Archive for category Occupy Oakland
Posted by Oakland Radicals in Uncategorized, Occupy, intergallactic, Oakland, Radical, Strategy, Decolonize, Occupy Oakland, civil disobedience, Occupy Wall Street, Black History, Racism, Anarchy, APOC, Revolution, Collective, Communalism, Survival Strategy, anti-Capitalist, Welfare, unemployment on May 21, 2013
This portion of the Community Collective Movement concept that is being worked out is a call to action, and a call to social revolt, and seeks to waste few words, and instead seeks extreme, but simple, clarity in laying out a framework for immediate action on our part. I had been wrestling with long, deep explanations of an ever-growing number of issues, and realized that I was violating one of my own guiding principles, which is to attempt to be accessible, and engaging to as many folks as possible when writing about mass movement strategy. So let me jump right in with a very quick explanation and justification for the need for action, and the nature of the events that we would like to set in motion.
I believe that Capitalism as it is practiced today in most or all parts of the world is a force for moral corruption, and human illness of all types. We accept poverty and suffering of our fellow humans because to help them would violate capitalist principles, and promote socialism and reward inter dependency. We who are “lucky” enough to have a place to sleep, and a job to go to, will literally step over ,and around ,destitute, ill, and suffering people who live on the streets, so that we may go about our business of generating wealth for the already insanely wealthy. Perhaps my background is part of why I find this situation so abhorrent. I am ethnically half American black, and half Hungarian Jewish. I come from two groups that have a long history of oppression, slavery, and social scorn, that shape our worldview. As far as I am concerned blacks, and jews do have a special duty to stand up for all oppressed people, and to maintain vigilance against the forces of racism, bigotry, poverty, and fascism. From that perspective I see a society that violates the moral codes that I know to be correct, and one that maintains deeply embedded and oppressive hierarchical social orders, and allows and even enforces inequality and dependency on a rigged system. I see a society that exhibits elements of fascism and slavery conditions, and benefits only a few.
This is a call to act based on morality, and the belief in humanity and a the possibility of a better world. We can not afford to accept the framework of legal/and illegal action as our guiding principle. Capitalism’s profit motive pollutes and undermines any real system to attain a just and fair society based on laws. Our legal system is rotten from profit based strategies, and incentives. Justice is to precious and essential to humanity to be a for profit endeavor. We need an approach based on morality, and one that is strategic in improving the material conditions and environment. Letting people die in the streets in not a moral approach, and if it is illegal to help people in certain ways, or if certain laws make helping folks not feasible, those laws may need to be ignored. Our actions should be conducted in a moral, upfront, and thoughtful manner, but what we need to do won’t always be legal…I mean with the amount of new laws they keep passing, almost everything might be illegal soon..which is one reason why we must now. This is not a call to violent insurrection, and hastily organized protests, but a call to build, organize, a strategic and formidable force for human evolutionary change and social transformation. This means creating a holistic, and hopefully horizontal, framework for meaningful activity to take place, in a cohesive, and expanding nature.
It is my position that given the immoral nature of our capitalist system, and the obvious inability for it to make any meaningful self correction, and given a need for a morality based process to create sustainable justice, we are being subjected to social imprisonment under and unjust system. Capitalism was never written into the Constitution as the one and only economic system allowed in the US, yet we are forced to live under it’s destructive chaos. I believe that I can not be forced to be a capitalist, and I can not be forced to follow an immoral social code. I believe that I have a right to build my own economy, and I believe I have a right and duty to dismantle all incorrigible elements of the machinery of consumer capitalism, and to investigate, question, and expose the people who make the key decisions and accumulate the vast wealth that reaches a select few.
Many of the people I speak of keep their activities and dealings well hidden from public view or scrutiny, as they amass fortunes and power that allow them to make decisions that could have profound negative effects for many generations to come (if we even make it that far the way things are). Many of the things that people do violate the basic codes of morality that most people would agree upon, yet their money and power shields them from punishment, or even negative publicity. Many of us have begun to wonder who these people are, and why they appear to have so little regard for the people or the planet. We have a right to know and discuss all aspects of these people’s beliefs, and actions. The capitalists have proven time and again to make reckless and destructive choices that cause major problems. And yet who benefits from the problems created? The very same capitalists who caused the problem, as they have created system in which only they know how to fix their major fuck ups, like nuclear meltdowns, major oil spills, chemical weapon proliferation. We need to be watching and opposing them at all times. We also need to create our own way of meeting people’s needs in a manner that is based on justice, and morality, and respect for all life. We need to do both at the same time..fight them, build ours..build ours, fight them..and we need strategy and massive participation.
This may appear to be a struggle over money, but the currency we really need to value and use is our own time. Even as we see the destructive banality of our way of life, we continue to support it with our time, and energy. We buy their crap, we absorb their plastic culture hours on end, we invest in institutions that we know are the enemy, we pay taxes to fund our own oppression and stupidity, and seldom do we truly look to create our own new world. We spend much more time complaining about this system, or dulling the pain of our existence through consumption and packaged experiences. We have much more time than we realize. Time that could be given to helping build a co-op movement, or fight against corporate power in a truly strategic, long-term struggle, rather than a symbolic, or reform driven display. Our time, and the skills we can share and learn when we use the time well, needs to be our building block towards self-sufficiency. We have a lot of people with time on their hands that are not being given anything meaningful to do, and we have a lot of people who have a lot of love and positivity to spread if they can be given a chance to flourish..
This is not a pie in the sky, let’s sing kumbaya around the fire post..this is a call to action..We all know what’s coming, and what we need to do..Generally at least. What about specifics? I will begin to lay out some ideas over the next days that get into ways we could organize, quickly, efficiently, and effectively. I believe that the three basic principles that we should build from are the following. 1) We should think cooperatively in all ventures, be they efforts to fight the powers that be, or efforts to build the new world we see on our shared horizon. 2) We must have an unwavering eye on morality that shapes our way of doing things. As I stated earlier, Capitalism as it is practiced is immoral, and we must find a way that is moral and just. 3) We should acknowledge, and embrace differences and contradictions within our movement, and find ways to use these con traditions as a strength, not as a means to fuel division, and competition. Unity and Cooperation is what they fear, and what me should strive for…
I am going to begin to just throw some ideas out there in a less edited and structured manner just to put some things on the table for discussion or internal pondering at least.
intergalactic Cooperation as a reality game featuring the People VS. The Corporation..with the goal being the defeat of the corporate slime ball that oozes its toxic reality over all that is good
I don't think it has to be as difficult, confrontational, or complicated as it sounds.
how this for an idea?….what if we made a game out of it?…..but instead of a game with one winner and many losers, we make it a mutual game of global cooperation towards a goal of global liberation, basically phase one might be some kind of corporate detox , just use May 1 as a starting point.. we make it a global game of co-operation, and even appropriate their consumer culture and use our still underutilized advantages in certain aspects of social technology to make it a like global reality show…when our target corporations lose money, everybody in the game gains.
we could have reports from different regions and countries every day, reporting ways in which people were able to decrease corporate profits, and benefit co-operative ventures, feed people, increase peace and justice without use of violent coercion..etc..we celebrate victories across man-made national borders as our own, just as our corporate enemies seek to profit not just nationally, but globally..
from there we just aim to get more people involved each month or whatever the time frame we set is..stop using their calendars and their linear mindset..we set our own goals and just try to increase our growth/strength steadily..in many ways we mirror the corporate growth model, but in key ways we shift our mindset so as to avoid the traps and limitations that the model set for us..
for instance as I alluded to in my original post, even significant movement centered days like May Day can limit us because we don't look beyond the one day to take any type of action. To me this is a mirror of the corporate Hallmark card, holiday mindset, in which we celebrate cool concepts things like sharing (Thanksgiving), or love (Valentine’s Day), or fertility (Easter) one day a year, and then we wait another whole year before we focus on the cool concept again….May Day is a big day for economic justice, but fighting for justice one day a year is not enough…
Another think we could do play psychological mind games by using their tools of oppression against them to erode confidence in their economic model. Like we could mimic their capitalistic, predatory mindset and instead of going after the hugest evil corporations like Monsanto first, we could target weak links in the corporate chain and aim to cut their profits and put them out of business. This would way to build our confidence and effectiveness, and to show our power as we advance towards taking on the big drones in the corporate food chain. We could have celebrations when corporations we are targeting lose money, and stock market value, and hopefully go out of business..
by Zappa Montag
Lately there been a lot of discussion about, violence and sexual assault against women, and the rape-culture, in many of the circles of people that I talk to regularly. Yesterday, with the verdict and aftermath in the Steubennsville case, and given some of the discussion that had taken place at a gathering I attended, these issues were prevalent in my thoughts when I witnessed an incident in downtown Oakland in the 16th and Broadway area.
I was walking on Broadway, when I heard a bunch of yelling down the street about two blocks away. I turned around to go check it out, and could see a group of young kids, black, consisting of two girls and two boys. They could have been friends, acquaintances, or even strangers, to each other. The two girls were taller than either of the boys, and were wearing tight shirts, and tight shorts. The boys were short and funny looking, imo, and may have been quite young. One of the boys was aggressively grabbing and pushing/shoving one of the girls, and she was the one yelling. She broke free and ran up the street, yelling “get the fuck away from me” etc.. A couple of white people hurried to their cars, the other adults around disappeared. …I am someone who will intervene in public wackiness from time to time, especially when it seems like I am the only one who will, or the one who has to initiate the intervention to get others to join. This was looking like one of those times. I felt like I may be about to need to handle it on my own, and assessed whether or not the kids were armed which I thought/hoped not. My adrenalin rushed up..I knew I could easily squish the boys, either or both, if needed.
At the same time though, as the girl was running, she was smiling, or so it appeared, and when he caught up to her, he at first put his arm around her as if he was her boyfriend, and she seemed ok with that, ….possibly. Slightly confused, I got as close as I could to them from across the street, and followed them up towards 14th. They saw me, and the boy seemed to chill out. Then when they crossed the street, he suddenly pushed the girl into one of those dark stairways by the café and the Plaza. I couldn’t see what was going on, but I could hear the girl yelling again. At this point I ran in that direction and started yelling. “you better get off her” , :” stop that shit now”…and then I told them I would call the cops…Which I really wouldn’t have done, because I would have gone over and physically intervened before doing that…but I also knew that threatening to call the cops is the easiest way to break up a situation. That seemed to get his attention, and the aggressiveness stopped, but as they walked away I wondered what would happen next, and if anything had really been averted.
