Thoughts on the Occupy Movement
This is a long post, culled from today’s writing on the internet, but it’s all good, so I hope you take the time to read to the end. First, to give you the flavor, two more signs: “I Awoke in a Sweat from the American Dream” and “Another World Is Possible./Make Ready Your Dreams.”
In “From Me Culture to We Culture: There IS An Alternative” on CommonDreams today, Kristine Mattis writes, “Few are willing to admit that what’s occurring among members of the rebellion on Wall Street is anarchism at its finest: cooperation, human relations based on shared values, organic collectives of non-hierarchical groups, and democratically advanced ideas. At the height of the Madison occupation in February/March 2011, thousands of people virtually lived in the state capitol. They organized themselves into units to maintain peace, clean, educate, administer first aid, distribute food and supplies, etc. No one concerned themselves with the potential for crime, and no one was harmed, and no personal items were stolen as thousands of people massed in an unguarded space. The society of the occupation was one to be envied and emulated in “real” life, and it appears that the experience at Occupy Wall Street is similar. These occupations lay bare the simple truth that there is an alternative. In fact, there are many options, as long as we have the creativity and the will to imagine and realize them.
As I stand in awe of and in solidarity with occupiers on Wall Street, in D.C., and all over the country and the world, I hope that instead of capitulating to the moneyed forces and voices who insist on concrete demands – which will undoubtedly allow for the continuation and promulgation of their deceitful, destructive systems – the movement imagines a whole new paradigm for our collective future that can’t be accomplished through traditional means and won’t be expressed through traditional pathways. I also hope the resisters continue to see beyond their own personal concerns and incorporate the needs of the forgotten, those who have always been suffering – the poor, the homeless, people of color, and the indigenous. The movement must never forget to include not only the currently disenfranchised who thought they could succeed under this system, but the always disenfranchised who never had a chance. In short, the movement will be worthwhile and long-lasting if it can embrace a future society in which ‘we’ always comes before ‘me.'”
Sarah van Gelder gives us “10 Ways to Support the Occupy Movement” on the Yes! magazine website:
- Show up at the occupied space near you. (Google ‘occupy’ plus the name of your town and city.) If you can, bring a tent and sleeping bag, and stay. Or, just come for a few hours and talk to people, participate in a General Assembly, hold a sign, and help serve food.
- Start your own occupation, using www.meetup.com/occupytogether. Or, call together friends and members of your faith, school, or community group. Reach out to ‘strangers’ — unexpected alliances keep the movement from getting labeled as partisan or representing only some people.
- Support occupiers with money, time, or donations of food or gear. Support the folks at Liberty Square in New York at http://nycga.cc/donate, or check in with your local occupiers to see what they need.
- Get into the discussion, and bring it to other groups you’re part of.
- Post how you’re part of the 99% on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or in a letter to the editor. Community plus insight makes us powerful.
- Be the media by showing up with your video recorder, camera/camera phone, or laptop and sharing the stories of the occupation. It’s harder for critics to disparage a movement when people see the faces of those involved.
- Name the meaning of the moment. What do you think will make the world better for the 99%? How has the power of the 1% gotten in the way of your hopes and dreams? Make a sign, write a blog, update your Facebook page, or speak out on the issue that means the most to you.
- Insist that public officials treat the occupations with respect, remembering that it’s our constitutional right to publicly assemble.
- Study and teach nonviolent techniques. Outside provocateurs will try to spark violent incidents to discredit the movement, and corporate media are hungry for violent images. (There’s already been an example of an admitted provocateur from the right-wing American Spectator who provoked pepper spraying at the National Air & Space Museum). Learn how to lovingly and firmly interrupt and contain violence, and teach what you know. Go to www.usdayofrage.org and click on “Resources.” On the resources page, click on “Resources for Non-violent Civil Disobedience” in the middle of the lefthand menu. Google “Nonviolent Communication” to learn about how to talk to others (and yourself) nonviolently.
- Be resilient. This movement is here for the long term. Some efforts may fade because of cold weather or harsh police responses, and others may self-destruct through faulty process or violent outbreaks. The movement may be idealistic, but it won’t be ideal. Don’t get disillusioned; the demand for a society that serves the 99% won’t go away – it may morph, but it’s become unstoppable. Help it evolve. In this remarkable, leaderless movement, each one of us who gets involved helps shape history.
In “A Movement Too Big to Fail” on Truthdig.org today, Chris Hedges writes, “The power elite, including the liberal class, is desperately trying to thwart this demand for a reversal of the corporate coup, but it has no credibility left. The best that liberals can do is sheepishly pretend this is what they wanted all along.
The Occupy Wall Street movement won’t make concessions to corrupt systems of corporate power. It isn’t seeking office or trying to get people to vote, and it doesn’t have the resources to carry suitcases of money to congressional offices or run millions of dollars worth of advertisements. All it can do is ask us to use our bodies and voices, often at personal risk, to fight back, creating a real community that affirms our dignity and permits us to become free and independent human beings. There’s more reality expressed about the American experience by the debt-burdened young men and women protesting in the parks than by all the chatter of the well-paid pundits and experts on the airwaves.
What kind of nation is it that spends far more to kill enemy combatants and Afghan and Iraqi civilians than it does to help its own citizens? What kind of nation is it that permits corporations to hold sick children hostage while their parent bankrupt themselves to try to save their sons and daughters? What kind of nation is it that tosses its mentally ill onto urban heating grates? What kind of nation is it that abandons its unemployed while it loots its treasury on behalf of speculators? What kind of nation is it that refuses to halt the destruction of the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry, dooming our children and our children’s children?
The liberal class in a capitalist ‘democracy’ functions as a safety valve, letting off just enough steam during crises to keep the system intact (as in the Great Depression, when FDR used the New Deal to save capitalism). Things have gone further now, and the liberal class has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power. By emasculating the liberal class, which once ensured that restive citizens could institute moderate reforms, the corporate state has created a closed system defined by polarization, gridlock, and political charades, and removed the veneer of virtue and goodness the liberal class offered to the power elite. All hope lies now with those in the street. Liberals lack the vision and fortitude to challenge dominant free market ideologies even as the Democratic Party openly betrays every principle it claims to espouse, from universal health care to an end to our permanent war economy to public education to civil liberties to jobs. Hope in this age of bankrupt capitalism comes with the return of the language of class conflict and rebellion (not that we have to agree with Karl Marx, who advocated violence and whose worship of the state as a utopian mechanism led to another form of enslavement of the working class).
What took place early Friday morning in Zuccotti Park was the first salvo in a long struggle for justice, signaling a step backward by the corporate state in the face of popular pressure. And it was carried out by ordinary men and women who sleep at night on concrete, get soaked in rainstorms, eat donated food and have nothing as weapons but their dignity, resilience and courage. It’s they, and they alone, who hold out the possibility of salvation. If we join them we might have a chance.”