Category Archives: The Occupy movement
We’re told that when Mary and Joseph were looking for a place to spend the night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, there was “no room at the inn.” They were forced to take refuge in a stable, where their baby, Jesus, was born, rekindling the light. I thought of this when I read yesterday on the Democracy Now website that 1.6 million children in the United States (one in 45 kids) were homeless at some point last year. The National Center on Family Homelessness, which released this study, said the child homelessness rate has jumped 33 percent since 2007. Wow — proud to be an American.
I’m also thinking about “no room at the inn” in conjunction with our local Occupy movement, which is apparently going to be evicted from its site — on public property — any day now, after bending over backwards to accommodate the requests of the police and City Council. They went so far, in fact, that glaring spotlights are now trained all night on the camp, and police are stationed there 24-7, turning the encampment of peaceful protestors and new-culture-modelers into a prison/gulag. If the police wanted to protect the camp against crimes committed by the homeless mentally ill and substance abusers attracted to it, they could have stepped up patrols in the neighborhood, but that obviously wasn’t their purpose. They just wanted to cast the camp in a negative light, preparatory to breaking it up.
The break-up will be a breach of the hard-won agreement between camp leaders and city council a few days ago that the camp could stay in place till January 11th. No reason or explanation given.
No room at the inn for the homeless, whatever their age or numbers, or for idealists willing to offer them a place in their midst, no matter how difficult that turns out to be.
A piece on last week’s “60 Minutes” showed bulldozers in Cleveland tearing down perfectly good houses no one wants to buy in hopes that the remaining houses won’t lose any more of their value. Apparently, the vacant houses attract thieves who strip them of anything of value on the ground floor, including plumbing and siding. If banks would renegotiate mortgages according to the current, rather than the previous value of these homes, people could afford to stay in them, but they won’t, so everyone loses.
Where have all those people gone? Have they found an inn?
Instead of taking these things on the chin as individuals — blaming ourselves for our “failure” to “make it,” we need to band together and put the responsibility where it belongs: on a failed system. Then refuse to be foreclosed, have our camps broken up, and just go off and die because the system doesn’t need us anymore.
Capitalism: how’s it workin’ for ya? The ones it is workin’ for will keep crushing the ones it isn’t workin’ for as long as we let them. Let’s ignore the dog and pony show of the election, Congress, and all that, and get together on this! Nonviolently if we can.
The bottom line is the inherent right of every man, woman, and child — whoever and wherever they are, and whatever they have or haven’t done — to respect and dignity. If you don’t recognize that right, in your actions as well as your words, I suggest you take another look at yourself. The practice is difficult, but it’s what that little baby grew up to preach, and it’s still the best ideal I know of.
May the peace and brother/sisterhood of the season touch you. Pass it on…
A friend has written a great blog post on the Occupy movement that I’d like to share. J. notes that our local Occupy encampment is being done in “by their desire to comply with the city and police,” who are planning to evict them from their current site regardless in a few weeks. She wonders what “of value will grow from their efforts,” and, by extension from the efforts of all the Occupiers.
“One of the biggest frustrations for those observing the Occupy movement is that it doesn’t appear to have an agenda, goals, or demands.” Some movement participants and supporters are also concerned about this. It’s okay though, J. says, because the movement’s not about reforming the current system from above, but a chance for all of us average people ‘down below’ to learn “how to create a society in which everyone has value, everyone is supported in achieving their greatest potential, ideas and resources are shared equitably, responsibilities are shouldered by all, and conflict is resolved to the benefit of all. In short, a society based on partnership rather than domination.”
J. says that while “many in the media or general population and even some in the movement” don’t see this, enough of the powers-that-be do, which is “why the movement is being shut down by violent means.” Allowing “a large group of people to become successful in creating a model society in which everyone works cooperatively to create equity and justice is a threat to the current paradigm. If the general citizenry stops being a tool for building wealth for a handful of individuals, if we begin to think for ourselves, and use our creativity to live in harmony with one another and in balance with the natural world without the help of experts and governments, the possibility for exploiting anyone is lost. Those who have benefited from this exploitation are willing to intimidate and even kill to end the experiment.”
