I don’t know what is happening within other Occupies across the US and the world, but in my town there have been ego clashes, fighting, people being “kicked out” or just discouraged from participating. Many people who support the Occupiers’ alleged goals have felt unwelcome and have chosen not to get involved, as the environment has become so negative. Some have branched off and started their own Occupy. This has angered the original Occupiers who are now arguing back and forth, primarily via the Internet, about whose movement is better. Seriously, people? Do you expect to be taken seriously?
To be fair, the winter season does factor in on this somewhat. As the weather gets stormy, cold and unpleasant, we’ve seen fewer activists and more people who just have no choice but to camp out at Occupy. They join, not necessarily because they want to make the world a better place, but because they are seeking a safe place where they can remain homeless. (I’m not criticizing the homeless either. This entire blog is written from the point of view of a formerly homeless and currently financially struggling working class person–and a real, bonafide 99 percenter!) But I think the point of camping out in front of government buildings was to address the government with our grievances, not to solicit free food donations from the community. Sadly, our government isn’t listening to us. Writing/calling Congress doesn’t seem to make a difference, but if we camp out in tents in front of their offices…well, how can they ignore us then? That was, I think, the original point. But now the encampment in my town has turned into something else, something ugly, something I can’t support. A sort of “group think” has set in as campers versus those who don’t camp, original protestors vs. newbies, meeting attendees vs. those who don’t have time to attend, and men who want to dominate versus women who feel disenfranchised vs. women who don’t feel that other women should complain about sexism compete with each other as to who and what this supposedly democratic movement is about!
And time and time again, I’ve approached this Occupy and seen an increase in people gathering for the free food and tent setting. (I’m a democratic-socialist type, not a conservative Republican, mind you, yet I can’t help but see the lack of desire to give back to one’s community.) When I engage them in political discourse, they know nothing or very little and seem rather unconcerned about current events or changing the system. (But we need donations, please!) Pointing out these and other problems, i.e., that the organization appears to be white-male dominated in a region with a large African-American community, causes people to be censored, yes, censored! And this Occupy even voted at a General Assembly to block certain people from expressing certain opinions they deem “harmful” on their web site. And would-be Occupiers are chastised or threatened with the possibility of being disassociated from Occupy should they “harm” the movement by pointing out problems within it.
It’s a sad, sorry thing to admit to, but I’ve been treated with more warmth and welcome by activist groups with whom I’ve strongly disagreed. Yep, I’m talking about activists not supportive of my political beliefs but who were friendly and welcoming. They understand the importance of speaking with people who disagree on many things but might be able to rally toward a common cause for the greater good.
(By the way, one such “common cause” can be the move to eliminate corporate funding of our politicians. Many activists, Tea Party and Occupy alike could agree on that one. We aren’t going to agree on everything, but we can agree to disagree on some issues then move on to the more important topics at hand. Occupy, are you listening?)
Ah, the irony. This blog was set up to critique corporate America, Wall Street tycoons, the greedy and selfish oppressors. Who would have thought that those protesting those evils would take on the very characteristics they claimed to denigrate? Who knew? Never, ever in a million years did I expect to find myself criticizing a group such as Occupy. And, in fact, I’m not criticizing the overall movement. I am criticizing an Occupy that happens to exist in my hometown.
Many people have branched off and started their own occupy and are choosing to disassociate themselves with the egomaniacs who’ve decided to command occupy. And it’s become an odd sort of competition. (Reminds me of an old Monty Python sketch of the philosophers’ soccer match. Kant and Nietzsche vs. Plato and Socrates; the Germans vs. the Greeks.) Which smart, thoughtful person who wants to make the world a better place can run faster? Can kick the ball harder?
Who’s the best activist? Will the activist who runs the fastest to the finish line please stand up? Sad really. Because I’m not interested in competing. I’m not seeking the limelight as an activist. This may be difficult to believe, but I dislike politics. I don’t want to wield power over the people, but I do want to see power to the people–as long as the people are taking on that tremendous responsibility by reading about history, reading the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and taking their role as co-governors of their country seriously. But to the extent people shirk responsibility, refuse to be educated, refuse to read and study and learn and think for themselves; to the extent that the people choose to just sit back lazily and vote for others to just make decisions for them because they don’t feel like taking the time to think carefully about or study the issues or get involved themselves, then we the people simply aren’t competent or qualified for the job. And that, my friends, is the common argument against democracy. People vote against their own interests. People vote for corrupt dictators. People, “we” the people, can be just as corrupt, just as greedy and selfish as corporate America and politicians.
And that is what I learned from the Occupy in my city. Cronyism, nepotism, corruption, censorship, sexism, racism, etc.–it’s all there at Occupy. When some of us protested on behalf of a member who was kicked out, we were censored. Yep, our comments, were removed.
