as the grad student with the talkback/”that OWS innocent” reported below, i have to say *I* am a bit overdescribed here, in this recollection of a recent event in which i argued with someone about the problems overrepresentation in #occupy, but here it is: Benj Demott writes up his thoughts in First of the Month after attending some open seminars in my Critical Theory program.
I’m wary of having too much fun when I’m on the side that’s won so I cut out from tv festivities on Inauguration Day to attend a Serious Times seminar on Occupy Wall Street. While the timing of that OWS meet seemed to underscore a snarky point made by Thomas Frank in a review of books about Occupiers – “Measured in terms of words published per political results…OWS may be the most over-described historical event of all time” – one grad student’s talkback at the conclave lifted me as much as Obama’s oration earlier in the day. It was bracing when this young woman – a former participant in Oakland’s OWS who’s currently committed to Occupy Sandy’s exercises in mutual aid – expressed astonished contempt for the gross cynicism of a political theorist named Jodi Dean.
Professor Dean had used her time at Serious Times to go live with a Call for a new Communist Party. (Got dead if you want it at Amazon which is selling Ms. Dean’s new book, The Communist Horizon [Alternate Title: Blue Skies in the Gulag].) Dean’s song of Leninism (and Ooh-Mao-Mao) had me humming “Springtime for Hitler” under my breath. And sure enough winter roared in once that student had the temerity to tell Dean lying might not be a good way to build a political movement. The prof got icy when the OWS vet recalled how opportunists with only a virtual connection to the local movement in Oakland rankled actual Occupiers there by promoting unsanctioned actions. What really bugged Oakland OWSers were attendant false reports in social media that wildly inflated numbers of souls at side-shows. Professor Dean claimed not to grasp why any OWSer would have issues with shadowy outliers hyping sect (or solo) actions. She accused the OWS vet of cultivating pathos and talked up a politics of “rising expectations.”
Given that Dean is a wannabe Communist Party cadre, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when she copped to her ease with the prospect of outside factions conflating their agendas with that of a consensual local movement. Still, for an American, it’s sort of a stunner to run into an unapologetically undemocratic politico. And I’m glad that OWS innocent’s voice (and face) registered her shock at the Prof’s s’all good trashing of truth.
from my POV: the major point of contention with Dean was over this: ”who will come to your next event if you truthfully say only 4 people came to your last one? you have to tell them 100 came!” she said [paraphrased]. i said lying to build up your movement only causes mistrust, and delegitimizes both your representatives and representations. she disagreed.
i’m still not clear on whether i was right or wrong in my challenge to her – on this issue of whether overrepresentation of your capacity/momentum is necessary to build a movement – but this promotion of false representation – which to me reeks of propaganda – provoked me to retort, especially, as Benj noted, after having witnessed so many instances of false/over-representation about numbers/actions in Occupy Oakland that eventually led me to mistrust everyone reporting the movement, inside or out.
in fighting shadowy, abstract-yet-real oppression, is transparency not necessary? is truth not the only weapon in a fight against lies?Filed in CTA SVA, politics and news | Tagged with #occupy, #occupyoakand, #ows | Comment (0)
in case you were wondering, after reading my post on #strikedebt, whether this is just “another insular #occupy liberal fantasy/fetish among trust-fund hippies who don’t understand how the economy works”, here are links to media commentary about the #strikedebt initiative:
It has taken Occupy Wall Street long enough to manage to come up with an idea that I think we can all get behind. But they have managed it: even to the point of convincing me, a neoliberal who believes very strongly in capitalism red in tooth and claw. What they’re suggesting is that if we wish to alleviate the debt burden on people we should purchase that distressed debt and then forgive it. Sounds like an excellent plan to me.
one of the finest examples, so far, of individual capitalism at work
Business Insider: Occupy Wall Street Has An Ambitious Plan To Buy Distressed Consumer Debt And Forgive It: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-rolling-jubilee-works-2012-11
Digital Journal 11/13/12:
So far the Rolling Jubilee has collected $137000 which will abolish around $2 million worth of American held debt. The Strike Debt affiliate will take their donations and purchase the debt from the loan holders or banks and instead of collecting on it they will simply forgive it. How is this legal? You can thank the same people who made the housing bubble burst because of speculation, bad loans, and the ability to buy and sell debt.
