Occupy Yourself! Be yourself. Don’t ask permission from a movement, mover, or anyone. Just stand up for what you believe in!
As enthusiastic and motivated as I am about these issues (class division, poverty, etc.) I have, regretfully, fallen behind in updating this blog. Primarily this has been due to my support for my local Occupy Wall Street movement. I think it would be obvious to anyone reading these posts that I am supportive of that movement toward creating a democratic, egalitarian, inclusive system in which there is room for all of us–except, of course, the tiny minority of sociopaths who are, sadly, incapable of caring about others and the greater good.) However, I believe our type of unregulated (or perhaps one could say improperly regulated) capitalism helps to produce those sociopathic individuals. We currently live under a “dog eat dog” system that encourages people to compete with each other in a negative and self-defeating way. A healthy, functional, sustainable, egalitarian society would rarely find a true sociopath within its communities.
When I first heard of the Occupy movement I was inspired and enthused, to say the least. Finally, people have woken up. Finally, Americans are learning the value of community, of supporting rather than competing with one another. But can we do it? Can those of us who’ve been indoctrinated into this divisive corporate culture find a way to come together, to cooperate, to work together despite racial, gender, religious, socioeconomic and political differences?
I’d like to think that we can. However, after spending a great deal of my own time showing support for and attempting to get involved in the Occupy in my city I was faced with the sad conclusion that already, within a few short weeks, the demonstration in my area has formed its own establishment, its own heirarchy, its own elite. Certain people have been using the organization to fulfill their own needs and are reluctant to allow other people to get involved. In other words, a leadership, primarily consisting of white males (just like Wall Street) has emerged. I discovered that other people like myself have become disenchanted with the organization because of it.
Yet as angry as I became with some of these self-appointed “leaders” within a movement that is not supposed to allow leaders to take over this experience has reacquainted me with a fact I’ve long known about human nature: we’re flawed. Our egos make us vulnerable to thinking we know better, that we’re right, that others would be better off if we’d be in charge. As humans, we’re all vulnerable to this flaw and this flaw can be fatal to an otherwise hopeful and earnest movement.
However, I’ve also taken a look at myself, at my own flaw as a human. How has my own ego created this angst I now feel? I went out and shot some great footage of the Occupation, put it up on the Internet and informed people that it was up there for all to see. Let people see what this movement is really about. It is a real, honest and earnest struggle to make things better for all of us. In fact, there are some highly intelligent, capable people involved who are doing some wonderful things! But there’s always a dark side. In any movement, there are always those who’ll use the movement to achieve their own personal ends. When a diverse community comes together then, inevitably, there will always be those who disagree, who don’t like each other. We can’t expect that everyone within a movement will get along all the time. That just isn’t human nature. Sometimes disagreements and moments of conflict are actually good because they wake us up, get us thinking about old ideas in new ways, keep us on our toes, keep us alert.
I approached Occupy with my videography and also my idea to set up a podcast to enable demonstrators to voice their political opinions. Since many complain that the corporate-controlled media has given Occupy little coverage and negative coverage, if any, I thought this would be a positive contribution on my part. I really think I’ve helped the movement by shooting the video and broadcasting it in on the Internet. I think the podcast also helps the movement. However, I discovered that the Occupy in my city has a “media department” that is run by a clique of people who weren’t very open to my involvement. I found myself very offended by this. Don’t they know how much time and trouble I spent producing those videos? Do they have any idea how many countless hours I spent creating the podcast? No, of course, they don’t as they aren’t very media savvy. But why do I care? Why does my own ego need their support and encouragement when I can continue advocating without joining the Occupy movement at all.
