Filed in politics and news, QOTD | Tagged with #occupyoakland, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism | Comment (1)
They say that the Occupy Movement has no leadership.
They are wrong.
You are the leaders
The rest of us are your followers.
What you do here – shows what we can do out there.
You are the classroom – we are the students
You are the experiment – we are the results.
You are the proposition – we are the resolution.
If you can sleep under tarps
the rest of us can tell your story to our children at bedtime
If you can resist the cops.
The rest of us can resist the market and the mall
If you can live on shared food
The rest of us can buy and grow local crops
If you can live with no money
The rest of us can start using alternative currencies
If you can stand firm in the streets
The rest of us can stand firm in our foreclosed homes
and stand with our neighbors in theirs.
If you can occupy Zucotti Park
The rest of us can occupy reality.
the news of various occupations keeps tumbling in (#OO forcibly dismantled again yesterday, #OWS forcibly dismantled this morning, but now back), and the longer this goes on the more it seems that the value in the movement is less about getting big banks to change (it’s still unclear to me whether the big banks give two shakes about #OWS) and more about 1. fighting City Hall and showing how much they fail to protect your civil liberties when push comes to shove (particularly for Oakland, where this has been a problem forever) and 2. the revival of participatory democracy. both of these things are important, and despite the hiccups and ugly media, i think no matter how you cut it progress has been made, at least for those who have cared enough to be involved, in whatever way. but now i am just repeating myself.
last night after work we walked from home to City Hall (1.5 miles each way through West Oakland) and took in some of the General Assembly that was happening following the early morning raid/deconstruction of the encampment. as we approached, the streets were calm and people coming from that direction seemed enlivened and animated in a good way.
we arrived as the final proposal for whether to support Community Assemblies was up for vote. one of the Qs during open Q&A, presented by a young woman who self-identified as Mexican, was how #OO was going to avoid this being patronizing to these communities, coming in there and telling them how to participate. the response was that they didn’t mean for it to seem like it was any kind of “weird top-down thing”, where #OO would tell the assemblies what to do, it was just to support the creation of the assemblies, so that people in the various cultural neighborhoods could have their own space to talk about how they, as communities, wanted participate in the movement/solve their own problems, and maybe get support from others.
this sounded like a great idea to me – looking around i noted that the large majority of people at the GA where white. and the GA is in English. which does not represent large parts of Oakland. if communities can get support from #OO to have GAs in their own languages about how to participate in their own ways i thought that would be GREAT, so i voted thumbs up/yes. but apparently some people didn’t like this idea for reasons i don’t understand (the patronizing angle? unclear) and voted No. it passed with 86% in favor.
and then there were some announcements and the next item on the agenda was to discuss whether or not to try to camp in the plaza again. and even before the discussion groups were established someone got on the mic and said “Why do we need to talk about this more? There are too many intellectual conversations about this stuff. We are all here. Why can’t we just vote? Are we gonna do this or not??” to which there were some cheers. While I was interested in the conversation about whether or not to physically re-occupy with tent city (instead of just meeting there every day, or whatever, to hold public discussions and demonstrations, as the city has said again will be allowed), it was also cold and damp and it seemed that this conversation could take a long time and we decided to walk away. right now, i can’t find anything about what was decided as a group (anyone?)
as i stood there on the lawn – now downtrodden but clean, and watched the large group of people circled in the ampitheatre in front of city hall, discussing things in a peaceful way, i thought how nice it would be if this kept on – public forums on the steps of city hall in a safe, welcoming space. every day, every week, whenever. it seemed so provincial and positively democratic and pleasantly productive to me. i feel like the issues with the camp, and constant fights over it, detract from this vision.
