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Monday, September 10, 2012

How To Occupy (Chapter One Continued)

Occupy Boston (Lindo, 2011)
Continued....Occupiers have shown up in almost every country on earth. People saying they are protesting in solidarity with those who protest lack of regulation and consumer protection. These Occupiers journey to find each other and then take the time necessary to find the right questions to ask, that's really the most interesting part. It seems they find it not by taking someone else's answer, or even someone else's question, but by thinking for themselves. So as a policy geek, we have to applaud any medium that so clearly carries their crafted messages. 
"This makeshift city is a vortex of creation: To think for oneself is not merely to take sides on the same old issues that come up generation after generation, it is to bring forth the issues that make a difference. Occupy is a machine of bringing forth." ~~ Normi The Chef (Donald Trump's celebrity chef who came by with amazing meals for the warriors at Occupy LA)
"How can I matter?" That question led me to this opportunity to take a stand and leads me everyday to knowing the moments on which to act, to see decisive moments in which to make things happen. Things are actually happening here." ~~ Nick At Night, Occupy Wall Street.
Occupy Baltimore (Lindo, 2011)
"Everyday thinking and questioning people can, at times, demonstrate a remarkable demand for a domain of possibility- a context - in which individual lives can make a difference. And that is empowering even to the point of restoring hope." ~~ Prentiss, Occupy Baltimore
Occupy Maui (Lindo, 2011)
There is one other question on almost all Occupiers minds. With all the doom and gloom pouring out of main stream media, (which most of these sign holders definitely say they despise) there is a 2012 End-Of-Days drama to many conversations. 'Will we survive?' People say it about their families and their businesses.  Kids say it because they worry about recent nuclear accidents. The anti-war protestors say it about drones.
"In my generation's lifetime it really feels like we are in fact destroying ourselves economically and environmentally. A more useful question is, "What if we do survive all this mess, then what?" Then you have to say,  "How can I make a difference" If you ask yourself, I'm willing to bet you do. Because you made it here. To listen and self educate is living in the presence of making a difference by simply sharing self education. When we switch from "Can I make a difference?" to "I am making a difference!" that's what Occupy is all about." ~~ Drenda Herrera, Occupy Wall Street
Occupy LA (Lindo, 2011)
In all honesty, not much makes a difference. That's the reality. So where is the difference making?  Questions are much more powerful than answers, so these Occupiers tend to spend each day devoted to knowing whether or not there is a way to ask questions that make a difference?

The kind of human being that shows up in the presence of something is different than the people who live in the vicious cycle of corporate greed. These Occupiers don't know if the answer is yes, or no. They tend to think, from our travels, that they probably don't make a difference. They are not aware that simply being who they are they make a difference. Around the heating sources, they'll say the media has no idea what's been happening at one Occupy or another, they think no one is noticing they're there. In reality, by taking a stand and honestly looking at our problems, the closer they get to the facts of the matter, the more patriotic they are. These people are shouting about what is really true for them. They aren't showing up to make a profit.
Occupy Oakland (Lindo, 2011)
Occupiers for the most part are showing up to fight for civil rights and that common human courtesy be reflected in the law. Yet they tend to feel like the process is meaningless and difficult and time consuming when you talk over walks to the closest bathrooms. They are fighting being evicted and food issues and weather issues and security issues. If they were just allowed to be the populist think tanks they strive to be, perhaps we might find new domains that we might have not seen before in our government's commitments to preconceived answers, answers that are consistently paid for by the Koch Brothers. Yeah, that's another consistent message from all the different cities. We are here as witnesses to say that there are indeed new domains that open the possibility where things show up, where the future can show up, where the things that are missing begin to show up. When you take a stand in the clearing in the place where new ideas show up, things can truly get accomplished.  So our cameras and our recorders and eyes are there.

