Hypervocal Menu


Why We Desperately Need a Debtors’ Strike

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

By Cryn Johannsen on November 22, 2011

As a political activist for the indentured educated class, I frequently send out updates to congressional leaders, colleagues, fellow activists/authors, and friends. Last night I wrote something that has received a great deal of praise from individuals on that list. At the same time, I am also drawing criticism about my calls for a debtors’ strike. Again, I think the call from so-called activists opportunists who are asking for loan forgiveness is beyond problematic. This is a tepid response to a devastating systemic problem.

As I’ve said repeatedly, we don’t need to get down on our knees to beg for anything. We did NOTHING wrong. We were all told over and over again that we needed to go to school, for a number of reasons. A debtors’ strike is highly relevant at this juncture, and to assume students should not be part of that group is wrong. I should also note that I have been paying back my own loans for years. I pay them on time. I have never been at risk of defaulting. I have never once had a late payment. Unlike a lot of my readers, my debt is actually going down. For many, however, that is not the case. They will pay for years, and the damned balance will go up! How is that possible?!? How is that fair?!? When you buy a car and pay it off, do you notice your balance going up? Probably not. So why is that the case with student loans?

Those who have responded to my call for a debtors’ strike have complained that they paid back their loans, and that it is just the way life is. Well, I say to you: We live in very different and desperate times now, and those who are struggling under mountains of debt affect well-being, too. This is about coming together and understanding community. As one protester’s sign stated in lower Manhattan, “Student loan debt is a national security threat.” That’s true. Very true.

This is the time to stop blaming the victims who have been destroyed by this devastating economic system. Turn your wagging fingers the other way. Turn your blame towards those who have turned tens of millions of us into permanent, indebted citizens. This is ruining lives. This is ruining the economy.

When unions have no other choice when bargaining for things they deserve, they pull out the last option: a general strike. That is what we are talking about, folks. The situation is beyond dire, and as an activist, I am sick to death of receiving notes from suicidal people. Do you know how many times people do searches with these terms “suicide + student loans,” “kill self owe loans,” “student loans suicide,” etc. each week? I see these pop up at least 3-6 times a week. These are people who are desperate and deciding whether or not they will continue living in a system of economic slavery.

Here’s what I had to say last night about the student lending crisis and the need for a debtors’ strike.

Nov. 21, 2011

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Many of you work on the Hill and are deeply committed to solving major crises – I have met many of you and work with your offices closely. I applaud your efforts. But it is becoming increasingly clear to millions of Americans, the current political system is no longer working for them. In fact, it is working against them. Even those of you who wish to be part of the solution have told me that your opponents wish to collapse the government. So what does mean for an activist who fights on behalf of the indentured educated class? It means quite a bit . . .

We have seen an appalling set of brutal attacks in recent weeks against peaceful protesters across this country – these are not isolated incidents, but well-coordinated at the federal and state levels. This is further evidence that the system is brittle and not functioning properly. In order to protect the interests of a few, the state is taking violent action against the most vulnerable: the 99%.
I didn’t realize I live in a country in which an 87-year-old woman and peaceful, unarmed students are pepper-sprayed at point-blank range. I also didn’t realize I live in a country that severely injures war veterans like Scott Olsen. I didn’t realize I live in a country that beats returning war veterans to a bloody pulp, ruptures their spleen, and leaves them with internal bleeding. These acts of violence are deeply unnerving, and prove to me that we need to radically restructure things for the good of the 99%. This movement is no longer contained within the U.S. This is global, and this is serious.

Many of you know, I have been fighting on behalf of the indentured educated class for over 2 1/2 years. There has been little, if any, progress for these people. (And those who claim steps have been made on their behalf – save it – I am through hearing it. They are /anemic /solutions and do not help the tens of millions of people who are drowning in student loan debt). Many of them are taking violent action against /themselves /to escape a permanent live of indebtedness to loan sharks that the U.S. Government has been responsible in feeding and protecting. Just a few days ago, for instance, I received a note from a mother whose son /*killed himself in part because of his student loan debt*/. This is a tragedy that could have been avoided if policymakers had the guts to solve the student lending crisis. This is a large reason why so many people have taken to the streets. We are no longer going to stand for this sort of treatment.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We are leaderFULL and prepared to tackle the problems that have been handed down to us – we are ready to solve these problems /together/.
Here is my latest piece in which I discuss Occupy Student Loan Debt and the need for a Debtors’ Strike – http://hypervocal4.wpengine.com/politics/2011/occupy-student-debt/

We’re tired of being stomped upon by a tiny elite that controls the wealth of this country and our political system. We are through being part of this system of economic slavery.


Cryn Johannsen is the founder and executive director of All Education Matters (AEM). She is currently writing a book about the student lending crisis and how this mess can be fixed. Read her full HyperVocal archive here, and make sure to follow her on The Twitter @cjohanns.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter