Occupying the Brooklyn Bridge and the Power of Protest ~ Matthew D’Elia

Part I

I did not know what to expect when I decided to go to New York on Saturday to check out Occupy Wall Street. In fact, I had only opted to go after seeing the now famous footage of police brutality, courtesy of inspector Anthony Bologna aka “Tony Baloney”(video). I had originally planned to go with a couple of friends, but that did not pan out. For a moment I was hesitant to go by myself because I rarely travel to New York City, let alone get involved in a protest in which people have been beaten, pepper sprayed, and arrested. But I decided to go anyway. After walking out of the PATH Station at the World Trade Center I was immediately taken aback by the number of police officers stationed in the area. Apparently the police have occupied their own portions of Lower Manhattan where they are keeping vans, buses, equipment and personnel at the ready just in case the word comes in to start making mass arrests.

I wandered a bit until finally making it to Liberty Plaza Park (formerly known as Zucotti Park), where I continued to wander aimlessly, snapping a few pictures until I happened upon fellow Rutgers University students, Kristin Clark, Matt Cordeiro, and Joel Salvino, who were looking for a bathroom. Joel pointed out a ninety-five year old Marxist-Leninist who had been yelling at a few Ron Paul supporters. I wanted to know why this man was so insistent on being a Leninist as well as a Marxist, so I decided to have a chat with him while I waited for them to come back. Here I learned a valuable lesson: ninety-five year old men do not take shit from anyone. He formed his political beliefs in the 1930s and they seem to have not changed since.What made him a Marxist-Leninist was the idea that radical social change was only possible through a tightly structured organization with ideological cohesion,  a specific set of goals, a powerful leadership and the willingness to achieve their ends by any means necessary. Occupy Wall Street does not follow this model at all.

It is usually difficult to categorize or try to make sense of mass movements and protests that emerge seemingly out of nowhere. Occupy Wall Street is marked partially by a strange alliance of both Ron Paul supporters on the far right (Anarcho-Capitalists) and socialists, Marxists, and Anarcho-Syndicalists on the far left. Barring their consensus on the full expansion of civil liberties, the only agreement among the two sides is that greed and, to borrow a quip from the historian Thomas Bailey, the “international gangsterism” of the global finance industry and powerful states has crippled the global economy and propped up the power of a handful of elites at the expense of the majority.

Liberty Park is not only Occupy Wall Street’s staging ground, but has also become a temporary, indefinite home for the movement’s core group of organizers, including Zu, a former Rutgers student and resident of New Brunswick, who after getting laid off decided to sublet her apartment and move into the park. Most of the youth living in the park seem to be in a similar situation.  In order to accommodate themselves they have set up sleeping spaces, a kitchen of sorts, a medical station, and even a library.

As we began preparing for the 3:00pm march, there were whispers that we would be marching over the Brooklyn Bridge. At the time—and even now—I did not know whether this meant that we would be marching over the walkway or one of the traffic lanes. In any case, the march got underway without incident. We were positioned in the back because Zu had taken up the task of setting the pace from the back of the march. The senior citizens were to take up the vanguard. Ironically enough, there is a much higher chance of getting arrested in the rear of any given protest march, because from there it is much easier for the police to use the “kettling technique” to trap demonstrators. However, being positioned there actually prevented us from joining those on the traffic lanes and subsequent arrest.

The group of marchers was increasing in size as we moved north along Broadway towards the Brooklyn Bridge. This was easy to notice because in order to continue setting the pace from the back we had to keep moving behind all of the new people joining the march. People were getting really excited. There was a very energetic young woman (one of the organizers), who was running around starting up chants and trying to get everyone to close off the gaps between marchers. She accidentally stepped on the back of my shoe, causing my foot to fall out. She quickly said “Sorry, baby!” with real sincerity, and ran ahead to energize the rest of the group.

As we were approaching the bridge, I was still not sure if we were going to cross into the traffic lanes. The police had blocked traffic from travelling eastbound into Brooklyn, but had also formed a line to prevent protesters from entering. We were still at the very back of the march. The police were patrolling up and down the lane parallel to the walkway. It was not until we had travelled a few hundred yards up the bridge that we realized protesters had somehow made it down into the street. I had assumed that the police formed that line blocking protesters from entering the entire time; apparently that was not the case. A large number of protesters had stopped on the walkway to look, take pictures, and express solidarity with those who were fenced in on the street below. The police had already started making arrests, singling out specific individuals and grabbing them as the opportunity presented itself. After making our way a bit further up the bridge, past the penned in group, I heard a familiar shout. I squeezed over to the side to get a look and saw that energetic young woman, struggling and yelling as two police officers were dragging her away.

Those who were not trapped on the street or standing on the walkway to provide moral support made their way across the bridge into Brooklyn, where we rallied at Cadman Plaza Park, surrounding the William Jay Gaynor monument. Here the organizers passed along information regarding our fellow protesters on the bridge as well as advice on what to do next: who to call if a friend has been arrested, etc. Because Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are not permitted to use loudspeakers or megaphones, communication is done through a massive game of telephone. One person shouts the original message, and the surrounding crowd shouts it along to those standing out of earshot of the speaker.  I noticed that the same person never spoke twice. A different person conveyed each message.

While all this was happening, the police were slowly surrounding the park and making their way inside. According to them, we would not be arrested so long as we “did not break park regulations.” They conveniently failed to enumerate these regulations.