I also observed my own rage, and my desire to exact punishment on the boy, possibly heightened by the fact that I have a teenage daughter who spends a lot of time in that area of town. I felt a little sickened by my thoughts of doing great harm to some little teenager. Isn’t that what these out of control, power tripping cops do? I also tripped off my instinct to threaten to call the police. Even if I wouldn’t have actually done it, I felt weird about using the threat of the state, when I know that the incarceration complex does nothing but exacerbate issues like rape and violence in the long run. In fact prison is a place where rape culture is fostered, and spread back throughout our society. And what would the cops have done, if they even showed up?
Regular folks gotta handle business sometimes ,(or maybe all the time), and I felt like I maybe should have done more , like followed them, or continued to yell and maybe scare the kid. I soon recognized ,with sadness, what all of us feel when we look at the state of things…that there wasn’t much I , alone, could do about the incident at hand, or the overall situation at this point. Bad shit is happening everywhere on the regular, and I ain’t no super hero.
The one thing that I felt like I might have accomplished was to demonstrate to the kids, and to the other adults who were around, that some folks would at least speak up if they saw something disturbing. I felt like the kids weren’t getting much of that in their lives. Not that this type of behavior is limited to poor kids, with little parental discipline ,in the hood. This violent, controlling, and plain psychotic behavior happens on all levels, and with even far more skewed power dynamics than what I witnessed. Of course I didn’t really know what the situation was there. As bad as we can imagine, sometimes reality is even worse, …but hopefully it’s better… Afterwards a black woman in a wheelchair came up to me, and asked me what was going on, …I said,”I’m not sure, but I don’t like it”. ,,To which she replied ..“Yeah me neither…if they gotta do that stuff, take it inside at least..” ….aargh!
Which led me some of my own less politically correct thoughts that I had during ,and after the incident. For one thing, I felt like the girls were dressed in manner that gave me concern, even though I definitely believe that clothing or lack thereof never gives a man any reason to rape or assault a woman. I still felt like they were dressed in a way that was possibly dangerous ,and even looked like they could have been emulating what a sex worker would wear. I wondered what would happen if an older guy, with a car, and money, and a more refined game, came up on these girls. Would they have resisted. That to me was possibly a more dangerous scenario than what I saw on the street. I felt bad for thinking like this, but real talk is real talk… In other times and places beautiful women,and men walked about naked, or nearly, and this was never an issue. I know that it is an issue of culture, or lack there of, but dang, the most vulnerable girls amongst us need protection more than the right to run wild in the streets of America. This is an exceptionally dangerous place. Especially for young, women of color.
I also have to say that part of me felt a little bad for the young, abusive boy, and even for the rapists in Steubbensville. People like them are lost with no clue, and little wisdom to draw from. I do feel like they are victims of this culture, and of people not being willing to say, or do anything real. Something must have gone profoundly wrong long before any of these kids could do much about it. Unfortunately,thousands or even millions of their clueless american male,drone clones wandering in our midst, spreading sorrow and suffering. I am thankful for the guidance ,and good breaks I received as a kid, and I acknowledge that I am not blameless, or free of sexism and abusive mentalities. This is part of the illness of America. We are all afflicted. So to me, even more outrageous, or telling, than the sympathy displayed to the boys in the media, is the unwillingness for any of the mainstream to acknowledge the sickness of a culture that reproduces this type of behavior consistently. They are the creators of the morals of this society. Own up!
The young men of this culture whose potential are wasted , or stunted, and who do dumb, hateful things that cause destruction, mostly are also victims imo (as we all are to some degree)…This is a sick, depraved place in many ways….however I am also not convinced that someone who does something as a heartless and methodical as what happens in Steubbensville has the ability to be rehabilitated. I just don’t know if you can slide that far and recover. At least not with the tools this society uses to heal our psychosis. At the same time, incarcerating a bunch of men after they have committed terrible acts does not stop the rape-culture, it merely makes false dichotomy of guilty and innocent. As long as you have not been found guilty in a court of law, then your actions are acceptable. which doesn’t teach us any kind of morality, and the courts are rife with good old boy plantation era bias. I think it is clear that traditional law enforcement strategies will not keep women and girls safe in this country. At least not ones with little social clout. This is about our culture, and morality, and the value of love and kindness in our reality. If we find ourselves lacking, then we need to change.
Anyhow, some thoughts on a subject that seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. Lot’s of folks have weighed in lately, and now we look for some solutions. millenniums in the makings maybe, but better late than never. I think there is something that can be done, but I am not sure what. Probably around groups of folks, especially men, going out and having real conversations in the community about these issues, and creating the possibility for a different standard of behavior.
Posted by Oakland Radicals in Anarchy, anti-Capitalist, APOC, Black History, civil disobedience, Collective, Communalism, Decolonize, intergallactic, Oakland, Occupy, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Wall Street, Racism, Radical, Revolution, Strategy, Survival Strategy, Uncategorized, unemployment, Welfare on February 24, 2013
by Zappa Montag
I have been thinking about collective survival for some time, and bouncing some ideas around in my head. Over the last few months I have tried to put these ideas into words, even as a simple facebook post, or blog entry. I started writing this 8 times, in 5 different ways, in 2 different mediums, but I experienced a writer’s block. Should I write from the beginning , the end, cryptically, pseudo cryptically, dogmatically, catmatically, cartoon copy, ? Should I bother writing anything at all?
The answer turned out to be yes, …of course write…writers write right? ., but maybe cut it into small sections …Maybe eventually to be published as a book, or a manifesto, or humanifesto?. Or my personal Zapfesto. about building the Co Co Mo (Collective Communal Movement) Intergalactic…a Pro collective, non-capitalist way of life, for future dwellers, starting now!
Maybe as an individual maybe I can’t write about collective/communalism, without input from, well, everybody. And who am I but one person hanging on to reality by a thread.. I think I got answers for society? ha! Maybe I should write that sci fi novel first..
But in the end, this is a modern saga, and I am living it..and it is not unlike many other peoples experiences in our troubled times, so
Co Co Mo or bust!
Basically I am a failure at capitalism. I suck at it for many reasons, and over time I have been reduced to being a pawn in the making money game called “life in america “, To the powers that be I am an inconsequential, low-level consumer, who has made bad economic choices , leaving me living paycheck to paycheck, and with few realistic prospects of regaining economic viability by most standards. Of course maybe that describes many of us? I think it may…
which brings me back to a few years ago when I started tripping off this collective survival stuff that I am trying to express,…
it was around 2008… Do you remember when….
Obama became president, and the Great Recession hit full stride? I was recently unemployed, after a long stint in public education. The economy tanked soon after I began searching for a new job. Finding work had never been hard for me before ,but I quickly realized that I was not in the desirable, easy hire realm, anymore. I was old and experienced, opinionated and unsettled. The few jobs that may have been available to me were uninspiring, paid less than unemployment, lacked benefits, and created child care issues for me as a single parent. I soon stopped looking for work.
Truth be told, I wasn’t that bummed about the lack of work thing after a while. With the extensions given to those of us on unemployment, I had a small but steady income, and time on my hands. I began to recall what a precious thing time is ,(even though it is more plentiful than air, we always seem short on time). Plus, there were lot’s of us jobless folks. Hey, if you are on facebook all day, you might not be employed, and facebook was poppin all day, every day. We bonded over our new found downward mobility. We got in hustle mode and made do. It became less of stigma to be broke as heck. It became ok to talk about how uncool, and porkulent, most rich people were. Us long term jobless were called the 99ers, after the cut off from unemployment benefits that we would face if we lasted jobless after 99 weeks. I figured I could do that easy, and so I decided to ride out the recession as an unemployed, black bohemian.
I would fill my time with music, and socializing, practicing creative pursuits, and getting healthy. What could be better? I sang, danced, and I met lots of artists and musicians types; I went out and drank and partied with my people who, like me, probably shouldn’t have been spending our small cash holdings on booze and parties. It sure was good to be home in my element again, back with my riff raff roots. I mentally gave up on getting a “good job”. Never had believed in that stuff anyway. Ya know? Make payments on time for twenty years so I can have enough money to fade away in cheeseball American style. Eh? The great Jim Morrison said it best in Roadhouse Blues, “the future is uncertain and the end is always near.” Planning ahead is for those who believe in America, and capitalism, and boredom over freedom.
At the same time however, my money issues, which included, times when I couldn’t find (literally) gas money for my car, and times with no car at all, incessant collection notices and calls , and other daily mental beatdowns from my nemesis, capitalism. The daily money stress, along with my fears of not being a real “provider” to my kids as broke as I was, led me down a path of intermittent isolation and depression. I was living the best and worst of all worlds….. Free, happy, depressed, worried…. When I was finally kicked off unemployment after the 99 week deadline, the negative vibe began to win. .. I was overwhelmed, and anxious, unable to carry about activities that I knew were imperative to my ability to provide for my family. As a single father, it was a hard time in many ways.
The upside, though, to being broke as flock, and jobless and with child dependents, was that I was now eligible for welfare, and thus health benefits for the first time in several years. Yep, I became a Welfare King!! Not where I envisioned myself at age 42 or so, but I got over it. I needed the monthly 500 dollars in cash, 350 in food stamps, the doctor’s visits, the mental health counseling, and the meds to treat my depression and anxiety. The irony was not lost on me that I was indeed now finally broke enough to get some help from the government. And being trained, and over educated in the ways of Babylon, I was able to jump through the bureaucratic hoops that were required of us indigents. Unlike many of the more long-term, or truly impoverished folks who should have gotten more aid and help than they often received.
The flip side was that if I made even a pitiful sum of money working, I would lose the benefits, and the cash aid. Either way, poverty was inevitable. I also now felt the Welfare stigma. One didn’t have to discuss this to know it existed and I rarely mentioned that I was a recipient to even close friends. Unemployment was bad enough, but welfare? As an able-bodied man, in a male dominated society that values so-called “self-sufficiency”, and rugged individualism, there is shame to be on welfare. And being black only added to that. Just as I am sure that there is shame for women, especially black women, who are the most stereotyped in regards to welfare. Believe me though; the aid is not sufficient to survive. If you don’t have several side hustles, or benefactors, you will starve on welfare. It really is a setup for poverty and legal entanglement, and it puts the bureaucratic state all up in your business.
