OCCUPY Movement - Perspective UPDATE
OCCUPY Reader Input
I also got some great calls from people who didn’t write - thank you everyone for your feedback and on-going engagement in this process. ~ Vesta, publisher
“There’s something happening here;
what it is ain’t
By Larry Robinson
The Occupy movement has touched a deep chord in America, particularly among young people who sense that the doors of opportunity are closed to them and that capitalism has finally vanquished democracy. But that is only the most visible face of what is happening here, in Europe, in the Middle East, in Iran, in China and Burma and many other places.
Pundits and politicians all have very clear ideas about what is happening and they are all probably right; and all probably wrong, at least, in the sense that the blind men meeting the elephant are all right and all wrong. None of us can see the whole picture and we would be foolish to imagine that we can.
An understanding of the history of popular movements can give us some clues, but much of what is happening is unprecedented and, therefore, unpredictable. In particular, this movement has no defined leaders, no governing structure or ideology. Instead, it seems to be self-organizing, more like living organisms than machines. It belongs to no one and to everyone. It may be the world’s first open-source social movement.
Many of us have a lot of certainty about where it is heading, but we are all almost certainly wrong. It may be Yeats’ rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem or it may by Sophocles’ moment when “hope and history rhyme”. The unavoidable fact is that none of us really can know. We are in a time of such flux as we have never known in our history. All bets are off.
The science of complexity tells us that it is when systems are in such disequilibrium that new levels of organization that were not apparent or even possible before can emerge. It also tells us that at such times initial inputs can have disproportional impacts on the outcome. What this means to me is that our actions and our choices right now, both individually and collectively are vitally important. It also means that our collective dialogue is critical, since we probably have greater vision and more wisdom together than any of us does individually.
To continue the conversation that Occupy Sebastopol has initiated about economic injustice and the future or our country and community, the Leadership Institute For Ecology and the Economy and Waccobb are hosting a Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, December 8 at the United Methodist Church from 7:00 to 9:00 PM.
I hope you will join us to share your own perspective on what is happening here.
Who is the symbolic 99% ?
It is more manageable to define the 1%. The 1% versus the 99% is history repeating. Again and again this battle has been waged. The percentage number is symbolic than intended to be accurate.
The 1% are those whose obsession with money and power has consumed their ability to feel remorse or empathy for other human beings. Their pursuit of this obsession results in reckless experiments, abusive practices, crime, endless assaults on the dignity of being human including genocide. A culture has evolved that nurtures this obsession and justifies its ruthlessness. Let us recognize there are wealthy people who do not condone this culture and there are poor people who embrace this abusive culture.
The 1% are a major problem because they have the money, power, resources and networks and thus the means by which to bend governments and armed forces to their will. They write laws that expand their power and the spiraling effect leads us to today, where the wealthy criminals live immune to the law that everyone else is held to. Injustice is rampant at every level: A man goes to jail for life for stealing a bagel while the man who stole the lifetime retirement savings of thousands of citizens walks free. This injustice in countless scenarios is repeated again and again.
How did things get so crazy?
A democracy can only operate justly if there is a free and liberal flow of information about relevant issues. A consensus can be detrimental if those voting are uniformed about relevant facts. The distribution of knowledge has always been a battle ground by those seeking power. The spiral effect combined with deregulation of monopolistic business pursuits has centralized information distribution into the hands of very few who have specific goals and censor journalism. (see Project Censored)
Widespread information is the key to bringing justice back. Occupy is a movement to intersect the channels of misinformation and introduce relevant facts that should concern any human with a sense of responsibility and who is capable of remorse. Learning the facts is painful, essential and an obligation that has too long been dismissed.
The City council, must surely feel these words are true. Today The City council has the opportunity to break new ground in the centuries long battle for justice. Embrace the First Amendment as your permit in fact and law. Justice is the ultimate goal and the task laid before us all.The success of this task will indeed determine the fate of humankind. Now is not the time to recoil. Fellow humans are sleeping in the cold on your steps by a sense of obligation. Will you leave them in the cold or will you honor your obligation to stand up for the pursuit of justice?
The highest road the City council can take is to legitimize occupation status under The constitution of The United States First amendment right. This act will lead the way towards justice more than any act you can probably take in your lifetime. Please be bold in he fight for justice.
Occupy the Classroom
If Occupy in its infancy has some of the characteristics of a child, it makes me wonder what should be preserved and what refined and matured. I ask myself where innocence should be maintained and where boundaries become practical and necessary.
