Here's a public therapy session featuring the uncensored inside scoop on our long-term plan.
"Be the change you wish to see in the world." That is, indeed, wise advice. If you're going to talk the talk, you sure as hell better walk the walk. That's what separates the real deal change-makers and freedom fighters from the hipsters and politicians. Most people just want to be cool, be a rock star, the savior and talk righteous smack, but once it comes to doing the hard work and heavy lifting, they eventually sell out, or just retreat back to the consumer droid lifestyle. Sadly, can't say that I blame them for it. Being the change you rant about is incredibly f*cking hard, especially when you're trapped in a corrupted society and have a family to feed.
Forgive me for ego-trippin' while occupying an Anonymous realm but I've had to move four times in four years to cut living costs so I could keep fighting the good fight. Now, with two kids (a 1 year-old and 3 year-old) being "the change you wish to see in the world" is catching up with me fast. Over the past year, I've been dancing between the raindrops, deeply strategizing long-term plans to grow the movement, trying to raise money that doesn't have greedy and manipulative strings attached, while staving off eviction letters, with my wife in and out of the hospital. Before you break out your tiny little violin, let me make it clear that I'm one of the fortunate ones. Definitely not a fortunate son, but I've been fortunate compared to most others who have been out on the frontlines.
I've been truly occupying freedom and able to keep in the fight, independently following my passion for over five years now. It's been quite the run, an incredibly wild ride. Haven't had to answer to anyone, except my wife, of course. In that span of time, I've seen so many inspiring people come and go. Activists and journalists are like artists. Very few can make a living at it without compromising their vision or selling their soul. And if you happen to gain any level of recognition, the haters and saboteurs will come at you in force. The road to freedom is littered with crushed souls; people have been killed, sent to prison on dubious grounds, buried by legal fees or have gone financially broke. Some others have compromised their values by working for bureaucrats or partisan front groups and corporations. They justify their actions by saying that they're trying to create change from within the system.
Don't get me wrong, diversity of tactics is necessary and there is value in attempting to change the system from within. But let's face it, if they weren't getting a paycheck for it, they'd be going about it much differently. I've seen a lot of people, who upon losing the partisan or corporate paycheck, return to being much more radical (honest) in their approach. These people prove over and over again the insidious nature of wage slavery. The fact that we are trapped in a Skinner box with a "token economy" is all too clear, if you have the desire to think it through that deeply.
One's ability to "be the change you wish to see in the world" is often destroyed by the economic chains in which we toil. That is why you don't see mass movements toward freedom and sanity in the United States. We are all too busy trying to stay afloat and make ends meet, costs of living are incredibly high, 50% of the population is either in poverty or "near poverty", and 75% of the population is living paycheck to paycheck -- debt slavery and all that jazz. Play it again, Uncle Sam.
Okay, I'm digressing here" Allow me to course correct before I totally pigeonhole my thoughts as bitter and holier than thou -- battle scars will do that to you.
Building the Movement Without Selling Out
long enough for truly revolutionary ideas and insights to emerge."
-- Orson Welles
Over the past year and a half, I've basically been in hiding. I've only done one interview and been keeping a low profile, strategizing and meeting with people behind the scenes in an attempt to develop a long-term plan. Anyone who pays attention realizes that there are effective solutions and inspiring alternatives to the vast array of problems we face as a society today. Yes, even many 1%ers understand that we are on a disastrous and unsustainable path. While spending significant time meeting with 1%ers, it became clear that most of them were looking to support a plan that they felt could help get us out of this mess. After extensive research and planning with some of the most inspiring people we could find, we managed to come up with a plan that many of our radical allies and empathetic 1%ers absolutely loved.
However, when it came to the long-term financial model, most of the 1%ers slowly backed away. Truth be told, some of the 1%ers that we've met with are not down to do something that they think can create change, unless there is significant money they can personally make off it. It's one thing if you don't want to put your money into something that you don't think is going to work, it's quite another to think something is an excellent idea and say you want to put your money into it, only to pull back once you realize that you're not going to personally make millions off of it.
Being reasonable and tactical, understanding the significant long-term potential of the project, we realized that it would require more of an incentive for the upfront risk people were taking by putting in their money at an early stage, so we came up with a compromise. We decided to offer a deal that would allow them to cap out at doubling their money. Other than that, local communities would get the profits so they could put the money back into the community from which they are generated.
Since we decided to stand strong on those grounds, my phone, which used to ring constantly, has gone silent. Alas, only a very small handful of these "socially conscious" 1%ers have stepped up to put any of their money where their mouth is. The fact is, we can raise the necessary funds through Venture Capital, but that's definitely not being "the change we wish to see in the world." You can call us overly idealistic all you want. Bottom line, we don't want this to be yet another example of a small group of people making millions while most others do the hard work and barely get by. To be blunt, it's been an all-out f*cking battle to raise the necessary funds to make this happen in the right way.
We have a solid group of influential people who have supported us through the planning and initial development phase. We are still focused on getting enough momentum and resources together to make the plan a reality without having to take money with strings attached. Unfortunately, however, we are now running on fumes with little time left. Unless we quickly pull a rabbit out of a hat, we have to either accept money with strings attached or, once again, endure serious near-term financial hardship. We are, indeed, at the crossroads.
From a personal perspective, I've been incredibly frustrated, depressed and overwhelmed by all of it. After fighting so hard for so long, we've made it this far and we absolutely don't want to sell out. I've done my best to put the long-term goals of the movement before personal gain. Every step of the way, there has been offers to sell out. Many people have wanted to use me and my background in an attempt to co-opt the movement, some people have had good intentions, most haven't and were just looking to cash in. Even with this project, we have refused to use the names Occupy or the 99%.
By writing this piece, against the advice of some, I'm once again going against the odds and doubling down on the side of the movement. Ultimately, to sleep at night, you need to be transparent in your actions. So here it is, I'm not sure which exact way this is going to go, but I'm going to be up front about the entire process and let the chips fall where they may -- don't want to give the saboteurs any room to make false accusations and misrepresent the battle moves. We're going to be held to the highest of standards, and to do this with integrity, to pull this off in the most effective, change-making way, we are going to need all the help we can get.