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October 15, 2011

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Wall Street and my revolutionary friends

Kurdishaspect.com - By Cklara Moradian

Please watch the Video and if interested read my view on it:

This video is amazing in the sense that it clearly demonstrates the shocking symmetry and similarities between movements across the world. It is stunning and it really brings out the hypocrisy of our "leaders." It also makes me happy to see people getting involved and voicing their discontent while demanding accountability. I appreciate that this video attempts to show the common humanity of people around the world. It shows that all of us, regardless of our birth place, will rise when discontent. That said, as a human rights activist immersed in the struggle of people in my homeland and neighboring nations in the Middle East, I cannot fully support this video. People in the United States, even the poor, the weary, the disenfranchised and the exploited need to acknowledge the difference between NYPD's excessive force and those of mass executions, the difference between being pepper sprayed in the face and receiving gun shots in the face like the girls in the streets of Iran, the difference between being pulled to the side of the curb and being raped in Iranian prisons over and over until your body is found torn up on the side of the road, the difference between being detained and your genitals being cut off, the difference between being mocked on TV vs being forced to give false confessions about crimes you did not commit on TV, the difference between losing your job and that of having your home bombarded and your body parts being taken as souvenirs as it has been done in Turkey to Kurdish people. There is something to be said about western privilege when our notions of revolution, freedom, and struggle have been so watered down that we see our barriers here as the same barriers people face under totalitarian regimes.

Our struggle here is fighting against powers that tell us to continue to be consumers. It is against a system that has made it our condition to live without health care. We are up against those who tell us to accept living pay check to pay check because there are no other alternatives. As Zizek brilliantly stated in his recent speech to Wall Street protesters, our struggle is against forces that tell us "this is the best possible world." As a socially aware and progressive thinker, I do not deny the Oligarchy that runs this nation or the cheapening of human life to a commodity in the western world. I do not deny the fact that civil liberties are under attack and the attacks are real, they threaten everything we stand for, and in order to sustain the status quo our representatives are bought and sold by lobbyists. But to ignore the undeniable privilege here and equate the western struggle with that of people under totalitarian regimes, is at best a false analogy and lack of perspective.

We should not measure our miseries. It's not a competition of misfortune. If we want to get into that type of an equation, we are sure to lose. The US problem is a fight of misinformation and the marriage of government with corporate interests. The poverty we face here cannot be equated with living in the slums of Africa, so we liberals need to get something clear: we are fighting for a better world and true engagement in our government, but we must acknowledge our place of privilege and not lose sight of the true tragedies of human life in the 21st Century: genocide, famine, and occupation in its most violent forms as in Palestine, Tibet, Kurdistan, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, and others.

I am not advocating belittling our sorrows here or ignoring the fact that poverty exist here. I do not deny that voices like Bradley Manning are silenced here, but let's also acknowledge that many of us are content watching our shows and spending money on the latest cars. Let us not mock the struggles of people in Tunisia and Yemen for the sake of our grandiose visions. Let us fight a good fight against capitalistic greed without belittling what those in Tiananmen Square were facing. As we point the finger at those in the 1%, let us not forget that their true crimes are not so much greed, as it is the death of women in Juarez and child labor in Taiwan. Their true crimes are selling blood diamonds and using batteries that run on minerals in conflict zones, their most atrocious crimes are funding one genocide while turning a blind eye on others. Their true crimes are selling arms to brutal dictators, the true magnitude of the horrors they have spread is modern day slavery and child prostitution. When we scream that they bankrupted us and foreclosed our homes, let's not forget that they polluted our oceans and built nuclear facilities instead of sustainable energy. Protesters are screaming that those greedy men in wall street crashed the market and took our tax money but while we ask for our money back, let's not forget that what we really need to hold them accountable for is making a profit from dumping the west's toxic waste in African lands, cutting trees in endangered forests, and building dams that have left thousands of indigenous people in Bolivia and Brazil without a livelihood. Let's also remember that the 99% of us, those of us on the streets and those in solidarity at home, helped sustain those industries. We bought those diamonds, we watched reality shows to numb our minds, we bought the latest technologies without asking how they were made, we bought sweaters and sneakers made in sweat shops because they were on sale, we continue to turn our air conditioners on without caring about our carbon footprint. There is a demand for cheap food picked by immigrants who work under 110 degrees and get paid less than minimum wage, so while we scream, while we assume the role of victims of this system, lets not forget the fact that we peddled this engine, which burns on other people's fuel. The ability to make a video and upload it on youtube comes at a cost. Driving your vehicle to the protests might be convenient but there is a barrel of blood for every tank full of oil.  I turn to Zizek again who said to the protesters: "There is a long road ahead, and soon we will have to address the truly difficult questions - questions not about what we do not want, but about what we DO want. What social organization can replace the existing capitalism? What type of new leaders do we need?" To me those questions are difficult to answer for people who at times seem to be living in a bubble. Greed does not function in a vacuum. We are all accomplices but some are guiltier than others.

Until people see the connection between the greed that brought down this economy and that of the exploited worker in China, until people make the connection between the wealth accumulated by a few and the perpetuation of the war on terror, one can only hope that things will not get worse. Until people can synthesize the inersectionality of injustice, the fact that we do not live in a post- "race, gender, sex, orientation, ethnicity, disability, class" times, that our institutions have created disciplines and categories but denied us the adequate education and critical thinking skills to unchain ourselves, or given us the tools to connect the dots and make choices, we will not be able to decipher illusion of from the reality of a post discriminatory era. We are the same 99% who teach our children: "if you're born poor; it's not your fault. If you die poor; it's on you." So this 99% is not in a position to claim a monopoly on struggle.  Of course, I would not be pointing this out bluntly if we were not audacious enough to show clips of NY protests with those of Libya. So forgive my harsh tone. This is as much for me as it is for you. I am part of that 99%. Nonetheless, let's learn to contextualize our condition and differentiate our problems; let's leave some room for shame because shame is powerful. Let's be ashamed of having contributed to what we now so bitterly hate and in turn shame those who do so without regard for anyone else. Let's leave some room for shaming those who have set up the world in such a way that we have no other option but to participate in their crimes. After that shame, let's not go back to watching Jersey Shore. If we are to truly see ourselves in the same light as protesters in Egypt, let us be prepared to give up some of our luxuries and be thankful that we don't really have to.  In solidarity and with all due respect. About the Author 

Cklara Moradian is a Kurdish-American writer, spoken- word artist, poet and columnist. Conceived and raised by  human rights activists and survivors of the notorious  prisons of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Cklara's  commitment to human rights was developed at an early  age. She spent most of her childhood as a refugee in  several countries before arriving in the United States.  The memories of her childhood, all she has witnessed, as well as her parents' memoirs have become the foundation for much of her writing. Currently she is a community organizer, an active member of Amnesty International, and on the board of several NGOs. She uses spoken word poetry, theater and arts to break through to her generations’ epidemic of apathy and cynicism. She is studying Philosophy and working on a book.

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