The health benefits did help me though. (turns out health benefits are beneficial…even for poor folks) I got some decent doctoring, weekly mental health therapy, and meds which allowed me just enough of a temporary boost to face going out, dealing with reality, and finding a job, and starting over, at age 40 something. Of course I was now deeper in debt, my credit was, is, and always will be, totally shot, and with I had little hope of ever getting back on the economic good foot. In fact, if debtor’s prison ever came back, I began to think I was an excellent candidate. Escape across the border to Mexico as an economic refugee became a viable long term plan in my mind. Eventually, though, I was able to find a crappy paying, part time, education job which involved commuting long miles daily. Considering that there were times that I thought nobody would ever hire me again, it felt good to be making a check anyhow.
I still knew that as far as America, and the dream, I was economic road kill; my piddling job was no fix for that. The illusion of fairness was further swept away by the “Great Recession”. The rich got richer, and everybody else got poorer. After living through decades of open class warfare by the uber rich against the lower classes, many of us had started to vocally resist the twisted rhetoric of the elite, and began to lay blame for our massive social dysfunction at the feet of the super-rich. This to me was a long time coming. They belittle our aspirations for peace and unity, and they are callous to our suffering, and believe in their own superiority, despite the obvious fact that the system is rigged in their total favor.
Fueled by lack of options, and a desire for some minor retribution, I began to go back to my more vocal, anti-American, anti-capitalist political mindset, which I had cultivated when I was younger, but had toned down around the time my kids were born. I felt like I had little to lose by talking smack at this point, and there were many others feeling similarly bold.
Right around then the Occupy movement hit, giving international voice to the sentiments that many Americans were feeling. I joined up enthusiastically, but I realized that I was tripping off some ideas that were not being expressed that much in the occupy movement. The ideas that kept circulating through my thoughts had to do with creating a new “economy” ( although I have begun to despise the term “economy” which I associate with money based systems.. we don’t want a new economy, we want to live life, and fulfill our human potential, …but what to call that? Life?). The broad cross section of people who initially supported Occupy gave us a glimpse or a vision of a possible alternative, and escape from a very bleak future. Many “regular” people were pissed off at the big money, and had a renewed belief in each other instead, and seemed ready to behave in a new way, and to cease to be so compliant to the needs or edicts of the financial elites. Was there a chance that we could cooperate across societies many artificial divides for the common good? Or at least for our individual self interest and survival.? I began to wonder if we could set up an economic method that would cut our expenses by, say, 2/3 of the current cost of living. That would free up a lot of people power to devote towards building the next phase.
My thinking was/is that by copying methods that had been employed by groups such as immigrants groups in urban areas, hippies in country areas, and nomadic global, and of course Intergalactic, travelers, we could create a new way which eliminated much of the need for money, and thus pointless jobs and annoyances from Babylon’s endless enforcers of rules and regulations. Could we do it in such a way that could challenge the existing prevailing mentality, and possibly destabilize the evil forces at the helm? Why not? We could act collectively and pack people into houses, and generally live cheaply and collectivize our resources,. And then maybe begin to create a new inter communal society which would blur and eliminate national and civic borders, and strengthen human bonds of cooperation and unity. Hey why not?
We could create an alternative, semi nomadic society ,in which people spent time in the city, time in the country, and time traveling. Using urban houses as a base and hub, we would learn to do what many folks already do, which is to collectively cut expenses, and raise funds to create or sustain a network. This network would be border less and would include people who lived in the city in our base dwellings, with an emphasis on care and protection for children and the elderly. A second group would live in rural areas in larger groups, and with lowered expenses, ie camping, and off the grid, and they would either learn marketable skills, or create goods to sell in the city. This group would be hearty and flexible, with an emphasis on nature and gardening for the outdoorsy types who like a little “discomfort.” Finally we would have a group of people who were traveling at any given time, learning skills and culture, creating networks, enjoying the planet, and engaging in fair commerce and trade to sustain the network. The nice thing is that everyone would get a chance to live in all three realities at times, thus becoming a better-rounded, adventurous type of human society.
We already know that there are only so many ways to do the human reality thing. We can compete, or we can cooperate, we can stay in one place and accumulate stuff, or we can stay light and move about. We can try to play by the rules of a crooked and malignant game which hurts everything, or we can walk away and let the game play out without us. No matter what we choose to do, life will not be easy in these coming times. This is a crucial moment. We see the futility and folly of our current ways, and we see the impossibility of systemic self-correction anywhere near radical enough to alter the path of destruction we now face. Do we really have a choice but to build a new way? The capitalist economy has long stopped being efficient or sustainable in any way. We have built more stuff than we will ever need. We have created jobs, and in fact entire industries, that enrich a tiny few, sustain a handful of others, and endanger billions. We don’t need more pointless jobs, making more stuff that we don’t need. It is time to stop making stuff, and buying stuff. We see the effects of this lifestyle every day. We see how out of control the rabid machine of consumerism is across the planet. It will kill all of us humans if we don’t unplug it quick.
We can’t enact these types of changes as individuals, or even as small groups. There really has to be a critical mass of non-cooperation with Babylon laws, and the Wall Street gangsters and warmongers. A co-op here, a collective there, a hippie house in the hills, a punk rock squat in the hood, are not enough. Neither is individual acts of morality and decency, and most forms of charitable do gooderism. Many small acts of unheralded sanity do not sufficiently challenge the ever tightening grip of the power mongers on our human reality. Possibly a direct challenge to the social code, by large amounts of folks, pursuing actions of non-compliance with the financial criminality of the prison Industrial complex, will be effective. Peace on Earth may require an open defiant and steadfast refusal to be part of the silent march to human oblivion by many people all over the world. We are past the point of protesting to those who won’t listen, and we know that a military fight is hopelessly skewed in favor of the firepower of the capitalists and warmongers.
So what if we just declare a new way?…Secede from contradictory, and unsatisfying mindset of hyper-elitism, aka capitalism. We are too wise, and we love life too much, to be ruled by the most fearful, and unimaginative human elements any longer. Let’s be realistic. We are cool, they are not so cool. Our treasure: Collective Communal Coolness, makes money seem like a piece of paper with some bad art stamped on it. You seen one dollar bill, you seen em all. time to move on…
Where we moving on too? Well, the Exodus might involve publicly declaring our intent to be independent of current financial constructs, and to begin collectivizing our needs locally, building networks, and sharing big ideas. And also share cars, houses, land, ideas, work, food. Refuse to follow rules that hinder our ability to be safe, and to protect each other. Certain ideas that Libertarians types talk about make some sense in terms of government over regulation. The problem is that they are focused on the exact opposite of what we need. They want to protect the rights of individuals to do whatever they see fit, but it is actually the rights of the group that need protection. The laws are geared to prohibit collective survival unless corporate profit is maximized. For instance, if we wanted to replace fast food as a dietary staple in poor communities by providing an alternative, and we began to collect funds to buy in bulk, and used people homes to cook communal meals on a large-scale daily? We would be saving a lot of money, serving hungry folks, and creating community.. However, we can all be sure that several laws would prohibit us from doing this, and these laws would be aggressively enforced. They would throw health, and safety violations at us, make us get permits, pay for inspections, and bring us to a grinding halt. Nobody would get fed if they had their way. And still McDonald’s is allowed to kill citizens with impunity..
What if we had enough people who refused to comply with the rules ,..and we kept collecting communal food funds, and cooking and serving communal meals? What if we shared our cars and vehicles (and cool stereo systems ) communally, and started our own collective transportation network ….without getting the proper permits, and without paying the fees and taxes, simply because we have people who need rides, people with cars that need riders, and air that needs less cars on the road? What if we declared capital free zones, and refused to allow money transactions in designated areas? What if we gathered together for safety and camped out in our parks, and used our open spaces at night? What if we made music and art, and happy children, instead of plastic spoons, and horsecowslop burgers, and PTSD? and…..What if we just seceded from capitalism?
TO BE CONTINUED. (Part two will look at collective survival strategies: big and small)
55th and market, Oakland CA
By Zappa Montag
With the recent publishing of an eBook titled “A People’s History of Occupy Oakland” by myself and a few others, has come some of the predictable drama and denunciations that have characterized much of the interactions between certain segments of the movement locally since the inception of Occupy Oakland. I already know that some Occupy Oakland folks don’t like me and some of the other folks who participated in the project, so I expected there to be vitriol and anger, but I have been surprised by what has been the most persistent and heated accusations against those of us who chose to publish this book. The most contentious of the online attacks that have been made on us for publishing the book have been centered on the fact that we are charging money ($2.99) for the book, and that we are making money off the movement. Furthermore the attacks have repeatedly come with claims that those of us who participated in this book were never part of Occupy Oakland, and are violating agreed upon codes of conduct that all “real” OO members have agreed to regarding use of the name or the movement for personal gain. I have, as of a couple months ago, disengaged nearly completely with these elements within the local movement, but I felt the need to respond to the attacks and to clarify a few things. I do not intend to continue expending time and energy debating the past after this, as there is much work to be done, and little to be gained from ongoing debate. This may be the last time that I address any of this.
The most frequently cited justification for the vitriol against us is rooted in one of the most fractious episodes of Occupy Oakland’s apparently short life. The events in question happened around the Media Committee regarding the posting of a controversial article about a controversial person, by several people in the media collective. The article either characterized the individual in question as a terrorist, or as a possible government informant depending on whom you ask. The article’s publishing exposed deep philosophical and social differences that had festered in OO since its inception. Foremost, the use the GA as a tool for punitive, rather than reconciliatory, actions against those who published the article had far reaching consequences. For those of us who were around from the beginning of OO, it was not a surprise that there were serious racial fault lines that were laid bare by the action of the GA. The resolution resulting in the banishment, and a unspoken but clear, policy of political and social isolation and shunning of several black members of Occupy Oakland, carried out by a white dominated core of Occupy Oakland, who all shared similar political views, began the dissolution of the last threads of unity that had existed. New unity has come about though, and it is partly because of these fault lines that those of us who published this book found each other and began working together. I hope to see a time when we all come full circle, where even the most bitter rivals can come back together and usher in the new times, but there is struggle, or at least a journey, that must occur before that happens.