New York Times 11/13/12: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/nyregion/occupy-offshoot-aims-to-erase-peoples-debts.html
and from across the pond:
the UK Financial Times: http://ftalphaville.ft.com/2012/10/30/1237921/haldane-occupy-and-the-path-to-reform/
There is the quiet, but unmistakable, sound of a leaf being turned.
If I am right and a new leaf is being turned, then Occupy will have played a key role in this fledgling financial reformation. You have put the arguments. You have helped win the debate. And policymakers, like me, will need your continuing support in delivering that radical change. – Bank of England’s executive director for financial stability, Andy Haldane
and, finally, a great one for skeptics: Reuters 11/13/12
Filed in politics and news, things you can do | Tagged with #occupywallstreet, #ows, #strikedebt, capitalism, economics | Comment (0)
a new movement is bubbling up that i think is interesting and important.
what is #strike debt? this project is aimed at a problem most of america is facing: debt. you know what debt is. i bet you have some. but do you know how it works and what your rights are?
RIGHT NOW, a big part of their debt resistance campaign is the Rolling Jubilee.
say you are a person or family who has suffered a medical tragedy. whether insured or not, you end up owing literally millions of dollars. literally. dollars you know you can never, ever pay back. i know one family who owes more than that for saving the life of their premature baby. it didn’t matter to them that it would cost over a million dollars. it was their child. but because we don’t have national healthcare, despite the fact that they had insurance they now owe millions of dollars for saving their child. and that will forever hang over their heads, their finances, their resources. it will always affect how they can live.
so you owe a $1,000,000 medical bill for saving your baby. the insurance company knows you’ll never pay. they have the numbers. they’ve run the odds. they know there’s no chance of getting anything out of you. even though you owe them money they know you are not an asset to them. so what does the insurance company do? they bundle up your debt with a bunch of other never-going-to-be-repaid debts (also known as Asset Backed Securities) and sell them off to debt collector (in fact, banks and lenders are *required* by law to write off nonperforming debts after just 90 days.) but the debt collector doesn’t buy it for $1,000,000. the debt collector buys it for $50,000. pennies on the dollar.
and then they start calling you. constantly. in the middle of the night. sending harrassing letters. threatening your bank accounts, threatening your life. this is not an exaggeration. but they aren’t asking you for the $50,000 that they paid for your debt. they are asking for the million. they are looking to make $950,000 of you*. and they are relentless.
that $950k doesn’t even exist anymore. it was written off the books. but they are hellbent on collecting it. and you stay awake, you stress, you ruin your life trying to deal with this. this illegitimate debt.
this is a reality for way too much of america. (62% of bankruptcies are from medical debt. Also of note: In 10 years of RomneyCare in MA (which is basically exactly the same as ObamaCare), bankruptcies due to medical debt have not decreased at all. Insurance is a for-profit industry. it does not help when people really need help.)
so what is STRIKEDEBT? strike debt steps in and acts as that debt collector. they buy your $1,000,000 debt for $50,000 just like the other collector would. it’s for sale on the market. but instead of harassing you with phone calls and threatening your life, they just get rid of it. they erase it. and in a little while – out of the BLUE – a notice arrives that says “congratulations. your debt has been erased”. and your credit report shows this. it’s a real thing.
“OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)”
it seems like magic but it’s just math within the system. it’s using the system to beat the system.