While all this is going on, it's hard not to flash on how things are back inside the beltway. Cocktail party floating in our nation's capitol is alot like being on a train ride. Inside the train people are having a fairly good time. There's music and food and the scenery is terrific as the countryside roles by. Then somebody looks out the window and notices where the train is going, and sees that the tracks lead to a disaster, maybe a Senator or a Congressman, or maybe a pundit. Now people who pretend to represent the rest of us start to organize the train." Listen" they say, "what we all have to do is get on the left-side-of-the-train. Hurry" So everybody moves over to the left side, and maybe we all try left-side-of-the-train thinking and doing for awhile, and then someone looking out the window of the train sees where we are going and sees, OMG, there is still a disaster ahead and yells, "this isn't working, we are still headed toward disaster!" Everybody knows what to do then and they announce: "Get over on the right side of the train, quickly. Everybody!" So everybody moves over to the right side. They give each other enormous numbers of promises that getting on the proper side of the train is what is going to make a difference. But it doesn't.

Occupy Baltimore (Lindo, 2011)
People who are looking out the window of the train now can see the disaster coming. The Occupy people are using twitter and all kinds of social media to share info and stay in touch, and Americans are starting to wake up to the fact that it is totally unrealistic to think that the side you are on is going to make any difference as to where the train goes. What we want to do here, is to prevent disaster. What we have been doing, is still leading us to disaster. The drama of these Occupations playing out on a national stage gives us an opportunity to get out in front of the train and lay some new tracks. That seems to be the only realistic practical thing to do. It seems to us to be wholly unpractical to keep trying the same old worn-out ways, just exchanging them in 30 year periods, generation for generation, or exchanging them from one administration to another administration or one Party to another Party. But doing otherwise, requires us, each of us, to think for ourselves and not take sides on issues. Candidates think taking sides on an issue is thinking for yourself. No. To think for oneself is to bring forth the issues that are important. Not to take a side. We're not saying people shouldn't take sides, but in reality, taking a side has nothing to do with thinking for oneself.  And these goose-bumped issue chewers are on the front lines of this different way of bubbling up answers, here as an example to the powers that be, in the absence of their proper use of power. And it's awe inspiring.

Occupy LA (Lindo, 2011)
This window has opened in our history, to build an alternative future. A domain in which a difference can be made, the exercise of future building. With care. With acceptance. With responsibility. Consensus is about opening up possibilities. Not about being committed to anything that claims rights over inalienable citizens rights. They are willing to take a stand with no proof, just naked courage. It's been an honor to document this movement. It requires courage to go down a road with no path to follow. Anyone can walk a path once shown it. Here, the path is made by the walking. So we walk with them, and take some pictures along the way.

UPDATE  At this time, we've never been at an Occupy during a violent event.  But there are reports. And there are calls for a National General Assembly to happen in Philadelphia summer 2012...

Lisa, The Policy Geek
(Inspired by The Network Review, 1983)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

How To Occupy (Chapter One)

Occupy Baltimore (Lindo, 2011)
Reports from the ground: Recent violent episodes have forced us to leak part of my upcoming book, Occupy Everything: Messages From The Movement avec slices of some of my favorite interviews these last few months. We've seen, and listened to, and videoed Occupy meet ups and conference calls from Wall Street to Maui, HI, from Los Angeles to Washington DC. We've surfed YouTube and trolled on twitter for photos and livestream updates and blogs. Having mashed that all together and run it through the old looking glass, a mosaic of the movement has started to definitely piece together. And now, in an effort to project a general understanding of the movement and its goals, we document some of our findings here including valuable links in hopes that you might find it enlightening and worth sharing. Peace.

Introduction: The Occupy Movement meet ups, wherever they've been, wherever we've seen them, and walked through, and ate with, all have similar themes and consistently the activated inhabitants (from far reaching parts of the United States) form a melody worth paying attention to. But it isn't the actual messages of the movement we are most impressed with. Those issues will change over time. It's their method that we've have found most inspiring.
(explaining the setup...) "Those committees that meet during each General Assembly, well, they have specific conversations about detailed concerns, local and national, and how best to remedy those concerns. So their mechanism of consensus has its positives and negatives, just like some of our State Legislators, but for the most part, y'all can all agree to be ruled by those rules and we Occupiers can agree to play by the rules we occupiers have created for Occupy." ~~ Jeff Stiles, Occupier Boston
These "take a stand" warriors are all sick and tired and not gonna take it anymore, and that's a concensus that's common in each city, from Oakland to Baltimore. It's in the way they arrived there. It's in what drew them out, and the jeux de vive of this movement is in the way they work towards change for the better. After bubbling up problems, they share solutions through music, art, speeches, and film.
Occupy Los Angeles (Lindo, 2011)
"What I am most impressed with, about the Occupiers, is that they all exist in this same alternative brain trust universe: Living in the Question of things, instead of being committed to a preconceived answer." ~~ Dee Lincomb, Facilitator and Occupier Wall Street
Taking A Stand is not the same as choosing sides, it would appear, or forming resolutions, or collecting evidence for one position or another. From the initial calls to meet up that were put out by Yes We Camp and others to Occupy Wall Street starting last September and following the action up until the 'Occupy' mention in the President's State of the Union this last February 2, 2012, Occupiers worldwide have shown a spotlight on issue after issue by simply standing still and talking about it. And the objects of their conversations have started to take notice.