I would have loved to stay at Cadman Park, but I had a few obligations that night in New Brunswick. Joel and I decided to walk back across the bridge to get to the PATH station. As we started up the walkway, two police officers warned us that “protesters were blocking the path up ahead and not letting people through.” We snickered to ourselves, musing at how we could assume different identities by not walking with a large group of people.

The police were stationed throughout walkway, telling people that they had to keep moving to the other side of the bridge. Now there were buses (some of which were from MTA) lined up in the street below, outside of which arrested protesters were waiting to be loaded up and taken down to the station. Joel and I shouted down to one of the protesters asking, “how did you get down there!?” The response was “I don’t know, I was just following the group!” We then came upon the group of alledgedly obstructive protesters who, roughly twenty strong, were standing on one side of walkway in solidarity with those below. A few police officers were standing around them, telling them that they had to get off of the bridge. One man questioned the legality of forcing people off of a public walkway, to which an officer in a white shirt responded by grabbing the protester and threatening arrest. They said that we were allowed to be on the bridge, but that we “had to keep moving.” One of the officers began approaching me as I was trying to take a picture, so I quickly put down my camera and walked away.

As Joel and I walked to the train station, I could not help but mull over the greater significance of what happened and what my role was within these events. It was a shared role, of course. I am grateful to have had support from Matt, Kristen, Zu, and Joel. I feel like we are a part of what could become the largest social movement of our generation, but I do not yet know how to classify it.

Part II

History certainly verifies the power of protest, but despite this common technique, Occupy Wall Street is decidedly different from its predecessors in its organization and goals.

Solidarity, which with roughly ten million members would become the largest trade union in history, emerged  from a strike at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk, Poland, in 1980.  Solidarity used civil disobedience and nationwide strikes to demand workers’ rights and social change from a government whose legitimacy was founded upon notions of workers’ rights and social change. Though this movement was violently suppressed by the Communist government in 1981, they would remain underground throughout 1980s until finally reemerging in 1988-89 to successfully negotiate for democratic elections. This set into motion a chain of events leading to the Revolutions of 1989 in the Eastern Bloc and arguably the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Similarly, the Civil Rights movement demonstrates the efficacy of non-violent protest and civil disobedience in an American context. This movement exposed the inherent contradictions in a supposedly liberal, democratic state, which emphasized human equality in theory while in practice systematically marginalized the political power of a select group. In this case, the legal basis of the state itself had provided the means for its own criticism. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution could be used as effective tools to compel the U.S. government to concretely meet its theoretical obligation to guarantee political freedom for all citizens of the United States.

When compared to Solidarity and the Civil Rights movement, Occupy Wall Street lacks the means to make very specific demands because the enemy is not so clearly defined. For those living in the Eastern Bloc, information came from the Politburo and one could either accept it as fact or, as most did, reject it entirely. The goals of the Civil Rights movement were legitimized by the state itself.

Today’s issue is far more nuanced: the enemy is amorphous, and mainstream sources of information provide no basis from which this systematic oppression can be criticized.

Wall Street has become an institution fundamentally embedded within the political and economic structure in not only the US, but the entire world. So much so that its sudden failure carries with it the threat of global collapse through a process that practically nobody–let alone Wall Street bankers– truly understands. By creating specific demands that fit into the typical logic of American politics, the Occupy Wall Street movement would compromise its essence and surrender its claim to representing “the 99%.”

For example, demanding a specific tax increase on large corporations or a clearly defined fiscal policy on Wall Street–within the framework of mainstream economics–would do little curb their power over society.Wall Street and other corporate interests have gained such influence over the political and economic sphere that any such maneuver would require the support of these institutions to succeed. Having the power to convert and move its capital anywhere in the world in an instant, Wall Street could easily adapt to new economic circumstances. Large corporations, using the money they have already accumulated, could likewise send their productive potential outside of the country. In short, operating within the mainstream political, economic, and social paradigm would be self-defeating.

The failure of this paradigm  is apparent in its inability to predict the economic crisis of 2008, while Libertarians like Ron Paul and Marxists such as David Harvey had a sense that the system was untenable.

More importantly, creating narrow demands would undoubtedly alienate individuals who, although they support the revolutionary spirit of Occupy Wall Street, may see certain demands as being counterproductive to the overall intent of this movement. If the group’s demands do not receive something like unanimous consent, leaders would have to take the charge and set the agenda. Such an organization has certainly worked for movements in the past, but conditions in the present seem to belie this kind of structure.

Solidarity was lead by the personality of Lech Walesa and individuals such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were specific figures of inspiration within the Civil Rights Movement. These were all charismatic figures around whom personality cults formed and served as a source of inspiration and ideological cohesion.

Despite their effectiveness, Solidarity and the Civil Rights movement often did not represent “the 99%.” They represented certain classes of people who were clearly being oppressed within the legal framework of society. So they applied pragmatic political means, within the structure of their society, to achieve their ends. After taking power, Solidarity itself, as a political organization, succumbed to infighting among the leadership, causing its decline (Paradox of Change). Even Dr. King had to refrain from openly opposing the Vietnam War until after 1965, as doing so would have undermined support for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

Occupy Wall Street has no definitive leaders, just familiar faces.

This movement is not about playing politics with actors in a broken system. It has emerged as a result of the inability of so-called “leaders” to deliver on their promises and fix these errors. The masses of unemployed, underpaid, or indebted are sick of these political games and are seeking to build a new system in which they are free to use their vast creative potential and are not subject to all of the crap being shoveled by our political institutions. The only option is to try to create a movement that stands outside of this paradigm.