STRIKEDEBT cannot buy a specific person’s debt. you cannot send money to directly help your Uncle Bob pay off the debts that his family incurred while he was overseas serving in the armed forces. but you can send money so that someone, somewhere, wakes up one day and gets a phone call or a letter that says “hey, that million dollars you spent to save your baby? guess what. you don’t owe that anymore.”
so then WHY strike debt?
after last week’s hurricane Sandy, the feeble lack of government response was powerfully overshadowed by the response of people helping people. in fact, 2 days ago when the snowstorm was coming through NYC just after Sandy, FEMA CLOSED THEIR OFFICES.
the banks got bailed out 4 years ago because of their risky and unethical business practices, which they did not to save lives but to turn profit, and in the process ruined a whole lot of american homes and dreams. they got bailed out with your tax dollars.
the government isn’t going to bail us out. we have to bail eachother out. “normal” wasn’t working. the america we want is an america we have to build.
if you want to donate to help alleviate the burden of illegitimate debt all over the united states, by the people, for the people, please, click here. $10 erases $200, $25 erases $500 in debt…. for someone, somewhere, struggling in america.
see here: one person talks about their thoughts on the functions of debt in our system and his moving personal experience at a strikedebt meeting: http://occupiedstories.com/i-take-your-stuff.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=i-take-your-stuff
[Strike Debt is an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street. Strike Debt is the group / movement, Rolling Jubilee is the debt-buying project. Strike Debt has many initiatives. RJ is one, another is the Debt Resistors Operations Manual, and also informational/sharing/communal assemblies. learn more about debt resistance @ http://strikedebt.org/]
*the amount the debt collectors actually try to collect may vary depending on how much they calculate/expect they can get out of you.
Filed in politics and news, things you can do | Tagged with #occupywallstreet, #ows, #strikedebt, economics | Comments (10)
i did go to the the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street shortly after dawn on Sept 17 and spent my morning marching through barricades and avoiding police with the rest. it was (to me) pretty anticlimactic but necessary. i will admit that i find it all somehow both terrifying and boring. terrifying in the normal crowd-push-cops-physicality, but boring in a “i can’t believe we still need to do this” way. the hundreds of policemen were there protecting PRIVATE BUSINESSES and PUBLIC SIDEWALKS, clearing the way for those special people who were able to show worker ID badges for businesses on wall street. on your tax dollars, they blocked the streets to keep angry citizens out and let those people in. how is that a democracy? i witnessed them pull people off the sidewalk in order to arrest them. it’s all infuriating. but tedious. so so tedious. where can we go from here? the path remains obscured.
i will say that my current study of social movements has given me much more respect for OWS, despite my misgivings and boredom with the bureaucratic leaderlessness – particularly because some of those with a qualified long view support it unwaveringly. you never know what a movement might produce. (and please don’t say Occupy is over, or that it hasn’t accomplished anything. neither of those are true, and saying it only shows that you haven’t been paying attention.)
last friday i also went to a press conference with the lawyers representing the women in the Russian punk band Pussy Riot who were arrested and charged with nothing. i mean, they were charged with something which usually means a small $25 fine or whatever, but they didn’t get charged the fine – they are facing prison not because of what they did, but what they said when they did it – not for the act, but for the content. there is no criminal case against them. they know it, and the court knows it. it’s a little complex, but the gist is that they are facing years in a work camp for basically doing a song and dance for 40 seconds that disparaged President Putin. wikipedia and news reports will tell you otherwise, that they committed a “religious hate crime” or some bullshit, and that they defiled a religious site. but the fact is that they only thing they were hating on was Putin, and the site they did it on is in fact public property. this is what the lawyers said and i believe them.
and especially after that, i agree with those who say you should protest because you can. we are not far, here in the U.S., from what is happening (again) in Russia. you too could one day be arrested for singing a song about hating Obama in a public place, on public property.
and that last QOTD i posted is something i strongly believe. people need to get in the streets. sitting around thinking about shit and watching TV and complaining on facebook and signing MoveOn petitions doesn’t do anything but isolate the people who understand the problems enough to know what to do from the masses they need to do it. (read this). so anyway i figured if i am still gonna sit here and continue to think and write about OWS that i am morally obligated to go. and i did.
what else. we’ve had a whole string of visitors. i am seeing some people here in NY that i haven’t seen in SF in literally years! it’s awesome. and many more coming – lots of visitors from now until the end of the year.