I think of the movement’s struggle to forge a community out of diverse classes of people who have made their way to various sites of encampment or protest. As a teacher and union representative, I am aware that some in our association balk at the prospect of teachers standing shoulder to shoulder with the homeless, addicted and mentally ill in a joint day of protest for Occupy Santa Rosa and the Santa Rosa Teachers Association. SRTA has officially endorsed the Occupy Movement, but we have yet to make our presence felt at the site of resistance.
Several people in our community have reached out to me about organizing this day of solidarity, but the concern that we will weaken our credibility by consorting with society’s outcasts continues to stall any demonstration of common ground. As a parent and teacher, this saddens me deeply. There is no question that some troubled and alienated people have gravitated to City Hall alongside the more lucid political activists. The only question is how the Occupy community is prepared to greet them.
My son is now three years old and lately I have been reading him a book that I had as a child called Jack the Bum and the Halloween Handout. The story is about a guileless New York City homeless man on Halloween who goes trick or treating after some kids good-naturedly explain to him how it’s done.
Predictably, Jack meets with horror and revulsion as he knocks on the doors of various apartments. My son seems to really like this book, but I don’t think he understands its dramatic irony. How could he? He is too young to realize how savagely class divides us.
When I was his age growing up in NYC, my mom likes to remind me of the way I ran gleefully into the arms of a “bum,” a guy who looked and smelled like Jack, someone who would repulse any properly socialized adult. There is pride in her tone when she tells this story, but it is mingled with a residual alarm that most cautious parents would feel at the incongruous sight of their young, tenderhearted lambs leaping into the arms of something wild, someone whose official stamp of humanity has faded. There is caution and then there is calcified callousness.
I would like to see Occupy preserve some of the unrestrained humanity of children as it evolves from its infancy, but I recognize the challenges this presents, no more so than when I am faced with annoying, obnoxious, or even outright disturbed students in my classroom. Almost from their earliest experience of school, kids are socialized in stratification.
They are placed in different tracks and not so subtly ushered into very unequal destinies.
When I teach a “low-performing” class I frequently encounter kids with mild to severe behavior problems, which is another way of saying they are having a hard time. As teachers, we are institutionally encouraged to control the behavior of these kids regardless of its cause. We learn strategies to shut down the symptoms of distress, pain, poverty, abuse and neglect. But if as teachers we want to guide our students into a shared and inclusive community, we must be as concerned with the way our students feel as the way they behave, with the cause as much as the symptom.
There are occasions when a student harasses, bothers or distracts others to the degree that the only appropriate response is to remove this student from the room. However, more common are the many times when such an extreme action is taken gratuitously as part of a systemic marginalization of “problem people.” I believe it is part of a teacher’s job to model how to treat each member of a shared community, how to empathize, be flexible, and show kindness even to those who annoy or aggravate us.
The other day, one of my more obnoxious students in a class full of struggling learners was acting out and trying to derail a lesson. Precisely speaking, his aim I’m sure was not to derail this particular lesson, but rather to express some dimly understood feeling that cried out for attention. Another student immediately said “you should send him to the office.” I saw the exasperated kid’s point, of course, leaving aside the irony that he is a rascal most days himself. In that moment I weighed the importance of removing an obstacle to other kids’ learning with the dehumanizing logic that reduces a child to an obstacle.
I asked my students how many of them had been sent to the office at least once since elementary school. The majority raised their hands. I asked how many had visited the office numerous times. The hands stayed up. “How many of you have ever been suspended?” A few hands went down but at least half stayed up.
“Did all those years of detentions and punishments make you better learners, or more respectful or more caring?” Unanimously, they said no.
“Did they even make you behave better?” Sometimes, they said, on a particular day or with a particular teacher they feared. But the good behavior didn’t stick, they acknowledged.
It had even gotten worse over the years. We then talked about the fact that California spends more money on prisons than on schools. An unplanned lesson began to sink in. These kids get that many in their midst are headed to the margins of society. They have been conditioned to expect it, just as they have been conditioned to reinforce its logic in their dealings with each other.
“Send him out! Send him out!” I wonder where they will all go? In a shared human community, there is nowhere but here. I hope Occupy continues to contend with the social misfits, though as the movement ages certain lines must be and will be drawn. For instance, I don’t think Occupy needs to provide a platform for an anti-immigrant sentiment that I regretfully noted in a few signs during one very large protest gathering here in Santa Rosa; of course, a dialogue is always preferable to an expulsion. But we should not be afraid to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people whom society has thrown away. The Occupy community can model for the larger society what humanity looks like.
