|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
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
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
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
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
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.
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. He edited and published the book, The (Un)Occupy Movement: Autonomy of Consciousness, Practical Solutions, Human Equality, and hosts an audio show "Between the Lines: listening to literature online."
You can contact him via his literary website.