Editor’s Note: Little did these women know when Annie Appel caught them outside a restaurant in Chicago during the NATO protests in May of 2012 that they would have the honor of appearing in a 572-page book of Occupy portraits with an introduction by Chris Hedges.
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Hedges’ contribution, reprinted from his Sept. 29, 2011, column, “The Best Among Us,” follows a video introduction to Appel’s project below. If the pairing inspires you and you have the means, consider making a donation to her Kickstarter campaign to print 500 signed and numbered copies of “The Occupy Portraits” with a high-quality, environmentally conscious lithographic press.
Alex, Audrey, Tobin and Orin have their portrait taken in Tacoma, Wash. Photo by Annie Appel
Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.
Choose. But choose fast. The state and corporate forces are determined to crush this. They are not going to wait for you. They are terrified this will spread. They have their long phalanxes of police on motorcycles, their rows of white paddy wagons and their metal barricades set up on every single street leading into the New York financial district where the suits use your money, money they stole from you, to gamble and speculate and gorge themselves while one in four children outside those barricades depend on food stamps to eat.
Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged. Today they run the state and the financial markets. They disseminate the lies that pollute our airwaves. They know, even better than you, how pervasive the corruption and theft have become, how gamed the system is against you, how corporations have cemented into place a thin oligarchic class and an obsequious cadre of politicians, judges and journalists who live in their little gated Versailles while 6 million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a million people a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills and 45,000 die from lack of proper care; where real joblessness is spiraling to over 20 percent, where the citizens, including students, spend lives toiling in debt working dead-end jobs, when they have jobs, in a world devoid of hope, a world of masters and serfs.
The only word these corporations know is more. They are disemboweling every last social service program funded by the taxpayers, from education to Social Security, because they want that money themselves. Let the sick die. Let the poor go hungry. Let families be tossed in the street. Let the unemployed rot. Let children in the inner city or rural wastelands learn nothing and live in misery and fear. Let the students finish school with no jobs and no prospects of jobs. Let the prison system, the largest in the industrial world, expand to swallow up all potential dissenters. Let torture continue. Let teachers, police, firefighters, postal employees and social workers join the ranks of the unemployed. Let the roads, bridges, dams, levees, power grids, rail lines, subways, bus services, schools and libraries crumble or close. Let the rising temperatures of the planet, the freak weather patterns, the hurricanes, the droughts, the flooding, the tornadoes, the melting polar ice caps, the poisoned water systems, the polluted air increase until the species dies.
If you do not shake off the 1% very, very soon they will kill you. And they will kill the ecosystem, dooming your children and your children’s children. So either you rise up and dismantle the corporate state for a world of sanity – where we no longer kneel before the absurd idea that the demands of financial markets should govern human behavior – or we are frog-marched toward self-annihilation.
Those on the streets around Wall Street are the physical embodiment of hope. They know that hope has a cost, that it is not easy or comfortable, that it requires self-sacrifice and discomfort and finally faith. They sleep on concrete every night. Their clothes are soiled. They have tasted fear, been beaten, gone to jail, been blinded by pepper spray, cried, hugged each other, laughed, sung, talked too long in general assemblies, seen their chants drift upward to the office towers above them, wondered if it is worth it, if anyone cares, if they will win. But as long as they remain steadfast they point the way out of the corporate labyrinth. This is what it means to be alive. They are the best among us.