Blog Archives

For your own safety pt.1

Some sources are reporting that Egyptian state TV justified the military’s crackdown, in part, by citing thefirm stand the US took against OWS people.” While not fully confirmed it seems like a logical direction for a state run media source. Congratulations American authorities, the violent crackdown may not have only been successful in its intended purpose to scare the armchair Occupy supporters into remaining in their armchairs, but now it may well be used to justify a full military takeover of Egypt at a vulnerable point in its history. Let us explore a few questions at this juncture in both our movement and the one in Egypt. What makes the American Occupy situation different from Egypt? Just how different is it? Is Egypt merely the tip of the same spear?

What makes us different from Egypt?

At this point, it would be hyperbole to suggest that the crackdown on the Occupy movement is “as bad” as what is happening in Egypt. Therefore, it is safe to say that our situation is different, if for no other reason than we do not have any reported deaths directly related to the crackdown . It is important, however, to know what makes us different because it gives us some useful insights into our situation here in America. Insights into what we need to protect to avoid being like Egypt and insights that allow us to gauge how much or little that difference is.

The folks who run the multinational corporate-banking oligarchy (the 1%) have a well known history of supporting oppressive regimes like that of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian autocrat who was toppled in Egypt earlier this year. Key to Mubarak’s 30 year reign was Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). In exchange for supporting the regime, and those before it, the SCAF have been granted many and far reaching powers and privilege which they are very reluctant to give up anytime soon. The 1% oligarchy which is dominated by supposedly freedom-loving westerners was wholly undeterred in their support of Egypt’s oppressors then or now.  Nor does it deter them from any of their other ongoing deals with the devil throughout the world.

Keep in mind that multinational corporations and their 1% overlords have NO LOYALTY to the people of ANY country, and they are part of a system that does not value FIRST and foremost human rights, justice and survival for everyone. They are, as the term implies, multi-national.  To be patriotic or otherwise loyal to the population of a nation would hamper their ability to increase profits. If they were patriotic and loyal to the United States, would they ship jobs to places like Communist China in the name of cheap labor? Would they continue to expect the US military to be mobilized in order to protect their interests around the globe? If they were loyal to the people of China, would they allow the oppression that goes on there? The only things they are loyal to are ever increasing profits; even if it involves doing business with oppressive dictators and military juntas. Instead of using their great influence to encourage freedom and democracy around the world, they seek the support of dictators and they stretch or subvert the laws of democracies whenever it suits their profit making purpose. Let’s be clear, there is no problem with seeking profit, however, when it is done to the detriment of human rights and dignity or further diminishes our ecosystem, it is at that point criminal.

If the multinational 1%ers enjoy dictators and military juntas so much, why do they not implement that here? It will come as no surprise to most of you that it is a little document known as the United States Constitution. This is why corporations sought the status of “personhood” and now use that status to be persons with more rights and less responsibilities  than the rest of us. However this is just to maintain the appearance of legality above the board and in the courts. These same multinational corporations influence our politics through unlimited anonymous campaign funding and by providing lobbyist jobs when politicians leave office. In the case of the banksters, they have created an especially egregious revolving door of employment in and out of government for those who remain loyal servants to the banking industry’s interests.

So, how does this help us understand and gauge our position relative to Egypt?

The standard mode of operation for the power brokers in the 1% is “above the law,” therefore, the constitutional rights of most individuals are of little concern to them. They know that if they control the money and power, they are not subjected to the same laws and restrictions as the rest of us. We see this in the way corporations are allowed to get around regulations and taxes that small businesses are not able to avoid. (This is of course how the 1% often tries to recruit small business owners to their cause with false promises of relieving them of some of these onerous restrictions.) The 1% also oftentimes remains above or at least get special treatment under the law in criminal proceedings. When they are no longer able or willing to protect one of their own, who has stolen millions and ruined the finances of many people, usually a few years in a country club prison or a relatively small fine suffices as justice. Therefore, while they may even occasionally wrap themselves in the flag and spread verbiage about the constitution, they know that they are ultimately not subject to laws the same way the rest of us are. As one OWS sign astutely pointed out: If they enforced bank regulations like they enforce park rules, we would not be in this situation. Therefore, we must understand that many 1%ers have no problem with narrow interpretations of the constitution and strict laws that limit freedom.

The Free Speech Movement of the 60s and now the OWS movement are, in part, ways of testing where the constitution stands relative to the 99% of us who do not get special treatment. Generally speaking, I would say that given how many occupations are still encamped around the nation we are in fairly good standing. They are not going to completely overturn the constitution any time soon. That being said, it is important that we keep pushing because they are trying to narrow the definitions of our rights, and it cannot be denied that there are some troubling precedents that are being set in the way the movement is being dealt with. Many of the ordinances, and such, being used against the Occupy movement were put in place to keep the homeless out of sight and out of mind and control things like noise levels. They have, however, over the last couple of decades used and expanded on these to suppress public demonstrations like the now infamous 2004 Republican National Convention. Here in Orlando the occupation has tried, to no avail thus far, to petition the mayor to allow them to occupy Beth Johnson Park on the grounds that it is well known they are a peaceful political demonstration and not a homeless camp. We must not allow the right to assemble public, for however long it takes, to be taken away.

