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starroute's Journal
starroute's Journal
August 7, 2013

This one is about the government more than corporations

It's a matter of "energy independence" -- which in turn is code for "ain't nobody can tell us to do shit."

The United States came out of World War II with its eye on world domination, a situation where we could boss everybody else around and nobody else could tell us to do anything. (Much like your average four year old, only with bigger guns.)

The Soviet Union was a bit of an impediment to that, especially after they got the bomb -- never to the extent that they could tell us what to do, of course, but as long as the USSR existed, smaller countries (like Cuba) occasionally felt free to defy us. For a long time, and to some extent even now, much of the agenda of US foreign policy was based on using everything from foreign aid to CIA-backed coups to make sure that sort of defiance didn't get out of hand.

But then the Soviet Union collapsed, and it seemed the Holy Grail of world hegemony was finally in sight -- except for one minor impediment, which was US dependence on foreign sources of energy. So at that point, around 1990, the emphasis pivoted from fighting communism to maintaining US dominance in the Middle East and Central Asia. And that's where we've been pretty much stuck ever since.

But now along comes fracking and tar sands oil. And suddenly the alluring specter arises again of a situation where we don't have to be beholden to anybody. And at the same time, the machinery of surveillance proliferates to furnish the other side of the equation -- a world where we can control them and they can't lay a finger on us.

This is ultimately a very nasty business, and dealing with it is going to be a lot harder than just fighting corporate greed. I fully expect that at some point fracking will be declared a matter of national security -- and the Espionage Act will be rolled against anybody who blows the whistle on its dangers.

Hard time a-comin' for sure.

March 15, 2012

Roundup of long-distance Occupy marches

I love following these marches -- they're part Johnny Appleseed and part Dungeons & Dragons adventuring party. And where there were only a few people marching over the winter, as the weather warms they're proliferating and it's getting harder to keep track of them all. Here's a list of the ones I know about.

1. Walkupy, now redubbed Walkupy May Day. They started out from Zuccotti Park last fall, walked to Washington, DC, then set out again in December with Martin Luther King's gravesite in Atlanta as their goal. Now they're headed back north and are halfway across Kentucky, on their way to the festivities scheduled for Chicago this May. (Hence the current name.)

2. Occupy Walk started off from San Diego a couple of weeks ago on a 4000 mile trek to New York City and then Washington, DC. At the moment they're still in California, and the last I checked they were about to head into a hundred-mile stretch of desert.

3. The March to Untax Groceries is a relatively short one that started in Mobile 12 days ago and has just reached the state capitol of Montgomery. It's protesting the fact that Alabama and Mississippi are the two poorest states in the nation and also the only two with a tax on food, which disproportionately affects their poorest citizens. There's a rally scheduled in Montgomery tomorrow.

4. A West Coast march scheduled to start in Olympia, Washington later in the spring and wind up in Sacramento.

5. A trans-Canada march from British Columbia to Ottowa, supposed to take place this summer. I've seen mentions of it but don't have a link.

6. It's not specifically Occupy, but there's an anti-nuclear march specifically protesting nuclear plants with a dangerous Fukushima-like design that started at Oyster Creek in New Jersey on March 2 and is due to arrive at Vermont Yankee on March 21.

7. It's not a march, but Occupy Caravan is planning a mass cross-country drive from Los Angeles to New York between April 2 and April 8.

8. A truly epic march across Europe that started in Spain in October and has just crossed the Adriatic Sea to Greece, with a final destination of Athens.

9. A series of marches from various cities in France that are due to reach Paris next month. They just put up a marvelous zombie-themed video, with a YouTuibe description (in French) that says something like, "They are contaminated by hope. ... Their insanity spreads. ... They converge on Paris. The invasion is near."

February 25, 2012

To occupy or not to occupy, that is the question

There's been a rather noisy and highly visible debate going on within and around Occupy concerning non-violence, transparency, the black bloc, and "diversity of tactics." But there's a second question that just as pivotal but isn't being addressed as directly -- and that is whether the tactic of "occupying" is still valid in itself, especially with so many states and cities going out of their way to prevent it, even to the point of passing thoroughly unconstitutional laws.

