The occupy movement is alive and well in small towns, vibrantly exploring the future, and Occupy 2.0
I spent much of yesterday at a gathering of the OWS tribe-- but a different flavor-- people from small town and suburban Occupy locales. As a group of about 50 people introduced themselves I was awed to learn that there were vibrant occupy movement locales and actions in Scranton, Norristown, Lancaster, Exton, Pottstown, Harrisburg, Bethlehem, as well as representatives from Delaware, Philly and even North Carolina. Some had encampments, some met once a week, holding general assemblies.
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.
Some voice concern about the word/branding OCCUPY-- it's offensive to some groups, like Native Americans. But it's an integral part of what has emerged as this powerful movement.
co-opting vs. cooperation is discussed. I'm not really sure the woman discussing it really gets. Since I was pepper-sprayed by guards incited by an agent provacateur at the National Air and Space Museum, I know how pernicious co-option can be. Someone else asks about co-option by Move-on.
There's discussion of how Occupy addresses political and social change. Most say it's more social than political-- that it's a paradigm shift.
Plans for actions are brought up-- do street theater like they do at Zuccotti Park.
Rebuild community. Engage neighbors in activities.
Folks from Scranton talk about plans for actions that will lead to arrests-- related to Fracking. They report on a success at one public meeting. They ask for help for small town Occupy groups at getting media attention.
The big DC Occupy March in DC on March 30th is discussed.
I bring up the need, now that locales have been closed down, for donors to contribute-- that they are, even though they do not sleep at locales or attend GAs, participating in the movement-- and we need to keep them involved, keep giving them opportunities to be involved.
Then, there's offereing services and skills. One young man has been doing job counseling for the unemployed.
Create a new member video, that orients people to Occupy.
Occupy is beyond political-- it's social, a paradigm shift.
Skill Share / time banking system.
We need the unity. Gotta stop having division amongst ourselves.
Finding areas of overlap and common cause with Christians and the movement.
reach out to all religions.
reach out so it goes out beyond white, middle class, not very religious folks.
had some success dealign with the inter church council in Harrisburg.
Some support not by showing up but by donating money, food, spreading the word, making churches available to them.
I've been there since 9 AM. It's 2:30 and the drive back is 90 minutes. We leave, not getting to participate in the GA that starts at 3 PM
The previous weekend there had been a similar meeting in Philly, with about 120 in attendance. It's clear. Occupy is morphing. There no longer a fixation on encampments. Occupy will go into partial hibernation over the winter and explode into spring, into the 2012 election cycle with a long, durable quantum leap in activism like the world has just begun to see.
Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect,
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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.
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