Political protest is supposed to be inconvenient and push the bounds of legality; that is the only way for it to work. To shut down Occupations on the grounds that they are inconvenient is like condemning water for being wet. We live in a massive society where it is difficult to make a noise loud enough to be heard over the din of everyday life. The Occupy movement was born in part out of the frustrating realization that marching for three hours then going home is not an adequate way to protest a system that is mentally, spiritually and financially exploitive of  the 99% and is destroying our environment in the process. The Occupy movement sits right on the border of what is legal and sustainable and what is not, in terms of protesting. Like protests in the past, we know the situation we are creating is not sustainable. It is not supposed to be, that is why it forces change. We are at a socioeconomic and ecological breaking point in the history of this planet. The rights of the average worker are being sublimated. The sustainability of the planet is in jeopardy. What the 1% and their Frankenstein monster corporations are doing is unsustainable to the future of the planet. We must create situations that are unsustainable for them.

Where are we at then? Do not think that we cannot get to the point that Egypt is at, where the country’s 1% can act using direct military force. As it stands right now in America, they still have to use the apparatus of government more like a proxy because of the inconvenience that the constitution creates for them. They have no problem with supporting military regimes subverting constitutional law everywhere else in the world as long as their rights are protected. They would gladly support a stricter police state here. We are at a crucial point right now and it is not something that can be quantified and put on a graph. WE MUST NOT take pressure off. WE MUST keep pushing the bounds of legality while remaining nonviolent. NONVIOLENCE IS THE KEY TO THE WHOLE THING! THEIR system can only be maintained in the end by violence. It is all that they have to offer in defense of themselves when everything else is stripped awayp

To be continued: Are places like Egypt the tip of a global spear against multinational oppression?

Paradigm shift?

In the spring of 2011 I received a visit from a former student of mine. She came with her boyfriend and a lot of philosophical and political issues to discuss. As the hours passed, points were made, issues were debated and the world seemed to fall to pieces, come together, and fall to pieces as we talked. In the end the only thing that made sense to any of us was the idea that the world was either in need of, or going through, a serious philosophical and political paradigm shift. The ideologies and socioeconomic philosophies of the 19th and 20th centuries just did not seem adequate for describing and addressing the issues of the world today. Because of the complex issues and mounting problems facing 21st century civilization, we came to agreement that if this paradigm shift did not occur –that is if people did not wake up to the fact that the views and solutions of the last two centuries are outdated, holding us back and bringing us down– we are in for some serious problems in the not so distant future. We decided that people from the left, right, and center all need to conceive the world in a new way.

A couple months later, in early summer, I received a Facebook invitation. At first I thought it was one of those tongue-in-cheek invites to some crazy not quite real events. Merely for kicks and giggles, I clicked that I would attend. My thought being that if even 50 people show up to Occupy Wall Street, piss off a couple stock brokers and get arrested, it will at least be mildly entertaining. I forgot about it after a few days, and it did not cross my mind again until September 17, 2011.

I turned on my computer, probably somewhere around noon or so. Whether it was the invite telling me I was “Attending” or something else, shortly after logging into Facebook I found my way to the live stream. The exact times and sequence of events from that day are a little fuzzy because from about noon Saturday until about 1:00 AM on Monday (late Sunday) I slept about four hours. At first, just kind of staring in curiosity, “they are ACTUALLY doing this?!?!” Then it moved to, “what ARE they going to do?” After a few hours it became, “this could get interesting.”

It was not long before the occupiers were asking for anyone watching the live stream to start spreading the word. I had actually started doing this because I was still of the mind that if they stay till Monday and piss off a couple stock brokers, I will have a smile on face. As things rolled into Saturday night, I had become obsessed with the idea of doing anything I could to keep this thing going until Monday morning. I and others, who were now glued to the live stream, were surfing the internet posting, posting and posting. “Several thousand protesters descend on Wall Street and intend to occupy it.” As Saturday wore on, I found more chat rooms and forums popping up devoted to the occupation.

As the occupiers on the live stream asked for supplies, the chat rooms, forums and of course Facebook became a posting and update place along with anywhere on the internet that messages could be posted. A couple thousand of us were like an information guerilla squad. It did not matter what the forum or chat room was devoted to; copy-paste post, copy-paste post… By Sunday orders were being called in from around the world to the local pizzeria with delivery orders for the occupiers. People on the ground took pictures of the pizzas being delivered and tweeted them. We reposted them with the story of what was happening. “This is really happening!?!?!”  More orders came in. People started asking for an address where they could ship things. They were told the address of the UPS store not far from the park and packages were arriving by Monday night. A site was set up where people could donate money for food; the donations began rolling in.

By Sunday night I was tired and happy because they were going to make it until Monday. I went to work, no news. I started hunting for information as soon as work was over, nothing. I managed to get on the live stream site but it was lagging on the network at work. “They are still there, good enough.” I drove home and jumped right on the computer. They were still there, but the numbers looked really small. People were posting in the live feed chat room, “It’s over, only 50 people left. Go home hippies!” “You guys are losers, get a life.” “In other news, 50 people sat in a park in Manhattan and no one in the world gave a shit.” But the money was rolling into the food account, people were starting to deliver supplies, they made the UPS store an official location to send supplies, and so on. By Tuesday or Wednesday the account was over $20,000. People from around the world were coming into the chat room giving words of encouragement. “Solidarity!” “Thank you America for finally waking up!”

Tuesday night the first arrests to be filmed and go viral boosted the numbers, and on Wednesday nearly 2,000 people protesting the execution of Troy Davis merged with OWS and marched on the Manhattan police square. Watching much of the events live, I was sucked in even farther. By Wednesday night, I was fully part of this thing and was feeling a sense of solidarity with the people in the park. I had spent hours helping make the videos viral and posting information, and “damn it this thing has to continue.”

At the end of the second week I was in front of Bank of America in downtown Orlando with about ten other people holding signs and chanting. The occupation of Orlando, America and the world had begun.

Is this the paradigm shift?