Miss(ed) Manners

February 4, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: What Do We Want?

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 9:18 pm

What do we want?

Affordable mixed income housing in thirty percent of all new housing development projects!!!

When do we want it?

In three to four years, or whenever you can get around to it!!!

Sometimes I wonder if I do things because I want to, or because I think it’ll make great material for this here weekly collection of thoughts. This past Wednesday, I actually did something because I wanted to do it. I went to a rally.

A vast collection of coalitions, community groups, outreach organizations and improv comedy troupes converged on city hall in a show of boisterous solidarity on an issue that affects all New Yorkers: Affordable Housing.

Every day – due to an out of control real-estate market, rapacious slum-lords and the generally stifling Manhattan-esque expensivity – middle and low income residents are priced off of the island. You can’t live here unless you’re making a mint selling your soul daily to the man. I recently came to the painful conclusion that I’d have to be making twice what I currently am to afford a closet sized studio on my own anywhere inside the bridges.

I’m not amazingly bitter about it, at least not for my own account. For others though, it’s an issue that’s close to my heart. People who work to make this city run deserve to be able to have the means to live here. It’s an issue of common sense: people vital to this city should be … in the city. When new development projects go up, there should be room for everyone, not just the rich.

But I’m not here to argue politics, or force some neo-Marxist doctrine into this space, because politics is rarely funny. Unless of course we’re talking about Clinton or Dubya, in which case it’s all dick and monkey jokes and it’s good times for all.

No, I’m going tread the familiar Misse(ed) Manners ground of examining the social dynamic of this city; so today I want to talk about rally etiquette.

What’s that you say? You thought rallies were just willy nilly clusterfucks where naked hippie girls make out in the mud? You thought it was a free for all where you might get a chance to see that giant vegan lesbian from down the hall curb stomp some white collar criminal before wolfing down a six pack of boca-burgers?

Wrong my friend. You need to know how to act. I learned a lot about this on Wednesday. Here are a few pointers, all of which center around the word, “Appropriate.”

1) Dress Appropriately.
I showed up to a rally for the poor, disenfranchised and homeless wearing a black wool pea-coat and scarf; in other words completely pimped out. By comparison to the crowd around me, since I was all by my lonesome, I was definitely rocking the Secret Service look. I didn’t get a lot of friendly glances. One person actually asked me if I was a cop. I said, “Not right now I’m not.”

I didn’t make a lot of friends.

2) Bring Appropriate Signage.
In order to have a respectable show of force, any identifiable cause manages to recruit the protest-power of dozens of other groups. What this means is that while you’re all gathered in one place to protest one specific issue, you’ve got a few hundred people who just don’t give a fuck and are gonna bring their fifteen year old “Free Mumia” signs, cause they lost their magic markers.

This is not cool. Nothing makes people laugh at a protest more than seeing a disjointed and fractured message. If you see a guy wearing a rainbow afro, beat him to death before he can pull out that John 3:16 sign. People will thank you for it.

3) Exhibit Appropriate Levels of Exuberance.
All news camermen, at all rallies, are looking for this guy. You know, the guy who’s drunk enough to wear a fish net tank top in thirty degree weather, but not drunk enough that he can’t be understood when he shouts out: “We’re marching to CLEEEEEVELAND!” We’re not going to Cleveland you assknuckle, we’re staying here at City Hall, stick to the chant sheet.

Don’t dance around, if you do feel the need for movement, do the mainstay fist pump of power. You’re at a protest, not Burning Man.

That’s pretty much it right there. Rules and expectations for rallies are, by definition, pretty loose. It is civil disobedience after all, too many rules and you’re sort of a contradiction. But these three pointers should do a lot to make the most out of your rallying experience.

As far as this actual rally goes, it was a roaring success. Huddled between metal dividers with over five thousand other people violently shouting that this city belongs to everyone was perhaps the most energizing experience I’ve had of late. Nothing makes you reaffirm your beliefs that life can be good for everyone, and not just the entitled, when you’re surrounded by a legion of like-minded individuals.

Pledges were signed and action was taken. It was nice to know that when common sense seems to be at an all time national low, at least we’ve got a few cup-fulls in the greatest city in the world.

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