J. suggests that rather than retaliating for the shutdown of Occupy sites (as was done 12-12-11 when West coast ports were shut down by Occupy activists), we should continue to create a better society where we are, even if we don’t have public sites on which to do it. Making “visible the possibility of living another way” was a good start, J. says, but “it had some drawbacks. It was about what all of us are against (corruption and exploitation) rather than what most of us are for – human rights. It’s a whole lot harder to create the necessary new social infrastructure that promotes human rights than to rail against the social infrastructure that denies” them.
The system thinks it’s “made sure that the citizenry has no place to assemble long enough to learn how to get along. It refuses the use of a place to allow people to feed and shelter themselves, to learn how to monitor all kinds of human behavior, and to develop their own methods of self-governance. The only way a large group can come together in such a way is to buy property and follow all the rigid rules and regulations that limit experimenting with what works for humans.” This “keeps everyone trapped in money making efforts, and robs them of time and energy to build the social and physical infrastructure necessary for self-sufficiency. This has been the tactic of [our local] authorities: make the occupants of the site comply with so many rules and regulations (or face bulldozing) that they have no time to accomplish anything of value.” I’d also point out that it keeps the effort private and largely invisible.
Thanks to “the brave souls who took to the streets so some of us might recognize what’s possible,” the nation’s “become energized,” and possibilities exist “with or without occupation sites. We can continue to be visible in ways that inspire and invite people across the demographic spectrum to participate in throwing off the shackles of oppression through nonviolent actions of community building. It’s hard for the police-state machine to threaten and imprison neighbors who get together for potlucks, grow their own food, share resources, develop their own ways to take care of their children and elderly, and incorporate the valuable skills and energy of their young adults. When the police and members of governments join their neighbors in building something that works for them, too, it’ll be hard to find anyone willing to enforce inhumane laws.
This is my goal,” J. says. “To find ways, with many others, to develop self-sufficient communities that bring about a natural demise of systems of exploitation, oppression, and violence.”
Yes! Petitioning, trying to change, voting within, and resisting the system give it energy and wastes yours. Ignore the current system — it’s in its death throes anyway — and create something better. Visit www.eugenemutualaidsociety.org to learn more about how some of us in Eugene, OR are trying to do this.
Here’s a letter from the Eugene Weekly that I have to share with you, it hits all the points so well:
OCCUPY THE HEART
We may be the 99 percent of the U.S. population, but as American citizens, we are still the wealthy elite of the global population. We are among the 1 percent with access to a college education, highly quality health care and clean drinking water. As broken as our political system is, we still posses a great deal more political freedom than our brothers and sisters of the less “developed” nations of the world, the people whom we directly oppress through our daily support of the very same corporations we decry.
We buy shoes manufactured by abused children working in sweatshops in Asia. We use cell phones and computers containing rare and toxic elements controlled by guerrilla forces in central Africa, killing innocent civilians and endangered species in the crossfire. We eat bananas, sugar and chocolate grown on slave plantations throughout Latin America. We further desecrate and pollute our own land through resource extraction and the dumping of toxic waste.
We are collectively responsible for the resource wars being fought across the globe. We maintain our consumer lifestyle at the expense of all others. We are all conditioned by our parents, school teachers, government “representatives,” corporate media, etc. to accept this short-sighted and self-centered version of the American dream.
We could all use a bit more love and compassion from our friends and neighbors. However, if we are going to survive as a species (or evolve beyond our present circumstances), we are all going to need to make some very drastic changes in the way that we relate to one another and the more-than-human world.
The one thing I have discovered which has never failed is the willingness to listen to the heart. Through meditation and/or contemplative practices we are able to deepen our connection to a source of strength and clarity which is needed now more than ever.