I started thinking about that this evening because of an article at American Prospect that rubbed me the wrong way, though I couldn't quite put my finger on why:


As winter fades, the Occupy Wall Street movement is heating up again. But don’t expect the same focus on physical encampments and rowdy protests. While the blood of the 99 percent is still boiling at the injustice of growing inequality, in organizing meetings and workgroups, cooler heads are prevailing. This is Occupy 2.0—the mainstreaming of momentum.

From my conversations with Occupy organizers and supporters, my sense is that the main thrust of organizing energy and attention will go toward Occupy Our Homes— a coalition of Occupy activists joining with existing grassroots groups to support families that are facing foreclosure or have been evicted by big banks. . . .

The great thing about Occupy Our Homes as a tactic is that there’s still a tangible way for the tents and sleeping bags set to be involved (as when Occupy supporters camped out on the lawn of the home of an Iraq War veteran near Atlanta, ultimately saving her home from foreclosure) but foreclosure prevention also creates avenues for other types of engagement, whether bringing a casserole, writing a letter to a bank, or joining a prayer vigil. Such actions put a broader face on the 99 percent movement, not just punk kids in bandanas but middle class families threatened with homelessness standing with block association presidents and pastors and grandmothers (i.e., my mom).

Say what you will about mainstreaming, that’s how movements evolve being a fringe concern to a force for change. I don’t mean to disregard the role of the vanguard, those at the leading edge of a movement’s origins who take the first, bold steps and, often, risks. But vanguard leaders should be self-aware and situate themselves in a larger context, seeing the prospect of mainstream appeal as a sign of their success not a threat to undermine it.

All very sensible -- but probably too damn sensible. Mainstreaming, cooler heads, prayer vigils, casseroles -- none of that has the kind of crazy energy and willingness to throw yourself into the gears of the machine that initially got Occupy off the ground and turned it into a force its originators had never envisioned. But "craziness" is not a argument you can make to people who are looking for sensible. So on what basis is it possible to argue against mainstreaming?

Then I followed a Facebook link to a Firedoglake item about the "Occupy Exchange Program," whose first project is to send three members of Occupy Buffalo down to Occupy Little Rock to exchange information -- and it gave me a clue as to what was missing from the American Prospect piece:

Meet the first three Occupy Exchange Fellows from Occupy Buffalo: Samantha Colon, Robert Albini and John Washington; three outstanding organizers whose local activism on education, mass transit and foreclosure mills has been a model for other occupations across the country.

Right now they’re on their way to Occupy Little Rock, where local occupiers have taken the encampment off the grid using solar panels, wind turbines, a grey water system and an urban greenhouse.

As Occupy Buffalo and Occupy Little Rock have openly demonstrated through their work, occupy encampments are vibrant communal spaces where people can come together to solve problems and demonstrate a model for the world as they want it to be. By sharing and exchanging strategies, experiences and skills – and then publishing them online to make them available to the rest of world – the Occupy movement can continue to not just demand change, but provide strong alternatives for a more equitable society.

Right there, I think, is the essence of the encampments, and why they can't be neatly folded back into a world of prayer vigils and potluck dinners. They're about creating "vibrant communal spaces ... a model for the world as they want it to be ... strong alternatives for a more equitable society."

It's one thing to chant "We are unstoppable, another world is possible." But that doesn't amount to much unless you can offer some indication of that other world in tangible form -- solar panels, grey water systems, and all.

I'm out in the middle of nowhere and (like the mother of the American Prospect writer) I'm too old to start sleeping on the ground. So it's easy for me to say that Occupy has to find a way to continue creating voluntary communities -- because I'm not the one who has to do it.

But they do have to -- and I would sure like to see as lively a discussion about that as the one about the black bloc.

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