Occupy Wall Street should be seen as continuation of the Arab Spring, like the protests in Wisconsin, the demonstrations against austerity measures in London, and the protests in Greece and Spain in May. This is a global protest against the current organization of power: one that is suppressing the power of most individuals through exceedingly complicated mechanisms which are run by only a few. But this movement may be even more than just a reaction to thirty years of lying by global elites that is to be considered only within the context of recent history. Perhaps it is the enduring idea that those in power, whether they are political, bureaucratic, financial, or industrial elites, must be held accountable for their actions. An expansion of democracy beyond polls and voting booths, following through with principles established during the Enlightenment. In this regard, it may be more appropriate to consider this movement as a part of a tradition that dates back to the revolutions of 1688, 1776 and 1789.

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Photos by Mr. Matthew D’Elia. All rights reserved by the artist.

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Inside JVP: An Interview with Alex Giannattasio by Ben Kharakh

I found out about the Johnsonville when I overheard co-founder and former editor-in-chief Alex Giannattasio talking about the JVP with Professor James Livingston. (You call it eavesdropping; I call it journalism!) It wasn’t until the spring of 2010 that I’d reached out to the JVP. Once I did, I fell head-over-heels. It was as though I was at the top of a snowy hill, leaned too far over the edge, and suddenly found myself rolling downwards at a high speed– throwing up all over myself, and throwing up even more after having swallowed my own throw up (effectively regurgitating what I’d just regurgitated).

The downhill vomitorium is an effective analogy of what my relationship with the JVP was like when Alex was around: I’d make my way to Alex’s, tell him everything I’d thought about that week, he would give me his insights, I’d mull over his take, and a few days later I’d have my latest article.

While Alex might be in law school and no longer physically around to chat about my latest piece, his presence is always felt whether it be in his comments, guidance, or ever-growing legacy as a contributor. And while this Q and A isn’t the same as having Alex around full time, it’ll have to hold you over for now.

What brought you to Rutgers? The State of New Jersey. I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into where I would be going to college. Rutgers offered me a quick and cheap option with no fuss. I took it primarily out of convenience and now I’m glad I did.

In JV Press On, you said your high school guidance counselor said you were lucky to get into Rutgers. Why was that? Simply because I didn’t shop around for schools or put much effort into the admission process at all…

How’d you decide on your major(s)? My first semester classes were laid out for me upon arrival. One of them was Introduction to Ethics, taught by Professor Ruth Change. I loved the material as well as the professor, and I got really into the class. (I recommend to anybody taking a class with her if you can). It was such a good experience that I signed up for more philosophy classes and a major just followed from there.

I also undertook a history major later on in my undergrad career. Around junior year, I realized that I already had quite a few history credits under my belt simply as a result of taking classes I was interested in and that had been recommended to me, most notably among these Professor Phil Roth’s classes in Luso-Hispanic Dialogue and Colonial History. He’s an excellent professor who’s extremely knowledgeable in his field, and I’d definitely recommend taking his class if you can.

For the most part, my major selections were happy coincidences.

What about history and philosophy clicked with you? Argument. The two topics take slightly different approaches, but in the end, they are all about argument. Crafting arguments is something I’ve been naturally drawn to since I was a little kid. That, and the material is interesting. Of course, it’s easier to sit down and read something if you’re interested in the topic. Historical and philosophical writings can be very interesting.

What’s your relationship with writing? What’s my relationship with writing? That is a tough one…

Writing is just another means of communication. Objectively, there isn’t really anything special about writing that makes it any better or worse than any other form of expression or means of communication. What is important is that people are communicating, expressing themselves, because this is how we as humans learn and share, build societies, and get things done.

Personally, I prefer to express myself in writing as opposed to in person. I always feel more confident in an expression of my opinions and positions when I’ve had the chance to sit down and think about them first. Writing them out gives me the opportunity to do that. I also really enjoy the satisfaction I get from producing a quality piece of writing. And of course, it’s a nice feeling to know that my writing is improving all the time.

On the other hand, I have a tendency to labor over my writing. I invest a lot of time and emotional energy when I write, which is good for the final product, but it can also be very draining. In order to improve your writing you have to keep pushing the limits of your ability, which can really stress you out while you’re doing it. Having worked with a number of writers, I get the feeling that really good writing comes more naturally to some people: personally, I’m not one of them. I’ve had to put in quite a few hours to get anywhere. But in the end, it’s like anything: practice makes improvement.

What sort of aspirations did you have growing up and which of these, if any, are you putting the most effort into making a reality? When I was real little, I wanted to be a scientist, an archeologist or an engineer. Clearly, those aspirations ended when I took up philosophy, and especially when I committed to law school, although I sometimes regret giving them up…

Growing up, I always found different ways to make money. I always had a new scheme, some more effective than others. That ambition has stuck with me to this day. In the short term, I’m focused on establishing a comfortable living for myself and my family. In the long run, I’d like to be able to transition from a more lucrative but stressful lifestyle to a more peaceful, self sustaining lifestyle. I’d like to retire to a farm and grow produce for myself in the next thirty years. I’d love to be surrounded by a natural setting using my hands to produce real products. But that is more an ideal than a goal. We’ll see what happens….Right now, I’m focused on entering the world of productive adults. I get money, you know?

When do you find yourself regretting them and why? I like to build things, to work with my hands to a more tangibly productive end. With a humanities degree, the closest I ever get to that is by writing. Science, on the other hand, gives you more opportunities to build stuff. So I sometimes regret the choice. On the other hand, if I make enough money to pursue a few hobbies, like carpentry and farming, I think it’ll be worth it…

What sort of things do you like to build? I enjoy working with wood. I got into woodworking and carpentry in high school; I was something of a shop kid. On one occasion, me and some other students built a couple of 6 foot tall, functioning trebuchets, medieval catapults. But I’ll build anything, as the situation and circumstances necessitate.