I guess I care because I have been advocating for a movement like this for many years–on my own. I’m tired of being the “Lone Ranger” as one career counselor once described me. I was hoping to be a part of something. Like most humans, I wanted a pat on the back, wanted my opinions to be heard, wanted to feel like I could contribute and be recognized for my contribution by other people. Certainly, I can–and will-continue to be active on my own. But isn’t this part of our problem as a society? That so many of us are on our own? Disconnected? Disenfranchised? Isn’t there a strength in numbers more powerful than one finds when an individual or several individuals just go out and act on their own? Perhaps the concept of working together as a community is just too difficult for those of us already brainwashed, indoctrinated into the corporate mindset of rugged-individualism that’s taken over our society. Perhaps the Occupation will grow out of this thinking and become more inclusive in the years to come. (I say “years” because the wealthy bureaucrats seemed determined to run this country to the ground, so I think it might be a long, bloody fight to make any real changes. The elite just won’t bend nor budge, even to placate the masses, if only temporarily. Frankly, that surprises me. I thought the powers that be would have made some conciliatory attempt to temporarily placate the protesters in hopes of reconditioning us back into complacency, into believing that our current system is actually okay, just had some glitches to work out. Sort of how allowing Obama into office placated many “liberals” who decided racism, sexism, classism & every other social problem magically went away once a black man and democrat became president.)
Also I’ve been struggling as a direct result of our former president’s policies (GW Bush, in case you don’t remember), and getting involved has offered a catharsis for me. I was ready to immerse myself in the Occupy movement. Our society is highly dysfunctional and unsustainable. We have to find an alternative or we’ll all suffer–rich and poor (except for the ultra-rich, the mega-elite 1%, but that doesn’t include all wealthy people; I’m speaking of only the extremists at the very top.) After all, wealthy people are exposed to the cancer-causing agents in our air, food and water. They too are harmed by the mass production of food, the dumping of chemicals in our environment, etc., that effect all of us as a result of corporate domination of our government and our society.
And I suppose my own ego has taken a beating here. Am I disrespected by the movement because I’m female? The Occupy in my city is very much white-male-dominated, and I think many female (and male members alike) feel somewhat disenfranchised by an elite clique that seems to be running things. But more than that, I have faced so much disenfranchisement from corporate America and what I refer to as our current “Capitalism-Gone Wild” system that I was hoping that this movement would prove itself to be democratic, egalitarian, inclusive, nonsexist, nonracist, etc. I trusted that my own talents and gifts would be appreciated and that my contributions would be accepted. So perhaps that is how has my own ego interferes with my ability to participate in this movement. Like most humans, I like knowing I’m recognized and appreciated for what I do. Not that I’m looking for a medal, of course. But after years of writing blogs like this one, getting into political debates with others, screening my documentaries and getting attacked by people who don’t like what I do and what I have to say, it is nice to have some people say, “Thanks, I appreciate what you’re trying to do.” I think there are some people who don’t realize how difficult it can be to be an activist sometimes. Do you think I like getting hate mail from ignorant, self-serving, bigoted neo-cons? Do you think I enjoy debating with people who insist that homeless people “like” being homeless, that those collecting welfare or unemployment benefits enjoy getting a “free” ride? I’ve even had homeless people (and it was a minority of homeless people, but still…) attack me for making a documentary about homelessness. “Don’t you know that homeless people are lazy and don’t want to work,” they’ve asked me. Yep, homeless people have said that to me. When I respond with, “You’re homeless. Do you consider yourself to be lazy and not wanting to work?” I get the response that “I’m different. I’m trying to find a job. But those OTHER homeless people…”
That is, by the way, the psychology of oppression. Oppressed people tend to hate each other and to worship the “oppressor.” This is why women get catty and competitive with each other, and this is why homeless people, and poor people in general, attack each other rather than come together and support each other. This is also why there is so much crime in poor neighborhoods. Poor people attack each other, keep each other down.
Imagine if that weren’t true. Imagine if poor people stood up for each other. Imagine if, instead of joining street gangs and intimidating their neighbors, poor, inner city youth got together and marched to the White House demainding high-paying jobs and equal opportunity for all. Imagine if all that anger were channeled toward something positive. I hope that, ultimately, the Occupy movement does become about achieving that positive goal and not about a few elitists who have hijacked the movement to serve their own ends.
