Posts tagged OWS
Posts tagged OWS
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. We are the hope of those boys who have so little, who’ve been told that they cannot have what they dream, that they cannot be what they imagine. Yes, they can. -Barack Obama
I know. I know. You see Mr. President’s name up there and you want to wail in grief at all of the broken promises. But, for just one moment, please, I implore you to put aside your disappointment and your jadedness. I, too, share this disappointment and this sense of betrayal, but there is something else here that we may not see when the scales are over our eyes.
I would not argue with critics when they say that Obama has not done the job that he promised to do. There is some (or perhaps much) truth to that. But, have we, as a nation, put too much faith in our elected officials? They are merely there to represent the voice of the people and yet we often expect them to completely govern us as if we have lost the ability to do so ourselves. Now, to be fair, perhaps it is because for so long, they’ve boasted about how they could do just that, and often, they have done just that, and we’ve let it happen.
But, perhaps Obama was wiser than some of us care to admit. After all, if he would have acted more firmly and prosecuted the Wall Street crooks, if he would have pushed harder on healthcare, if he would have stopped trying to be the eternal compromiser, we likely would not see such a mobilization of the people.
While this time in our history as a nation is certainly a dreary time, the humanity that has been rekindled in us, as a society, the spirit that has reminded us that we are flesh and blood and not made up of microchips and metal is an invaluable lesson. It has come at a great cost, the burden of which is strapped to the backs of those with the least. But, this is the greatest awakening of our time.
Before this collective rebirth, we stopped leading each other. We lost our collective voice. We turned our entire lives into an economic equation to be solved and stuffed our hearts further into our chest cavities. We used industrial rationalization to make nearly every decision in our lives and all we ended up in was a giant iron cage. So, while Obama is not known for his overt leadership style, usually, I think it’s fair to say that he’s given us a gift that no other American leader has done on this mass scale. And that gift is the drive and the need to be leaders ourselves.
Many of us have taken our freedom for granted. We have forgotten what it was to fight for liberty. Or perhaps, some of us have never known what it was like at all, because we grew up privileged, either by class, sex, or the color of our skin. But, this showing of humanity, this showering of strife that we are learning to wade through is teaching us what the removal of freedom is like. It has taught us that silence is capable of destroying our liberties. And so we will learn more in these moments than we ever have before, as a nation. And for this, I thank our President and every single other official in our government that has not been the leader they claimed to be.
Look, I realize that you find us pretty scary with our drum circles, our oh-so-lofty human rights ideals, our youth and probably most because we’ve gotten a lot of people you thought were your allies to stop drinking your shitty kool-aid. You know like veterans, senior citizens and even your own loyal bank customers! I get it. You are pro status quo and we are about making a new world order that doesn’t leave a lot of room for your tunnel vision world. I’m totally empathetic with you on this because, damn, you really did not see this coming. Total blindside!
You are completely flummoxed by our movement. You have tossed out a lot of criticism at us claiming that we are un-American, not patriotic, or that we seek only the destruction of the government so we can create The United Soviet States of America. But, this is a sore miscalculation on your behalf, you fancy Ivy-league educated bankers and those who support them! Oh wait, the same kind of miscalculation you must have made when your banks went belly up and you came to beg at the doorstep of the American people for your corporate welfare check.
Let’s start with our Constitution. I imagine that this is a document that most Americans have little dispute with. Let’s focus on the preamble alone:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
We wrote a Constitution to insure domestic tranquility, justice, liberty, common defense and even general welfare. Did your defense contracts aim to secure general welfare? Did your sub-prime mortgage scam insure domestic tranquility? Do you really act justly when you lobby the government on issues that suit only your interests? Does roughing up peaceful protestors provide for the common defense? I think the answer to anyone with eyeballs is a glaring no. And you know this. But, you’ve decided that your personal gain is much more important than anything that our Constitution contains in its preamble. Now, who is acting un-American amongst us?