and school…….the kinds of things i am reading and thinking about are really exactly the kind of thing i always want to be thinking about and now i have some people to guide me. they are a bit too complex to explain here in any short form, these ideas of representation (in the self, in politics and through art), but here are some sketches (none of this is mindblowing or original – i’m still only at the edge of grasping any of it):
how it is that the great diversity of American culture has become so antagonistic, so self-interested that we can barely stand one another, and our ideas of “freedom” are internally destroying the freedom we seek. how can we pull together to achieve this democracy when everything we do is an effort, all in the name of freedom, enterprise, and individuality, to separate ourselves? to compete? we say our capitalist democracy works toward “equality”, but it is only so that we can all have the chance to be unequal.
we can escape each other so quickly now, with smartphones and internet and jet planes and private apartments and ipods and fences and 2 car garages and manic schedules full of business and distractions. we are all consumed with being “in touch” yet utterly disconnected. getting someone to see you – to have a real conversation, about YOU – not the public you – the private you – is almost impossible. we are all alone in the cloud, searching for each other with our heads down, and hiding when another ghost appears.
we do not know how to stand still, but the movement is nowhere.
the most painful thing we have now in America is our ambivalence. this or that? shrug. we love what we hate and we hate what we love.
we do not believe that anything real exists outside of ourselves. everything is only through us. anything that comes from outside of us, as individuals, is suspect. we trust no one.
we are telling it like it isn’t. we know what isn’t happening. we don’t know what is. the want for understanding becomes a need. we talk silently.
we are cheating on ourselves.
in the midst of all of this i waiver with the wind. i am up, i am down, i am sleepless, i am exhausted, i am awake, i am starving, i have no hunger, i am turned on, i am turned off, i want so much and so little, i want you so bad, please leave me alone, never again, please one more time. i think i am alive, that this is living, that this is doing something, but it also feels very much a dream. i could wake up and cease to resist.
Filed in autobiographical | Tagged with #ows | Comment (1)
Murray Bookchin wrote:
“Radical politics in our time has come to mean the numbing quietude of the polling booth, the deadening platitudes of petition campaigns, carbumper sloganeering, the contradictory rhetoric of manipulative politicians, the spectator sports of public rallies and finally, the knee-bent, humble plea for small reforms—in short, the mere shadows of the direct action, embattled commitment, insurgent conflicts, and social idealism that marked every revolutionary project in history. … What is most terrifying about present-day ‘radicalism’ is that the piercing cry for ‘audacity’—‘L’audace! L’auduce! Encore l’auduce!’—that Danton voiced in 1793 on the high tide of the French revolution would simply be puzzling to the self-styled radicals who demurely carry attaché cases of memoranda and grant requests into their conference rooms … and bull horns to their rallies.”Filed in politics and news, QOTD, things you can do | Tagged with #ows, affluenza | Comment (0)
i don’t have a lot to add to the post-#mayday commentary about what happened (or didn’t). some people are still really into #occupy. some people are over it. some people can take it or leave it.
(and if you are still wondering what exactly HAS #occupy accomplished? visit http://occupydidwhat.tumblr.com/ - you might be surprised.)
i’m with those who think it is probably more important as a cultural movement than a political movement. i hope #occupy is changing how people -Americans in the Land of the Free in particular – interact with their world – what they expect, what they want, what they see as possible.
for me personally, even though I have not been that directly involved, #occupy has proven a lot of what i assumed i knew about social movements, but it has taught me more about what i don’t know, and where i am weak in that regard – in really understanding and not just assuming things about the current dynamics of law, justice and politics, and then that intersection with my world of art and the creation of meaningful experiences (not just entertainment, catering to artificial mass taste). so much of how the world works now is unnatural, nonintuitive, not what it seems – we get sold values and the definitions of what things are or should be just as readily as you are sold a can of Coca Cola. the way things are framed, how they are defined and by whom (especially the by whom) create our perception and experience of the world.
we all know this – it’s part of becoming an adult, realizing that almost everyone is trying to sell you something, and not just person-to-person. that capitalism has produced a systemic, institutionalized, government-sponsored snake oil culture industry, influencing everything from what you eat and where you shop to who you vote for and how you feel about all of it.
but what is harder is figuring out what to do about it – and that is where i have really struggled with #occupy on a personal level. how to join and fight in a way that feels right, that uses our talents and desires and makes us feel empowered and engaged and excited and productive in our own way. not all of us want to take to the streets and fight the riot police. not all of us want to work tediously in committee meetings or court rooms. some of us just want to #occupyart:
“The marches are very powerful and motivating for anyone who begins in the march,” said 27-year-old librarian Jeremy Bold. “For passersby, they see people who are very vocal and angry.”