What sort of schemes have you been involved in? I’ll give you an example. When I was in high school, I used to take breakfast orders from kids. Then I would wake up early, run down to Mcdonalds, BK and Dunkin Donuts with a wagon, and pick up the orders. I’d deliver the purchases in the morning for a nominal fee. Eventually, the school decided to put an end to that scheme, but I made a buck while it lasted…

What inspired you to go to Law School? I wasn’t so much inspired to go to law school; it was more like I fell into it. Law school is the natural next step after a humanities degree, specifically one in philosophy/history. Of course law school is the place to be if you want to make something of yourself. So many people are going off to law school now for just that reason, and I’m among them. I have high hopes that by the end of my 3 years at law school, I’ll have a good idea of how I can make a positive impact on the world while doing interesting and engaging work. And the skills I’m learning are invaluable. At this point, I couldn’t be happier about my decision to go.

What were some of the biggest surprises you found in Law School? It’s nice to be surrounded by a group of very intelligent people inside as well as outside the classroom. Also, nothing can really prepare you for the workload, or the style of learning and writing they seek to teach law students. But you pick up on it as you go.

What’s the work load like at law school and style of learning/writing like at law school? Basically, the work load is not so difficult that it’s beyond you, but you still gotta bust your ass to do well. Personally, I enjoy law school quite a bit, though so many of my peers think I’m crazy for that. Frankly, it’s not something anyone wants to read me talk about, so I wont.

You live in DC now. How would you compare New Brunswick and DC? It’s certainly not easy to compare a small town of 50,000 people to a major metropolis holding several million. For one, DC is less dirty; there is less trash in the roads, the sewers are well managed, and you wont see gas leaks spouting fire on any given day. On the other hand, both cities do have quite a few homeless people walking around. In both places you can find significant disparities between the well to do and the poorly off, though these discrepancies are, of course, much more stark in the major city. I enjoy[ed] living in both places for different reasons: in DC, there is always something to do; the charm of NB, however, is that if there isn’t really much to do, you can always do-it-yourself, so to speak.

How did you change over the course of your time at Rutgers? Unavoidably, I grew up. College is where you learn about yourself, and I certainly did a lot of that at Rutgers. More specifically, each year I had a new independent project, just to keep myself busy and engaged. The most recent of these, of course, was the founding of the Johnsonville Press. I suppose the best I can tell you is that I became who I am today while I was at Rutgers, and I have no regrets.

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Shenanigans in the Doctor’s Office ~ Brian Connolly

uzz Lightyear. Balloons. And babies.

What do the three of these things have in common? They all start with the letter “B”. Also, they were all present with me in my doctor’s waiting room.

It would be best if I explained.

Right?

I think so.

You see, a few weeks ago I had a regular physical scheduled—well, I don’t know how ‘regular’ it was; I hadn’t had one of these in years. And if I knew that a conniving little assistant, a person determined to drag my pale body into the office, was on the other end of the phone, I never would have answered the bloody thing. But, queserasera. The fates conspire as they may.

To be honest, doctors creep me out. (I know, not the most original of predilections—amiright? It’s like saying that astronauts and fireman instill me with a sense of boyish wonder.) Something about them, though, unsettles me. Like a greasy salesman, trying to slip through the cracks of life. Part of me believes that they only took up the profession to evade the jinx of ill health, because who ever heard of a doctor getting sick? It’s the perfect charm to ward off bodily bad fortune.

But the Powers That Be want me to go to see my doctor? Fine, I guess I’ll go then.

On a rather overcast afternoon, I slipped into my Malibu and sped over to my physician’s. On the way I tried to keep myself occupied. This was accomplished by nibbling on an apple. (I didn’t smoke, as I wanted to appear presentable to those who would be examining me. Nothing says that less than by smelling like Chicago after the Great Fire).

Two blocks away from the building, I stopped at a light. As a cat plays with a mouse, so too did the light play with me—it batted my expectations this way and that—green, yellow, red, green, no turn on left, fuck!

Eventually I made the turn. During the final leg of my journey Stairway to Heaven played on the radio. This doesn’t bode well, I thought. I parked my car and approached the door. While doing this, I mentally parsed out my meager possessions, due to—or so I thought—my soon-to-be corpse-like state. Who am I going to leave with all my shitty writings?

On my way to the door I spotted a cat. It was most likely a stray. “Hello, cat,” I hailed. He—or she—looked at me with dead eyes, in an attempt to intimidate me. “Hey, fuck you cat!”

I entered. The stale artificial air hit me. Something else too struck me as odd. But I could not quite place what it was.

Sauntering up to the main desk, I made myself known to the receptionist. She was nice. I think I made her laugh about something or another. After confirming my appointment, I turned around and took stock of my surroundings. And that’s when it dawned on me: this was a pediatrician’s office!

The colorful assortment of effin’ cartoon characters on the walls confirmed this.

I walked back up to the same receptionist. This time I did my best to speak in a deep, adult, voice, while at the same time making emphasis to my old man blazer getup. I asked her “why in God’s name was I in a medical facility for children?” I felt like I was in that scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, when Jason Segal gets his penis examined while on a toy fire truck.

Responding calmly, she told me that due to the current economic climate, the pediatrician in question and his brother—he ran the adult facility—combined resources. Oh, great. Lollipops for everyone! And I mean that in the most literal way—there were lollipops on hand.

