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Though mainstream media seems committed to reporting #Occupy as an obituary, the pulse of #Occupy reported live from around the country indicates a healthy, thriving movement, albeit a bit less visible than a year ago. People sounded resolute and focused on initiatives for which they find resonance—like getting money out of politics and advocating the integration of indigenous wisdom into contemporary life (and here).
How has the #Occupy phenomenon impacted your life? Personally, I wouldn't be writing this invitation to you right now. We might never have "met".
A secondary thought: As I searched for an appropriate picture, I landed on this old album cover of Dylan's "The TImes They Are A Changin'". The thought that it might be a little dated flashed through my mind until I listened, for a countless time, to a song that could have been written tomorrow rather than it's original recording year of 1963. 50 (count 'em—for those of us for whom a count might be relevant;-))) years between then and now. What has changed in 50 years? What remains? Where do we go from here and how?
When the Occupy movement started, I went to Occupy San Diego and gave some teach-ins on boycotting elections. Although they were well received by those who heard them, the organizers made sure that I got only the worst time slots when there were very few people around. And at one of my teach-ins, where I had an audience of about a dozen people, Canvas 4 A Cause had a crowd of about fifty where they were telling people how they could make money going door to door registering voters. The pro-voting faction, backed by billions of corporate dollars, eventually co-opted Occupy San Diego and it became little more than a fancy voter registration drive. I backed away.
I did try posting here on Occupy Cafe, but when people from another website announced that they were coming here to attack me, not only was Ben unwilling to help, but he blamed me for not being gracious towards my attackers and demoted my topic.
But things really have changed for me in the course of a single year. There is now a burgeoning Election Boycott Movement.
Recently, some Election Boycotters from the Occupy movement publicly burnt their voter registration cards in Chicago: http://mobile.zcommunications.org/occupiers-burn-their-voter-regist...
There's a new website dedicated to the 2012 Election Boycott: http://electionboycott2012.org/
Some years back, Rob Kall, the owner of a website called OpEdNews, not only banned me, but made a new rule that anyone who suggested not voting on his website would automatically be banned. This year, however Rob attended a panel on boycotting the election at the Left Forum in New York, and after hearing a talk by Linh Dinh, personally invited Linh to post his essay about not voting on OpEdNews. http://www.opednews.com/articles/Time-to-Boycott-the-Electi-by-Linh...
My own reasons for not voting, along with reasons I urge others not to vote in 2012, can be found here:
You're Got to Stop Voting http://fubarandgrill.org/node/1172
The above essay was reposted by Terri Lee on FireDogLake. An administrator promptly removed it but not before somebody had read it and posted a comment. That person started a new topic asking what happened, and the ensuing controversy brought more than 6,000 new readers to my little (no more than a dozen regular readers) website where the original article now has over 12,000 views: http://fubarandgrill.org/node/1172
I've put that essay along with four others into a handy reference for election boycott advocates: Consent to Tyranny: Voting in the USA http://fubarandgrill.org/node/1431
Although the above link is free, the pamphlet is also available for 99¢ on amazon for those who prefer it on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Consent-Tyranny-Voting-USA-ebook/dp/B0095OHZ9G
It is copyleft and may be freely reproduced. And my public library, which refused for years to allow me a venue for my advocacy, has now scheduled me to give a talk next month.
So what has changed for me is that I'm no longer a lone and widely vilified voice in the wilderness. I'm now accompanied by some great people, including Cindy Sheehan and Glen Ford, among others. In the course of a single year, common sense has begun to triumph over corporate money. It feels good.
Thanks for this story, Mark. What a difference a year makes indeed. I noticed that Harper's Magazine also has a cover piece this month questioning the point of voting. Whether one agrees with this tactic or not, I think we can all align around the idea that giving it a fair hearing is a sign that we are now far more aware of the fundamental flaws in our party system and in the machinery or registration and casting of ballots as well. It's hard to measure progress in this struggle sometimes, so it's very gratifying to hear you noting this shift.
