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Occupy - Nov 11

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Occupy movement plans spring offensive as momentum stalls

Karen McVeigh, Guardian
After eight weeks of dramatic growth, organisers consider how to sustain the protest movement through winter
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... But as the diehards in New York and other encampments across the US prepare to dig in, organisers are facing their next big challenge: what next?

In a tacit admission that the protests will be difficult to sustain over the winter, organisers are now focusing their efforts on planning a "spring offensive" with fresh targets, they told the Guardian in a series of interviews this week.

Details of the campaign will be unveiled later this month, according to the activists who say they will spend the winter consolidating their position, broadening their support base and refining communication between Occupy grounds nationwide, using online tools being developed by their IT team.

Keeping the protests alive at all through the cold months is becoming a challenge for a movement flushed with the dramatic success of its first eight weeks.

The Guardian has learned that Adbusters, the Canadian activist group which helped spark the movement, is even considering calling on occupiers to declare "victory" for phase one and go home for the winter – clear recognition that numbers are likely to dwindle anyway and make it increasingly difficult for the protests to maintain momentum and generate headlines.
(11 November 2011)



How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
Much more than a movement against big banks, they're a rejection of what our society has become
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... I have a confession to make. At first, I misunderstood Occupy Wall Street.

The first few times I went down to Zuccotti Park, I came away with mixed feelings. I loved the energy and was amazed by the obvious organic appeal of the movement, the way it was growing on its own. But my initial impression was that it would not be taken very seriously by the Citibanks and Goldman Sachs of the world.

... That's what I was thinking during the first few weeks of the protests. But I'm beginning to see another angle. Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It's about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one's own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it's flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.

... What both sides missed is that OWS is tired of all of this. They don't care what we think they're about, or should be about. They just want something different.

We're all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. The relentless sameness of the two-party political system is beginning to feel like a Jacob's Ladder nightmare with no end; we're entering another turn on the four-year merry-go-round, and the thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.

If you think of it this way, Occupy Wall Street takes on another meaning. There's no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape.

... There was a lot of snickering in media circles, even by me, when I heard the protesters talking about how Liberty Square was offering a model for a new society, with free food and health care and so on. Obviously, a bunch of kids taking donations and giving away free food is not a long-term model for a new economic system.

But now, I get it. People want to go someplace for at least five minutes where no one is trying to bleed you or sell you something. It may not be a real model for anything, but it's at least a place where people are free to dream of some other way for human beings to get along, beyond auctioned "democracy," tyrannical commerce and the bottom line.
(10 November 2011)




Open letter to the Occupy movement: why we need agreements

Starhawk, Lisa Fithian and Lauren Ross, Alliance of Community Trainers (ACT)
... The Occupy movement includes people from a broad diversity of backgrounds, life experiences and political philosophies. Some of us want to reform the system and some of us want to tear it down and replace it with something better. Our one great point of agreement is our call for transparency and accountability. We stand against the corrupt institutions that broker power behind closed doors. We call to account the financial manipulators that have bilked billions out of the poor and the middle classes.

Just as we call for accountability and transparency, we ourselves must be accountable and transparent. Some tactics are incompatible with those goals, even if in other situations they might be useful, honorable or appropriate. We can’t be transparent behind masks. We can’t be accountable for actions we run away from. We can’t maintain the security culture necessary for planning and carrying out attacks on property and also maintain the openness that can continue to invite in a true diversity of new people. We can’t make alliances with groups from impacted communities, such as immigrants, if we can’t make agreements about what tactics we will employ in any given action.

The framework that might best serve the Occupy movement is one of strategic nonviolent direct action. Within that framework, Occupy groups would make clear agreements about which tactics to use for a given action. This frame is strategic—it makes no moral judgments about whether or not violence is ever appropriate, it does not demand we commit ourselves to a lifetime of Gandhian pacifism, but it says, ‘This is how we agree to act together at this time.’ It is active, not passive. It seeks to create a dilemma for the opposition, and to dramatize the difference between our values and theirs.

Strategic nonviolent direct action has powerful advantages:

We make agreements about what types of action we will take, and hold one another accountable for keeping them. Making agreements is empowering. If I know what to expect in an action, I can make a choice about whether or not to participate. While we can never know nor control how the police will react, we can make choices about what types of action we stand behind personally and are willing to answer for. We don’t place unwilling people in the position of being held responsible for acts they did not commit and do not support.

In the process of coming to agreements, we listen to each other’s differing viewpoints. We don’t avoid disagreements within our group, but learn to debate freely, passionately, and respectfully.