Don’t get me wrong. I want there to be rich people. I want someone who has a good idea or is a savvy business dealer to strike it huge and rich. This movement is not about crippling capitalism. This movement is about doing the most good for the most people to make our country even stronger so that you may sell your services and products to a thriving American middle class. And sometimes that means evening out the spoils just slightly so that, in the very least, everyone has their basic needs met and an extra $20 to go to the movies on the weekend. This concept of economic fairness (fairness does not mean everyone makes the same amount, by the way, so hush) is as American as baseball.
You say our Occupy camps attract the worst parts of society. And, to some extent, you are correct. But, what is shortsighted is that you see this as a weakness of our movement, rather than a strength. Just because for decades now you have shoved these marginalized populations under the rug doesn’t make your end of the scale any more favorable. In fact, it makes it less so. At least in our camps we try to work with these populations and treat them as fellow human beings. We give them food, we try to provide them with what little resources we have and we attempt to approach them with empathy and compassion. That is a hell of a lot more than most of you have ever done living in your precious, perfect bubbles of society. And why don’t we all get on the same page here? The homeless, the disenfranchised youth, the families evicted from their homes, and the drug abusers are all a part of your society too. They are not unique to the Occupy movement. But they seek the solace of the Occupy movement because for once they have a voice in a society that often marginalizes them.
You criticize us for not having a clear message. Yet, the very fact that there is an awakening and a movement is the message itself. You are just too out of touch with reality to see it. You see us as disorganized simply because we are a movement of many leaders with no need for a CEO or a board of trustees. We won’t be co-opted and we know this also pisses you off. But, it’s important that this movement not be tainted by the stench of Washington politics, the stink of the very system that has let itself be bought out and brought us oligarchy rather than true democracy.
You sent us to schools that taught us about tolerance, peace, justice and diversity. You urged us to be colorblind. You urged us to share our toys. You taught us to be kind to one another. Remember, the golden rule? You expanded our world with the invention of the internet. I don’t think you actually realized all of this would ultimately resonate so deeply with us. So you sit there, shocked today, your jaw hanging slack, when we put into practice the very social curriculum we were taught. You taught us that we could be anything we wanted to be. And look, here we are.
You are asking us to come up with solutions to problems we did not create ourselves, that have been around for decades and problems that you have not been able to fix. Let’s look at discrimination, homelessness, sexism, poverty. All of these issues were born out of your policies and yet you are asking us to tap the heels of our ruby slippers together and divine you a solution ASAP.
We aren’t perfect. We’re learning to live in a society where things are as they are, not as we gloss them over to be. And this takes time. It takes unlearning the prejudices that we’ve acquired knowingly or unknowingly over time. It takes unlearning our first response to lash out and incite violence. It takes patience and understanding in how to communicate with a diverse array of groups. But, damn, we are doing it. We are living it. We are learning it. We are proposing solutions via direct democracy. And we are being that change we want to see in the world.
Cut us some slack. Give us a break. And get on the right side of history with us instead of standing there, knees knocking, frozen in fear. A lot of you are followers of Jesus. So I ask you whenever you are quick to criticize, what would Jesus do? And then you should do that.
I’ve always struggled with the notion that the Occupy movement is leaderless. First, and foremost, anyone who has been a part of the GAs, or committees, or has taken a moment to observe these actions knows very well that we are a movement full of leaders. One of our forefathers, John Quincy Adams, once said this about leadership:
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams
The Occupy movement has done just that. I think he was pretty spot on and that is the definition I’m going to apply to all of those involved in the Occupy movement.
The mainstream media and critics often indulge in lambasting the movement as being a bunch of free-loading, idealistic college grads who haven’t a clue about “the real world” and just need to stop smoking the grass and get out of the tent and find a job. And the ironic quality of such criticism is that our generation and the others who join us (veterans, senior citizens, homeless families, the laid-off, teachers, etc) often have more of a grip on this so-called “real world” than many of those reporting about such do. We’ve gone into debt to get an education, we’ve played by all of the rules only to have them fail us. We drank the “American dream” kool-aid like good little soldiers and finally found ourselves choking on its saccharine sweetness.
