Various voices have proclaimed the Occupy Movement as dead, morphed, or simply decentralized. Perhaps it is some of each, yet overall, things have shifted, so a glimpse at both the big and the small pictures can help to see things anew.
On and off the radar
While gadgets, tracking devices, and surveillance apparatuses attempt to put everything on the radar, that is, in fact, a Herculean effort in a haystack. “A Senate investigation found... the Department of Homeland Security's counter-terrorism data sharing, billion-dollar taxpayer funded "fusion centers" are, in no uncertain terms, ineffective.”1 Thus, a sigh of relief for anyone who innocuously subject-lined an email “bombed” when telling a friend about a recent stand-up comedy performance. But all seriousness aside, as Steve Allen used to quip, this is a promising sign of the unintentional respect for the electronic-and-gadget aspect of Amendment IV, “...the people secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures...”
It is ironic that the national security state is typically shrouded in secrecy (if not billion-dollar bureaucratic gaffes - remember the unaccounted for billions intended for Iraq ‘reconstruction’?), while aiming to keep an electronic-eye on everyone else. The Medusa (or perhaps medUSA) surveillance system (other countries have their versions), while occasionally netting some genuine ne’er-do-wells, seems more bent on scaring the populace into submissive behavior. As far as the Greek myth goes, looking directly at Medusa would turn an onlooker into stone, but the following on-the-radar headline reveals that one doesn’t even have to look nowadays: “Privacy Expert: All Protesters Are Routinely Scanned and ‘Skimmed’ By Drones: Investigator says protesters have phones scanned, identity logged by authorities as a matter of course.”2
“Can we all get along?” – Rodney King
After its one-year anniversary, the Occupy Movement -- while having been dispersed by the corporate-state crackdown and made less visible by the corporate-media turning a greedy eye --has had to decentralize. As example, a look at OccupyWallSt.org3 shows ongoing actions on a variety of issues in a variety of locales. Plus the blog “Interoccupy”4 hints that Occupy is becoming more aware of the benefits of more inclusive interactions.
Another significant and promising trend is the crossing of lines or blending of types of people. This seems a necessary development for overcoming the separatist culture or “atomization of society,” as Noam Chomsky calls it. Driving in rush hour traffic one morning it occurred to this writer that such a vehicular phenomenon is an example of the American mainstream mass consciousness: everyone doing the same thing, separately.
As far as actions and protests making a difference, Professor Chomsky has also pointed out the wild card effect, i.e. it is often unexpected small actions that lead to big changes — as examples, the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s and a group of people showing up at Zuccotti aka Liberty Plaza Park on September 17, 2011. Along those lines, Cindy Sheehan remarked that she made a spontaneous decision to go to Crawford, Texas, in 2005, to establish Camp Casey, in honor of her son who was killed in Iraq.
The beginning of a positive blending trend is Natives working with settlers or “non-Native allies.” Recorded in June of 2012, a thirteen minute video shows protest actions against the sales of alcohol, in Clay, Nebraska, which are negatively affecting the people across the border on “the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where alcohol is banned.” Deep Green Resistance provides the most direct action taken by “non-Native allies.”5
“Protect the Peaks treesitter James Kennedy” has taken action to protect the environment and community from The City of Flagstaff, the Forest Service, and the Snowbowl Corporation. “San Francisco Peaks is sacred to 13 area Indian Nations, including the Navajo Nation, Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi and Zuni Pueblo, who are struggling to defend the sacred mountain where herbs are gathered for healing and medicine men conduct ceremonies.”6
Another sign of morphings and interactions was mentioned in a recent article, “Keep an Eye on Some of the Best Organizing Going On in America: 6 Activist Projects to Watch” by Sarah Seltzer:
“Documenting local resistance across the country with The Radical Resistance Tour. Two former occupiers from New York City, Amelia Dunbar and Kathleen Russell left town and spent the summer criss-crossing the country to spend time in local communities resisting corporate and political dominance. Their stops included mountain defense in West Virginia, protesting coal exports in Montana, direct action against the Keystone pipeline in Texas, pushing back against corporate takeover of housing in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Indian reservation defense against local businesses in South Dakota among others. They tried to focus on loci of activity that did not center around “straight white male” activists, they told me, because they'd been turned off by the too-often white male face of the Occupy movement.”7
Protests and efforts to block the Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline are also drawing a mix of Natives and non-Native allies, in part due to the fact that the proposed pipeline would go from Canada to the US and through various states.8
Worldwide, while some of the most prominent protests and clashes have been or still are occurring in Spain, Greece, and Italy, Quebec students gained a victory when the government scrapped the tuition hike and cancelled Bill 78.9
And “Trees, Water & People: Helping people and the Planet” provides a crucial reminder that sometimes it is the simple things, like a small “clean cookstove” or a “dry composting latrine” that make a huge difference. Sometimes innovation trumps protest.10
“How can there be peace without bread?” - sign at a Spanish protest.11
Eduardo Galeano, in Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, writes that the “agrarian code of 1815—free land, free men—was the most advanced and glorious of the many constitutions the Uruguayans would have.” Again the land and its gifts provided a key impetus in the early 1900s: “An agricultural leader headed the insurrection in the south: he was Emiliano Zapata, purest of revolutionaries, most loyal to the cause of the poor, most determined to right the wrongs of society.” He was “the ‘Attila of the South’” while Pancho Villa was “the ‘Centaur of the North.’”
