Thursday, November 17, 2011

On Occupy Wall Street's general strike and social work

Today is a call for a General Strike in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. I've seen flyers all around campus at NYU, and folks all over Facebook are posting about it. I, however, will not be in attendance.

Thing is, I am in solidarity with the movement. I find the movement inspiring, and I've participated in their marches and all that. And there's been a couple of calls for general strikes over the past year or so while I've been in social work school, and these calls usually fall on days where I'm at my placement. It has made me realize that working with the "poor and needy"* doesn't really allow for the freedom to go on strike since they can't go on strike from being "poor and needy."

Unfortunately, it's the people I serve at my placement who I believe are most profoundly affected by our income gap and are experiencing the brunt of the cutting of services in preference to not taxing the rich. As long as I work in social work, I don't think I can ever walk away from the work I do with my clients in the name of solidarity or organizing because, for better or for worse, they rely on me.

I feel a sense of guilt over this. Participating in a movement that fights this toxic system we're living in is in effect advocating for these clients. It's something I'm passionate about. I wonder though if I can flip that way of thinking around. Is working with these clients fighting this toxic system? Is advocating for them on a daily basis, empowering them, supporting them, a part of the same fabric as the Occupy Wall Street movement?

I'd like to think so. So while I won't be in attendance at any marches today, and while I will be working all day, I am still participating in the General Strike. I encourage all of you to join.


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