Dec 042011

People who are emotionally invested in the current system, believing in the mainstream media (MSM) to tell the truth can make it hard to explain the point of the Occupy movement. The MSM has perpetrated many untruths about the OWS crowd. My mom and I have agreed to disagree and rarely discuss politics. However, the emperor is starting to look a bit scantily dressed to her of late. Maybe it was Howard Zinn’s People’s History that I encouraged her to read. In any case, she repeated the MSM’s talking points about Occupy not having their shit together, so I knew I had my work cut out.

Discussions usually don’t go well. My new tack is make my points in emails. Better to be able to take the ego’s need to be right out of the equation, at least remove the tendency to talk over the other person. I invite anyone to use this or any part of it to send to someone close to you that’s having a hard time understanding the movement.

It’s important to realize that if they get their news from the major outlets, it’s not really their fault. Cut them some slack. Here is my latest email to my mom:

Hi Mom- The Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) is often accused of not knowing what they want and therefore not accomplishing anything of value. Even if it were true, the fact that this very conversation is happening in millions of households across the US & across Europe would be a significant accomplishment. But the truth is quite different. OWS released a statement which outlines their view of the primary 23 problems facing the US. Here is a partial list as well as their opening statement.

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

• They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
• They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
• They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
• They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
• They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
• They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
• They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
• They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
• They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
• They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.
• They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
• They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.
• They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
• They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

As you can see, the OWS movement has clearly stated many of the problems that we all face right now. This statement was made available to everyone including the major media outlets in early October. Have you heard about this? The media and the news shows where the talking heads make statements about a lack of cohesion and not knowing what they are about, had this information early on. 

A clear list of demands/solutions addressing these problems is probably in the works. The Occupiers have numerous working groups. But the process of direct democracy can be slow. Consensus requires 100% agreement. The list of grievances was created with this process. Try to keep in mind that 12 members of congress (the so-called super committee) failed to reach a simple majority consensus on a single problem after 3 months, lol. 

Relatively speaking, OWS is a new movement. Past movements such as for women’s voting rights, the civil rights movement and the anti-VietNam war movements were years in the making to reach a tipping point where policy and laws were changed. Generally, negative public opinion had to be overcome. Btw, were you aware that in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, more than 100,000 people marched in Washington, DC in protest? Me either, but it happened. Apparently, the corporate owned media didn’t think it was relevant or necessary for us to know that there was anyone objecting to the invasion.

The fact that “single event” protests often don’t get noticed or make it into the public conversation is significant. For this reason, the idea of long term occupations has taken hold across the world, most notably are Spain and Egypt. Now, all across the US. The media only started covering OWS when police brutality was caught on video and spread across the world via youtube. The occupation of Zuccotti Park (renamed Liberty Square by OWS), and the twice daily marches… and not a peep until they had no choice but to cover it.

The coverage has been… well, you know what mainstream media has said. Disorganized, without clear demands, dirty, socialist, funded by rich people, as well as some other equally outlandish lies. Maybe you heard that OWS had a library with over 5000 books (all digitally referenced & available to anyone to check out). It turned out to function as the community library since the library branch in that neighborhood had been closed due to budget cuts. They had a kitchen which was open to all and fed many of the area’s poor & homeless. There was a medical tent, staffed by doctors and nurses. They cared for the OWSers as well as many local people who couldn’t afford a doctor visit. All the supplies were donated as was the military tent. There was a media center with a volunteer staff that walked around the encampment to talk with curious people and to man a bank of computers for letting the world know what was happening in the camp and about upcoming actions. There was an around the clock live video feed. There was an all volunteer sanitation crew and security detail.

Every day saw a schedule of actions and various “teach-ins” with some high profile economists and activists. All of this and more has been accomplished without any leaders, a true democratic process. It’s called horizontal democracy because everyone is on the same level and has an equal voice.

The city cut the power so they had gas powered generators to charge the laptops, cell phones and lights around the kitchen and in the medical tent. When the city decided to confiscate the generators they got bicycle powered generators. Turned out that a dozen people leisurely peddling could power everything they needed.

New York City banned the use of microphones or megaphones to amplify voices. They improvised with “the human mic.” A system of one person saying something and then the crowd repeating it back so all could hear. Sometimes the crowds were so large that it could only be heard in waves so the people near the front would repeat and the next closest people would repeat again until the farthest back could hear. 

The occupation was violently evicted last October, about a month after the movement’s beginning. All of their supplies including laptops, tents, medical equipment and supplies, sleeping bags, and books were put in garbage trucks and most ended up compacted and in the dump. 

Please take news statements about the protesters “clashing” with police with suspicion. The protesters have taken a pledge to remain non-violent. Military type police actions around the country to crush the movement have become increasingly prevalent. Tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, batons and even battlefield weapons like sonic sound canons have been used. The OWSers are aware of the risks and still choose to put themselves in harms way to non-violently resist. If they had any doubts about the risk, the point was brought home by Scott Olson, an Iraq veteran who was critically injured by the Oakland police. A teargas canister which is designed to be shot on an upward arc was shot directly at Scott, striking him in the head as he stood still, 15 feet in front of the police line. He suffered a skull fracture and required a medically induced coma to avoid brain swelling and save his life.

A couple ironies about what happened to Scott. He did two tours in Iraq and managed to get home without being injured only to be wounded back home. He was injured for exercising his right to free speech only to have the portion of the brain that controls speech damaged. He was unable to speak at first and with therapy he has begun to speak again.

The protesters are committed to non-violently opposing the takeover of our government by big banks and multi-national corporations and defending democracy and in the process our constitutionally protected rights of free speech and freedom of assembly. They are doing it very courageously. Our founding fathers would be proud. I know I am.

If you have any questions, just let me know.