A Unemployed Seattleite's Journey to Occupy Wall Street
In this week’s New Yorker, George Packer tells the story of Ray Kachel, a 53-year-old Seattle man who crossed the country to occupy Zuccotti Park.
Kachel’s arc of downward social mobility will sound depressingly familiar to 99% of readers. It could happen to anyone who works for a living in a country with a minimal social safety net. Kachel eked out a living as a self-taught tech worker. Like most Americans, he had few assets and modest savings. After he got laid off, he went freelance. Then, his main client died and gigs dried up. His savings ran out. Over the summer, he was forced to sell off his possessions, even the digital tools he needed to work again.
Like a lot of people, Kachel found out about Occupy Wall Street on twitter:
Kachel had four hundred and fifty dollars from the sale of his copy of Final Cut Pro. For two hundred and fifty, you could travel to New York City on a Greyhound bus. He had never been farther east than Dallas, but New York City was so dense and diverse, and so full of ideas and ways to make money, that if he could learn to exist there he could surely find a place to exist. On the last night of September, he went to bed telling himself, “Oh, this is just absolutely nuts, you can’t do that.” He woke up in the morning with a clear thought: This is exactly what I’m going to do.
Kachel’s journey is an effective foil for Packer to talk about the intellectual and social scene in Zuccotti, the tensions between “ordinary” occupiers and more sophisticated “activists,” and the galvanizing frame of “the 99%.” Highly recommended reading.
[Photo credit: David Shankbone, Creative Commons.]