored.”
    Dr. Naison recently became a founding member of the Fordham University 99 Percent Club. He helped to write the organizing principles, which he said include disseminating accurate information about worldwide movements, providing support to local movements, taking action against economic inequality and threats to freedom of expression, and creating networks among supporters of the Occupy movement. He stressed that such clubs allow people to participate in a wide variety of protests.
    A post on his Facebook page says, “We need leaders among the people, not leaders of the people.” This week he said, “Nothing I have experienced in 40-plus years of activism, including my experience with the Occupy movement and the 99 Percent Clubs in the last six months, has convinced me this approach is wrong.”


Comments

Dr. Naison is just one of those thoroughly out-of-touch, likely drug-addled individuals of the Old Left, New Left, and the leftover Left, who had never left the sixties. Instead, the sixties had left him. A discredited sixties which produced 1.5 million dead Vietnamese, courtesy of John Kerry’s party’s hasty evacuation of US troops after the North Vietnamese had surrendered; a sixties which gave us widespread drug use, burning bras and burning flags, occupying Columbia University and others, and civil disobedience of a people who had no intention of giving to society, but just taking. The same for the Occupied Wall Streeters. The 1 percenters happen to have paid 37 percent of all income taxes, while those included in the clueless 99% that Naison represents happened to have paid nothing. About half of Americans pay no taxes at all. And the rest of us pay their bills….their FAIR SHARE. Accordingly, in Naisons world, they deserve everything they demand. More. They deserve everything for their mere existence. They always have a solution. Money. Yours, not theirs. And those who paid most of the taxes, upwards of 80% of all income tax, the 5% I speak of, deserve to be robbed blind because they are the innovators, achievers, and the American Exceptionals who not only provide the jobs, but almost everything else good in our society. I have not even mentioned the fact that the 1-5% pay for just about 90% of all charitable giving. Contrary to Naison’s description of the 99%ers, the fact is, they are economically clueless, overopinionated and undereducated, and they happen to have arrived on Wall Street for one express purpose: To Party. And to get laid. A celebration of the LCD’s (Lowest Common Denominators) culminating in something akin to a Renaissance Festival of incessant drum beating, drug taking, urinating and defecating on police cars, and all over the streets, making life impossible for those passing the Wall Street circus having made to step over fornicating strangers while sniffing the unbearable stench of a human sewer. Going about their business, they would have seen everything I had described. Sex is great and fun, and necessary, but Wall Street has another purpose for the greater social good for the real 99%: providing prosperity for MOST Americans through their own portfolios, government , unionized and state pensions, and mostly to investors who have historically grown all of the above to have made America into the better place where just about every people across the globe want to live. I don’t see Americans immigrating to all the great places where “social justice” exists and FREE health care is available: Cuba, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia. What I see is that people have been coming here for treatment and pay through the nose for it, from places where they can get the care for “free.” I say this: If America is so bad Dr. Naison and the Occupiers, unjust, miserable, cold-hearted and unkind, the door is open. Go! You disappearance will make America an even happier place. Andrew Benjamin
What is out of touch is your rhetoric, Mr. Benjamin. But since you think you've got your "facts" straight, let me enlighten you since your ignorance is Teutonic enough to respond. Not to mention your treasure-trove of Fox-News cliches that obviously help you sleep at night that need correcting. And since you didn't use paragraphs, I won't either, because if I can follow your diatribe, then you can follow mine. By repeating verbatim what Rush Limbaugh says daily about the Occupy movement, you are saying that you are completely fine with the biggest most MASSIVE disparity of wealth distribution in this country since BEFORE the Great Depression. By spewing your lame cliches, you are also agreeing that you don't agree with any other industrialized country that cares about their citizens by giving them FREE health care. It's people like you who whine about everything then have your hand out to collect Medicare - which, by the way, if you have paid into ALL YOUR LIFE, you are entitled to. Speaking of hand outs... Not one single person I have met, and that's thousands by now in the Occupy Movement, has asked for a handout, only what they are entitled to (i.e. unemployment insurance, for instance). Most jobs went overseas and now even secretaries require a Masters degree. Don't even ask graduating classes what they're going to do, they are the most screwed of all of us. But you know who has their hand out? Koch-brother's tea party zombies, who are the first to decry government meddling ("Keep your filthy government hands off my Medicare!"), but the first in line for social services. And the biggest hand out of all is Wall Street itself, who DESTROYED THE WORLD ECONOMY, then had their hand out begging ordinary Americans to save their greedy selfish asses. Which we did. They were the ones with their hands out, not those in the Occupy Movement, who have only ONE DEMAND: Take corporate interests OUT of our Democracy. Thomas Jefferson said it would be our downfall, and he was right. By taking corporate greedy monsters out of our political landscape, everything from healthcare to the environment would have a level playing field on the issues, but with lobbyists BRIBING our elected officials, our vote does not count one bit. And why shouldn't I or any other American demand the rights of all other Westernized, industrialized nations? I shouldn't have to move where my family is not. I demand those things HERE, which is OUR right to fight for. It may sound like a cliche also, but you sound like a cranky miserable Fox News junkie who falls for cliches and whatever you read... WAKE UP. Whether you like it or not, the world has woken up and there's no turning back. One out of three Americans are either living in poverty or near-poverty TODAY. TODAY! Is this the kind of country you want to live in? Are you saying that 1/3 of Americans are just angry, lazy hippies? I suggest you get your facts straight and fight for your brethren because, unless you are in the top 1% in this country, you are sinking and sinking fast. And for all the bullcrap you cited about urination, stenches and so forth - I would bet anything that you were never even down there, but caught those soundbytes from Hannity or some other tool of main stream media. I won't even address inane immature generalizations like those... you've never slept on concrete in the snow for your beliefs in YOUR LIFE. Now go back to your television set and learn something before you speak. If you want a meaningful dialog, feel free to join myself and the other occupiers on the people's soapbox to state your grievances, otherwise don't insult great intellectuals like Professor Naison, who fought for civil rights and MLK Jr.'s movement, and others who are trying to help their neighbors here on the East End. Your $20 donations don't cut it anymore, thanks to your 1% buddies. It's going to take a lot more than that nowadays to keep our pantries filled and our children from going hungry.
We invite you to attend a General Assembly meeting of Occupy The Hamptons to witness the proceedings. And we'd be happy to hear what you have to say. Everyone there is concerned about equality and justice for all Americans, including you. They're there to help others, not ourselves. There's no sex, no drugs, no public urinating, just honest discussions of our concerns and proposals to make things right. We do serve cookies and hot chocolate. Everyone is welcome to come! Every Sunday at 3 pm at the Incarnation Lutheran Church on Montauk Highway in Watermill at the intersection of Hayground Rd.