Occupy Oakland, November 14, 2011
(via In Focus, which has 40 amazing photos from recent Occupy activities across the globe)
i still can’t sort out how i feel about the “right to camp”. to me, i don’t see that as part of the 1st amendment. i just don’t. obviously some people disagree and feel that the physical occupation and the tent city is a) a 1st amendment right and b) important to sustaining the movement and c) important because more revolutionary things without too many “intellectual conversations” need to happen otherwise the whole thing just ends up embroiled in bureaucracy like everything else. it’s been interesting, sorting my feelings on this out amongst my peers, who have proven to be much more radical and revolutionary than i, some of whom are out in the streets in the middle of the night fighting for the right to camp. i am perhaps too pacifist. i keep having to remind myself of the Red Ink story.Filed in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, NaBloPoMo | Comment (0)
i just spent the afternoon downtown at Occupy Oakland, and while i did not join the ride/march out to close down the Port, that wasn’t why i was there. i was there to try to figure out how i feel about what is going on, and to gauge the mood of the movement. and i am glad to report that i feel a lot better about the whole thing after today.
so everyone wants to know: what is the point? what are the goals? what are the demands? i think the wide, broadview goal is an end to corruption of our government by allowing capitalist institutions – who are focused soley on making money, whether someone gets hurt in the process or not – to buy our politicians. so for me, my personal #1 reason for supporting this movement is that i want campaign finance reform and more rules about lobbying. bank regulation, i think, falls in line under that, eventually, but if not, it is a parallel primary concern. but most of us don’t understand more specifically how to get that done. we’re not economic experts. but campaign finance reform is NOT THAT HARD.
anyway, “what do they want?” contains a whole universe of macro and micro issues ranging from those above to home foreclosures to racial injustice in the prison system to whatever other issues exist in people’s lives to be unpacked and addressed. lots of them. and so on a grand scale this needs to be thought about less as ISSUES but more about INTERESTS.
so what is the point? the point is that this is America, and for a long time people have been apathetic to the point that they have allowed themselves to be bought. there was a dream, a haze, that a large majority walked into. the American Dream got sold out. and i for one am glad that if nothing else, this is a sign that people Woke Up. i mean, my god, i thought 9/11 was going to wake people up, but somehow it really didn’t. it only entrenched people more into the dream. and so color me happy that people are talking about this and doing things and organizing events for long enough that there has been discernable impact. i admit that i can’t really tell how much of this is going to “stick”, but the longer this goes on, the more chance there is for things to stick. and i guess how far this movement gets remains to be seen, one year from now, in the 2012 election.
that’s on the domestic side. or is it? no matter how you cut it, the U.S. financial and consumer culture affects the rest of the world, and the greed and corruption here does not end at our borders. it gets exported. and hopefully these conversations about injustice and inequality here at home lead to some more understanding about how that affects the rest of the world. a friend of a friend recently said:
“ He was hoping that #ows would help people understand how they were part of a global system and those who are facing the cruelty of structural inequality in the US should also recognize how they are a part of a system that reinforces inequality globally. He was hoping that this would be a wakeup call not just about privilege in America, but American privilege writ large.”
my highest hope in my heart of hearts is that this is what eventually happens.
recently, this article went around: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2011/10/28/attention-protestors-youre-probably-part-of-the-1-.aspx
”In America, the top 1% earn more than $380,000 per year. We are, however, among the richest nations on Earth. How much do you need to earn to be among the top 1% of the world?
jist: all you Occupiers are part of the 1% globally. you’re not starving in the Sudan or living under a facist regime. the fact that you can even PROTEST means you have nothing to protest about. so shut up!
yes, we are blessed in America, but that does not mean that we should continue to allow corruption under the flag of capitalism? absolutely not, because, as noted above, it’s not just about us – it does have a global impact. so to those who like to say that the white americans with iPhones can’t/have nothing to protest…..i understand that perspective – that from a certain viewpoint this whole thing is just a flaunt of entitlement - there is a lot of that feeling in Oakland, that protesting is something that only the rich(er) white people do – but IMO, if you flip that around, if rich(er) white people are the only ones willing and able (able to protest in the streets, able to get arrested without dire consequence, able to not be at work, able to leave their families for hours/days), then THEY ARE THE ONES WHO SHOULD.
yes, the Colbert Report segment on OWS was really funny. yes, the young people with their ideas are amusing and yes, their systems are very odd and maybe not the most effective. i’m not into physical occupation myself, and the GAs are way too tedious for my temperament. BUT that does not mean i think THEY should quit, and in fact i am SUPER EXCITED that so many people who have never participated in consensus-based community organizing are now getting to have that experience and i do believe that if nothing else, that is going to shift a lot of people’s lives.