Downtown Baltimore (Lindo, 2011)
Bank of America found out right away when it was targeted for planning to up ATM fees.The backlash from the announcement triggered the creation of Bank Transfer Day which officially took place Nov. 5, 2011. Occupiers upset by new and changing bank fees, helped push the movement as it caught fire across the country, with most of the largest national commercial banks also becoming the focus of the frustration. According to ABC News, in October 2011 alone, Credit Unions around the country gained 650,000 new customers and $4.5 billion was moved out of major banks. This action has grown since then, and is showing no sign of slowing down. When the not so invisible hands of the protesters reached into the marketplace and took out all of their money from the big bank system to move to credit unions, Bank of America, along with the other big banks who had planned to start charging the same fees, got the message and canceled their planned additional money grab. So, are they effectual? Yes.
Occupy Wall St (TedLabs, 2011)
What then makes the work of these Occupiers as powerful as it has proven to be in our national discourse? These people across the board are searching for the questions to ask so as to live a more worthwhile life. Some do it with yelling, some with art, some with dance, some with conflict resolution. That's a mouthful, but it's true. Late nights in solar powered tents have lead us to that generalization. Early mornings waking up to skid row crazies descending on the previously considered free speech zone tend to solidify the overall theme these campsites give off.
"We never thought we'd live in a country that created Free Speech 'Zones'." ~~ Police Officer Seaton, Occupy Los Angeles
Occupy Baltimore (Lindo, 2011)
These people don't have the answers. They aren't even sure exactly what's caused the problems. One universal theme amongst the fairly organized din, and there are many, is a general dislike for the current status of our two party system. According to these rather interested and inspired 99%ers, the two party system is, by its very nature, dysfunctional in American politics and from the wide spectrum of people who attend Occupy General Assemblies, the general tenants of this dislike are manifested in lots of different ways. No matter what direction they come from, they all have a problem with the entrenched two party system that dominates our political discourse and it goes a little something like this:
"Both Parties are letting us down. Republicans specifically seem to be 'of money' that has talked them into believing they are the OPPOSITION PARTY. That if there are two parties, one must be right and one must be wrong, so that the only way the Republicans can be right is IF we are wrong, if the President is wrong, if the liberals are wrong, only then can they be right. Everyone else needs to be wrong for them to be right." ~~ Joseph Sattano, Occupy Los Angeles
"This way of thinking is now a prerequisite with the way money has twisted the system. So they (the GOP) spend EVERY WAKING SECOND talking about how wrong we are. Not methodically working to solve problems at all. Unless they are the problems of those who have the money, like lowering taxes and loosening regulations, not being forced to offer health care as an employer, etc. etc" ~~ Melissa Balin, StayOccupied

"Right-left, on-off, correct-wrong, this will never work in a Working Congress. The two party system has to be rethought. In the upcoming elections, I for one will be looking for the people who are talking about this sort of thing in their stump speeches. I want a one HOPE country. My entrenched Democratic friends may disagree, and I'm sorry, but if one party thinks its number one goal is to DESTROY THE OTHER PARTY, something has gone terribly wrong. We need a win-win every day in every way. Not a win-lose system of government. I am looking for those win-win candidates." ~~ Anonymous Member, Occupy Wall Street
Occupy LA (Lindo, 2011
So each day these 21st Century warriors huddle together across thousands of miles to try and figure out where to start. They set up libraries and reading lists and numbered in the 30s in Maui, the Occupier numbers peak in cities like Los Angeles and DC in the thousands. (How To Occupy, Chapter One continued in next blog post.)

Lisa, The Policy Geek