Photo by Rob Kall
As I listened to the first 40 or so people introduce themselves, why they occupied, what they wanted to get out of the meeting, I jotted notes on what I'd talk about.
Some occupiers spoke about working to elect better legislators for congress. I thought to myself-- "been there, done that. It didn't work. The Dems and Republicans are bought and paid for by corporations. One attendee said we had to learn to work within the system. Later, he put down the original tea party people who threw the tea in the water, criticizing them for wearing disguises. Then, he suggested that George Washington learned the system when he came to Valley Forge. I didn't say it, but thought that at Valley Forge, Washington consolidated forces and fought the enemy to move the revolution forward-- learn the system my ass.
On the other hand, folks from Scranton, who were dealing with a lot of fracking, were planning civil disobedience actions that would lead to arrests. "We're bad-ass," one Scranton occupier announced, proud that they had successfully rebuffed a recent eviction effort. They were frustrated that the Big-city occupy locales were getting all the media coverage.
An occupier from Harrisburg gave a moving summary of a collection of great occupy actions and strategies and the group decided to hold the next regional meeting in Harrisburg. Looks like the meetings will happen monthly.
A few people talk on and on. If this continues, the whole meeting will be taken up by the introductions. A General Assembly facilitator from Delaware stands up and pretty much says what I've been thinking. He suggests we limit introductions to a minute. I grit my teeth, look at the notes I wrote, planning to take my five minutes, and start crossing stuff out.
This meeting had originally been scheduled to be held in Valley Forge, but some logistics problems developed and the venue had to be changed. A Collegeville UU (Universalist Unitarian) Church came to the rescue.
The woman who introduced herself before me stated that this was the first time she'd ever gone to any kind of event, not just occupy, but any activism period. She looked to be in her seventies. The rest of the group applauded.
I introduced myself, then spoke about boiled frog syndrome-- throw a frog into boiling water and it jumps out. Put it into cool water and gradually bring it to a boil and it will die. That's what American's have been subjected to. Now, our system is broken. We can't fix it by working within it.
Like Paolo Freire describes in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, we can't do the work for the oppressed 50% of Americans in poverty. We can't get single payer for the 50 million plus who have no health care.
I agree with Naomi Klein that Occupy is the most important thing in the world. It is the vehicle that will get people paying attention, bringing them in the essential conversations that will wake them up and get them involved in the actions, including civil disobedience, that must happen, as they happened in Tunisia and Egypt's Tahrir Square, to rescue the US from the Corporate cancer that is killing democracy, justice and the middle class. I also mention that I think occupy movement actions should not hurt members of the 99%.
We break up into discussion groups-- one to discuss engaging the born again Christians, another to discuss Glass Steagall and Legislation, another for newbies, which will teach them hand signals and the language of the GA, another discusses considerations for Spokespersons. I propose to lead one on Occupy 2.0. We head to a conference room in the basement.
A few hours later, the groups report back:
Spokescouncil model for assemblies and meetings and getting th ings done
is a method for regional collaboration rather than decision making, so as not to step on different regions toes.
Inter0ccupy groups communications, regional actions-- working group on a regional calendar, for travel to larger events. Discussions of how that could play out on a larger scale.
Glass Steagal and working with legislation
working with legislation on federal level
addressing local level coincil meetings, deciding on attending in GAs.
Creating a toolkit with different ideas and ordinances.
Occupy scranton has been successful at this kind of work.
Ordinance or local issue re foreclosure of homes.-- creation of fact sheet
How do we communicate locally? website, occupytogether, Facebook
If we each get involved in our township meetings, we can pass ordinances that sheriffs can't go out and foreclose on people's homes. Have successes, bring people into the movement.
Power is in the numbers-- Occupy Scranton has been reaching out to other towns that need bodies. Scranton will come help you. Come help us. Get each other's contact info.
interoccupy.org allows for horizontal channels of communication within the movement.
We need to reach out to bring in new people, using web and non-digital means
We need to work both within and outside the political system.