So let me back up. I was in OO from the beginning. I awaited the arrival of Occupy Wall Street’s Oakland version, and attended some of the first meetings at Mosswood Park before the encampment was ever formed. I was enthusiastically supportive at first (despite skepticisms, and questions), and was among those who were tear gassed by OPD after the first raid during the events of October 24 and 25, 2011. I tend to follow intuition and energy, to learn my place in certain new social re ordering, and I found myself in an updated role as an experienced activist, and longtime Oaklander. I felt protective of the movement, both as a young elder, and as a lifelong radical who recognized the profound potential of this round of social upheaval. Being that I was already broke, and mostly unemployed, and a full time single dad, I had time and motivation to be involved, so I threw myself into the cause and looked to find ways to strengthen the organizing capacity of the young movement.
It was my strategic and organizing ideas, and willingness to state and defend them, that first led me into conflict with certain strong tendencies within Occupy Oakland. I saw what I felt were missed opportunities, and misguided tactical and strategic decisions being made, and found myself embroiled in debate. The General Strike on November 2, which was marred by messy, divisive, street actions, carried out by autonomous, secretive, sub groupings, caused the first rift in the movement. I found myself, an old time anarchist, who believes in what Malcolm X termed “by any means necessary”, aka “diversity of tactics”, more aligned with the strategic nonviolence camp. The time for symbolic violence such as property damage, was not at hand, and I felt that the mostly white, young, unfamiliar to me and my folks, group of anarchists who seemed to be calling the strategic shots were misreading the socio-political climate in Oakland. It seemed like a clear call at the time, and I became somewhat outspoken. The debates I was involved were mostly online, but I also attended some early GA’s. I made a short, particularly pointed GA speech after one of the Nonviolence debates, in which I questioned the relevance and wisdom of, what I felt was, the radical political posturing being done by a mostly white crew of radicals who wanted to preserve a stance tacitly condoning “violence”. For many reasons pertaining to race, and social issues, and timing, I felt like this was stunting growth of a movement in a city like Oakland. I spoke as someone who had participated in property damage and other forms of symbolically militant and violent tactics in the past, and who sees the benefits that all tactics can bring, when used judiciously, or within a cultural context that is truly appropriate. It was after that speech, that Tim Fong and I talked at length for the first time. We had met previously, and had both been involved in OO from the beginning, but in far different capacities. He appreciated my speech, but most in attendance did not.
Early on I also met Samsarah, who was someone whose name was familiar to me from common Facebook friends, but who I had never met in person. She was an OO fixture at the Children’s Village, which I was interested in as a single dad. It turned out that we were close neighbors, and we became friends and started working together in the Children/Parents/Allies Committee, the beginning of what has been some great collaborative work over the last year. This is not to say that any of us agree on everything, or have the same political outlook, but we have found camaraderie and common cause to work together. To me radicals, and dreamers of differing styles, and political beliefs coming together to build, has more revolutionary potential than does groupings of like minded radicals who all espouse the same ideology and brand of rhetoric. I was always skeptical of the younger anarchist set in OO that seemed to disdain everyone who did not express the same type of radical fervor that they did. To me this type of political conformity, and homogeneity was not what I believe anarchy to look like in practice, but more on that later. .
I had a series of very negative and personal interactions with some of the dominant figures in OO around the time the downtown encampment was proposed to move to 19th and telegraph, which was right by my daughter’s school. First there was a bizarre press conference held by OO at the school, which I attended, followed by a series of strange encounters when I went to the facilitation committee to get an emergency proposal to rescind the camp move written. This culminated in a really nasty GA, in which myself and fellow proposers were treated with derision and disdain, and in which community members, including children, were booed, threatened, and treated as the enemy rather than community.
That was a day that left me unsure about Occupy Oakland, and suspicious of some key people. It was at that time the Occupy Oakland Media Committee became my main focus for my concerns and suspicions. While some people from OO who spoke at the press conference sounded reasonable, there were a couple folks who said some things that stood out to me as particularly misinformed and divisive, and one was someone I was seeing quoted regularly in mainstream news articles, and even listed as an Occupy Oakland organizer. Furthermore, he played a key role in the GA in various ways which seemed to be a clear conflict of interests, and in general appeared to have special OO privileges. This seemed to contradict two of the rules that had been imposed rather forcefully on us by dominant personalities, that we don’t do interviews with the mainstream media, and that we have no leaders. I started checking up, and asking around, as I had never heard of either of them before Occupy, and began to find all kinds of interesting connections within the emerging OO hierarchy. Many previously unknown alliances came to light. I began to feel that an organized domination of Occupy Oakland was taking place by a secretive group of somewhat unknown numbers and origin.
I was not the only one who had questions. The local history of repression against radical and revolutionary forces in the East Bay weighed heavily in the analysis of many old time activists and community members, and most people were convinced that infiltration was rampant. There were also general questions, and rumors as to where all of the unfamiliar young leaders had come from (including the persistent rumor that a large crew of “white anarchists” had come from Santa Cruz to set up Occupy Oakland). This was a phenomenon that was taking place behind closed doors mostly, and the level of paranoia, and mistrust being felt by some of us, was probably not clear to some of the younger and more active OO folks, who seemed to place faith in the ferocity of ideology as a true measure of one’s integrity and commitment. For myself, I began to organize amongst longtime friends and allies, and grew to doubt that I could use the GA system to organize or pass proposals. Every important Occupy Oakland proposal I supported at the GA lost, even while actually easily gaining a majority of votes, leaving a thwarted majority, and showing the flaw in our modified consensus. Without commitment to consensus, our GA system was mob rule. There seemed to be a unified core who wanted a certain flavor of action, and they already didn’t care much for me, so passing anything through them seemed an unlikely, and unpleasant undertaking.
I continued to support the big Occupy Oakland actions, such as the 2nd Port Shutdown, and I even took a supportive, but uninvolved stance with the J 28 “move in day” plans despite skepticism of the integrity and wisdom of the core group of Occupy Oakland organizers. When it came to organizing support, during that time, it made sense to work with friends and allies, and stay out of mainstream Occupy Oakland culture, where I wasn’t really wanted. Especially after I co-wrote a controversial article after the J28 action, which was meant to cause controversy and draw attention to the rising divides in OO. The article was written with blessing, and input from people in my community, and with a strategic mission, but it was also written in a way that was secretive enough to leave me open to some serious critique. I had broken part of the unwritten activist’s code by revealing movement secrets, which some people were quite unforgiving of me, and again I was something of an outcast within the ranks of hardcore Occupy Oakland, albeit with a growing number of people independently voicing some of the same concerns I was feeling. My co writers also took some grief, but in the end it was mostly my heat to take. I had done what I did by my own code, and with reasons that I could live with, so I could accept the negative consequences as well. I am still open to explaining my actions to those who really want to know.
The reality however is that after J 28, Occupy Oakland had been steadily losing support, especially amongst POC, and local, Oaklanders, and it was already a kind of dying brand for only the true believers. The disagreements were not all racial, but there were fewer and fewer POC who felt like navigating the difficult and often unpleasant interactions that were endemic to OO, and many felt resentment at the large white majority who made up the more visible aspects of Occupy Oakland, and felt disrespected on various levels. For some of us POC, and for myself as a black person, it felt like racial tension was built into the political culture of Occupy Oakland, since a city that was used to being black/poc led socially and politically, suddenly had a loud and unapologetically white grouping, leading the charge as the militant vanguard wing of the Oakland movement. Political disagreements seemed to have a racial element to them in many cases, and those of us POC who remained who voiced any strong critique of the dominant OO culture felt pushed together by the frequent personal attacks we faced during strategic and tactical debate. We were aware of each other’s experiences.
It should be noted that some black people and POC continued to remain part of the inner core, and they probably had an entirely different view of things. I am not ashamed to admit that I have more empathy for the black members of Occupy Oakland as a whole, including those who have never agreed with me or liked me. I don’t doubt their views, and I admire how many have represented themselves in a role that is no longer really mine to play. I feel like their personal views and stories should be heard, and understood. In the end, black folks have more to gain, are more at risk, and put more of our all into the movement, from wherever we are coming from. I don’t apologize for prioritizing black participation and leadership in the movement. I also feel a sense of duty, or necessity that stems from my childhood, or something deeper, to fight for the rights of indigenous people, especially here at home. If the movement doesn’t put justice for black and indigenous people at the forefront, it is a pointless movement. Those are two biases that I am willing to admit to without apology.
I know that I personally felt shamed and angered by, among other things, double standards in which white women were protected from sexism and patriarchy and their contributions celebrated by the dominant core, but some black women were allowed to be ridiculed, intimidated, and dismissed by the white dominated angry group of “comrades”. Similarly, white men who were in the “in crowd” who said and did offensive, racist, sexist things were excused by their peers, and those of us who took issue were essentially told to “get over it”. Just as in mainstream society, we were left to protect our own. This was disempowering to say the least and I felt sabotaged by the constant minimization of the problem by influential white activists. There was also constant use of POC against each other, as examples proving that there was no racism in OO, to cancel out any complaints. The inability to acknowledge the problem existed, and the failure to show proper humility and respect that seemed appropriate was damaging to all. Of course I don’t represent all blacks in OO, or Oakland or anything, but I know that there is a race problem in OO. It seems to have gotten worse. So much so, that I question whether Occupy Oakland really even exists as a viable group in Oakland anymore. It is possible that history will judge Oakland as the place where white radicals failed to allow for an anti-racist, POC led movement to blossom. However this would make the mistake of equating Occupy Oakland with the larger movement. Most of us who have found ways to work together outside of Occupy Oakland have been able to connect and continue to build across social differences. Somehow the segregated, angry, white dominated mainstream society, which punishes blacks in a widespread, unequal manner, was recreated by Occupy Oakland. Sadly many good folks failed to see it, and many white activists have only dug deeper into their problematic, defensive mind state, and refuse to acknowledge the racial antagonisms that are pretty clear to most everyone else. These folks will be labeled by many as racists, when in reality many of them are just stubbornly clinging to unhelpful views. I believe that many of the defensive folks actually see the problem, and would like it solved, but without having to admit they were wrong to ignore issues raised about race and racism by people with who they disagreed with politically or personally.