“Personally, I don’t like labels,” said 25-year-old musician Dotan Negrin. “So I don’t consider myself part of Occupy Wall Street. I’m not a protester.” Negrin has been travelling the country with a musical project called Pianos Across America. He has driven and dragged his upright piano as far as LA, Seattle and Chicago to play in open spaces and welcome people into the the performances. For the past few months, he’s been playing in Union Square Park, which has become something of a second home for the occupiers.
“I always play Union Square, so I figured I might join them,” said Negrin.
His goal in life, he said, is to “try to do something really extraordinary while trying to make the world a better place.”
“That’s my sort of protest,” he added.
YES to that. yes.
and i do know that Occupy has space for this. that if you build your own movement, it will be supported. it’s one of the great things about decentralized models. everyone can play. i think that is what makes it strong. but i have still struggled to find my voice here, through no fault but my own.
i still support #occupy 100%, and believe that we all do need to fight what is going on in the U.S. — that complacency and entitlement are social evils and killing us. i might not be in the streets, but i have put a lot of energy into this and i need to let myself stop feeling guilty – and peer pressured – to participate in #occupy in ways that don’t feel comfortable for me. i wish the same for everyone else out there who is interested and supportive of the movement, and that we all find a way to fight the good fight in our own ways.
(use the #ows tag to see all previous posts)Filed in art, culture and random linkage | Tagged with #occupyart, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism | Comment (0)
not sure how i feel about these. for sale. for $700.
this was really beautiful to read, whether you take it for your personal life or political life or occupation:
My personal perspective has to do with the idea of freedom, this idea of discovering that we have collective knowledge that brings us together, gives us strength, starts the process of discovery. This is beyond revolutionary theories, theories that we all know and have heard so often, theories that are all too often converted into tools of oppression and submission. Constructing freedom is a learning process that can only happen in practice. For me, horizontalism, autonomy, freedom, creativity, and happiness are all concepts that go together, and they’re all things that have to both be practiced, and learned in practice.
I think back to previous activist experiences, and remember a powerful feeling of submission. This includes even my own behavior, which was often excessively rigid. It was difficult for me to enjoy myself, and enjoyment is something sane that strengthens you. Under capitalism, we were giving up the possibility of enjoying ourselves and being happy. We need to constantly break with this idea. We have life, and the life we have should be lived today. We shouldn’t wait to take power, so that we can begin to enjoy ourselves in the future. We should take it now. We begin by believing in what’s possible and then we push aside all of those things that don’t allow us to create this possibility.
— neka, a member of an unemployed workers’ movement
also awesome from issue #100:
Filed in culture and random linkage, QOTD, things you can do | Tagged with #occupyart, #ows, adbusters | Comment (0)
Because history doesn’t move in straight lines but surges like water, sometimes swirling, sometimes dripping, flowing, flooding–always unknowable, unexpected, uncertain. Because the key to insurgency is brilliant improvisation, not perfect blueprints.
i ♥ that this happened: http://www.cynicaltimes.org/articles/occupy-brings-working-class-outrage-to-fashion-week/
“The whole Occupation thing is important because it’s about people going out and talking about the things that are messed up in our own society and the fashion industry is one of them,” said Mediavilla. “New York City used to be popping with jobs for people making clothes and then the industry outsourced many of those (apparel) jobs so they could pay people pennies on the hour in other countries instead of a decent wage.
“Meanwhile, they’re spending $500,000 on a single magazine cover photo that gets photo-shopped all to hell and is often very unrealistic. Young people see these fake images and think they have to look like that.”
