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"We Are the 99 Percent" Creators Revealed

EXCLUSIVE: MoJo interviews the two activists behind Occupy Wall Street's poignant Tumblr sensation.

| Fri Oct. 7, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

MJ: Why do you think it is connecting so strongly?

PG: Because we all have a story, and the conversation about social safety nets has been lessened to that of accounting and not of the day-to-day realities. It is one thing for me to tell people that I have not been to a dentist in five years; it is another to confess that I deal with frequent wisdom tooth pain with ill-gotten muscle relaxers and ice pops, and this has been my reality for at least two years.

C: I think they want to let others know that they're out there, that they exist, that their problems exist. That they're not just some statistic compiled in a spreadsheet, that they're real human beings with real human challenges. That they won't be an abstraction, a walking political cartoon for people to argue and debate over while nothing gets done in the end. They're not just "indebted students," "the uninsured," "the foreclosed." They're THIS indebted student, they're THIS uninsured person, they're THIS person whose home was foreclosed. Specificity has great power.

On the reader side, I think people look for connection, some escape from solipsism, to know that they're not the only ones scared for the future, that they're not the only ones who do everything they're supposed to do and still fall down, that they're not the only ones who are starting to wonder whether their individual suffering is indicative of a much deeper, much more fundamental sickness in our society. Struggling with money, you focus so much on your own survival that you can feel very isolated and alone. Knowing others have the same struggle, and that they too are scared, can do much to ameliorate this isolation.

Though, this is all speculation. For all I know, there's a lot more hand-written sign fetishists out there than I thought.

MJ: Priscilla, do you have a link to your own 99 Percent submission?

PG: I do, but this is not about me…this is about the 99 percent.

MJ: Have you gotten many inquiries about the Tumblr, or any interesting messages of support or criticism?

PG: The Huffington Post has dedicated serious resources to the blog, calling it a populist call to action, which is pretty amazing. I am amazed that the response has been so overwhelmingly positive. Seriously, out of all of the contact that we have gotten with the press and citizens I have received two negative comments. Try to find that reality anywhere on the internets. Finally, we have all found something that we agree on.

MJ: How important, in your mind, has social media been to getting Occupy Wall Street to where it is? There's probably gonna be a lot of hype, in hindsight, about the role of social media.

PG: I don't think this could have been possible without social media to link people to real information on wealth inequality, and to possible solutions that are on the table to help balance the power structure. Every time we go on the web, it is to learn something. Right now Occupy Wall Street is part of an essential education and conversation on wealth inequality so that people can bring their own demands and solutions to the table. It is an education that we all should have and a conversation that is vital to the future of this country.

MJ: What are you currently doing beyond the Tumblr? Are you on the ramparts?

PG: My neighbors rounded up a carload of supplies for the campers which I have brought. I have been sleeping in the park on and off, much to the amazement of my friends and family. I am on the edge of 40 and such behavior is seen as a little extreme, but we are fighting an extreme system, and if sleeping in a park will bring attention to it, then put down some cardboard and I will bring my sleeping bag. Other than that I am around, doing what I can, lending professional consult when asked.

This is an occupation, and we are not leaving until there is systemic change. We have no choice, it is time to shift power away from the corporations and into the hands of the people whom they should be serving.

C: I helped spearhead the food committee during the planning stages, which involved fundraising and securing material donations to get the initial supply of food, and helped get the main food station going when the occupation formally began. I say "I helped" instead of "I did" because none of what we have could be possible without the assistance of many dedicated and passionate people who also realized that the boring stuff is going to have to be taken care of if we expect this thing to have any legs. For the first few days, I was at the food station pretty much all day, every day, even sleeping beside it when I was camping out in the park, and got people to help me mostly on an ad hoc basis. Now I go to the camp right after work, changing in the bathroom, to find five or six experienced people already at the station and keeping things under control. At this point, I mainly play a support role, helping prep food, going on supply runs, organizing food donations, and keeping people informed of what the food station needs.

Incidentally, the way the food station has evolved is pretty much nothing like how I initially imagined it would be. This is a good thing: It means that it can, theoretically, go on without me. We want to avoid concentrations of power as much as we can. If the entire thing collapses if one person happens to leave, we know we've failed. As it is right now, amazing things are happening there, and it's all because of the ideas of people who've volunteered their time and efforts to making sure everyone is fed.

MJ: Where do things go from here?

C: Truthfully, I don't know. I don't think anyone really knows. What I'd like to see is something that gets people to question some of the fundamental assumptions that they make about the way the economic system works, and to take action when those assumptions no longer satisfy. Whether this takes the form of global non-violent revolution, or just something that gets people to challenge their worldview, the important thing is to go as far as we can for as long as we can, and to try as hard as we can. Because that means the next time someone else is going to try harder. And then, someone else will try harder than that. Until, eventually, we win.

All photos courtesy of We Are the 99 Percent.

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