Given the unwillingness to discuss localized racial tension, I, as one of the few who regularly discussed these issues, became known as the angry black man voice of dissent in OO. Many times I was referred to by people who know little about me, (often anonymously online) as someone who hated white people, and white anarchists (despite my half Hungarian ethnicity and anarchist tendencies). Due to the issues of racism that came up when the media committee fiasco went down, it was no surprise that I ended up on one side of a permanent divide. When I first heard that the article that led to all the drama was published, I was surprised because I had always assumed that the media committee was unified in what I saw as corruption and deception. I lumped Shake and Cami in with all other media members, as suspicious, and un accountable. The unauthorized J 28 press conference in which posturing radicals threatened to commit mayhem in the name of the movement had cemented my belief that media was the rogue committee. I didn’t know that they had been battling internally for months, that many of the people that acted as media were not even in the committee, and that things had finally boiled over the top. I did know that I didn’t like how many of the OO the white people who had refused to discuss racism in Occupy in any kind of meaningful way before, were now eagerly calling 3 black people racist for printing an article which they said labeled an Arab man as a terrorist. This charge of racism seemed to liberate pent up feelings of hate and anger which was now directed at the people who had published the article. The bulk of the animosity was directed at Shake and Cami, who were well known in Occupy Oakland. The level of anger and hate directed at Shake and Cami seemed too stoked by anti-black feelings to me. It seemed like whites were enjoying being abusive towards black people under the guise of punishing the “racists” who had supposedly endangered someone by linking him to terrorism.
I felt like, first off, white people need to shine a light on their own racism and not go about calling blacks racist. Especially in a radical/revolutionary movement based in Oakland, in which clear issues of white racism, both passive and aggressive occurred regularly. Secondly it was pretty clear to me that the article was implying the possibility of government infiltration, not accusing someone of being a terrorist. This was right after articles discussing how sexism, and abusive behavior were used by government agent provocateurs to divide the movement, had been circulating through activist networks. Many of us were on heightened alert and were on the lookout for this type of divisive behavior, but we had no way of confronting this issue as a group, so people were left to their own strategies for dealing with suspicious characters. It was within that climate that the article was published.
Since the person who was the subject of the accusations brought out by the article was someone who I had frequent reason to dislike, and about whom I had heard tales of scary, abusive behavior directed at women friends of mine, and since this person had long been speculated to be a plant by many people I knew, I probably had less sympathy for him than I should have had. I felt like people with little movement activist experience had violated another activist principle which is never trying to out an agent directly and have rock solid evidence if you do. I felt that while they had messed up, they probably had good reasons for what they did, and none of them were ever known problematic people in the past. To me it seemed like they should have been given opportunity to make amends, and explain their actions. The hatred, and anger, and self-righteous denunciations from the “in crowd” surprised me. For them, this, accusing a “comrade”, was the worst thing anyone could do. After the GA which I didn’t attend in which Shake, Cami, Ben, and Noah, were basically voted out of OO, I heard from several friends that it was an ugly situation. It was clear that my friends who went to or watched the GA, that it had shaken them, and that they were concerned, especially for Shake and Cami. None of these friends were black, and I think they sensed that something was profoundly wrong with that scene, and that I might be able to say or do something to address the racial connotations. I reached out, and was happy to find out that steps were being made to mediate. It was from then that our mutual friendships brought us all closer together along with some of the other authors of this book.
One of the things that isn’t mentioned as much about the fallout from the Media Committee blow up, is that not only were Shake, Cami, and Ben kicked out of OO according to the dominant group (whether anyone can be Kicked out of Occupy is debatable), but a campaign of social shunning was also put into place targeting the folks who had been banned. It seemed clear that all people were to follow the shunning or face shunning and social isolation themselves. I was already roundly disliked at that time, and I became part a target of subtle shunning tactics myself. Even on Facebook it became clear that shunning and ignoring was taking place. Shake and I had our first long discussion on the outskirts of the West Oakland OO bbq, and Black Panther celebration at Defermery Park. Neither of us felt comfortable attending the picnic, but as we talked we realized how ridiculous it was that two black men with peaceful intentions, one who was from West Oakland, and one who had been organizing with old time Panthers and other radicals in the East Bay since long before Occupy, felt uncomfortable attending a function in Oakland due to the hatred directed at us by a bunch of 20ish year old white kids with no strong ties to Oakland. Sure enough when we decided to walk up in the middle of the crowd, it seemed that many members of white dominated OO were uncomfortable in the largely local, mostly black crowd. Conversely, Shake and I were greeted with warmth by many non OO folks who were there for the Black Panther activities. This was hardly surprising since we are both people who have been part of the community for a long time, and have many friends all over the place. It was a reminder to us that we had larger work to do than to get bogged down in OO drama, and that ultimately OO was only going to be relevant if it became more about Oakland, and specifically relevant to, and led by, blacks and other POC.
Even then, however, we were still amongst the OO outcasts and felt more comfortable organizing in smaller, friendlier settings with people who liked us, and so we began having our own gatherings in an attempt to build a different political pole for us and allies. This was work that we felt like Occupy Oakland needed to do anyways, and it allowed us to carry on work without dealing with the hate and animosity that was palpable. Even so, I did join the Occupy Oakland May 1st organizing efforts, and proceeded to have a big argument with many key OO organizers over a proposal to take over the Golden Gate Bridge in solidarity with striking workers. I found the plan to be bound to fail for various reasons, and thus a waste of time and energy. Of course, my critiques were met with anger and dismissal by the mostly white, leadership and core, and my bad rep grew worse.
May 1 is a very important day for the worldwide movement, and the call for a General Strike was an international effort, and despite the disorganized flailing of those running the OO efforts, my circle of folks wanted to see it go off big. Since so much energy was being spent on the Golden Gate Bridge idea (which never happened btw), we got a small team of friends, all non or former occupiers, to do postering for May Day several nights a week. My friend even paid for a wide array of color posters that appealed to various demographics, and the other needed supplies, which cost him hundreds of dollars. This was not the only time when we did OO related work without recognition or reimbursement. I say this because one of the frequent critiques leveled at some of us is that we didn’t take part in Occupy Oakland actions. Not only was I a participant in all of the major days of action, but I was also one of the folks who was organizing continuously last year for OO. I am angered by people who don’t know me making assumptions about my role, or my politics. Disagree strongly with me, but don’t lie about my involvement or commitment, or declare yourself judge of my authenticity. Especially when you are in an area in which I have been active in for years, and you are unknown to many local activists, and the rest of the community.
I think that many of us OO outcasts and dissidents would have been ok with being relegated to the fringes of what was a rapidly shrinking Occupy Oakland movement, but a couple things happened that really forced us to respond. First of all were the events of May Day, in which OO held a small, pointless, but determined, black block smash in, downtown in the morning. A much larger, and more diverse coalition headed by folks from Decolonize Oakland, as well as several other groups and coalitions, held a large march and rally for Dignity and Resistance in East Oakland. Originally the radical hardcore of Occupy Oakland were entirely focused on their downtown actions and seemed to want to have nothing to do with the march which they deemed as “liberal identity politics”, but when they drew too much heat downtown, they decided run to East Oakland to use the march as cover to escape the police . However, a group of 100 black clad kids in masks do not blend well with a family friendly East Oakland crowd. With the tensions between factions of the local movement already high, the fallout from this bizarre series of events on May Day ultimately led to abusive behavior/attacks online by a group of Occupy Oakland people against some friends who are women of color, and an act of mass censorship by admins of at least one of OO’s open Facebook groups. More mistrust and recriminations followed, and there was increased open resentment of dissident people of color within OO, and of Decolonize Oakland, by some OO activists, which continues to this day.
It was unclear which direction things would take after May Day and the fallout, but a series of events in early summer made it clear that big inter movement issues still existed. For one thing, Samsarah and I joined a working group of OO with a goal of “reimagining the GA”, and making it function for everyone. To me this was a beautiful endeavor, with good intent, and a true attempt to solve OO’s issues rather than just complain. However some people knowing that I had been organizing with Shake and Cami used that as a way to attack the Reimagine concept, even though Shake and Cami had nothing to with Reimagine, and even though several of their trusted comrades were part of the Reimagine committee. Without bothering to check facts or ask anyone, they went on the attack through social media. The usual twitter hater campaign was started, and I saw people calling me names, and even discussing where one of my kids went to school, as well as denouncing my association with Shake and Cami. The twitter campaign didn’t derail the Reimagine event, which was a beautiful, inclusive, organized, well attended event at Mosswood Park. However, some of the people who attended were apparently part of the OO core, and they absolutely hated the Reimagine apparently (even though they said nothing to us at the time to indicate their displeasure) It was too peaceful, and encouraging of self-expression, and there was wide spectrum of community folks there, not all of whom shared the same ideas on strategy and militancy that the angry core at OO favors. All of this led to the Reimagine being denounced as “liberal feel good cooptation”, by the Occupy Oakland self-appointed deciders of policy and style. The Reimagine was effectively derailed, and there has been no real GA since then.
With the collapse of the GA, there was nothing else that I was directly working on with Occupy Oakland, and I was pretty done with the whole scene. However, a series of articles written by two dueling, white led factions of Occupy Oakland led to some of us deciding that we had to keep trying to make OO change to become an Oakland friendly, locally led, organization. The anonymous articles posted in the Bay of Rage anti-capitalist website were often antagonizing to many of us, and the ones that came out early summer were no exception. However, the articles about local events written by Mike King, a white UC Santa Cruz Graduate student from the East Coast, for Counterpunch magazine, were even more aggravating. He wrote articles with an air of fairness, and objectivity that fooled many, but he actually repeated the worst lies about some of us. He repeated the very charged claims that the media committee had called someone a terrorist, and that it was an act of racism, but that the race of those banned by OO was irrelevant. Furthermore he bashed the Reimagine campaign, and repeated the lies that those of us who organized it were never really active in OO and that we were liberals who wanted to take over OO. He also completely misrepresented the issues around the May Day actions, and typically blamed POC, and Decolonize Oakland. Despite the fact that he had easy access to many of us who could have clarified his errors, he didn’t ask for any feedback or quotes from us. For these types of lies or fantasies to be put out, yet again, to the larger public through a well-known leftist magazine like Counterpunch, angered many people, and some of us decided to compile our own writings to publish, which is when the book idea was first discussed.
Some detractors claim that we are always stirring up shit, without pausing to think that maybe we are responding to lies and misrepresentations of our work, and blatant attempts to cut us out of the Oakland movement. Interestingly many of these same detractors who question our right to speak our truth in print, praised Mike King’s articles, and never raised any questions about his use of the movement for personal gain. The constant double standard, with the underlying race and class implications was never more apparent then, and it is part of what stirred us to write our own stories to counter balance the far reaching spread of misinformation by privileged, unaccountable elements within the movement.
