Who is out there demonstrating against the American financial system?
J.D. Samson, a representative Boho artist, explains just how badly the capitalist system has failed her.
Like so many teenagers, I believed in the “American Dream,” that I could move to New York from the Midwest and become an artist. I would achieve both fame and success, and I would never have to think about money. The first half was true. I made art and lived activism, and I achieved amazing amounts of success that I feel incredibly proud of. The second half, not so much. I have been able to live well, eat well, invest in my arts and make my own schedule, but I forgot to save money and think about my future.
This summer I tried to rent an apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The process sent me into an emotional crisis and awakened me into a whole new realization of our economy, the music industry at large and, more specifically, what it means to be a queer artist in 2011.
I spent days trolling around Williamsburg, looking at shitty apartments with cockroaches lining the doorways, fighting neighbors, rats in the ceiling, bedbugs infesting the linoleum floors, fifth-floor walk-ups and cat-pee-soaked carpets. The rent was exorbitant, availability was scarce, and I was turned down by two different landlords for being “freelance.” To be honest, I don’t blame them. Not only am I freelance, but I’m lesbian freelance. Double whammy. What was the reason they turned me down? Because it was easier to rent to a rich, trust-fund, straight-guy banker who wants to live in the coolest borough in the world? Because when he met me he saw a tattooed gender outlaw who makes “queer electronic punk music” and isn’t sure when the next check is going to come in? Yeah, I don’t blame him. He doesn’t give a shit about how kids email me all the time thanking me for keeping them from committing suicide. It’s not part of his capitalist business practice.
I surround myself with amazing and talented people, people who have made it in every sense of those words. They buy apartments, invest in their futures successfully, have children, save money. How do they do it? How can I keep up with them?
So I have to ask myself: where did I go wrong? And I can only guess that the answer lies in a combinations of three things: 1) my family is not rich, 2) I am a queer woman, and 3) I am trying so desperately to keep up with my peers that I am living beyond my means. …
I’m so lucky to have gained so much from my life and my amazing career, but I’m ready to feel secure. I’m ready to build my future and save money so that I can have a family, so that I can enjoy making art and not trying to create a product out of it, so that I can spend more time being present and less time being a workaholic, frantically searching for the profitable answer. And if I need to, I’m ready to get a job, go to work in the morning, get a paycheck once a week, go to the dentist, get a check-up, bottom out to a boss and appreciate music without being worried that I can’t keep up.
We live in a society where people equate success with money. They see me on the pages of Vogue. They see me playing to an adoring crowd. They see me flying to gigs all across the world. And I’m not sure what people imagine, but I’m struggling, too. Over the past couple of weeks, I have realized how many other artists and musicians are in my position, people who are proud of their success but feel unable to continue, based on financial strain. Artists such as Spank Rock, Das Racist and the Drums have featured lyrics on their new records about struggling financially. My band MEN put out a record in February with similar tones. I know the economy is failing, but I think it is important to remember that it is failing for everyone. Even the people you think might have money. So here we go. Another reason to come together. Another reason to occupy Wall Street. Another reason for change.
Hat tip to Jonah Goldberg.
Frances Fox Piven (a government-salaried university professor) addresses the crowd.