Thanks, Ben. Nobody fought and died for an uncounted vote. Until and unless the government decides to count the votes, it only makes sense for us to refuse to cast them. As long as they don't value our votes, there is no reason for us to value their elections. I'll keep an eye out for that Harper's article.
Some thoughts from members of our group for breakout #1 on the Cafe Call:
Full group harvest from round one:
To the initial questions, I jotted down the following thoughts -
I became radicalized again, like I was in the early 1970s, and was not for over 40 years after that - "until Occupy". Yet, I also realized the seriousness of responses that came from the governmental/law enforcement entities. So, that I realized that we had to find a different method of bringing about the changes, that I could personally see are necessary, due to the unsustainable way that has been the status quo.
I lost my innocence about what's been going on in government generally. New alignments with new people (like the Occupy Cafe peeps) based on common concerns about current issues. I woke up, with a sense I had to pay closer attention, beyond "conventional" stories meant to maintain complacency. Re-thinking the types of information I allow in and how I discern the meaning of those.
To the "Imagine" question, this -
Increased optimism, about possibilities for beneficial quality of Life improvements, as I see such effects moderating, changing or improving upon, what felt previously overwhelming and intractable. Seeing an ending to the "divisions"; and a cooperative unity arising, as the emergence of a new spirit in human expression.
I had to leave the call about a half hour before it's ending. I hike each day; and darkness is upon me. I'm taking my cd of Bob Dylan and playing "The Times They Are A Changin" while I hike, just to stay connected in my heart's joy, with today's call.
Final harvest of our vision for a year from now:
Last year we shouted at the banksters on Wall Street and at the politicians in Washington, DC.
We demanded accountability and justice from our leaders.
This year I hope that each one of us begins to build that new world we all want to see, instead of just demanding it from someone else.
When the people lead, the "leaders" will be forced to follow...
Start a co-op, food bank, eco village or free health clinic, etc.
You can make it happen!
We are the future..
Absolutely, Mark. There are some things that we can get other people to do for us, like Tom Sawyer getting somebody else to whitewash the fence. But the good things, the important things, are things that only we can do for ourselves. If I want to eat a wholesome organic apple, I can't just elect somebody to eat it for me. Nobody can breathe for me or sleep for me. Creating a better world through self-governance is one of those things that only we can do for ourselves. Even if they wanted to, which most of them don't, elected officials can't do that for us.
This realization is a true leap in consciousness. That it has taken place in the space of a single year for many, is almost miraculous.
I hear the same message, Mark, in this Occupy Cafe blog post from Suresh Fernando. An excerpt:
We need to re-occupy...but with the support of the community.
Shifting the Cultural Paradigm
Physical space is essential because the objective is to create a new way of living... of being in the world. Life is lived in the real world... in space. In the absence of physical space, we will continue to fee disconnected... from each other... and the world that we want to help to recreate.
Occupation 2.0: what would re-occupation look like?
Revolution 2.0 will be a slow process; one that focuses on engaging, educating, and capacity building. What we need to do is to build a bridge to the anaesthetized... to create points of interaction where we can educate people and cultivate personal relationships... This needs to happen in physical space.
Occupation Requires Sustained Physical Space: obviously if we are to re-occupy we need a location to do this. The importance of a physical location cannot be overemphasized. Physical space contributes to building the revolution in the following ways:
- Evidence of The New Culture: we need a physical space in which to provide evidence of the new culture... We need to show that Gift Economies can work...
- Deepen Relationships: It provides a place for people to go to and therefore for people to simply share space and get to know each other.
- Bridge Differences: This is especially important in a movement that is resisting the entire system and therefore is the home for people who have different perspectives and are working on different things.
- Build Trust: The solution to bridging differences is to cultivate personal relationships... to realize that we are all in this together
- A Place To Organize: Of course, it also provides a place to organize our activity
Sustained Occupations Cannot Be Confrontational: I think that I speak for most of us when I say that the appetite for sustained occupations that are confrontational has been fully satisfied! This does not mean that occupy cannot continue to participate in front line resistance activity and to show solidarity with others that are standing on the front line.