Nathaniel Nordin-Tuininga, Eugene
I just designed an Occu-pie T-shirt (plenty for all in the Occu-pie, here’s your “peace,” using my graphic designer son’s pie graphics, that you can look at — even buy, if you like — at zazzle.com. Here’s the link, which probably won’t be “up” for a day or so: http://www.zazzle.com/plenty_for_all_in_the_occu_pie_t_shirt_or_hoodie-235978003033361323. It’s fun to design things on the zazzle website, and you can go public with your design by creating a store — mine’s called “wegotthenumbers,” of course. If anyone buys your product, you get a %10 royalty. Kind of ironic for an anti-capitalist like me, but…
I’ve already ordered a hoodie with my design on it, which I’ll be happy to model for anyone who’s interested.
More serious political stuff soon…
This morning I direct your attention to an editorial entitled “Should the Occupiers Stay or Go?” by Rick Salutin in today’s Toronto Star. Salutin says, “The Occupy movements have largely become dramas revolving around the excellent question posed by The Clash: Should I stay or should I go? It’s become a story about a place. Some, like London (Ontario) are gone. Others, like London (England) are on notice. Occupy Wall St. is gone but it’s back, in a different form. We’ll know about Occupy Toronto, apparently, tomorrow. But it’s possible that this is the wrong question. Let me offer another view based on a recent visit to Madrid.
The 15-M movement began there last May 15th with a protest held in Puerta del Sol square over the economic crisis that became an overnight occupation. When it was dismantled by authorities, a conflict ensued over whether they would stay or go. A month later, when they finally went, it was by choice. One veteran of 15-M (there are no leaders) said: ‘It was a strategic move that led to the survival of the movement.’ Almost happenstantially they had evolved another preference: to fan out into districts of the city (and elsewhere in Spain) and conduct regular meetings with local residents. These then forwarded proposals to a weekly assembly held in the square.
If you wander around Occupy sites, like St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, as I did this week, you often see signs saying, Join Us. It’s hard to imagine many of the people who pass by and warily eye the huddled tents, doing so. The Madrid option in a way is the opposite. It’s: Join Them. Go into your neighborhood, try and talk with your neighbors, different as they may be from you. Listen to them as they talk to you and each other.
This is different from a campaign to simply carry the Occupy message (99 per cent versus 1 per cent, etc.) out to ‘the people.’ Some organizers of the Occupy movements, according to the New York Times, are heading in that direction: ‘trying to broaden their influence by deepening their involvement in community groups.’ But there’s a difference between trying to make a point (the organizers quoted by the Times) and trying to engender a social phenomenon (15-M). It’s the difference between trying to win an argument, and focusing on the process of discussion itself, in the hope that something transformative might emerge. ‘We are going to create a new social category,’ says one 15-M participant, the aim of which is not to convince people to vote a certain way or embrace particular views: ‘It’s simply a widening of the political landscape.’
A new layer of political process wasn’t 15-M’s agenda at the start. It came to what you could call its democratic emphasis gradually; the stress on process emerged from the process. It was never called an Occupy movement, so it had the advantage that its very name didn’t press it to stay where it was born.”
A similar phenomenon, that some friends and I have been discussing and are putting into action, involves elements of “the people” forming affinity groups based on location, workplace or work situation, or any other common interest, which meet to talk about needs and problems, and send spokespersons to connect with other groups – at Occupy sites or elsewhere. The public space we/the Occupy movement are claiming, using, and defending doesn’t have to be specific and permanent, day after day, month after month – though it can be for those who want to try to make it so. The same or other public spaces can be used periodically to connect groups who want to communicate with each other and to provide regular focal points for community meetings. At the same time, Occupy and other websites – some yet to be created – can provide virtual meeting places, offering discussion forums, interactive maps showing community resources, and needs/offerings listings of goods and services available for gift or barter.
The important thing is having the conversations, “widening the political landscape,” considering alternatives to the current, unacceptable system, and creating a new one by using this respectful, democratic, and inclusive process. We’re learning the ways of a better world already. It’s here now. “We make the path by walking.”