So I sat on a tiny red chair and waited to be called.

Surprisingly, it didn’t take all that long.

I sat my ass down on the noisy meatpacking paper and did some more waiting. The door in my room was open a smidge and I noticed a patient exiting. He was in a suit. Suddenly it didn’t feel so weird being here.

It took about five minutes, but in walked my doctor. I soon noticed that she wasn’t one of the brothers—the primary clue being that she was a she. Large offices like this have many practicing MDs on staff, so I really wasn’t too taken aback. My mind definitely does wander, but it’s not like I thought she killed the fraternal duo and took over their practice.

Though, what a story that’d be—doctors are suppose to be comfortable around blood, right?

Anyway, we went through the laundry list of questions. She expressed concern at my low weight, but continued rattling off the standard enquiries. Then she asked, “Do you work out?”

Primarily due to boredom and that I like to get a rise out of people, I facetiously replied, “You tell me.”

“So…no.”

I smiled and said, “Actually, I have some fifteen pound free weights in my room.” I paused for a moment. “I call ‘em fifteen-pounders.”

She may have grinned at that; I can’t remember. But she wrote something down all the same. My guess is that she scribbled, “Lifts ‘weights’—maybe?”

Finally, wrapping up our little session she ordered some blood work done. As if remembering a long forgotten fact, she shuffled through my history. “What college do you go to again?”

“Rutgers.”

“I’ll add some STD tests then.”

I always am very proud of my university’s legacy. At least she didn’t ask me about the football team.

I left, happy I was still alive. For the time being, my skeletal shell of a body remains ticking.

When I returned to my car, I noticed the half-eaten apple from earlier. I picked it up and examined the variety of teeth marks on its surface—they were like acne, but on food. Does that mean it was blemished, unfit to be eaten, or more human-like and fit for praise? At the time I didn’t care. Riding high on my bill of good health, I threw it out the window, where it surprisingly landed in a trashcan.

Afterwards, I lit a cigarette.

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Inside JVP: An Interview with Dan Bracaglia by Ben Kharakh

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then a prize or two wouldn’t do their quality any justice. Although I doubt that sentiment makes Dan Bracaglia think any less of all the critical praise and awards his photography has earned him throughout the years. Whether it’s with the Targum, his photoblogs, or elsewhere, Dan’s web and print presence makes an indelible impression: this guy is going places. And in this Q and A, JVP’s former photography editor looks back on where he’s going, where he’s at, and the path he’s been on along the way.

What brought you to Rutgers?

What brought me to Rutgers? Well I guess I was technically brought to Rutgers by my Mom’s minivan on a rainy August day back in 2006.

For real though: I went to Rutgers because it was the first school I applied to and the first school I got accepted to.  After that I said to myself, “Fuck it, I don’t want to be bothered filling out any more of these bullshit applications that ask me to sum up my aspirations and life”, I mean fuck I was eighteen years old, I don’t have a clue what I am doing with my life now, how the fuck did they expect me at eighteen to know that shit.  Not to mention the fact that I put in absolutely no effort (ok maybe a little effort) in high school. Well, I mean, I got by with straight B’s, but in high school, that’s no effort, regardless of whether it’s an AP class or not. So, Rutgers was pretty much my best option; and I sure as hell wasn’t going Ivy League (my parents told me my choices were a state school or Ivy League).

Also it should be noted that my mother attended Rutgers and dragged me to the college tour.  All I remember from it was that Cheese Whiz had been invented at Rutgers. That was enough for me; I was sold.

How’d you decide on your major(s)?

I knew I was going to major in journalism before I applied to Rutgers.  I always loved story telling, especially through visuals. It was a no brainer.  Funny story: I almost didn’t make it into the journalism school because I got a C in the very first journalism intro class that I took, which was also a prerequisite to applying to the school.  You needed a B in the class to apply. I had to take a Library Studies course instead.  I wrote some b/s paper about how the Segway was a complete failure (not sure now how that was related to the study of libraries).  However, I never got anything lower than a B+ after that class in the journalism major.

When and how did you develop and interest in photography/politics/journalism? How did you explore these interests growing up?

Photography is my passion.  I am lucky that I figured out what makes me happy at an early age.  Unfortunately what makes me happy isn’t exactly the most lucrative thing in the world.  As for politics, both my parents are lawyers and I was raised to, naturally, be political.  I minored in political science at Rutgers and actually only needed to take one more class to make it a double major, but refused to because it was some garbage intro class.  My parents think that was a bad decision; I think, who the fuck cares what you majored in? As of recently I have temporarily written all things political out of my life, including voting.

As for photography, I started a badass monthly “Zine” in high school called Dan’s Zine (yeah I was pretty vein).  To this day I am still trying to relive the glory of my high school days.  All I did every day after school was go out skateboarding with my friends, shoot photos, write obnoxious stories, and interview bands.  The zine lasted three years and we published 35 issues.  I had a sandwich named after me at my local town deli.  Like I said: the glory days.

What sort of aspirations did you have growing up and which of these, if any, are you putting the most effort into making a reality?

Growing up I wanted to be a rock and roll star.  I wanted all the girls to throw their panties at me when I walked down the street.  I wanted all the guys to be like, “I wish I was him”.  This is still my dream.  I want to be Bob Dylan.  He is a god to me. He is the most unexpected, shot in the dark, shit on your head dude ever.  I would love to shit on everyone’s head.

