Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taking it to the streets

Quite honestly, I am not especially enthusiastic about taking politics to the streets. I participated in a few protests during my youth including a march to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King in April of 1968, a big gathering in Washington to end the war in Vietnam November 1969, and a march on the GE shareholders meeting to celebrate Earth Day 1970.

And then I quit.  I think the straw that broke this camel's back was the woman who chanted "save mother earth" for two straight hours at the GE protest.  "That's it?" was all I could think.  After all, GE made a lot of things that contribute to environmental ruin so the target was well chosen but I just could not imagine how there would ever be a link between this banshee and changing GE's product mix or manufacturing methods.  Beside, protests are expensive, uncomfortable, and usually very boring.  I had to find another way to affect change.

But the current street actions in New York are worth another look.  They are overdue—it has been clear for some time that political change in USA is virtually impossible so something else needs trying.  Moreover, because the financial community deals in so many forms of illusion, protests actually could be effective because puncturing the bullshit of those who invented credit default swaps should be vastly easier than, for example, getting GE to redesign its industrial processes to produce fewer toxic emissions.

First, to remind us that this is indeed a protest, we have this report from an earnest young man who wants us to know that this demo has all the manifestations of virtue covered.  This is so sweet.

Occupy Wall Street: Interviews & Analysis
A detailed look into the ad hoc community that has formed in the space and its implications for my own thesis work:
September 26, 2011

Since first witnessing the protest occupation currently overtaking Wall Street, in Zucotti Park, I’ve been fascinated by the ad hoc community that has sprung up from what is seemingly a random and wide spread assortment of people: from twenty-somethings with asymmetric haircuts, to war veterans, elderly women and others in full business attire, there’s a wonderful dynamic of opinions and back stories to those that have come. Although the occupation has been taking place since Saturday, September 17th, Wednesday was my first real encounter with the park. I knew immediately that this protest was different – it didn’t have that feeling of transient haphazardness that plagues other activist clusters, where turning away for a moment might make the whole thing disappear. Occupy Wall Street is special, it’s a community trying to be self-sustaining. Organizing first, becoming survivable, then figuring out their demands to Wall Street in an organic bottom-up approach. The most unique aspect of this dynamic are the working groups that have sprung up to take care of community needs: tasks for media, legal, direct action, arts & culture, food distribution, communication, medical, waste disposal & cleanliness, treasury and child care have been carefully divided amongst volunteers with a surprising amount of efficiency.

Artifacts of this organization can be seen throughout the community, from a schedule of daily events, including general assemblies twice a day, to a generator-powered tech center broadcasting WiFi from 4G routers, compost and recycling bins, a kitchen area and a map detailing locations within the park of each sub-committee. As I watched cheery volunteers sweeping up cigarette butts with brooms, medical teams wearing red cross patches, carrying first aid supplies and handlers wearing gloves to distribute massive amounts of food to a line of hungry activists, I had to find out how such a well organized community developed, seemingly overnight. more
The star-power has arrived.  Michael Moore has been trying to get the left to focus on economic issues since his first documentary Roger and Me.  I wonder if he really thinks the tides are changing?
Occupy Wall Street: Michael Moore Arrives in Liberty Plaza
Sep 26, 2011

Film-maker and author Michael Moore gave a speech at Liberty Plaza, in New York City. He called Occupy Wall Street 'very historical and very important.'

Occupy Wall Street protesters had just returned to Zuccotti Park (renamed Liberty Plaza) from the latest of their daily marches through the streets of New York. It had been a peaceful progress with none of the controversial arrests, which had marred a similar progress two days before. Several people Tweeted that they had made it to the famous Wall Street bull, before turning around and heading to the small urban park that many have been calling home for the past ten days. 
They were in good spirits. This was September 26th 2011, when Noam Chomsky had announced his solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The protesters had seen their inspiration create several parallel demonstrations around the USA. OccupyChicago has already been set up. As the first of the New York marchers entered Liberty Plaza, a huge cheer went up. Another legendary American activist was standing in their midst.Michael Moore had arrived in person. 
Michael Moore: "100 Years From Now People Will Remember." 
With the bullhorn removed for legal reasons, Michael Moore gave a speech amplified by the 'human microphone' technique. Every sentence he said was repeated in unison by all in earshot and, by this method, even those at the very back caught every word. What he had to say caused goosebumps on the arms of his listeners and ended in rapturous cheers and applause.