I would now specifically like to address some things that our detractors may need to hear if any of them are interested in some insight regarding our problems. For one thing, Occupy Oakland has a race issue and specifically an issue with black people. There are many issues, but I would prefer to focus on race in regards to black people and OO. Other groups have their own stories that should be told as well. This is not to say that all black people feel like I do, but many blacks in the Oakland area feel skeptical at best regarding OO. Continuing to seek conflict with, and to demonize, some of the few visible Black OO folks is only going to lead to more bitter feelings about OO in some Oakland communities. Many people have very positive feelings towards me, Tim, Shake, Cami, and Samsarah in the larger Oakland world. That four of us editors of the book are black, and that our writers and editors include other black activists, and other POC, as well as some white people, is important. That the most marginalized and denounced people on in Occupy Oakland were mostly black, is important. What some white folks may not get is that black liberation is a global movement, and that by deciding to do your occupying in Oakland, you are placing yourself in the middle of a larger conflict, and that the activist, “security culture” rules that you wish to enact may not be relevant to us.
In other words, to many of us, Occupy Oakland should be, at least partially, a tool for black liberation, and so the social struggle, the politics, and the inter personal dynamics within the movement, are part of what shapes and defines this liberation process. The things that happen here in Oakland will be studied, written about, and distributed, and discussed worldwide. So if we appeared to not be playing by your Occupy rules, know that black folks have a fight that is beyond Oakland, and OPD, and Occupy, and that we will not stop doing what we need to do. Part of our mission was to make Occupy Oakland a relevant avenue for furthering the goal of black liberation, and to this end we had/have to defend ourselves against attacks from those who attempt to make us the enemy, or the fall guys. If you do not want to be part of this conflict, then you should not attempt to use underhanded tactics to derail us, or denigrate our names and reputations, or you will be included in our written history and your roles and actions will be exposed and discussed, and possibly you may be confronted here at home for your actions. We can’t be overly concerned with white antagonists feeling some discomfort due to our actions. Some of you may not realize that Occupy Oakland has pissed off and alienated many black people, and that our collective pride has been hit by the disrespect of the local black community by white Occupy, the demonization of blacks who speak our own truths, the ongoing abuse and disrespect of non-conforming black women within Occupy Oakland, the angry mob type of vibe used to oust some of us from the movement, the cooptation of the police brutality movement, the unwillingness to reach out to make amends to those you have injured, the lack of courage displayed by would be white allies with a few exceptions. That said we have realized that it ain’t about you, and you can’t tell us what to do, nor can you stop us from doing what we need to do to move forward.
We can’t worry about playing along with white activist social change guidelines, and we can’t wait for certain white folks to figure out that you all are not the key players or the most important or at risk population. We are not seeking popularity amongst an exclusive activist scene. We are trying to change the world, and help uplift the people at the bottom of the social ladder. We spent too much time asking for permission from people we didn’t know, or trying not to piss people off who seem to care little about our feelings… We let you define Occupy Oakland in a way that put the focus on you. We let you use all of the funds Occupy Oakland accumulated for your symbolically “militant” but short sighted campaigns. Now you also try to minimize our efforts, and exclude us for not being interested in your poorly conceived plans. We have to laugh at being labeled as coopting sell outs for charging 3 dollars for a book, when many of you have furthered academic and career goals while participating. You spent all of the money on actions which you approved of and made you the center of the movement, and you created a vibe in which people like me felt unwelcome to ask for support or funds from OO. You claim that we were not in attendance at any key Occupy Oakland events, which is not only a lie, but also points to the naiveté of the young, white, entitled, academic, ideologically driven vibe that dominates your set. Real life stuff, like children, work, and other commitments, are a reality for those of us with some experience under our belt, yet we have found the time and space to contribute. For this we are labeled liberals, and outsiders and we are castigated for selling t shirts and eBooks to fund raise and spread the cause.
Typically you all don’t see anything wrong with how you obtain your money, nor do you see the need to justify yourself in any way, and seemingly you have never considered that you have been selfish and exclusive. You don’t see your contributions as a waste of limited movement resources, or that other work might be just as important as your activism, and that other groups might not want to work with you, which is why you don’t see them at your events. You judge peoples value to the movement based on agreement with you, and time spent in the streets, as if the revolution should be led by people with excessive free time and resources. (Rich people, academics, and street folks). You may not realize that there were already many people active around here for years, that many of us have been to jail many times for the movement, and that being older doesn’t make us sell outs and liberals. We are experienced in organizing and many of us have networks of people, and skills that allow us to organize away from your watchful eyes. While all people have a role, it should be obvious that the movement can’t be led by mostly young, mostly white, academics and adventurists. I actually believe that many of you understand this on some level, but pride or fear keeps you from acknowledging the truth. It is a shame, because your stubborn pride may cancel the good that you have done, and the sacrifices that you have made. There are many things that you have done that are worthy of praise, and I hope to be able to focus on those areas sometime down the road after the air is cleared of the negative vibes. I hold on to some hope that many of you will see this to be true, and change your approach. All of us have room to grow, including me of course…
A couple of last points regarding autonomy, anarchism, and issues that arise. I have old school anarchist roots and tendencies. Anarchists had a lot to do with the West Coast hippie movement that my parents were part of. The diggers, early Bay Area anarchists, who were behind much of the Haight-Ashbury counterculture, were a group that my father used to tell me about when I was little. Later on growing up in Mendocino County in the Redwood forests during the height of the logging wars, Earth First was another anarchist group with popular support and respect from the community where I lived. When I came back to the city for college, I joined up with Food Not Bombs and was one of the first people arrested for serving food in Golden Gate Park in the late 1980’s…I could go on, but my point being, I have been shaped by anarchistic ideals, and my approach to political activism, agitation, and organizing is rooted in those ideals. I believe in individual autonomy, and personal responsibility, and for agitating in ways that will possibly profoundly shake up the social hierarchies. I recognize that I can be confrontational and non-conformist with my ideas, which I feel are hallmarks of anarchistic thinking. Anarchists, to me, should think for ourselves, should put ourselves at risk for our beliefs even if they are unpopular, and should fight against hierarchy, and social inequity. At the same time, I believe that we also need to work with all types of people, and accept that most may not see things in the extreme terms that some of us anarchists might. Also, the black person with traditional anarchistic tendencies may have an element of being white washed in our past, or may be a bit of a social misfit. This is nothing for us to be ashamed of, but expecting other blacks to understand without opportunity for mutual organizing, and exchange of knowledge, may be unrealistic.
I choose to join with people I can work with, and to put my personal politics secondary to the group. At the same time, I don’t ever agree with everything that everyone in any group believes or does, and I even may have disagreements about aspects of the projects themselves. I believe that I can take responsibility for the project as a whole, and support my collaborators, but I don’t have to agree with what everyone says or does. For this reason, I may contradict what others have said about the project, and may at time put out my own autonomous statements if I feel so moved. I have tried to follow my personal ideals, and maintain my personal ethics throughout this last year plus since Occupy started. I expect to be challenged, and even attacked, for my actions, and ideas, and I will try to remain open to critique. At the same time, I will challenge lies, or misconceptions, and won’t back down due to intimidation or social pressure to avoid trouble, or confrontation.
I also think that money is a big issue for anarchists and activists to figure out. We live in a capitalist society, in which our relationships are tainted by money. We maybe anti-capitalist, but we all have bills, and we all have personal, and cultural beliefs around money. Some of the attacks against this book, which are rooted in previous attacks against certain members of the editing team, reflect class privilege, and even racism, and I believe are indicative of the type of lack of awareness, and introspection that has been a big issue from the start of OO. Whether OO remains or not, the social dynamics of Oakland will remain. When we mix racial issues, with class and cultural issues, we might realize that anarchism might have different focuses depending on where and by whom it is employed. Black people might be more inclined to look to connect personal autonomy, with tribal or original culture, and see how the two fit, whereas for white people anarchy may have to do more with the abolishment of social hierarchy, and class based discrimination. This is a larger discussion than I think I want to delve to deeply into right now, but possibly an important one for the future of the movement here in Oakland. I am hoping that this clarifies some of my actions, and views. I do not intend to spend much more time or energy on this but I felt it necessary to write this to clarify my participation in the book project. By no means do I speak for others, nor do I think that I covered all key points or issues.
Here is a link to the eBook and some of the attacks against us.
We are pleased to announce that the proceeds of the book through the end of Black History Month will go towards the effort to save the Marcus Garvey building in West Oakland. https://www.change.org/petitions/citi-property-holdings-inc-save-the-marcus-garvey-building-home-of-overcomers-with-hope
This rant about Prop37 and the original War against Food for the Poor, started because I lost a really good thought when I suddenly I remembered another lost thought, which replaced the other good thought. I hope it comes back, but the remembered thought is good too and figured I better save it since I am losing thoughts so easy, and so here it is….
I worked as a substitute teacher and as a regular teacher in the Oakland Unified and West Contra Costa School District for many years, in some of the poorest hoods, and most neglected schools in the local Hood. My unscientific observation, having seen a lot of “food” consumed by our kids, is that kids in poor schools, from poor neighborhoods in the East Bay have crappy food options, and generally eat a mainly corner store diet, with some items that would make GMO food almost seem real and gourmet. And vegetables, real or otherwise? A rarity. A green leafy, fresh vegetable? Fuhgeddabout it… We are rightly outraged at the prop 37 results because we are unable to make an informed decision about what we eat because of our corporate corruptors. But in many local neighborhoods most of these kids don’t even have a choice about what they eat. Because of poverty, isolation, neglect and ongoing corporate criminal profiteering, there are few to zero alternatives (unless things have changed drastically in the last couple years)…
Young kids are not educated, and in some cases literate, enough to study labels to even know what they are ingesting and then make healthy choices. For many healthy choices don’t exist. We lovers of healthy food don’t need to be taught why GMO and devitalized foods in general are bad. Instincts alone, tell us that bad food leads to physical AND mental ailments. It is safe also to assume that kids are most harmed by toxic, fake food, and ill health follows many of those who grow up eating the manufactured swill that is pedaled in the hood as food. I bet the farm that much of the mayhem we see in the poor hoods is partially diet related. It turns out that poor kids need food too…Truth is, many of the fake food outfits should be boycotted out of business….I say this as a candy addict with less than great habits. And also as someone who, due to money and transportation limitations, sometimes buys some of the fake,” poor folks” food products that are sold even in stores in my semi yuppie neighborhood. You can taste the difference. Fake cheese and peanut butter with waxy texture and taste, just like the old-time government commodities that they used to give us in the 70′s. Fake food is doctored, and drugged to help sell units to us lab rats. What do they care what poor folks eat? There is always cake right?
