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And, yes, I DO take it personally: To Occupy or not to Occupy
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Sunday, October 30, 2011

To Occupy or not to Occupy

bmaz, posting at marcy's emptywheel blog, is having an understandable epiphany after digesting the terms of the latest foreclosure fraud settlement trial balloon...
[I]t is hard for many in the comfortably ensconced traditional middle class to see just how heinous the situation is, and how necessary the “Occupy” movement may really be.

Trust me. I know, I am one of the uncomfortable. My natural predilections are within the system and rules. That, however, is no longer perhaps enough.


When the politicians and corporate masters no longer are willing to play by the rules, how much longer can the “99%” afford to honor them? When the so called leaders will not abide by the norms and constricts of law, why should the average man still be held to the same?

Again, I fully admit just how much I struggle with saying the above. I really do; it is uncomfortable and discomfiting. I could go on, but my own thoughts pale in comparison with those similarly situated who have experienced first hand what the import and truth of the Occupy movement is.

he goes on to cite a post written by a woman in oakland who had been struggling with the same hesitancy...

lili loofbourow...

I'm a moderate: small, fearful, skeptical, selfish, with privilege aplenty. I have health care through the university, where I'm both a student and a teacher. I'm half-Hispanic, but I scan as white. I'm a not atypical Bay Area type: liberal, taxpaying, cautious, law-abiding (maybe to a fault), trying to hang onto the things I have. I have an iPhone, for heaven's sake.

I am, moreover, a liberal with a lifelong habit of opting out of the political conversation—and out of most kinds of activism—because I find its language dishonest, combative and unjust. I understand perfectly that our politics proceed according to a kind of barter system where each side continually overstates its convictions. I understand that the nation is a behemoth, and that to shift it, however minimally, requires the kind of herculean effort that very few people can muster.


Don't do anything wrong and the police won't bother you. Vote and you'll be represented. Do your job and you'll be able to live in relative comfort. And if you want to change things, go through the proper channels. Start a petition! Write to your representative! If something really important happens, the news will surely cover it.

lili went on to describe her own epiphany as she realized that mere moments before oakland police began using tear gas on the protestors was the precise moment when both abc and cbs television live streams went dead...
To sum up: the only two mainstream media live-feeds switched off at precisely the same instant—the minute before fifteen police departments working together engulfed a peaceful group of protesters in tear gas.


Given our image-saturated society, it's hard to explain how the absence of an image can be more dramatic, a bigger scandal, than the hundreds of disturbing videos of citizens being attacked by police. We're used to thinking of surveillance as the enemy. Big Brother abides, and I can testify that there's something undeniably eerie about the news helicopters hovering over my neighborhood. But for those helicopters hanging in our sky for hours and hours, waiting for a story, to disappear precisely when the story breaks—that's a different kind of sinister, a different kind of wrong.


Here's the thing: technology tilts the political machine so that only that which is public matters. Letters, phone calls, once the instruments of an engaged citizenry, used to function as public documents. That's not true anymore; the letter is quiet, nostalgic, quaint, difficult to reproduce or witness. Phone calls are unrecorded. A letter or phone call from a voter is like the tree falling in the forest: the question of whether or not it makes a sound is purely academic.

In fact, a letter or phone call to my representative is exactly the opposite of the chalk shadows on the sidewalk: it's an original that never even had a shadow, let alone an aftermath, or an effect.

But surely, the moderate within me insists, that same technology can save us. Email! Online petitions! The trouble is, the skeptic counters, that emails are incredibly easy to fake, and online petitions are ignored because they're so easy to generate and so difficult to verify. The electronic age has not helped voters. The ordinary channels are sort of like local channels on TV: they're still around, but nobody's really watching.

Except for those of us who are watching, and then the ABC live-feed goes dead.

At the moment when I understood that the police were pulling on their gas masks and I couldn't see what was happening, I got what was already obvious to so many: if I wanted to see the reality of Occupy Oakland, teargas, flash bangs and all, I couldn't rely on the ordinary channels. They weren't working. They'd run out of gas. I needed to go to Occupy Oakland. With all my reservations, resistance, reluctance, and inertia.

So I went.


The best answer I can muster for the question of what an engaged citizen tired of being a spectator can do is this: try the ordinary channels and try being one of the 99%. It is not perfect. Nothing is. But there is room for more than your vote or your money: there is room for you, your body and your brain. It offers something our political system (increasingly peopled as it is by disembodied, bodiless, shadowless “corporate” persons) doesn't. It's this: talk into the human microphone, and your voice doesn't disappear. It's amplified. Talk, and you stand a chance of leaving, not a mark—nothing quite so permanent—but a chalk outline of a shadow that shows that you, too, were once here.

reading both bmaz and lili, i identify all too closely with their thoughts and feelings... i'm engaged in the same struggle...

here's the response i put up to bmaz' post...
i have just finished reading your post as well as the one from the thoughtful woman in oakland... i have to say i relate all too well to the sentiments expressed... i am a spectator myself, albeit a very well-informed and perceptive one, who now finds himself at a turning point...

ever since watching the al jazeera live stream from cairo earlier this year (from kosovo, of all places), i have thrilled to see a resurgence of populist spirit across the globe... when the occupy movement started and took hold here in the u.s., my first thoughts were that i had been waiting the better part of my 64 years to see this kind of energy blossom...

for over 35 years, i have taught a deep respect for ordinary people and the common good and attempted to demonstrate those principles in my own life... over the past 10 years, i have been working for development projects that bring me into close contact with the ordinary people in places like kosovo, macedonia, jordan and afghanistan, people who only want what we all want - the ability to feed and clothe their families and to live their daily lives with some sense of safety and security...

returning to the u.s. after long periods outside the country has always been particularly difficult... being slapped in the face with such political and ideological hypocrisy, such mindless consumption, such over-the-top self-indulgence and such vehement denial of reality, has always left me struggling with a sense of deep despair over my country's future... the occupy movement is the first time i've allowed myself to feel any tingle of hope since the entire notion of hope was burned out of my neurons after being left at the altar by my two-timing fiance, barack obama...

now, like lili in oakland and like you, bmaz, as i find myself back in the u.s. for what appears to be an extended period of time, i must decide if i want to continue to plant my aging ass in front of my laptop or do i want to dust myself off and get busy working for the future of my country and my countrymen...

stay tuned...

p.s. i plan to attend the occupy reno general assembly this afternoon...

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