In addition to shooting video, I also set up a podcast in which Occupiers can engage in intelligent political discussion. I believe this is something our society needs. We’ve been conditioned to seek out pure entertainment, titillation, instant gratification. I think people need to be thinking about politics, about our society and ways to create a better society. If some people within my local Occupy feel threatened by my ability to engage others in healthy political discussion or to produce videos or podcasts that can encourage others to get involved in this movement, well, that’s a shame.
My question to them is this: Why are you involved in the Occupy movement? Why do you want to censor or silence others? Why are you afraid of open dialogue? Why does my uploading videos that educate and inform others of what this movement is all about threaten you? You say you’re afraid I might protray this movement badly, so you’re not sure you’d like to involve me in your “media department,” that you’d like me to take some of your “classes” in which I can “learn” what to say and how to say it when referring to YOUR organization. (And I say YOUR because obviously this is not about us, the 99%, anymore. This is about YOU who think you know what people should and shouldn’t say about OccupyCityUndisclosed.)
Really? Are you seriously worried I’ll portray you badly? I’ve seen the poor quality videos you’ve uploaded onto your web site that don’t include intelligent political dialogue and that appear to have been set up by students who are still learning how to make videos, how to set up a web site, how to write properly, and how to communicate with other people. But you’re afraid that including people like me (who have experience doing such things!?) will risk your organization being portrayed badly to the general public.
Well, don’t worry about that, my friends. You’ve already done a wonderful job of discrediting this movement all by yourselves. Fortunately, for the majority of people in the Occupy movement, there are people like me involved who, in spite of our encounters with ignoramuses like yourselves, have persisted nevertheless to take the time to show the public that not everyone in the Occupy movement is uneducated and self-serving. Some of us really believe in democracy and that is why we are taking the time out of our busy lives to create a better world–in spite of people like you.
And so I encourage everyone in sympathy with the movement to do the same. Occupy yourself! Don’t rely on anyone else. If there is no movement in your city or if you’re disenchanted/disenfranchised by the Occupy in your city, please don’t give up on the movement altogether. Remember that human beings are a flawed species. We all have egos. Ego-conflict is inevitable in any human interaction, especially when there is a large number of highly diverse people involved.
Anyone can do what I do–maintain a blog, buy (or borrow) a video camera or just act in your daily life on the part of this movement toward democracy. We need to be the change we seek in the world. We need to become democratic in our daily lives. This is not easy to do and the reason why democracies don’t last. It’s tough to include everyone, to give everyone a voice, to be fair to everyone. It takes a lot of patience, intelligence, knowledge of history, psychology and sociology, of human behavior. It takes a lot of persistence, time and energy. It’s just so much easier to create a fascist police state run by a dictator who simply tells everyone what to do, and everyone just follows orders resignedly. This is why, even in a movement like this one, there will be dictators within the movement. Democracy is an ongoing process of acknowledging problems and working on problem-solving. It can be frustrating and seemingly impossible at times.
But in spite of my cynical, jaded current state of mind, I still believe that it is possible and very much worth the struggle. I’ll continue on my own, the Lone Ranger. My attempt at joining movements has never been successful. I always find myself walking away disappointed. Perhaps I’m a perfectionist, asking more of people than they can actually give. Yes, perhaps this is a flaw in myself. I don’t know. But I think for myself. I’m not a follower, nor am I a leader. I seek a world in which others are thinking for themselves, are able to see the big picture, are able to think deeply about important topics rather than seek out temporary stimulation from TV or other superficial media, to be themselves while respecting the other people who share the world with them. So I’ll videotape Occupy and other social causes. I’ll blog about them. Perhaps I’ll speak publicly or have my films screened publicly. But I won’t attempt to join anyone else’s organization anymore. It just doesn’t work for me. No matter how idealist the organization appears to be it always ends up becoming the same thing: gratification of someone’s ego.
So my dear Occupiers, I sympathize with and support the overall movement you claim to support, but I won’t wear your t-shirts or claim to be one of you. At least not for now. Right now, I’m returning to the Lone Ranger I’ve always been. Maybe, eventually, I will find “my people,” my co-creators of this better world we all envision.