But, while the media has been so busy focusing on all of our less desirable qualities (and by less desirable, I mean the qualities that they can’t put into a neat, pretty box), they’ve forgotten to look at our overwhelming abilities. They sit and scratch their heads in befuddlement at the fact that this many people can seemingly function with this level of organization and have no need for a CEO.
We’ve rewritten the manual on leadership and gone from a hierarchical society to a more lateral organization, where we focus on including those so often disenfranchised in the “real world.” Only in an Occupy GA can you find a homeless man, a queer chick, a transgendered dude, a law student and a single mother all given their equal input into the decision making process. This is what democracy was always meant to be, not the sham that it has become to feed the corporate gullet.
Is it imperfect and frustrating at times? Yes! But, democracy is a slow process and it should be. Often, rash decisions are not the best ones and when you open up the platform for all to be heard, it’s one giant brainstorming orgy. There will be some great ideas, some terrible ones, and some in between.
It is a scientific fact in communication studies that the more diversity and brains you have in the decision making process, the better the solution is for the whole in the long term. Of course, this also produces conflict between those involved, but the beautiful nature of this conflict is that if it is able to be worked through, then there is a deeper understanding and empathy achieved amongst all. This is where our government has failed us. They are not diverse. The leadership does not rotate. You often see political dynasties within families or “advisors” moving in and out of the regulatory committees and Wall Street and all of this has created an incredibly incestuous, self-aggrandizing government with devastating policies to match its homogeneous nature.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy. And this movement, this occupation, this revolution is going to be the hardest thing that we ever do as individuals and as a collective country. We have to relearn everything we were taught. We have to invent new ways to speak to one another. We have to cross all those lines that we have never crossed before and we are going to have to fight the most unyielding, powerful forces that we cannot even imagine defeating. And yet, it’s necessary. It’s needed. And it’s the only thing that is going to sustain our existence as a nation. Some call us nasty names to try to intimidate us, but history is on our side. The very people that we consider patriotic heroes now are those who were once showered with the same debasement that we endure today.
We may not see the whole change before we pass on from this world, but we have set the stage for the future of our beloved country in the hopes that generations that follow will enjoy the essential and inalienable rights our founding fathers granted.
The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Occupy movement has been criticized as lacking any specific demands. Granted, it is a brand new movement and completely grassroots, so the critics seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that this is not a corporate run campaign. It’s “the little people” doing all the work and there is a lot of varying viewpoints involved. But, given our founding principles of diversity, you’d think that this would actually be one of our highlighted strengths. One of my fellow OLA 99%ers wrote this statement of demand in a recent blog post and I only hope it’s brought to the GA soon and spread about to other Occupy GAs.
“We ask for investigative action, and support all concurrent efforts by Treasury and Justice to hold accountable those parties responsible for the massive losses incurred by their procedures and practices. Specifically those practices that used artificial valuations under false pretenses to profit from the losses they intended to incur on depositors or investors, those that entrusted their money with them or their institutions.”
This is a great start! You can find the whole blog post here: http://occupylosangeles.org/?q=node/1606
I’m not pitching a tent just yet, but I’m considering it! I walked around the camp today and talked to several people after listening to Richard Reich speak and Ozomatli play. What was most surprising to me was the vast cross-section of people actually there. There were several young kids with their parents, there were grandparents, there were definitely a few homeless people mixed in, lots of dogs and then the typical Generation Y-ers all bright eyed and excited to be part of their very first big movement.
Another fun fact. For all the complaining the media and police do about the sanitation concerns in these camps, I saw more trash and crap OUTSIDE of the camp at the bus benches across the street than I did inside the camp. And there is about 50 recycling bins and trash bins all over the camp. I even saw several “non-smoking” areas around the Kid Village and the First Aid tent.