so what is the point? the point is that people are thinking about and doing things, and whether you think that we have the RIGHT or PRIVILEGE, to me it is more important that people are OUT THERE exercising those rights and privileges than what their specific demands are. the demands will eventually evolve. but right now, the most important thing is for people to pay attention, stay awake, and contribute however, whenever, wherever works for them so that the overarching INTEREST of getting corruption out of our political and financial systems happens before America gets deeper into shit. THAT is the point.Filed in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakland, #occupywallstreet, #ows, affluenza, capitalism, NaBloPoMo | Comment (1)
And that used to be what the American Dream was all about, right? You could be anyone from anywhere, but, if you were willing to work hard, then you too could improve your lot in life. Well, not any more. And the people I saw tonight, these decent, well-meaning Americans, they know it, they are acutely aware of this fact now, and they are bloody well pissed off about it. And they’re right to be pissed off. What’s a little tear gas, in face of crushing debt, burdensome college loans, medical bills that can’t be paid, foreclosure, a declining standard of living, and not much hope for the future otherwise?
Tonight, Oakland, you have a right to be proud of your citizens. And America, yes, and Planet Earth: You have a right to be proud of the people of Oakland. They stood up for you tonight, for all of you. For the idea that you — and everyone else — all have a right to lead a decent, dignified life, free of poverty and hunger and debt.
as i rode my bike home around 5:00pm i could see all the helicopters hovering over downtown, 1.5 miles from my home in west oakland. i knew that the #occupyoakland was preparing for a face-off, because at 5am on Tuesday morning their formerly-allowed encampment outside city hall had been forcefully raided. and i did, for a minute, think of turning my bike around and heading down there. but i had been downtown by accident during the Oscar Grant riots in 2009, and the memory of that, of seeing the riot police approach, of watching people run, of getting locked inside a downtown restaurant with my friend Sahar as the crowd smashed my car, was too strong. i didn’t want to go down there. and so i sat on the couch last night from 5:00-11:30pm watching this unfurl via the live streams and twitter.
THANK GOD FOR TWITTER, as the news kept cutting their feeds to “refuel” their helicopters at seemingly strategic times – like right before the first dose of tear gas went into the crowd. either the news didn’t want to show the footage live so that they could save it for their 8/9/10pm TV news reports (control of access to their footage), or they were cooperating with police to not show the moments of action in case something they didn’t want televised happened. some said it was the other way around – the police had radios that and knew when the TV choppers would go back to refuel, and timed their actions then. either way, Twitter was the only way to get actual real-time reports last night (see #occupyoakland in real time).
for those of you in my audience out there who might have been annoyed by my numerous tweets in that time period – i have this to say: as noted, twitter was how info was being disseminated. as someone NOT PRESENT, i felt like it was just as important to be spreading the info as it was to be there. participating in live, real-time twitter conversation is community-building. people do this during the Superbowl, the Oscars, earthquakes and tons of other collective experiences and i think it’s even more important during things like what happened last night.
so back to why i wasn’t in the streets, despite my strong support for the movement: i feel much the same way about this as i did about the oscar grant riots/protests: i support the movement, i feel the anger and frustration, but i do not support all of the actions. i polled a couple of friends after the 2nd or 3rd round of teargas had hit the crowd and @occupyoakland continued to call for more protesters and more pushback as to whether continuing to regroup and re-engage was the best strategy. perhaps it was me projecting my own personal fear of confrontation, but my gut feeling was that there must be a better way. most people answered that continuing to stand up was a show of resistance that was necessary, not only to show the resistance, but perhaps more importantly to show the world what the police and government were willing to do in response. and show the world they did.
but still, this morning, even after seeing that aftermath and all of the support from around the world, i am still unsettled about the path the protesters chose to take. during the middle of it all, the OPD tweeted their PR statement, and i have to say, taken at face value, i can’t disagree with much. i am not sure how much i agree that people should be able to build 24/7 tent cities on the city hall lawn that don’t have proper facilities or organization to be safe. if you want to show up there, every single morning and stay all day long, i believe that is your right. and yes, the OPD used excessive force to remove the people who refused to leave at 5am yesterday morning, slashing through their camp with no respect or regard and i know people are ANGRY. but i just kept imagining a different scenario, where instead of showing up at night with the objective to “take back the plaza”, the Occupiers had returned to city hall and cleaned up the mess the police had left, and agreed to regroup peacefully every single day from 6am to 10pm, fostering a civic mentality where families and children would feel welcome (see: Occupy Portland as an example) and leaving the plaza clean and empty every night. a scenario where the Occupiers were strategic, and not just reactionary.