Space Must Be Utilized To Engage and Interact With the Mainstream: If we are to build the movement we need to educate and activate the average citizen who does care, but has no entry point into the movement. They must feel welcome to share the space with us whenever they want.
Deeply appreciating this point of view. Thanks for sharing it here, Ben.
And while I do agree that the "physical" space is important; and perhaps, this thought in me is not contrary to the blog author's intention, I do believe that the "points of interaction where we can educate people and cultivate personal relationships" does not necessarily have to happen in "physical space" only. In my own life, I find my reach to be global, thanks to technologies that allow me to "connect" to people who are not immediately accessible, in my own personal physical space; but are REAL people never-the-less. And I am not speaking "only" of preaching to the choir, where I encounter no resistance. There are diverse communities, Facebook for example, where it is possible to encounter such opportunities.
I find the analogy of "to build a bridge to the anesthetized" to be not only poetic but accurate. I have been aware of that need from Day One.
However, I do also agree with the author's assertion - "if we are to re-occupy we need a location to do this. The importance of a physical location cannot be overemphasized." In my own "physical" life, I have had difficulty, on more than one occasion, in even locating in the real, the Occupy St Louis movement. The information about "where" to find them is never easy to come by; and though I recently made once again such a definite effort, driving up and down the street that I understood their "camp" to be on, I never was able to actually find them, and eventually gave up. I would have gladly added my body to their recognition efforts regarding the OWS first anniversary. I suspect that I am not alone in having such experiences, with a movement that has suffered real violence, at the hands of law enforcement. Yet this vagueness lends credibility to a perception that this is some kind of "outlaw" organization. And so, I resonate deeply with what the blog author says and agree that, such non-resident but sympathetic persons as myself "must feel welcome to share the space with us whenever they want". I am 2 hours away from there; and it is simply not realistic to be constantly present there; but that does not diminish my feelings that the location represents my "on the ground" Occupy.
Therefore, I see physical space as important, in dispelling the conventional belief that sans Occupations, the Occupy Movement has died. We are able to apprehend the personalities of people in specific ways, when our energies come together in shared space, that simply cannot happen in exactly the same way virtually. Within the "bridging differences" concept - coming into contact with real people that are homeless or of a different ethnicity allows us to discover the commonalities that connect us all, as members of the same species. To end the divide that seeks to prevent our cooperation with one another.
Physical space is important, but extremely difficult to Occupy.
We are the survivors of thousands of years of commodification and privatization of the earth. Wherever people were living simply and sustainably, armies came in and either massacred them or forced them to pay rent for their own land. There is no commons left to speak of--everywhere is owned and the police will even brutalize people who gather on supposedly public property.
People who rent can be evicted, and people who buy land or buildings can have it taken away by eminent domain at any time.
Yet there are co-ops, food banks, eco-villages, health clinics, urban gardens, transition towns, and much much more. People have been building cooperative, sustainable models in every crack of the capitalist system. Nature is powerful. Anyone who has seen the ruins of a mighty civilization overgrown by jungle, knows that flowers and vines are mightier than bricks and stones. The more we see ourselves as part of nature and act in appropriate ways, the more powerful we become.
Social media is important too, as it allows us to communicate with people we've never met in places we've never been. But we need not rely on physical or virtual space. We have something called inner space that we can always rely on if we know it is there and cultivate it in ourselves and others. It allows us to know and do what is right and to recognize and interact with others who also are capable of knowing and doing what is right. From the very beginning, I've made it clear that I'm not a New Age type person, but there are "New Age" principles and values that are precious and timeless. Occupy Cafe attempts to integrate these principles with the Occupy movement and is a creative force for good. Many thanks to Jitendra and Ben, and to everyone else here on Occupy Cafe. It is the integration of the internal and the external that makes us whole and opens up the possibility of healing our societies and our planet.