Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Revolution 6, Part 2, New York and Beyond

The 1%ers fight back



Protest signs:
“You’re God damn right, it’s class warfare!” declared one. ”I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one,” said another.

It began one month ago yesterday, with about 150 people in New York City, and as of last Saturday, October 15th, it had swelled into the thousands. That same day this phenomena manifested itself in over 1,500 cities around the globe. In Rome, in London, in Paris, in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Hannover, Cologne, Leipzig and Stuttgart. In Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Valencia and Malaga. In Athens, Brussels, Vienna and Prague. In Zagreb, Belgrade and Sarajevo. In Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, in communist Hong Kong. In Jakarta, Manila, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, and Wellington. In Johannesburg and Nairobi. In Mexico City and Tijuana. In Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Caracas. In Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, and every major city in the United States. Over 2,000 in Seattle. In Denver, San Diego and Sacramento. Hundreds in Oakland, Over a thousand on San Francisco's Market Street. 1,000 in Miami and 200 in Atlanta. In Chicago and Des Moines. In Trenton and in Boston. Over 5,000 here in Los Angeles.
What was this? An outbreak of the Ebola virus? No it was not, although our Republican friends in Congress, and their corporate masters would rather have that than what they're getting. No, of course I'm speaking about the protests around the world inspired by Occupation Wall Street, protests against a culture of corporate greed and malfeasance, a culture that has literally brought this world to its knees in the financial crisis's occurring in 2007/2008. They are there, and they intend to stay there, until something changes. They are there because their government is not working for them anymore, they work for Wall Street, and defense contractors, and oil and gas companies. They are there to shout out against the horrendous inequality of wealth in this country, and others. They are there because college graduates who have piled up tens of thousands in student loans to get professional degrees that at one time insured a well paying job and financial security throughout their lives, find no jobs available, and if they're lucky, they get employment in child care, or in a restaurant, or in sales. They are there because the huge banks that stand around them, have evicted them from their homes. They are there because 1% of the population in the U.S. controls 42% of its wealth, 4% controls 27%, the next 5% 11, and the next 10% 12. They are there because that leaves only 7% of the nations wealth for 80% of the population. They are there because Citibank earned 3.8 billion in profits in its third quarter, Wells Fargo 4.1 billion, and they have nothing, even though they were asked to help bail out these banks. They are there because that situation, and all the hardship and misery it brings, sucks way bad.
A lot of folks on the right keep complaining that they don't know what it is the Wall St. occupiers want. It's very, very simple. They want justice.
I'll tell you what they don't want... injustice. They don't want a political and financial system that is rigged so that the nations wealth constantly favors a select few.
They want banks that will give them a fair shake, and not throw them out of their homes at the first opportunity. They want a government that does not always favor big business, or one that will bail out banks at the expense of the middle class. They want the country's social programs that help the poor, the sick, and the old, to stay in place, while the rich are taxed appropriately. They want a government that really is for them, really for the middle and working classes, and not in word only, but in deed. They want an end to outrageous student loans that keep our young people in so much debt they come out of college virtually slaves to the corporate aristocracy. They want justice.
They want a whole lot of things.
"The Occupy Wall Street movement, like all radical movements, has obliterated the narrow political parameters. It proposes something new. It will not make concessions with corrupt systems of corporate power. It holds fast to moral imperatives regardless of the cost. It confronts authority out of a sense of responsibility. It is not interested in formal positions of power. It is not seeking office. It is not trying to get people to vote. It has no resources. It can’t carry suitcases of money to congressional offices or run millions of dollars of advertisements. All it can do is ask us to use our bodies and voices, often at personal risk, to fight back. It has no other way of defying the corporate state. This rebellion creates a real community instead of a managed or virtual one. It affirms our dignity. It permits us to become free and independent human beings." -author and provacitour, Chris Hedges
I also hear sometimes that the OWS movement cannot be effective without a designated leader. I wonder, does the Tea Party have a leader? They've been very effective, or infective I should say, in the halls of Congress.
Oh yes, I forgot. The Koch brothers are its leaders.
One of my favorite people, provacitour and author of "The Shock Doctrine," Naomi Klein, was invited to speak to the OWS protesters in Zuccotti Park on October 6th. Because amplified voice systems have been banned, the protestors use the ingenious technique of repeating what one person has said verbally throughout the crowd, like a stone dropped into a pond and the resulting ripple emanating outwards, the word spreads until everyone has gotten it. This resulted in Naomi having to shorten her message for practical reasons. However, she sent to me what it was she would have said, in full, if she could have:

I love you [the crowd of protestors, not me personally... at least I don't think so].
And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout "I love you" back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.
Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: "We found each other." That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.
If there is one thing I know, it is that the one percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.
And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say "No. We will not pay for your crisis."
That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile where the crisis began.
'Why are they protesting?' ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: 'What took you so long?' 'We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.' And most of all: 'Welcome.'
Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalization protests that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999. That was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am proud to have been part of what we called "the movement of movements."
But there are important differences too. For instance, we chose summits as our targets: the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G8. Summits are transient by their nature, they only last a week. That made us transient too. We’d appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. And in the frenzy of hyper patriotism and militarism that followed the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.
Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It’s because they don’t have roots. And they don’t have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.
Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen.
Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately. And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality. Which we saw more of just last night. Meanwhile, support for this movement grows and grows. More wisdom.
But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom. Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging. The media was drunk on easy money. Back then it was all about start-ups, not shut downs.
We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a price. It was damaging to labor standards. It was damaging to environmental standards. Corporations were becoming more powerful than governments and that was damaging to our democracies. But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.
Ten years later, it seems as if there aren’t any more rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.
The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.
These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.
We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite—fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful—the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.
The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society—while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.
What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I’m not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that’s important.
I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it’s also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.
That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and providing health care, meditation classes and empowerment training. My favorite sign here says "I care about you." In a culture that trains people to avoid each other’s gaze, to say, "Let them die," that is a deeply radical statement.
A few final thoughts. In this great struggle, here are some things that don’t matter.
What we wear.
Whether we shake our fists or make peace signs.
Whether we can fit our dreams for a better world into a media soundbite.
And here are a few things that do matter.
Our courage.
Our moral compass.
How we treat each other.
We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets—like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.
Don’t give in to the temptation. I’m not saying don’t call each other on shit. But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less.
Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.


Last Saturday the protest moved out of Zuccotti into Times Square, mixing with thousands of tourists, showgoers, and police. There they rallied for several hours before leaving.
Police arrested 24 people at a Citibank branch near Manhattan's Washington Square Park. These individuals attempted to close their personal bank accounts in protest against the bank's nefarious ways (this strategy, closing accounts at the huge banking offenders, and opening new ones at local, smaller banks, I feel could be exceptionally effective if enough customers did the same. Hit the banks where it hurts them the most, in their vaults. It's really the only thing these type of people understand). The bank employees got scared of their own account holders and asked them to leave. When they didn't the police were brought in and the protestors were arrested (the same thing happened right here in California (http://www.addictinginfo.org/2011/10/15/bank-of-america-refuses-to-allow-customers-to-close-their-accounts-at-occupy-santa-cruz-video/) I've since asked my lovely ex case manager, Erin, to reconsider her account at BofA).
Over the course of the day, more than 80 people were arrested.
Beside from closing bank accounts at behemoths such as BofA and Citibank, I think a general boycott of Koch Industry products would stir things up as well:
Maybe I'm a little bit of a provacitour myself.

To be continued.

OWS infiltration:

Donate to OWS here: http://www.nycga.net/how-to-help/

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