perhaps that is ridiculous, but when the Occupiers in New York were told to vacate their space because of health concerns, what did they do? they cleaned it up and agreed to try to follow the rules, and the city has since (mostly) let them be. in contrast, in oakland, and someone please correct me if i’m wrong, there was no organized response to the City Hall decision on October 21 that the protesters had to leave at night because the park was unsafe. instead tensions brewed for 4 days until police action was taken.
i guess my point is that i’m not convinced it needed to be escalated the way that it was on the part of the protesters and that a more organized response would have been a better route. this is not a detraction – i agree with the above quoted piece that people should be proud and still support #occupyoakland, and yeah, i’m not down there in the middle of it and so maybe i have no room to talk. but i think that if the people down there in Ogawa plaza (and everywhere else in the U.S. that is being occupied) really want to have longstanding peaceful protests that are widely supported and not seen as riotous, there could have been ways to get the space back that didn’t involve physical resistance that might have been more successful and involved less tear gas.
i’m sure this is an unpopular opinion, and most will argue it was the Mayor and the OPD who were the instigators. yes, the police could have done like they did in Albany, NY and said “no” to spending their police resources hassling nonviolent protestors, or just stood there all night, in riot gear, without firing a shot or doing anything. they could’ve just held the line (despite reports things were being thrown at them. you have on riot gear – small projectiles shouldn’t be a problem.) and, as stated, standing up to them shows how far the Police are willing to go, highlighting one of the main problems in oakland that people are standing up against – excessive use of force. but that is not what the OPD did – and what that OPD did was, sadly, expected.
i am hoping that for the sake of the longevity of the movement and also to promote and model peaceful conflict resolution, more creative ways to resolve conflict around things like Use of Public Space can be found – for the Occupy movements to take the higher ground and really try to find peaceful, organized responses, working WITH our city governments and elected officials to get what we want. not fighting against.
people are regrouping down there again this evening, and i know people are angry. i just really hope that anger can be directed into something better, not worse, than what happened yesterday.
Filed in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, fuck oakland, oakland, oscar grant riots, twitter | Comment (1)
i am hesitant to post too much (though i’ve shared a lot on gReader) about this because, as i said, i am self-conscious about not knowing much about fiscal policy and economics. i only know what i read and what my friends out there in it tell me. and true: i read from the left and my friends are left. so it is most definitely biased. so while a huge amount of my personal bandwidth has been taken up by this, i haven’t said much or gotten too involved, even though #occupyoakland is getting big. like all bandwagons, i am hesitant to jump on this one and tie myself to it.
but a few days ago a friend of mine posted one of the photo-memes criticizing the assembly as idiotic hypocrites (or hypocritical idiots?) to facebook, and i responded that hey: if nothing else, people are talking. why stop them?
”People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
– George Bernard Shaw
a few days later, he sent an email to say he had “come around” and that my saying something had influenced him. and that felt good.
i am not hugely into protests myself. i never go to them, even if i’m firmly 100% behind the message, as i just don’t like the yahoos and disorganized crowds.
but in contrary to the accusation of it being a bunch of trust-fund hippies and social-welfare parasites and continual-protesters just “hanging out”, my friends in NYC and BOS report that a large percentage of people there are retirees who are in the immediately-getting-screwed NOW, not in the future, demographic. it’s people with jobs and home and families and educations who still can’t make it work.
the most productive thing that is happening here is that people are learning. the camps include mini-lectures and discussions about everything from tax reform to constitutionality to national health care to the defense budget to educational reform. the people who are really there (not just hanging out) are teaching eachother a lot of things. so if nothing else happens, a lot of people are going to walk away smarter. and that i’m all for.