Montgomery High School English Teacher
By Shepherd Bliss
Various Sebastopol citizens celebrated the beginning of the third month of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) - Nov. 17 - by packing a City Council meeting. Over two-dozen people spoke in favor of Occupy Sebastopol (OS) and the five-member Council supported it.
On Nov 19, Mr. Music’s ongoing Solidarity Saturday drew some 150 people to the town square for music, poetry, and speakers. California State Senator Noreen Evans and District 6 candidate Norman Solomon both expressed their support of Occupy.
On Dec. 8, Thursday, 7 p.m, interested parties can join a Town Hall Meeting at Sebastopol’s United Methodist Church. Attendees are invited to speak briefly about OS and participate in small discussion groups.
City Council members talk about laws, rules, regulations, and ordinances but I believe that OWS should follow higher, ancient laws. I maintain that criminals within protected Wall Street rooms must be exposed; that those who horde human labor and natural resources for private and personal gain must be held accountable.
To city officials, such as in Santa Rosa, who complain about health and safety issues in the encampments, I have some things to say. Please complain about and then restrict the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers by agribusiness.
To quote the Sierra Club in its December “Redwood Needles”, “Corporations that pollute our air, land and water, that put greed ahead of community good, public health and the nation’s economic well-being must be held accountable. We stand with Occupy Wall Street in saying ‘enough.’”
Please complain about the U.S. arms industry and the U.S. military that wage wars to protect the 1%. They are the real threats to the health and safety of the world and our environment. Our military budget is about the same size as the military budgets of all the other nations in the world combined. I see the U.S. as a fortress that can only be changed by nonviolent action from within.
Occupy is a young movement but it has already helped create community, stimulate conversation, and break isolation. OWS is a living organism that will evolve. I invite you to become part of that change. Participate in General Assemblies and help chart our future - in public.
OWS is a mass movement that is directly democratic, evolving, experimental, open-hearted, celebratory, at times angry, magical, amazing, juicy, miraculous, passionate, and imaginative.
I’ve felt more alive and vital in the last two months than I have in decades. With growing despair I have watched the U.S. elites’ Death Machine continue its foreign and domestic wars while destroying the environment.
But now? It’s on the run. There’s no turning back the 99%. We’re out of the closet.
There will be difficulties and setbacks. Many of us may be beaten and imprisoned. But a great tidal wave of liberation sweeps across the U.S. and the world. The 99% are standing up to the 1%. Even defectors from the 1% are joining us in a spiritual awakening that is our greatest hope for a better future than I have experienced in my nearly 70 years.
I want to make a plea to all of the 99%. Let’s continue to practice strategic non-violent direct action, especially in the face of and in contrast to the para-military police forces. Let’s not be provoked by agents, infiltrators, and those who have lost faith in the historic legacy and successful efforts of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and other revolutionaries.
Let’s take back the commons that are rightfully ours. Let’s make music, not war. Let Americans inspire the world, rather than oppress its people. Let’s replace our shame at what has been done in our name with pride and planetary patriotism. Let’s continue to reclaim public spaces, resist evictions, and recreate beautiful community. As Code Pink says “Reclaim, Resist, and Recreate.” You can’t evict an idea whose time has come. However, our strategies and tactics need to evolve.
My favorite memory of Occupy Sebastopol happened on what is now called Veteran’s Day and used to be called Armistice Day—the end of war. We’re at a General Assembly. Sebastopol police chief Jeff Weaver walks toward us, bringing a plate of brownies in his hands from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), much to our delight. As he leaves, words of praise follow. Power to the Peaceful!
Shepherd Bliss works with Occupy Sebastopol and Occupy Santa Rosa. He is a college teacher and organic farmer who can be reached at email@example.com.
You can do one or the other. Complain about your life, or do something about it. The complacent Occupy movement choses to complain about it and keep their silly drug habits because they can. Try this in Serbia and see how far you get. You are already in a great country. Quit your drug habit, take a Shower, get a job and start doing something constructive with your life.
Keep the blue side up,
I like the phrase “Judge not lest ye be judged.” David – your assumptions about the people who participate in OCCUPY are unrealistic. Go down and meet a few before you judge them all in one category. - Vesta
I loved the Occupy article by Bill Wadsworth. He did a fabulous job of explaining the over all issue that is driving the movement. Well done.
I'm really enjoying the Gazette.