For real though, my dream is to own my own highly successful, highly controversial, super cool company, which I have complete creative control over.  I do well when I work for me.

What am I doing to accomplish this?  Gaining experience and knowledge and waiting.  I am like an assassin waiting on top of a building patiently until the moment is right to go in for the kill. That was fucking corny and untrue actually.  I am more like a dude trying to live his dream and make the right connections and gain the right knowledge first.

I just want to have complete control over my own destiny and be able to do positive things in my own way without anyone telling me what to do.

My real dream growing up was always to win a Pulitzer Prize for my photography.  If I could do anything with my time, I would photograph things that matter and change public opinion for the better through my images.  I feel I was born a slightly better than average photographer.  Photography was the first thing I realized I was good at (there were probably about 500 things I learned I wasn’t good at before discovering photography).  It would be a shame to not use my talents for positivity.  I truly believe in the power of humanity.

How did you change over the course of your time at Rutgers?

I changed a lot at Rutgers, although many of those changes are not ones I want to publish on the Internet, like the copious amounts of drugs I ingested—kidding!

My experience at Rutgers did exactly what a college education should do: It expanded my mind, taught me a lot about mysely– my strengths and weaknesses, the world around me, and the people around me.  I am very grateful for my education.

What have you been up to since leaving RU?

Since leaving RU I got into grad school, withdrew from grad school and took a job as the Associate Online Editor at Popular Photography Magazine.  I am currently working on nearly a dozen personal creative projects.  I have a live stop action short film in the works that I am real excited about.

How’d you become involved in the JVP?

Mike Stu got me in JVP way at the beginning when it was still a concept.  Despite my long-term affiliation, I have let JVP down far more times than the amount of times I did worthwhile things for it.  Although the photos that appeared with my Chris Dagget piece did win a New Jersey Press Association General News Photography Award (although they won for the identical images printed in the Targum).

In closing, follow your dreams. You can do anything you want, as long as you’re not a total bum.

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In the Margins of Life ~ Brian Connolly

Turning to a colleague, I asked, “What’s this ‘Doctober-fest’ that everyone’s been talking about?”

He smirked, taking note of my ignorance.

“What?” I inquired. Suddenly, I was interested. Before I only spoke in order to break the silence of workplace monotony. But now we had the beginnings of a conversation brewing. Cooking with fire, if you will.

“Two things.”

“Yes? I’m all ears sweetheart.” The “bro-mantic” undertones were almost palpable.

“One—it’s ‘Doctober,’ not ‘Doctober-fest,’ or whatever the fuck you called it.”

“Oh…I wonder what I was thinking of?”

“Oktoberfest, you jackass.”

I paused,; my mind was momentarily lost in thought. “I can see where I confused the two. I had some wine last night. Imported stock. So, that train of thought makes sense.”

Shaking his head, bemused at my eccentric musings, my peer continued: “And secondly, he’s a baseball player. For the Phillies.”

That did it. Conversation over. Well, it was good while it lasted. Sports are by no means my area of expertise. And we both knew this.

Knowledge like that lies in the margins of my brain. And that got me thinking. What else is there in life’s little corners?

Historically, the outskirts of such things like manuscripts have been very fruitful entities. Take, for instance, Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. Within, tucked away in the margins (see what I did there?), is the first surviving poem written in English. Quite the discovery, I’d say.

It’s certainly more interesting than what I write in the margins of my notebook. During one boring lecture, I jotted down this treasure in the sidelines of a piece of paper: “You sir, are just one dick, in a great big bag of dicks.”

Moving away from that oh-so interesting snippet of dialogue, I frequently find physical objects, those not of an artistic persuasion, to follow instep with this thought process. Take fast food and the obligatory order of French Fries that go along with it. Extra fries will always get lodged in the recesses of the bag. They will. It’s just a fact.

And these estranged pieces of potato will, without a doubt, taste better than the rest of the order. It’s one of life’s little boons.

What other great surprises remain hidden in the margins? (Fuck, I’m going to need a synonym for ‘margin’ before this article is done. What shall it be…? Brim, verge, side, etc?)

The shoreline of social interactions, too, is a veritable cornucopia—pretentious much?—of interesting occurrences. Take for instance, a rainy day in New Brunswick. Huddled in the library, reading whatever wrinkled paperback you can get your hands on to pass the time, you strike up a conversation with some random person who turns out to be really cool.

Isn’t that the best?

You’ll never talk to them again. You weren’t planning on conversing with anyone that afternoon. Hell, you don’t really even know who they are. Yet it happened. And it was fantastic.

What I’m trying to say is simple, folks. Just stop and fuckin’ smell the roses from time to time. Take a look around. No one’s stopping ya.

_______________________________

[1] New Brunswick, much like Seattle, New York City, and Edinburgh, is one of those cities that get infinitely better with rain.

Photo courtesy of insideview.ie

(http://www.insideview.ie/irisheyes/2004/08/the_art_of_dood.html)

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JVP Speaks: Are you going to vote?