Now for my rant. The mainstream media is so full of shit. The LA Times can’t find any other better story, like you know, Robert Reich among others coming to speak at the Teach In to report so they must report on the two incidents of crazy people last night. Out of the hundreds and thousands, they report the two knuckleheads and call it news! It’s as bad as Fox! Endrant.
Overall, my first impression was a good one. OLA has been criticized for not having its shit together and I can see that. I can also see how we have a few more challenges here in LA than in other places, with the homeless from Skid Row for instance and a lot of displaced youth. But, I think they’ve handled things well so far.
My only criticism of the movement as a whole would be that we need to make sure we are not being as oppressive with our ideas as some in the 1% have been with us. That is the danger in these kind of movements. We constantly need a little Man in the Mirror action happening.
I was born in 1983. I’m one of those millennial kids who grew up with most everything I ever wanted in a neat and tidy little suburb in a loving and supportive family. I grew up in Northern LA County in a suburb that makes as much per capita as the 90210 zip code. To say the least, I’ve had a great life. I’m lucky.
But there was always something missing. There was always that tug within to be a part of something that is much bigger than myself. So, when I was 18, I moved to Venice Beach, and became a westside local. Later I transferred to San Francisco State to get a taste of Norcal’s liberal pocket of goodness. I’ve always watched footage of the civil rights movement, of Ghandi’s protests, of the Vietnam War demonstrations, of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, or the suffrage movements and I’ve always been a bit envious that so much was going on back in those days. So much that I would love to have seen and been a part of and yet my generation was so sleepy and uneventful. Sure the Cold War ended, there was Desert Storm, and there was that Rwanda genocide and there was the “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo but all of that was too far away for me to get involved in.
And then 9/11 happened. I had all the normal reactions to something so incredibly horrific that happened to my country, to my fellow citizens. And after grasping what happened, I remember hearing the announcement first that we would go into Afghanistan and then finally came Iraq. Once there was an option on the table to go into Iraq, I remember feeling angry. Why the hell are we going into Iraq….again!?
I was at Santa Monica College. I was part of the women’s studies department there and the school planned a protest against the Iraq War. We were all angry. We didn’t understand and we didn’t think it was a good idea. And to be candid, I was pretty excited. I finally got to be part of a social movement. I finally got to get really passionate about something. I finally got a chance to chant and scream and hold a sign at traffic. We marched out on Pico Blvd and sat in the middle of the street. No one was arrested, there was barely any media there and though I was surrounded by a few hundred students, it was hardly anything like the historical movements I had seen and read about. But, nonetheless, it was a protest, a sit in, and I was no longer a protest virgin!
I didn’t know how right I was about that gut feeling I had about the Iraq War. I was really just doing it because I’m not that cozy with the idea of war, in general, and there happened to be a little protest planned on something I could get behind. But, ten years later, in 2011, I’m proud of myself for being a baby thinker back then. For trusting my gut to tell me what was right and wrong and for likely opening up the door to a lifetime of speaking out against the wrongs in the world.
It’s November 5th, 2011. I’ve been following the Arab Spring and now the American Autumn, or the Occupy Movement. I’m back in school and I’m 10 years older and perhaps slightly wiser. I’ve also worked a corporate job for a few years now and I’m ready to go nuts with the sterile work environment I’ve endured. And, later this morning, I’m heading down to downtown to show my support for the 99%. Because, now my parents no longer pay for me and I’m one of the 99%. I took my money out of BoFA last night, even though I’ve been bitching about them for years. I’m now with a credit union. I’m ready to be a part of the biggest movement the world has ever seen. This is the movement of the people, by the people, for the people and I’m proud to be one of the 99%. I’m proud to be a millennial child and I’m proud that my generation now has its own social justice movement to build and grow. I no longer have social movement envy and I will do everything in my personal power to see this movement through.