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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/22/11

Another Week in Occupied New York; Keep Shopping, Everything's Fine

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My OWS 'un-logo'

This is a story about a frog. They say if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will instinctively jump out. Because it is f*cking hot. But if you put the frog into a pot of cool water and turn on the flame, he will sit patiently as the water warms, then heats, then boils - until he dies. This is what happens when little changes are made over time, instead of all at once. This week progressed with President Obama passing the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) legalizing detention of American citizens on American soil without charge, indefinitely, which in reality, could be forever.  Nobody blinked. Whilst Bradley Manning, a young military officer, who  allegedly blew the whistle on the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. He exposed what the Pentagon and the Bush administration did in creating this evil and did so by allegedly leaking documents and footage to Wikileaks. Many of these documents dealt not only with Iraq but with how we prop up dictators around the world and how our corporations exploit the poor on this planet. Saturday was his birthday and 570 days in military detention. Nobody blinked. 

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Earlier in the year, the original Pentagon Papers were released (photo). Blinking was not an option.

Monday:  The week began for me at Spokes Council, a roundtable discussion of OWS topics for the week. After Spokes Council many issues are forwarded to the General Assembly (GA) in the form of motions to be voted upon. Discussions ranged from Diversity to the focus on being a world movement vs. just a city franchise to housing eventually 400 people here in New York. An argument rose on the legality of independent film makers to film during the meeting. Live streaming is common in an effort to encourage transparency (like Cspan coverage of congress) but journalists are not allowed in closed OWS meetings. I made the point that independent film and documentary film makers are essentially a business. They enter film festivals in order to gain distribution for their products. It was decided that independent film makers would not be allowed to shoot - although one woman, just ignored it and kept on filming. 

A Racial Justice framework was encouraged and I was encouraged to speak with Tech Ops and Media regarding work on our website. On this day my old computer died, like I needed something else to work on. Good time to talk to Tech Ops. A man from the Finance group stands up and tell everyone that OWS has $375,000 in the bank, but this number doesn't make any sense to me - not without knowing what it costs per day to exist, how much we have coming in per day in donations and how much of a horizon we have on that money. Another woman stands up and rails against the Spokes Council for not investigating an estimated $350,000 in unaccounted for cash from media. For an organization that espouses transparency  there is nowhere anyone can go to see a proper balance sheet, or projections for the future. Maybe we don't have them. In any case, transparency and spending, remain ongoing and thorny issues.

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Tuesday:  I spent the day in the office at OWS and briefly had the opportunity to go to Washington to meet with the Congressional Progressive Caucus - until that meeting was canceled due to a media leak in Washington. That caucus is primarily Democratic and the decision was made to abort, wanting to keep our affiliate, and the press reporting of such, with any party neutral. Tuesday ended with my weekly meeting with Dr. Kim Hopper and Cindy. Always interesting, I arrived in a flurry of new clothing and clean shaven exuberance due to an early Christmas gift from Freya. We talked of OWS' dealing with homelessness as a factor in the Occupation and how OWS handles the various medical and psychological issues that present themselves when 500 people with different agendas try to live and form global policy together (is that funny or what?).

Wednesday:  The morning began as the first 'sleep in' we've enjoyed thus far. That meant we were able to sleep past 8 and ready ourselves for a 10am meeting with Starhawk, a facilitator from the west coast. Starhawk's focus was intended to be a primer to consensus decision making but the gathering quickly turned into more of a support group meeting. A man cried, on his admission that he felt he had found a home, a common ground, a family. "Finally I am in a room full of people I can share with", he said. There are more than one of us like that. Zeke read letters he had collected from participants at the park and the irony of the phrase, "Liberty and justice for all", I recall. Don talked about being arrested for skateboarding. A woman railed against people with NYU degrees and proudly called herself a ghetto b*tch just getting her 2 cents worth in - which was more like two bucks. Later she was supported by another woman who related that sexual abuse as a teen and young woman had made her rant in public as well. And think. And grow. And aim for strength in confidence. So much to feel.  Is it hard to do things with so much personality crisis in the way? But everyone does. Just here, it comes out in the open.

Thursday:  Ben Cohen is mostly know for being the Ben of Ben & Jerry's. But when he's waiting for the coffee pot at the OWS office and I'm the barrista, he's just another customer. He talks fundraising with another member. We all thank him for serving ice cream in Zuccotti park as he did on so many days during the physical occupation. He has life experience we can use. Everyone knows that. Young, overeducated and underemployed the occupiers have been called. That's not entirely true. Ben occupies with us.

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The Guggenheim NY

Friday:  I had been told that Friday was the day at the Guggenheim where you could enter for a "suggested donation". You could suggest a penny, as opposed to the $18 they normally ask. I am reminded that art is a business and not a public service. Michelangelo did not paint the Sistine Chapel for free. Leaving the church early for my walk across Central Park to the museum I found it a glorious morning, light filtering through trees, bouncing off east side cornices to light a path for the runners. I have no camera so I can only see with my pen. Something good about that. The exhibit today is Maurizio Cattelean and it is called All. I arrive early and talk to a street artist outside. He bemoans the fact that you don't need a license to sell art on the street in New York and says it has resulted in tons of sh*t hitting the streets. He talks of a woman buying his art, and then photocopying it to sell in Midtown. Thieves. 

Everybody steals everything in the creative arts - but in museums, stealing is called 'appropriation'. That's when one artist takes an idea from another artist and uses it. That's how Andy Warhol was able to appropriate a soup can and call it art. People who design soup cans and FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) labels are artists too. But they are called 'commercial' artists - something, somehow less than real artists because they admit they are paid for the work, or it is an industrial service, or some such thing. Maurizio Cattelan is a real artist - but I'm sure he licenses his work so the Guggenheim can make posters, t-shirts and coffee mugs from it - yes, which would make him commercial. But let's not talk about that now. Let's see what he's All  about.

All is a retrospective of the artist's work. To have a retrospective at the Guggenheim while still living is quite the accomplishment. So I enter the ticket line. Once meeting an attendant I inquire about the 'suggested donation' plan and am told that that program has been moved to Saturday from 5:45 pm to 7:45 pm. Imagine that - letting the poor people in when the museum is the least busy and people who can afford $18 are busy having dinner before the theatre. Best to keep those two groups apart - so the rich people don't feel poorly about being rich and the poor people don't feel richly about being treated like society at large.

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David is a marketing consultant and writer living in New York. He formed Korea's first 100% foreign invested advertising agency in 1997 and spent 16 years in Asia and Europe as an international entrepreneur and writer and has written for Technorati (more...)
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