Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupy Rob Dow's World

Hello everyone.

I don't want to get into the habit of starting my blog by apologizing and making excuses about why it's been so long since my last post.  So I'm not going to discuss how I did some contract work assembling office furniture for a couple days, or how I've been busy getting the house ready for winter, or how I've been playing music with a local guitar player and thinking of trying to play out in one of the local seedy bars, or how I spent a good chunk of the day last week recording my first video blog with the intention of posting it here, only to run into technical difficulties trying to upload it from my camcorder to my laptop.

Nope.  I won't talk about any of that.

I will, however, talk about something that's been taking up a great deal of my spare time: The Occupy Everything movement.

(Much More Than) Politics

If you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks and haven't heard about the Occupy Wall Street movement, here's a good rundown.  In less that a month, the movement has spread to hundreds of cities and towns in the US and the rest of the world.  There's even an Occupy Sandpoint group, and when I attended the first meeting last weekend, I counted just under 50 attendees.  Not bad for a town of around 7,000.

So what is the Occupy movement all about?  Well, I could tell you what I think it's all about, but instead I'll copy and paste Occupy Wall Street's first official statement (and to the best of my knowledge, their only official statement so far):
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 perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one's skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

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 used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

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 purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

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.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

I find it hard to disagree with any of these grievances.  And I suspect I'm not the only one.

So how was this received?  Well, for the most part, the corporate media ignored it at first.  But regular people like you and me posted photos and videos on the Facebooks and the Twitters, including ones where NYPD cops indiscriminately beat and pepper-sprayed unarmed protesters, and even bragged about it, and then suddenly the movement couldn't be ignored.  I wish they'd talked about the protesters' list of grievances, but I guess that wouldn't bring in the ratings the way unarmed women getting pepper sprayed point blank by cops apparently does.  

Anyway, aside from a few good American commentaries of what's been happening, plus a few good foreign (and not so good) ones, most of the American corporate media predictably went into attack mode, especially the usual bunch of right-wing clowns.  And beyond the smear machines, most of the rest of the "really serious impartial news pundits" have attacked the movement as a bunch of dirty hippies who don't even know what they're protesting.  Bullshit.  They know what they're protesting.  Just look at the grievance list above.  They get it.  It's the corporate media that either doesn't get it, or (more likely) doesn't want the movement to gain traction, so they're misrepresenting it.

But I think the movement is working.  The establishment is worried.

The Republicans, fearful of losing their voting base to a movement they can't control, have been claiming the movement is funded by the right-wing's favorite whipping boy, George Soros.  That's nonsense.  Soros is a currency speculator and hedge fund manager.  He became a multi-billionaire through manipulating money, which is exactly the sort of behavior the Occupy Wall Street crowd is against.  The Democrats have been quick to jump on board by announcing their "support" through the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and, an organization that advocates for Democrats.  Of course, they waited until the movement started gaining traction before jumping on board, naturally.  But while there's a definite leftist element to the protest, there's also a significant conservative vibe as well, such as protesters calling for an end to the Fed.  And there's also been a strong sense of dissatisfaction with Obama among the protesters.

But more importantly, the movement isn't tied to a party.  It's a people's movement.  It started more or less spontaneously, and no one person or group controls it.  It's real democracy in action.

So what will this movement accomplish?  Time will tell.  The whole thing is incredibly complicated, with so many facets, that I often find myself confused about the goals of this movement, even though I spend a lot of time following it.  But that's to be expected.  Real democracy is messy and complicated.

Think about it.  If I had a singular agenda, I could clearly state what I wanted.  But this movement is way more than one person or group's agenda.  This is a movement with a whole lot of different agendas.  Even so, everyone is angry, and the source of the anger is the criminal behavior of a small segment of the population.  We are the 99% (and I imagine so is anyone who's reading this), and we've all been screwed over by the top 1%.  Now we're pissed.  Is that so hard to understand?

So what should we do?  I say go big.  Occupy Wall Street has created a whole new micro society in a park on Wall Street.  Maybe we can learn from them.  And there's a list of demands some of the Wall Street occupants have proposed.  Beyond that?  Hell if I know.

But that's the whole point.  This isn't my movement--it's a people's movement.  Look, I hate hierarchies.  So I'm not going to be that guy who says, "We should do [whatever]."  Let the people decide, I say.  There are lots of great ideas out there. 

Am I being wishy-washy?  Perhaps.  But this is a dynamic and unpredictable time, and things are happening that are unlike anything else in history.  So who knows what the future has in store?  Not me.

But I will say it's great time to be alive.  And I feel more optimistic than I have in a long time.

In Closing

I promised a chili recipe posting.  It will happen.  The photos have been taken and everything.  Stay tuned. But in the meantime, here it is, your moment of Tucker (and Cleocatra):


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