Marco Roth on creating class consciousness


Marco Roth reflects on the limits and significance of a social movement @ n+1.

A web page, white and red letters against a black background, a scrollable gallery of faces most of them almost entirely hidden by handwritten notes in a variety of colors and formats. One, the quarter face of a bald, bearded white man, holding a yellow legal pad, where he’s written in block print capitals, “I work 3 Jobs, None which provide health insurance. My son is on Medicaid. We are on W.I.C. We’re one paycheck from disaster. I am the 99%.” Another, showing only a young woman’s fingers gripping her note,
I graduated college a year ago and have a job as a journalist. I am lucky. Every time we have a staff meeting someone is laid off. My entire office is struggling; professionals making less than 30K a year. I am scared everyday that I will lose my job and be stuck with 50K in student loans that won’t be paid off until I am 40. After loan payments and car insurance I am left with only money for gas. I am extremely lucky, it could be worse, at least I can live with my parents for a while. I am the 99 percent.”

And so it goes down the scroll, and for pages and pages: returning veterans without jobs and with variously crippling disabilities; a would-be member of the professional class, “I have three masters degrees, no job, and over 80,000 in student debt”; a woman who says she and her husband are afraid to have children because “they will be part of the 99%”; another woman who writes her own epitaph in the last line of her testimony, “First in my family to go to college. Built a wonderful international career in nonprofits. Now I’m unable to get a cashier job at the zoo because chronic depression, unemployment and lack of access to medical care ruined my credit score. I played by the rules.” There are teachers, kids afraid to go to college, the children of immigrants who realize they will have worse lives than their parents, grandparents worried about their grandchildren and their own retirements. In most of the photographs, faces are either partially hidden or downcast, in attitudes of shame; a few, mostly the youngest, look out defiantly. It cannot go on. It goes more