But I grew up in a place where organic was the rule. I have had choices, and still have choices, even when I am poor, and my experiences tell me this is not the case for many of the poorest poor, and others trapped in certain areas. We all seem to agree quite strongly that we want to eat real food. The Prop 37 vote affirmed our belief that Real, Natural, food is a human right. Food for humans is pretty much our main gig here on planet Earth. So if the system can’t feed everyone quite well, then it is a bad system. IPods, but no food? C’mon son! Bad systems lead to sick, sad, stunted societies, with anti-health, garbage pile worshiping tendencies…Some may actually think that poor folks should eat merely as a way to earn more profits for what our corporate swindlers. You can bet they are surely old money, crooked and ignorant, They are probably in some cases, Jim Crow, Slavery era money groupings of immoral profiteers, who pretend that they are “feeding” people with their nutritional experiments. Do poor folks not need real food? Perhaps they should be happy to live on Cheetos and soda, and whatever new chemical hustle is inflicted on those who have no array of Organic grocers, nor the funds to purchase healthy products. I am stealing from my old African Holistic Health book, but poor black folks, and most probably other poor folks to some degree, have been victimized by chemical warfare, and generational poisoning to where it is almost like we aren’t allowed to be fully functional and in position to fulfill our greatest dreams. With good nutritional food, great health and clarity, and liveliness follow.
So I think that I can speak for many when I say… Let us all live healthy and free. Let us grow our own gardens, raise animals, plant fruit and berries plentifully. Let us take care of ourselves without legal roadblocks for corporate benefit. End this food war and withdraw the invading corporate armies with their arsenal of toxic products from the corner stores in the hood. Rebuild the idea of nightly, or daily village, markets, for the purpose of starting of a farmer’s market economy. Not a money market Ponzi scheme society for the enrichment of amoral carpetbagger profiteers. Bad food tastes..well yucky, and makes you dull, and money is not good eats either. Food is freedom. Food is life, Food is love. We all need love in this world. It is not just about GMO’s and labels for the middle class. The War on Food has been in motion since before Reagan and his Ketchup. And now we forced to vote on whether we can know what we are eating, a true insult to our sovereign human rights. “Umm…We humbly request that you corporate profiteers tell us if you are using extra poison in our food…Thanks”. And we lost! .WTF!!…So let’s think beyond prop 37 and fight for food for all. Real food, not the fraud food that is perpetrated by the plastic people. GMO is not the only or the first weapon they set loose on us. And please remember that in the hood, corporate “faux food” steals community health and wealth, kills poor kids slowly by denying needed nutritional fuel, and defers dreams forever.
Author, Zappa Montag
by Zappa Montag
I have been part of some weird shit in my lifetime, but Occupy Oakland may be the weirdest of the weird. I still shake my head in amazement and confusion over the wild ride it’s been. Unbelievably it has been only a year since Occupy Wall Street bloomed its first flower of rebellion in New York. I was immediately excited by OWS, partly due to a shift in tactics that seemed to draw lines directly to the source of inequity, and also because my friend Stephanie was one of Brooklyn Bridge folks, and she took some inspiring pictures that gave the first early views of the coming wave of People Power. From that day I was waiting for the Oakland version to hit. I knew Oakland was gonna be different and powerful, but it was in a whole different way than I could have ever dreamed. In my early vision, I saw myself working with many old friends and activists groups, and finally getting a movement worthy of our passions and dreams in Oakland. With that optimism in my heart it was also nearly a year ago that I attended my first Occupy Oakland meeting at Mosswood Park. A meeting which left me feeling annoyed, confused, and vaguely optimistic, and gave me clues that I was not able to read as to how things were really going to be like. I shrugged of the doubts and jumped in with optimism that I hadn’t felt about the movement in many years. Little did I know that the negative and infuriating dramas would be nearly as incredible as the momentous moments of pure magic that I would experience, often nearly simultaneously. What a year! What a freaking year!
We have learned a whole lot in this last year, lifetimes of knowledge and understanding opened before our very eyes, and we have reaffirmed certain truths that we may have forgotten about. We have struggled mightily, but have kept going. It is no secret that cliques and ideological and territorial turf wars and severe personal disagreements within the movement have shaped the struggle in Oakland. At times it has been very intense, and all consuming, yet at the same time, one year later, we continue on. As fractured as it has been in some cases, I would say that we have all learned from each other and have influenced people who stuck it out and paid attention. Even those who cannot work together at this time due to movement conflicts have shaped each others approach for the better. I am also happy to say that I have met an amazing amount of beautiful people since last September 17, many of whom have become integral parts of my life. It is a rare thing for grown adults to meet a significant friend at any time after a certain point in your life. The fact that I have made so many connections, and am able to build with these wonderful folks, is to me the greatest blessing of the tumultuous year we have had. The personal bonds that we have created have allowed us to continue to build towards a focus that is just now becoming clearer…
So what is clear to those of us who I have found common ground, and shared effort with, and what are we building? From where our extended group of friends and activists see things there are several lessons that provide the bulk of our framework for our next year of organizing and community building.
For one thing we have affirmed that certain old truths remain truths now more than ever, and one of these truths is that “The pen is mightier than the Sword/ Drone”, and that there is no doubt that “The truth is on our side” and that “T he truth shall set us free”… We are writers who put ideas in motion. We need to write our own fearless truth, and help each other do the same. We have amazing writers; we have perspectives that need to be heard. The continued misinformation and unimaginative analysis of Oakland from the East Coast, or from local movement voices with little long term roots in the area, was one thing that drove us to be purposeful and powerful with our writing. We are now inspired to write with intent and passion, and to build our own networks to spread and receive the people’s truths. We are developing a network, and infrastructure to sing our story to the far corners of earth and beyond. After all we are writers with multimedia skills and technological savvy, and creativity for days. This is a skill and power we can help bring, and we will. Write the heck on!
We are dreamers who believe in the power of music and arts and the creative, wide open, human spirit and kind-hear ted nature. We believe that these are our strengths and our medicine. We have creativity pulsating through our community, and we have gathered our creative energies here in the west because the only way left to go is into the limitless world of the imagination. We believe that Oakland and the Bay Area, needs to be led by the creative, optimistic, artistic, not the addicts of consumerism and disharmony. We will build our arts, music, our gardens of fertile creativity, as an asset, and source of strength to carry us through the shattered and sickened society with its negative drain on our collective emotional health. We will organize as artists, and we will write a new way, a never-ending musical starring everyone, and everything. The issues surrounding gentrification, First Friday art murmur, and the imbalance favoring management over the artists and community they serve, are issues that encapsulate our struggle and give us focus. We believe in supporting and developing our local talent, especially the youth, and allowing the gift of peace, which is what the arts bring, to be bestowed widely and without regard to corporate financial interests.
It is also clear to us that strategic nonviolence, or peaceful intent, builds stronger activist community, and community involvement. Semantic hair-splitting aside, we all know right from wrong, and we all know that at some point, self-defense and survival trumps ideals, but we also know when aggressive tactics are truly called for in terms of self-defense, and we know when our actions are perceived as morally justifiable, and when we look like bullies and goons. Is there room for healthy debate as to when self-defense is called for? For sure. Is there always going to be some debate as to what violence is? Yes indeed. On the night of the tear gas attacks (Oct. 26th?), I would occasionally take to drumming on streets signs, or other loud entities during our hours of marching. I even had a good session right in front of a large group of cops guarding the plaza. Is drumming on sign violence? No, but I was trying to hype people up to continue to march back to 14th and Broadway, and to fluster the police without using crude name calling. In some ways I feel like I could have been pushing people towards danger. On the other hand, on that same night I personally intervened when I saw people contemplating, or engaging in petty violence and vandalism. In each case I could see that the perpetrators were scared and pissed at the violence the cops had inflicted or were threatening to inflict. I watched the night unfold and felt that the police were hoping to provoke a riotous melee, as they didn’t even try to defend the businesses downtown that they used gas and projectiles to push the crowd back towards. I also sensed that if we kept it cool we would win the day, and I was so proud of how we did keep it together. As an old school “action faction” type, I can’t pass judgment on the urge to smash things, or otherwise create discomfort for the corrupted elite, as I know the urge well. However, strategically, it seems clear that this was/is a time for building bonds, and focusing rage against the previously invisible economic elites. This is not a good time for engaging in a strategy of symbolic violence and police skirmishing, which inherently and inevitably produces fractious debate and conflict inside the movement.
Anarchism 101 teaches us that even symbolic violence changes the conversation, and thus has power. Sometimes the conversation does need to change but in this case it was too early to force that conversation, as we didn’t know each other. The secret Black Block planning and actions for the November 2 General Strike, as well as the mayhem from the poorly planned Travelers Aid takeover, was the main cause of the fracture in OO that never healed. Our Port Shut down March, our great triumph, was overshadowed, and our momentum to take even another, bigger step was ground to a halt, and recrimination and division took root. The “security culture” militant solidarity ethos that dominated, stifled attempts or desires to reach common ground and remains a source of movement insecurity, ironically. Thus, early on, I found myself as a DOT adherent, finding more allies in the Non Violence groupings, and thankfully in the Children’s and Parents Committee/Children’s Village, which gave me a functional and calm route to focus my involvement with the more structured aspects of Occupy Oakland such as the GA. I focused my other organizing with working with longtime friends because I was feeling concern about the amount of anonymous or unfamiliar people’s with aggressive postures. I joined up with Decolonize Oakland after hesitating initially. To this day, I have remained in both Decolonize Oakland, and Occupy Oakland, and I plan to continue to be part of both despite having earned the ill will of quite a few Occupy Oakland folks on a level I have not experienced in my 20 plus years as an activist. This ill will began to set in to the movement in the after math of the November 2nd conflicts, and has been fueled mainly by divisive militant actions such as Move in day, and May Day, in which ideological and organizing divides played out on the streets, on social media, and in the press, mainstream and alternative, and have yet to be resolved.