"100 years from now people will remember that you came down to this plaza and started this movement." He said, surrounded by protesters echoing it all. "Thank you very much. I am honoured to be in your presence." 
This was the climax of an impassioned address. Approximately 100 people heard him in person, but another 5000 were watching from the Global Revolution Livestream. He explained how he had landed in New York City twelve hours previously and 'came down as soon as (he) could'. Unfortunately, it was only a flying visit. He was due to participate in a live debate in the studios of CNN at 9pm. It was already a quarter past seven. But he had to see Liberty Plaza. 
"I'm so impressed by what I see here. You have done something very historic and very important. It had to happen somewhere, it might as well be here." 
Michael Moore: One of the First Protesters to be Arrested on Wall Street 
Michael Moore's speech began with an anecdote, "About eleven years ago, myself and Rage Against the Machine decided to storm the doors of the New York Stock Exchange. For some reason, they're a little faster than I was. I got arrested." He chuckled, self-effacing about his own physique, in comparison with that of his indie-rock band companions. Amid laughter and cheers, he repeated, "I was arrested on Wall Street." more

MICHAEL MOORE: Wall St. Protests Are Going To Spread Across The Country
Glynnis MacNicol | Sep. 27, 2011

Michael Moore was on Piers Morgan last night for a lengthy interview.

Sounding not unlike a liberal Glenn Beck (who frequently predicts a nation consumed by riots) , Moore predicted the Wall. St protests -- that are only slowly gaining the sort of media attention one would assume a mass sitting-in of the nation's financial capital might garner -- will go national.

[L]ook, we got rid of slavery in 1863 in this country. It wasn't until the 1960s that you saw the large marches and the voting rights and the civil rights act being passed. Women couldn't vote until 1920, and then you didn't have the real women's liberation movement until the '60s and '70s.
Things take time. This won't take that long. This won't take 100 years for people to respond because Wall Street has overplayed its hand. They have come down too hard on too many people, especially people in the middle class who used to believe in Wall Street.

Forty-six million people living in poverty right now in the United States. That's an absolute crime, it's immoral. And these guys are just posting the largest profits ever this year.

You're right, where's the rage? Where's the uprising? It's starting. It's down right now on Wall Street. It starts with the young people. But this is going to grow because people watching this tonight, people are afraid that they're going to be foreclosed on this year, don't know if they're going to be out of a job next year, can't afford the medical bills for their kids. Fifty million people still without insurance. They're sitting home right now going, god, I wish I could do something. more
Chris Hedges, who has somehow become about 50 times more enlightened than he once was not so lang ago, also showed up at the protest.  There are several parts of his interview posted online.
Chris Hedges: Occupy Wall Street is ‘where the hope of America lies’
Posted on 09.25.11
By Muriel Kane

Journalist Chris Hedges put in an appearance at the Occupy Wall Street protest on Sunday morning and engaged in a lengthy interview, during which he described the protest as “really where the hope of America lies.” 
Hedges was particularly impressed by the significance of Saturday’s mass arrests on the part of the New York Police Department. He told the interviewer, “The real people who are scared are the power elite. Of course, they’re trying to make you scared and us scared. But I can tell you, having been a reporter for the New York Times, that on the inside they’re very, very frightened. They do not want movements like this to grow, and they understand on some level — whether it’s subconscious or, in other cases, even overt — that the criminal class in this country has seized power.” more

No comments:

Post a Comment