Add to that the life and work of Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), the inspiration for the current Bolívarian Revolution (strengthened with the re-election of Chavez), and one could say that some change takes time. Yet with current world conditions many are emphasizing that we have little, if any, time to waste.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, alludes starkly to the connection between the suppressing of egalitarian food distribution and the crackdown on protests.
“The food revolution is the biggest revolution of our times, and the industry is panicking. So it spins propaganda, hoping that in the footsteps of Goebbels, a lie told a hundred times will become the truth.” Shiva also notes: “And as the 270,000 farmers' suicides since 1997 in India show, it [industrial agriculture] is too heavy a burden on our farmers.”12
A similar and very under the mainstream-media radar story was reported in an interview with writer Raj Patel: “You would be entirely forgiven for not having heard about the I-A-A-S-T-D – the International Agricultural Assessment on Knowledge Science and Technology for Development – because no one’s heard of it. And that’s sad because it was sponsored by the World Bank, the US government, and a range of international agencies and governments. Many of the world’s leading scientists and agronomists and social scientists bent their minds asking: “So how are we going to feed the world in the twenty-first century?” And the answer they came up with was less industrial agriculture, more agro-ecological systems, more urban and peri-urban farming. We need agriculture that’s light on fossil fuel and water and much more regional and seasonal. We need much better distribution mechanisms in terms of human rights and much less in terms of free market. It’s not surprising that the report was buried by the governments that paid for it. It wasn’t a conclusion they particularly wanted to hear.”13
Whether with food production (by nature a peaceful process) or peaceful protests, the-powers-that-be display an uncanny ability of adhering to their twisted motto: out of sight, out of their minds.
“At a round table, every seat is the head.” – German proverb
Whether fair access to food and water proves a global turning point remains to be seen, but as Indigenous cultures emphasize: food comes from Mother Earth, clean water, and air (plus sunlight, hard work, and love), and the caretaking of food is best handled by those living with the land.
Thus, the bigger picture surrounding the Occupy Movement is the process of decolonizing and unoccupying. Colonization, in its way, was the beginning of outsourcing, as slave labor (people dragged from somewhere else) was used to export products, a practice that continues to this day and is in some regards heating up as trans-national corporations and militant governments vie for water sources and land grabs in Africa, Latin America, Lebanon, and elsewhere. Occupation was also part of the original problem as foreigners, settlers, invaders, and predators occupied (the root of the word being “to seize or make one’s own”) what was already someone else’s, though of course those Native someones did not have a concept of ownership.
Everyone wants to live well. While the Occupy Movement and world protests clamor for better conditions, sometimes effectively and sometimes lacking regard for the bigger picture, two countries that have eloquently expressed a broad and practical philosophy are Bolivia and Bhutan.
“In his first term, [President Evo] Morales introduced the concept of the buen vivir or “Living Well” into Bolivia’s discourse. His argument was that the western world was based on material accumulation, and this led to economic policies that were destroying the planet. Rather than trying to “live better,” he said our goal should be to “live well.”14
Bhutan has recently “committed to becoming the first ‘hundred percent organic’ nation.” The roots of this process go back decades: “The Himalayan kingdom of 700,000 became a pioneer in 1972 when Bhutan's fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the term "Gross National Happiness" and announced that the nation would measure their success based on well-being and other Buddhist spiritual values rather than economic measures.”15
As example of the other end of the spectrum there is the Landless People's Movement (LPM), “an independent social movement in South Africa”16
Another example, transcending national boundaries, is Slow Food, “a global, grassroots organization with supporters in 150 countries around the world who are linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment.”17
While there may be effective leaders to guide the mending of the sacred hoop, we all need to keep thinking, and taking action, outside the rectangular table.
And while actions will eventually speak louder than any Movement’s labels, it is imperative that we do not win the occupy battle yet lose the war being waged against Pachamama aka Mother Earth.