Ah well. This bag lady has been cynical and jaded from the beginning. (So that’s why she’s mad!) As much as she’d hoped, she couldn’t believe that true change was possible in a country that has embraced corrupt, crony politics for so long. After all, Americans voted for Reagan then Bush. Where was Occupy then? Reagan made a HUGE cut in affordable housing for the poor. Why weren’t Americans upset about that? He spread propaganda that poor people were to blame for their situation, that this was the land of opportunity, so if you weren’t rich there truly was something wrong with you. Americans didn’t say a word on that, except to thank Reagan for being one of our “greatest” presidents. Yep, many Americans love that guy, to this day.
Did Americans really need to wait until they lost their own jobs, their homes, and their dreams before they could care about others less fortunate? If so, then that is a serious character flaw in us as a people that needs to be addressed. We voted against social safety nets to help the poor get back on their feet because we blamed the poor (and because we ourselves weren’t poor.) They choose to be poor, after all. But then when we lose our own jobs and find it impossible to replace them with new ones, how will we pay the rent? How will we pay for groceries?
Now there is no one to speak for us. We allowed education to become outrageously expensive so that only the rich can go to college. No more going back to school to learn a marketable skill. Education is off the table. We allowed unlimited freedom for large, multinational businesses to outsource labor, tax-free to third-world countries because we insist on maintaining a “free marketplace.” For them. But not for us. If I want to sell my hand-made jewelry on a public sidewalk, I’m forbidden.
Point is, we the people allowed this corruption to be fruitful and multiply. Why? We watched silently as others suffered and swallowed the kool-aid that it’s their own fault anyway. Until now. Until we find ourselves suffering from our own mean-spirited policies.
And that takes us back to Occupy, doesn’t it? The question is, are the Occupiers truly seeking social change or are they just using the movement to achieve their own selfish goals?
Considering that the Occupiers claim to represent 99% of the people, who are they to “kick out” people who are non-violent and who are trying to support what they claim to be fighting for? Who are they to censor their members and to intimidate them out of speaking?
Now here it is, the moment you haven’t been waiting for, my grievance, as published and viewed by at least four people so far. I had to publish it on a web site that opposes the Occupy movement, a web site I wouldn’t have even known existed if it weren’t for the attempts Occupy made to censor the opinions of several of us who disagreed with decisions made by a clique at Occupy who gathered a small number of people, labeled it a General Assembly and made decisions without the consent of the majority of us involved in the movement…
An open letter to Occupy (the one that practices censorship and exclusivity.) Yep, I know some of you are gonna read this… :
I’d just like to say that I think it is very interesting indeed that people like myself who were once your strongest supporters are now having to go on other web sites like this one, or perhaps meet with other activists not affiliated with Occupy Buffalo, because we are unable to get our voices heard at Occupy Buffalo. Are you trying to drive us over to the other side? No wonder the police/government aren’t harassing you and have agreed to let you stay in the square–you yourselves are doing so much damage to the Occupy movement that they don’t need to take you down. In fact, they love seeing you there as you are proving the negative stereotypes of Occupy to be true.
Like the US govt, you disallow dissent and refuse to allow opinions w/which you disagree. And so, like the US government, you are now facing rebellion from the people within your own organization. Do you not see the irony?
This is true even in the business world. When managers start to see their strongest employees quitting or getting fired, that is a warning sign that a business is failing.
You are, as they say, “shooting yourselves in the foot.” If you really cared about the issues, making things better for the 99%, etc., you’d want to include 99% of people in your community. Once you start accusing people of “harming” your organization by expressing opinions you don’t like, you lose credibility. Your Facebook site is not a privately-owned site, as you suggest, but a site that represents an organization that proclaims to be publicly owned, i.e., 99% “owned.”
I’ve been reading about the 60s and, ironically, that movement failed for the same reason. Women were disenfranchised by the “progressives” and hippies who claimed they wanted to form a more democratic society! Seriously, read about it. It’s in the history books. That’s how the women’s movement started. Women branched off and started their own movement. Then the 60s movement became more and more about a bunch of spoiled rich kids, “limousine liberals,” who’d never faced social injustice but claimed to be against it. The poor and working class had no place in that movement–just as women and other groups were displaced.
When people are criticizing you and branching off to start their own movement, that should be a clue that you need to take a closer look at your group and ask yourself the question: What can we do for our community so that people will see the value in our work? How can we show people that we are doing good work for our community? Instead, the Occupy in my town has chosen the same fascist, ruthless tactics corporate America uses time and time again: prevent people we don’t agree with from speaking, keep out dissent, but let’s keep asking the community to support us and give to us. Sorry, people, but it doesn’t work that way. Remember JFK’s famous words? “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” We as a society need to learn to give, to stop asking others to give to us but to focus on what we can give to others.