Employment in the U.S. apparel industry has fallen by 82% since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect Jan. 1, 1994, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U.S. had 149,700 apparel workers last month, compared with 834,900 in January 1994.
The median pay for the 64,100 sewing machine operators left in the U.S. was $19,180 in 2010.
…”Most of my friends that work in the fashion industry are only part timers and they’re given less than 30 hours of work each week so they don’t qualify for benefits, but they still make too much to qualify for food stamps,” Stone-Diaz said, pausing briefly as a passing fashionista called the protesters “assholes.”
He smiled, shook his head and continued.
“We have all these fashion shows on television right now – like Project Runway – that romanticize the industry and hold it up as part of the American Dream,” Stone-Diaz said, “but it’s built on 1% structures just like the American Dream.”
One of those structures is grossly underpaying workers in order to lavishly overpay investors and top executives, models and designers.
i think some people think my work in fashion shows is counter to all of the other socio-political stuff i do/write about and wonder how i could be dong this “really superficial’ thing one day and then writing about poverty and justice the next. first of all, it irks me that some people think that fashion is only trivial and superficial and belittle its importance in human culture, especially as compared to the other arts, but that is another topic in itself and so i digress. my point here is that in fact, i ONLY, and i mean ONLY, work with designers who are dedicated to responsible clothing, who source their goods as responsibly as they can, and to keeping their lines ethical from beginning to end.
i do these fashion shows because i love fashion as a form of self-expression, but also because i think supporting my friends who do local fashion IS IMPORTANT – as noted above, the U.S. fashion industry is not only cruel in its treatment of women as objects, but the treatment of workers here and abroad is horrid.
Filed in art, fashion | Tagged with #occupyart, #occupyeverything, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, consumerism | Comment (0)
The poems on Old Street are set in capital white letters on a brushed black background, in a sort of mangled Futura; it’s a type treatment that should send his words running and screaming through the streets but somehow does not. Instead, the words lean calmly against the wall and arouse a kind of subtle and unnoticed reflection. People pass by on their way to or from here or there. They do double-takes and slow down. Intrigue wraps their faces. They stop, read, think, and eventually move on, carrying something with them that maybe wasn’t there before. Something that came free, silent and unexpected, set in capital white letters on a brushed black background.
Filed in art, oracles | Tagged with #occupyart, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, consumerism, marxisms | Comment (0)
“I’m an acolyte of Situationist ideas,” Montgomery says, referring to Situationist International, a group of 20th-century European revolutionaries who used public art installations to capture people’s attention, ask questions, and express ideas. “Their influence on me is far reaching. But the key introductory idea is perhaps Guy Debord’s idea of the spectacle, by which he means loosely the coalition of capitalism and the media.”
Debord, a French social theorist, writer and filmmaker, helped to form the SI in 1957. In his influential book, The Society of the Spectacle, he suggests that the combination of capitalism and the mass media will lead to a society dominated by false images, and that these images will act as a spectacle isolating people from reality. Debord eventually shot himself through the heart in 1994 in a small village in Auvergne, France.
“What Debord and the SI really get into,” Montgomery says, “and what sets them apart from much other post-Marxist thought, is questions of what capitalism does to us on the inside; in the inner sphere of life, to our hearts and minds, almost to our karmic sphere. I think those questions have never been more pertinent, especially in this historical moment when it is inarguably clear that capitalism in its current extreme form is not only immoral, but technically flawed.”
Montgomery’s poems hang near the vacant Old Street Magistrate’s Court, where, until recently, a group of Occupy London protesters had been squatting. “If you look at what Occupy are doing,” he says, “I think we’re finally seeing a positive international forum for positive change to the global financial system. That’s if we listen to them and don’t marginalize their voice.”
Emma is a 42-year-old Occupy camper and writer. She says she thinks it’s important to see artwork like Montgomery’s in the public realm. “Reclaiming public space is vital,” she says. “Art, music, poetry, performance, debate, conversation—these are the things that bring us together, that lead us out of our isolation, that allow us—the 99%—to connect, to share, and eventually, to mobilize. Every attempt to stimulate conversation regarding how we live now and how we could do it better is valuable.”