Another key lesson is that we see community building as the key to organizing success. We are proud of the many ways we have been able to help this happen in our community. Some of the powerful and ongoing efforts that have emerged from our efforts are discussions and work around race, and privilege, and overcoming the division that can so easily spread. Mediation between groups and individuals in conflict has been a needed role that has been developed thanks to some strong and dedicated organizers. We also have had a variety of social gatherings, from house parties, to picnic meetings, to educational events, and have begun to build beyond the confines of Occupy in terms of both the people and politics. We are organizing a series of social, cultural, creative, community empowerment events and social meet ups for the next weeks leading up to various Occupy anniversaries, and the sham national election in early November. One of the larger ones will take place on October 26 at the Humanist Hall, so keep a look out. We believe that optimism and unity need to be created and maintained, and that demonstrations involving anticipated violent repression from law enforcement mostly build unity amongst those who are already in a similar state of mind. We choose to organize slowly, and in ways that will be more inclusive, and allow for growth. Or maybe we just like to party?…naaw, we just need to get to know and trust each other for these coming times of struggle. Now the key is to find ways of weaving politics, and community, and creativity into our social events, so we keep getting things done. That will be a focus in the coming year.
Many in our larger organizing circles also believe that as flawed as the Occupy Oakland General Assembly often was, it was still a reminder of the basic human rights of assembly and collective decision making and action. Humans need ways to meet in small groups and get things done that the government, can’t or won’t do. This predates government, which is why I don’t buy the idea that GA’s are an “anarchist” invention, which has been repeated so often. Holding assemblies is a human, and probably not just human, method to get things done, and taking collective responsibility. The Occupy Oakland GA has fallen into total disrepair, but we feel that other groupings should continue to create assemblies, and that in light of the corporate bought elections taking place this year, the timing is ripe for our own process to begin to emerge to counter the bullshit.
We have a natural right to assemble and make decisions outside of the agreed upon electoral process. When the Oakland Mayor and power brokers, gave the orders for me and my fellow concerned citizens to be gassed and assaulted repeatedly for attempting to exercise our right to sit down in an intersection in our city in protest, the truth was exposed to all. Rather than choosing to negotiate on October 26th, and seek a peaceful resolution to our disagreements they chose to unleash terror and suffering. That was the moment that it was crystal clear to me that our rights as regular Oaklanders are a secondary concern to them at best. Our government will subvert Democracy and use violent intimidation and worse, to keep us under control. We need to take back our power. We need our own process. We need to assemble freely, and set our own course of action, and “legality”, and “legitimacy” as defined by the system cannot used to keep us silent and dependent on them.
We collectively see a clear need for a multi tendency organizing approach. There is no one path to justice, and no one definition of what it takes to be a radical or a revolutionary. Furthermore, people grow and change, and learn. In fact that is why we organize, to push people to step outside their comfort zones and change their actions and habits. The radical ideological litmus tests that seem to permeate segments of Occupy are limiting and negative in that they hold people to set ideas, and write off those who are not perceived to be hardcore enough. If we only organize with people who are already staunchly radical or militant, we limit ourselves to a small segment of people, and we lose the chance to engage with the large segments of our community who are sympathetic, but more mainstream in some ways. I see no contradiction in engaging with many groups with views that may differ from mine. Pretty much everyone sees things differently than I do. Deep down I am an eco-freak hippie, with a serious problem with many aspects of the modern technological society. Most people’s views are less extreme than mine in this area, but rather than write folks off as naive or blind to the real facts and shun them, I would rather work with people on that which we agree. After time, and familiarity, then we can debate strategy in the areas where we disagree to determine if there is possible common ground.
A multi tendency movement is more flexible, has more knowledge and resources at its disposal, and has more community buy in. Furthermore people work well together based on personality and style more so than politics. Most of the folks that I organize with are not in the same spot as me on the political spectrum, but yet we get along fine because we want basically the same things, and we see how personal histories shape each of us in our own way, and we enjoy each other. Maybe the 99% is a little too inclusive, but we need some members of every group within the 99% to join up. We can’t write off entire groups as outside of our movement without trying first to work together. If you are unable to work with people from a wide range of political and social orientations, you will not be an effective organizer. The folks that I work closely with believe that organizing is our number one task, and effective organizing takes hard work, flexibility, and communication. Organizing has to be done in a way that is friendly and truly inviting to people who may feel hesitant to join in. Many people in the early days of Occupy Oakland began to feel unwelcome, or not invited, and left, or stayed mostly on the sidelines. I am proud to be part of ongoing efforts to bring these and other folks back in to discussion, and collaboration. This is something that we will continue to build in this next year and beyond. We will organize!
Many more lessons can and have been written about, but I wanted to touch on what comes to mind for me, one year into the rebellion that began in New York City on September 17th. So far I am having a blast, and riding a wave of optimism that offers to carry us to the new paradigm. This has been a chance to make things happen, and I wanted to express that organizing, and dreaming solutions, and paths to unity, are underway in our little corner of reality (which always has room for more folks btw). We will be having events all throughout October, and beyond, and we are always looking to support and promote anything that is cool and for the people that you might be doing. We are also encouraging all writers to step it up, and make your voices heard, and will be looking to find ways to maximize our energies. Let us continue to build, and join together to dream up a new world for all. Thank you to all who have given it your all this year, you have re inspired me. Let’s keep it going!
By, Zappa Montag
“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
Anatole France, The Red Lily, 1894
I remember hearing some version of the above quote probably when I was in my early teens, and getting it, liking it, and tripping off it. It is still one of my favorite political quotes. It sums up perfectly the pompous and self-serving nature of arguments that uphold the “rule of law” as an essential to a fair society. Anyone blessed with a normal human sense of fairness notices many instances in which laws are enforced unfairly, and unequally, and are used to further social inequity rather than protect all citizens, and promote the general welfare of all. Some laws are just plain unjust, and morally indefensible, such as the Jim Crow laws of old, and similar laws today which codify discrimination based on sexual identity or gender. Then there are laws that are unjust because they have a greater burden on certain segments of the population, usually people with less financial clout, or political power. Attacking unjust laws, and unequal enforcement of laws, has always been a key component of protest movements as a means of highlighting inequality and establishing a moral high ground, which emboldens people to take on powerful social interests. One of the first times I was arrested was for serving food at Golden Gate Park with a small group of folks from Food Not Bombs in 1988. The idea that we couldn’t feed people, who were hungry, in a public park, was absurd to me, and I had no problem breaking that law and being arrested for it. As it turns out, we were able to highlight the moral bankruptcy of the law, and spread the Food Not Bombs ideals and mission through our civil disobedience. A mission that carries on strongly to this day!
One of the things that I loved about the early months of the occupy movement was that disdain and disregard for unjust laws, and the unfair enforcement of laws was widespread and assumed. We all were willing to break at least some laws that we knew were unjust, and in many cases just plain stupid. From camping on the plaza, to feeding people without permits, to helping people back into foreclosed homes, and disrupting financial business as usual, we followed our own moral compass, and ethical standards. While there was always disagreements as to how to go about breaking laws, we all were willing to expand our tactics to include some level of law breaking, and were willing to face consequences for following our moral code over the legal code of an unjust society. It is my belief that we should return to this practice of breaking unjust, immoral, and unequal laws in a way that is more strategic, and targeted. Over the last year we have seen the methods that the power elites have been willing to employ against our protest, and we have seen how their methods curtail our unity, and undermine our appeals to morality over legality. In the process, however, they have provided us with the blueprint to build our case against them, and carry out a campaign that highlights the injustice of the law, and the need for us to break unjust laws in order to do our work.
The encampment at the plaza allowed us to break several unjust laws, and areas of enforcement at once. We were utilizing public land and resources to benefit the community, without applying for proper permits and following zoning regulations which inhibit regular folks from gathering together, and helping each other. We had the numbers to be able to feed and house people, entertain each other, and conspire together openly, in ways that a small group couldn’t pull off. Often these types of social programs are the realm of the churches or other monied groups who take it upon themselves to care for the “less fortunate”. Of course, in exchange, church groups and charities get to promote their worldview and gain positive publicity for their work. This is an example of how legality, mixed with economic clout, and legal protection, allows certain groups to benefit and grow by providing needs and services that the government is unable to, while other groups, like Occupy, are kept from helping people due to unfriendly government policy, and enforcement of permit laws, and regulations. Often, health and safety concerns, and rules are cited against nontraditional groups like Occupy, while these concerns are not used to prevent church groups or other agencies from providing services.
I believe that Occupy should again take up a campaign to feed, and provide other services to Oakland citizens, and that we should intentionally disregard laws and regulations that are used to dissuade us. For instance, healthy balanced, nutritious meals being served by us are no more a health concern than the low quality meals and food that many food bank programs provide. We have a moral right to serve healthy food to people, and to talk to them about life and all that it entails while we do. Similarly, maintaining group camps, and providing supplies for homeless people to gather in safety together is the moral thing to do. Especially when the alternative is to send people to sleep in dangerous, noisy, polluted, and unpleasant areas, such as under freeways. Utilizing public space, and unused facilities, be they public or private, is morally correct, and laws and regulations that prevent this should be challenged. Other areas that should be challenged pertain to city funds being used inefficiently for law enforcement jobs for officers who don’t live in Oakland. These large budget expenditures have not led to safer communities, and other means of lowering violence and keeping the peace are not given similar resources, and jobs are not created for Oak landers to develop peaceful solutions for ourselves. Similarly, “poor taxes” in the form of increased traffic fines, and other fees are levied against those who can least afford them, and the money raised is paid to predatory banks like Goldman Sachs, and to provide financial incentives to gentrifying business as overseen by the entrenched forces at city hall. All the while long time Oakland residents see little or no investment in jobs and programs for us.
These are but a few areas that call for sustained campaigns of civil disobedience, and public pressure in many forms. The beauty is that by carrying out these campaigns, we could build our movement, highlight injustice and the lack of creative solutions from city hall, and call to question the increased dependence on law enforcement to enforce a society built on inequality. The key would be to create organized, sustained campaigns, which would employ a variety of tactics. While it is tempting to look back at the camps, and try to recreate that level of civil disobedience, I believe that would be a strategic mistake because it would draw focus away from the morality of our campaigns, and instead recreate the militarized climate of repression that the powers that be are more comfortable with. We need to ridicule their previous heavy handedness, as we show that we are just trying to do good deeds, and come to each other’s aid where the government has failed. We need to reaffirm our moral right and duty to disobey unjust laws, and to challenge outdated and indefensible methods of social control. These types of campaigns have many historical models that we could draw from, and lessons drawn from current campaigns, such as the powerful actions being enacted by undocumented members of our community, that are already underway. The election seasons final two months could give us an excellent back drop from which to highlight politics based on morality and humanity, vs. the soul less, money driven policies of our current system. Let’s go break some bad laws and make some good things happen!