Hello and welcome to JVP Speaks! In this soon-to-be-a-recurring-feature, contributors will kick-off a discussion on a particular topic by writing on a single prompt. This week the JVP asked itself: are you voting? Why or why not? Feel free to answer the question yourself, comment on any of our answers, and to generally get the ball rolling on this important topic! Here’s what we had to say: Jhoany Benetiz: I believe that this upcoming election is crucial. People are losing trust in our president and the Democratic Party, which I find very upsetting. I think that people need to learn to be patient and not expect drastic changes overnight. My family and I have been affected by the recession, so I totally understand why people are growing desperate and need things to improve. But, still, people should not lose hope like that. Obama’s doing what he can. I know that not everyone agrees with this. I constantly hear my professors urge us to vote on Tuesday and make a difference. But, unfortunately, I will not be voting. Why? Because I’m a permanent resident and only American citizens can vote. Isn’t that something? But I would vote if I could. Believe me! Brendan Kaplan: Yes, I will be voting. I’m more concerned with keeping my pulse on the local state of things rather than any of the other races. Also, I’m going to be voting in Princeton, my hometown community. I’ve heard a lot over the past few years about students needing to make a bigger difference in the political landscape of New Brunswick. I think that that is great, as long as one plans on staying in (or owning property in) this city. Aside from that, I think a more genuine way to give back to the community that more or less graciously provides us a place to study is through local community action rather that local community politics. True service can’t be put on a resume and should be undertaken as a means to an end, in this case hopefully a healthier community. Additionally, there are a number of issues that are important to me in good old P-town. My parents still live and own property there. There are also a number of changes happening downtown there, especially with the construction of the new hospital getting closer and closer to completion. I’m going to follow the progress there with a watchful eye, and hope everyone takes the time to lend their own personal expertise to their hometown races. We grew up there, we know the issues. Bilal Ahmed: This question does not entirely pertain to me because I am a Canadian citizen. However, I would advise people to register their dissent. I understand that voting sometimes appears to be a means of enabling a broken system, but I have watched enough news programs in the United States to know that most statistics are based on registered voters rather than eligible ones. The only way for your decision not to vote to have any effect on how party politics are conducted is to register before staying home on Election Day. I realize that some will argue that both parties are fundamentally flawed, but I have noticed that most objections to the American political process in this area of the country come from frustrations with the Democrat Party. They are labeled as spineless, cowardly, and unable to take a firm stance on issues such as Afghanistan. If I were able to vote in the 2010 election, I would register as a Democrat and remain at home in protest because of President Obama’s decision to escalate the war. I’d register in protest of the Afghan troop surge, as I believe it to be a political compromise that relegates bloodshed to an international theater rather than risking it in Congress. President Obama has decided to place life and human morality below American party politics, and in response I would register my disapproval. Matia Guardabascio: Yes. I will be voting in the election. I am voting because it is my civic duty to do so. I am voting because I want to make sure I did my part to help the country avoid the wrath of incompetent politicians. Voting in a state—Massachusetts— that is historically Democratic (except for Scott Brown), my voting day is less of a hot spot than most. Still, the gubernatorial race up here has been heated and I am anxious to cast my vote for a man who has done a good job as governor for the last four years. I am also anxious to remind Barney Frank that he will always win his district back home, in spite of the lies and propaganda spewing from the other side. And given the issues on the ballot this year (particularly the lowering of taxes), I feel obligated to go out and vote to make sure that the reasonable and responsible decision is made. Mike Stuzynski: I’m voting because, even though I have honestly lost faith in politics, a right un-exercised is a right lost. And my faith in politics will be restored only when everyone who voted for the bailout is no longer in office. Ask Alex G if he remembers how exciting it was last year when we found out that the House of Reps rejected it the first time. We had quite the celebration, and that was honestly the last time I really thought that the government was paying attention to my interests and wishes. The current health care law is a joke, but you’d only find that out if you read the entire thing (hint: it’s long). Listen to the media and they either criticize it for the wrong reasons (the asinine–but possibly true–notion that it’s an unconstitutional use of the commerce clause) or emphasize one or two talking points again and again. The bill failed to establish the goal of government run health care, but also did little to change the already highly structured and monopolistic private health insurance industry. Instead of using the natural force of private competition to drive costs of care down, the law allows insurance providers to divide up the market and keep prices artificially high. Because of all this, the law just does more harm than good. It’s like you sent your buddies out for beer, and they come back with a keg of O’Douls, and you still have to pay for it! Alex Draine: It was my intention to vote, but I will not be voting because the great state of New Jersey has failed to send me my absentee ballot in a timely fashion. Either that or the US postal service lost my application for an absentee ballot in its journey to Trenton. Dave Imbriaco: I plan on voting today and in every future election. Why? Because it’s the LEAST that a responsible citizen can do in a democracy. I know it’s a trite expression, but democracy is not a spectator sport. You can’t expect to have your interests represented in government if you don’t take the time one day a year to cast a ballot, and that is really the barest minimum that someone who considers themselves a responsible citizen can do. I would never expect for people to get as involved in politics as I do (doing what I do requires a bit of insanity), but I truly don’t understand why people don’t vote (well I do, I just tend to think their reasons for not doing so are stupid). It doesn’t matter if your choice is between a giant douche and a turd sandwich (credit: South Park), you still have a choice to make. If voting was always an easy thing to do, it wouldn’t be called a civic DUTY. You are lucky enough to be born in a country where you have the fucking chance to shape your own government, anyone who puts that down is an unappreciative asshole in my book. Moreso, it’s ESPECIALLY important that us young people get out to the polls. Do you all really expect our parents’ and grandparents’ to solve all the problems that they created? If the American youth doesn’t step up and assert themselves and demand their place in American politics, no one will give it to them and we’re fucked as a generation and a county. The day that I’m convinced that my vote doesn’t mean anything, you’ll find me on the front lines of the second revolution. Marlana Moore: I am going home to vote on Tuesday. My dad is running for council in my very small town, and he needs every vote he can get. I should have just voted by mail, but I forgot to get the ballot. I am not sure if my vote will matter all too much. In fact, I haven’t yet looked up the other candidates. The last two elections have been pretty big ones, and I guess I have seen the most aggressive campaigning in other states that are voting on senators. As a culture, we stress the gubernatorial and senatorial candidates so much more than local county positions even though that is the sphere where your vote has the most direct impact. But does anyone know who is on the Board of Freeholders, or even what they do? How about the County Sheriff? I don’t, and I think that I should. In Merchantville, I know that my vote will count, at least personally. I will probably continue to vote, just because I can. Rebecca Zandstein: I will be voting in the elections on November 2nd. I do not think I can complain about certain local legislation and actions being taken by our House representative if I did not at least vote. Voting is the minimum that is asked of us to do as out civic duty [as citizens]; voting is an easy way to go out and show that I care about what happens within my district. I do not approve of those who complain about budgets and taxes (cuts and increases) and free markets versus extensive restrictions on businesses when they did not even vote for a candidate who abides by their ideology. Furthermore, voting encourages education: one needs to know the core values behind each candidate and many times research is required for values that are not understood in depth. Educating oneself within society for the benefit of self and others is, in my opinion, a primary benefit to voting. Ben Kharakh: While I’m currently of the opinion that voting is less than the least that one can do, I also recognize that the government exists. A lot of times people get caught up in criticizing and theorizing without admitting that, hey, the world is a particular way right now. If you’re going to try to change anything in anyway, you’re better off taking the current state-of-affairs into consideration. So, I will vote. At first I was going to pick the candidates who seemed like they’d come closest to voting in the manner that I would vote, but they all fell short of that standard. And that’s based on websites designed with the purpose of making the candidates look good! So, rather than voting based on who I think will do the most good, I will vote based on who I think will do the least damage.