“This is important because I think this is what Occupy Wall Street is right now: less of a movement and more of a space. It is a space in which people who feel a similar frustration with the world as it is and as it has been, are coming together and thinking about ways to recreate this world. For some people this is the first time they have thought about how the world needs to be recreated. But some of us have been thinking about this for a while now. Does this mean that those of us who have been thinking about it for a while now should discredit this movement? No. It just means that there is a lot of learning going on down there and that there is a lot of teaching to be done. –http://www.racialicious.com/2011/10/03/so-real-it-hurts-notes-on-occupy-wall-street/
“What OWES doesn’t have—and is under some pressure, internal and external, to formulate—is a traditional agenda: a list of “demands,” a set of legislative recommendations, a five-point program. For many of its participants, this lack is an essential part of the attraction. They’re making it up on the fly. They don’t really know where it will take them, and they like it that way. Occupy Wall Street is a political project, but it is equally a cri de coeur, an exercise in constructive group dynamics, a release from isolation, resignation, and futility. –http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2011/10/17/111017taco_talk_hertzberg
the mere existence/fact of so many unemployed and/or disenchanted or whatever they are doing this COMBINED with the ability to do it is something to consider. even if you say oh, this is a bunch of people who “don’t get it” or “lazy entitled people”, if that is true then that it is only further proof that there is something wrong, and this is democracy in action.
more links and info:
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“They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is tuning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scenes from cartoons. The cart reaches a precipice. But it goes on walking. Ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street – Hey, look down! (cheering).
In April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV and films and in novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel. This is a good sign for China. It means that people still dream about alternatives, so you have to prohibit this dream. Here we don’t think of prohibition. Because the ruling system has even suppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism. So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a wonderful old joke from communist times.
A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors. So he told his friends: Let’s establish a code. If the letter you get from me is written in blue ink ,it is true what I said. If it is written in red ink, it is false. After a month his friends get a first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theaters show good films from the West. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.
This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink. The language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom war and terrorism and so on falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here: You are giving all of us red ink.
There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember: carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after. When we will have to return to normal life. Will there be any changes then. I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like – oh, we were young, it was beautiful…
…We don’t want higher standards of living. We want better standards of living. The only sense in which we are communists is that we care for the commons. The commons of nature. The commons of what is privatized by intellectual property. The commons of biogenetics. For this and only for this we should fight.
Communism failed absolutely. But the problems of the commons are here. They are telling you we are not Americans here. But the conservative fundamentalists who claim they are really American have to be reminded of something. What is Christianity? It’s the Holy Spirit. What’s the Holy Spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other. And who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense the Holy Spirit is here now. And down there on Wall Street there are pagans who are worshipping blasphemous idols. So all we need is patience.
The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home and then we will meet once a year, drinking beer, and nostalgically remembering what a nice time we had here. Promise ourselves that this will not be the case.”
–Slavoj Žižek in Liberty Square, NYC 10/9/11
i haven’t written or shared a lot about #occupywallstreet because i don’t really truly understand what’s going on or where it’s going, but mostly because i don’t know what to say that isn’t already being said by people like Zizek. i am reposting this for prosperity, as even outside the current context i found this truly uplifting, and it neatly loops back and ties up my not-so-eloquent thoughts on intersecting politics and philosophical world views in my two recent posts re: “reality-based” quote and the Bullet with Butterfly Wings encore.
also, now that #occupyeverywhere has been going on a while, i’m tired of people like the “Americans for Prosperity” claiming that the “free market” capitalism is the way to go and that anyone against Wall Street is a dirty communist. i think we learned a long time ago that top-down Reaganomics DON’T WORK because the top are a bunch of greedy bastards who don’t share the money and none of it trickles down.
if you think that the protesters are a bunch of idealist hippies and the whole thing a waste of time, consider this is a quote from Congressman Peter King (Long Island, NY) last Friday:
“[W]e have to be careful not to allow this to get any legitimacy,” he warned. “I’m taking this seriously in that I’m old enough to remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy,” he said. “We can’t allow that to happen.”
so thank you, Zizek, for your continued contributions to philosophical freedom and making this rainy monday morning feel more optimistic in the face of people like King.
want to participate/do something? find a place this Saturday, October 15, and rise up.Filed in culture and random linkage, politics and news | Tagged with #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, dreamers, zizek | Comment (1)