“The main point is clear – with corporate control over the political process there can be no democracy.”
-Quoted from Smith University Student Vanessa Raditz
Three ideas that don’t involve pitching a tent:
#1 Stop shopping, start trading.
Host a barter party! It is astonishing how much of what we buy (90%) ends up in the garbage within six months. Most of that stuff is perfectly good! Let’s be honest, the biggest difference is whether or not it’s wrapped in plastic. Did you know that the biggest reason our goods are wrapped in plastic is simply to prevent shoplifting? It isn’t because it makes the product better, I assure you that.
When Chris and I moved into our fixer-upper farm house last year, we put out the word that we didn’t have much of anything to furnish it with. To our great surprise it turned out that most of our friends had offerings that had just been sitting around in the garage, unused. You might think the things we inherited were second rate. On the contrary! Our home is now furnished with extremely classy pieces ranging from antiques to nearly new. And you might be surprised to learn that those donors were actually relieved to get rid of this stuff! Right down to the tiniest details –boxes of toothpicks, stacks of post-its for the desk, light bulbs, or a lifetime supply of paper towels, for example–there was enough extra stuff in our community to fill our house AND our garage!
#2 Meet your basic needs by sewing, growing, and biking.
As Americans we’re so indoctrinated in the idea that when we need something, we have to go out and spend money to buy it. But a myriad of ways exist to procure products. The most obvious, of course, is to create it (or fix it) yourself! It wasn’t so long ago that our grandparents did things like sew their own clothes, darn socks, or collect and filter rain-water in a rain barrel for household use. The satisfaction of being connected to the complete process of creation (beginning with an idea and ending with a physical product) is profound. In fact, some very famous philosophers have argued it to be the origin of happiness!
Last Spring I came home very tired from an intense national tour that had left me feeling depressed and depleted. The only thing I could muster to do was dig up a plot of earth and plant a seed. By the time harvest rolled around, I was a joy machine! (Maybe it was simply all the vitamins and minerals I’d started to ingest by eating truly organic food grown from nutrient rich soil.) But philosophical or scientific explanation, the end result was the same: I was beaming with satisfaction.
#3 Participate politically.
Look, I think it’s a drag, too. I do. The last thing I want to spend my free time doing is bombarding my left brain with more dull facts and details about things like campaign finance and “economic growth.” I’d rather be dreaming up songs on a hiking trail somewhere. But if we don’t use it, we lose it!
Either we get involved now and put a stop to the corruption and corporate control, or we get to see urban sprawl and big box stores at every intersection, watch our water-sheds dry up or be polluted, and essentially acquiesce to a world in which diversity is a dirty word. A real life version of the game we all played as children, Monopoly, is coming to a close and we’re on the cusp of losing our opportunity to participate politically, unless we speak up AND stick together.
Last Thursday at the University Of Berkley, California, students attached tents and protest signs to helium balloons in order to occupy the airspace above their campus. This, because they were beaten or arrested for protesting on their public ground space. Have we, the human race, really been cornered and controlled into merely occupying the air? And if those tents hadn’t been tied to kite strings, what sort of airspace regulations would students have been violating? Would the tents have to be sent through security?
As you continue to deepen your understanding of Occupy Wall Street, I have four requests of you:
#1 Read, watch and listen to independent media.
Corruption is complex. Don’t get discouraged because the pitch can’t be summed up in a 30 second sound-byte or twitter post. Investigate. Get your information from a variety of sources.
What I hope you’ll find is that this movement is all about making the world a better place for you. We don’t want you to have to eat toxic food because organic food is too expensive. We don’t want you to pay loads of taxes while the richest corporations don’t pay a dime. We want your children to have a quality education so that they know how to critically think. And we don’t want you to live a life dominated by debt and fear.
#2 Don’t look at this as just a jobs problem.
It’s actually a lack-of-green-local-jobs-problem. Let me explain. In my own community of Golden, CO “economic growth” and “job creation” are still two magic phrases that push nasty ticky-tacky development projects through (projects that benefit the few, rich developers, often also politicians, at the expense of the larger citizenry in our loss of natural habitat, arable land, and breathtaking vistas, not to mention the taxation on our already scarce water supply.) But there’s a major flaw in this logic.
More sprawl and more big box stores do not translate to more jobs, or even the growth of the local economy. In many cases (you’ve seen it) sprawl developments (cleverly named after the animals they’ve kicked out) stretch on for miles without a single commercial complex. By creating a space for a new flock of citizenry to live in, the ratio of citizens to jobs in a county does not change. In fact, the opposite occurs. With the sprawl development there then exist new citizens, but fewer jobs, and longer commutes. The construction work is over in a brief flash, and in the end we’ve traded our most precious natural resources for rows of overpriced homogenized houses and short term contract work. In the case where we do see commercial development integrated in with the residential, it is most often multinational corporate businesses that open up shop, an essential black hole in the American economy.
#3 Forget high school psychology, particularly that of sports games.
The first thing the news did to squash Occupy momentum was to simply portray it as uncool, or “fringe.” Some have said hippie, some have said communist, I’m sure soon they’ll say occupiers are unpatriotic, terrorists, or maybe even a throwback to my favorite label and example of word magic–witches. The point is–whether we’re talking about the red scare, a high-school popularity contest, or the movement that will abolish greed and hunger once and for all–don’t let an emotional stab overrule your logical mind. And besides, as it turns out the majority of us are uncool anyway.
The second thing the news has been doing is to convince us that it’s a strictly liberal movement, inferring then that all right wingers out there ought not to play. I’d be willing to bet that your average Republican wants their vote to count in politics just as much as your average Democrat, but it turns out that we’re used to choosing teams. That’s because we’re primed for that bullshit as early as we can throw a football or swing a bat. “There’s a winner and a loser son, and you’re on one side or the other.”
#4 Get the ego out, and get your hands in.
Lastly, there is an odd demographic of people who support all of the above statements, all of the things that Occupy represents, and yet won’t associate themselves with the mass of people coming out of the worldwide woodwork. Why? I’ve scratched my head for many hours trying to sort this out. I’ve concluded that some people would rather take credit for the birth of these ideas than help see them come to fruition.
Historically, mainstream media hasn’t represented the concepts Occupy endorses. It follows, then, that individuals who have lived by the Occupy principals before the Occupy movement emerged likely identify themselves as exceptions to the status quo. Now that the voices of the occupiers are being heard, heeded, and even screamed, those same folks are no longer “special.” I agree, it feels different to be “joining in,” and now that these ideas are gaining popularity, those of us that truly were fringe feel funny! “Hey!” we’re thinking, “Those were our ideas first!” But that’s when we have to remember that the tangible trend (as much as we abhore trends) that Occupy seeks–to get the corruption out of politics–is so much more important than the way it feels to be a rebel.
P.S. My favorite Resources:
The Story of Stuff Project
Century of the Self
[from Gabrielle Louise’s blog)