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Feminism is Not a Dirty Word ~ Marlana Moore

“I’m not a feminist, but…”

I hear this phrase a lot, and I suppose that at one point in time I was guilty of using it too. However, just as I grew out of my Hot Topic shopping habits and eventually realized that my seventh grade obsession with wearing cat ears to school was embarrassing, I have outgrown my previously immature attitudes. What my aversion was, and what others’ continue to be, is a misconstrued vision of what a feminist is. If the thought that a feminist is a dirty hippie who burns her bras and never washes her hair, who scorns men every chance she can, and devotes her free time demonstrating at pro-choice rallies, then believe me, I am no feminist. However, if these strange social conventions are stripped from the word, and for example, the world sees feminism as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, “advocacy of the rights of women (based on the theory of equality of the sexes),” then maybe more people would understand that they are in fact feminists.

Think of it this way: if I were to say, “I am not a Rutgers student, but I take all of my classes at Rutgers,” something would sound off. By taking Rutgers classes at any of the three campuses, I am a Rutgers student. Because I fulfill the only criteria necessary to be a student at Rutgers, not identifying as one makes me sound ridiculous. The same goes for those who say, “I am not a feminist, but I believe women should have the same rights as men,” or something analogous. The criteria for being a feminist is fulfilled, yet the person chooses not to identify as one. For some reason, this is an overwhelmingly acceptable attitude. The whole idea strikes me as absurd.

The problem lies in the general attitude toward feminists, and in turn how feminism is perceived. For example, instead of defining a Rutgers student as one who attends Rutgers classes, I have defined the term as a person who attends Rutgers football games. Therefore, I am not a Rutgers student because I do not attend Rutgers football games. It is true that many Rutgers students attend the football games at the brand new stadium on Busch campus, and many Rutgers students also wear Rutgers attire. Though these characteristics describe Rutgers students, they are not conditions of being a Rutgers student. In the same way, certain characteristics that are ascribed to feminists do not make a person a feminist.

Case in point, on a Friday night in my apartment before going out, my female friend interjects that she would like to put on some make up before we left. A certain male friend gives her a funny look and says, “Why are you putting on make up? I thought you were a feminist.” And in the next thirty seconds he got schooled in how taking pride in your appearance as a woman does not contradict feminist values. In fact, feminists can take any number of shapes from women’s studies majors to housewives to even men. Because the “feminazi” stereotype first perpetuated by Rush Limbaugh has run rampant through the American vernacular, feminism is something to fear, like a militant state run by Hitler or “woman power” in the same way as the Neo-Nazi “White Power.” These associations retard the social progress necessary for women to finally achieve equal rights as men.

Though since the Woman’s Suffrage movement of the 1920s, America has come a far way in extending equal rights to women. However, if we concede this to be a victory and render feminism no longer necessary, we will lose far more in the long run. If women were equal to men in American society today, then women would be paid the same as men, women would not have to worry about sexual harassment, abuse or assault. Just readBen’s article from two weeks ago to see how these issues are handled at Rutgers. If we look around the world at these issues, we will see that of the 2.5 million people forced into labor, 43% are forced into commercial sexual exploitation. 98% of these people are women and girls.

We need to be feminists for these women. We need to stand up for women’s rights for all those who do not have the same fundamental rights as men. When we deny feminism and we are scared to identify as feminists, then we turn a blind eye to the women who are treated profoundly unequal to their male counterparts. Feminism is absolutely necessary in our culture today, if not to recognize that inequality both exists and abounds in our world. When we allow for the “Feminazi” stereotype to persist, we give a victory to those who want to oppress women or make us believe that these issues do not exist anymore. They clearly do. And for this reason, feminism should not be a dirty word. You are a feminist, and so am I.

___________________

Photo courtesy of novaseeker.wordpress.com

(http://novaseeker.wordpress.com/category/feminism/page/2/)

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