We organize openly, without fear, because we stand behind our actions. We may break laws in service to the higher laws of conscience. We don’t seek punishment nor admit the right of the system to punish us, but we face the potential consequences for our actions with courage and pride.

... a mask and a lack of clear expectations create a perfect opening for those who do not have the best interests of the movement at heart, for agents and provocateurs who can never be held to account. As well, the fear of provocateurs itself sows suspicion and undercuts our ability to openly organize and grow.
(8 November 2011)



The 99 Percent

Vandana Shiva, ZNet
On May 15, 2011, young people occupied the squares of the cities in Spain. They called themselves the “Indignados” — the indignant. I met them in Madrid where I was attending the meeting of the scientific committee that advises the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Their declaration states: “Who are we? We are the people; we have come here freely as volunteers. Why are we here? We are here because we want a new society that gives more priority to life than to economic interest.”

In the US the ongoing “Occupy movement” is also called “We are the 99 percent.” This people’s protest, inspired by the Arab Spring, is directed against unequal distribution of wealth; the “99 percent” here refers to “the difference in wealth between the top one percent and all the remaining citizens”.

The fact that they were supported by action around the world when they were to be evicted from Wall Street on October 14 shows that everywhere people are fed up with the current system. They are fed up with the power of corporations. They are fed up with the destruction of democracy and peoples’ right. They refuse to give their consent to the bailouts of banks by squeezing people of their lives and livelihoods. The contest, as “the 99 percent” describe it, is between life and economic interests, between people and corporations, between democracy and economic dictatorship.

The organising style of the people’s movements worldwide is based on the deepest and the most direct democracy. This is self-organisation. This is how life and democracy work. This is what Mahatma Gandhi called swaraj.

Those from the dominant system, used to hierarchy and domination do not understand the horizontal organising and call these movements “leaderless”.

Gandhi had said: “Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the village, the latter ready to perish for the circle of villages till at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals, never aggressive in their arrogance, but ever humble, sharing the majesty of the oceanic circle of which they are integral units. Therefore, the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle, but will give strength to all within and will derive its own strength from it.”

The general assemblies in cities around the world are living examples of these “ever expanding, never ascending” oceanic circles. When everyone has to be included in decision-making, consensus is the only way. This is how indigenous cultures have practised democracy throughout history. Future generations are reconnecting to this ancient tradition of shaping real freedom because corporate rule has displaced democracy, and people’s representatives have mutated into corporate representatives.

Today, worldwide, representative democracy has reached its democratic limits. From being “by the people, for the people, of the people”, it has become “by the corporations, of the corporations, for the corporations”. Money drives elections, and money runs government.

Gandhi identified “modern civilisation” as the real cause for loss of freedom: “Let us first consider what state of things is described by the word ‘civilisation’. Its true test lies in the fact that people living in it make bodily welfare the object of life... Civilisation seeks to increase bodily comforts and it fails miserably even in doing so... This civilisation is such that one has only to be patient and it will be self-destroyed.”

This I believe is at the heart of Gandhi’s foresight. The ecological crisis which is a result of the intense resource appetite and pollution caused by industrialisation is the most important aspect of the self-destruction of civilisation. Industrialisation is based on fossil fuels, and fossil fuel civilisation has given us climate chaos and is threatening us with climate catastrophe. It has also given us unemployment.

Gandhi also refers to the fact that the sole objective of “civilisation” is bodily welfare and it fails miserably even in this objective and it fails in its own measure.

The new movements of the future generations are movements of the excluded who have been deprived of every right — political, economic and social. They have nothing to lose but their disposability and dispensability.
(11 November 2011)



At Occupy Protests, Bearing Witness Without Preaching

Mark Oppenheimber, New York Times
... There are Christians, too, eager to be seen as Christians. They face a special challenge. They want to make the church visible, so they wear clerical collars or other religious garb, like the albs, or white robes, that lay Christians may wear. But they know that many, especially on the political left, are wary of Christians, suspicious that these men and women in strange garments are seeking converts. When liberal activists hear “Christian,” they often think “conservative.” Many would thrill to see an imam marching next to them but shudder at a priest.

So committed Christians have different answers to the question, “How Christian should we seem?” Marisa Egerstrom, an Episcopalian who studies religion Harvard, recognized Occupy Wall Street as a sign of the times, “a continuation of the Arab Spring.” On Sept. 17, she brought a group of 10 Boston-area Christians, including Roman Catholics and Lutherans, to Zuccotti Park in New York.
(11 November 2011)

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