Thursday, October 13, 2011

Occupy Here


We've had little to say at the Burning House about the Occupy Together protest movement that began on Wall Street over a month ago and has spread around the United States. It feels somehow untidy not to address it, since the protests share so many concerns with this blog and also because they are off to a promising start as a nascent civil movement.

The form itself is unique and something we have dreamed of here at the Burning House: actions that go beyond marches and rallies, while including these; a democratically organized and managed space, the occupation as a mini-city governed in the spirit of cooperation the way human beings at their best come together in times of crisis. And a time of crisis, this surely is.

"Occupy" events are starting up in Las Cruces and El Paso, connecting to the "Occupy Wall Street" protests and sympathetic events nationwide. Albuquerque and Santa Fe are already active, and on Columbus Day Albuquerque had its campground swept away by police, yet their presence persists.

These protests are an authentic protest from the bottom that is not managed by a top-down leadership style. It is also not being astroturfed by corporate interests, as the Tea Party has been. It is ironic to note, by the way, some common ground between the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers. If the latter examined its grievances with some better political analysis, they might be inclined to join the "hippies" in Zuccotti Park.

Finally, they seem wise to the nature of two-party rule: the Republican and Democratic parties, together, hold a monopoly on political power that prevents fundamental reforms our nation requires for the well-being of its people and its own future. Several prominent Democrats, the likes of Charles Rangel and John Conyers, have asked to speak to the crowds in NYC and Washington, DC, and have been turned down. The answer is: "You're not co-opting this."

"General Assemblies" are formed to organize teach-ins and protest actions. A diversity of views are present, judging from those who have addressed "the mob" (as one Republican House leader referred to them). There have been anti-capitalist speakers calling for fundamental change in production and labor relations; there have been pro-capitalist speakers who argue that capital has been criminally misused, to the detriment of the nation and her people.

The movement has wisely resisted the media's urge to define them as a political institution or a party. The Assembly has issued a manifesto listing grievances, all of which fall under the major complaint: the United States has become a nation under de facto corporate rule. This has lead to rampant privatization of public services, economic subjugation of the masses, and unchecked spoiling of the earth.

We will watch how this goes. We'll have occasions to visit actions in Las Cruces and Albuquerque, perhaps El Paso, and we'll report what we see. This is not yet the kind of civil movement that will effectively challenge the systemic crisis that has brought the people of the United States to their knees, but it is a promising beginning.

[Photo: From the Occupy Albuquerque protest.]

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