30 October 2011


It's been a long week, and one during which I haven't been able to keep away from the news. I feel kind of like I did when the earthquake struck Fukushima and sent all that nuclear radiation all over Japan - which will soon wash up on Western shores - except this is here at home so the headache I have now is a bit more potent. Reading, watching and following the news as well as participating in the events the narratives are being created out of has made for a very long five days since Tuesday.

This article provides a really good summary of some of the goings-on thus far.

The plaza is re-occupied. Meetings continue amidst various levels of noise. At last night's general strike meeting, there were plenty of helicopters buzzing overhead (news? cops? medics?) but today it was relatively quiet around the Radical Poetry Reading on the plaza steps.

One of the things I love most about the occupation is how little money comes into play there. You can - and many folks do - spend hours just talking to people or hanging out, or working, or playing. All without spending money. There is free food for anyone at the occupation; there is access to art supplies, books, conversation and information; there is physical and emotional support, even acupuncture. Above all, it's a space where you can have all sorts of interactions with people that normally would not occur unless you were in a controlled space of some sort: either one you pay to enter to have an experience (cafe, bar, theater) or the designated home of someone you know (for dinner, a party, book group, other things people do). Not only have I spent a minimal amount of money this week - since instead of meeting friends for coffee or whatever we've been getting together to organize - but I've also interacted with an even broader scope of people than usual outside of my Mills-Temescal-Mills loop of "normal" life, like activists, artists, educators and Lawyers Guild members. The plaza, which simultaneously belongs to everyone and to no one, offers anyone with an interest the chance to engage. 

Today it was poetry that this group I found myself in was coming together around, but it could have been anything. Some are drawn to the children's village, to the medics' tent, to the meditation circle. To screenprinting shirts and posters to get the word out, to bike repair, to the people's mic in the amphitheater. These are independent circles but there is a lot of overlap. Especially between the medics and the poets. (And what does that say about the life-sustaining power of poetry?)

Yet no matter my joy, inertia, and optimism, at the end of the day, I am barricaded by questions rolling around in my brain. Where do the "free" silkscreened t-shirts and the paper for the (kickass) Occupy Oakland posters 

You can see the Hella Occupy Oakland poster in my closet. And yes, I was Twiggy for Halloween.
come from? I think it's amazing that memorabililia/propaganda (with excellent design, at that) is being given out for free, but I was pained when I overheard, regarding Oakland General Strike-stenciled shirts, "Sure, they're free! But we just ran out; if you want one, go get a pack at Walgreens." I know we can't all afford organic cotton. And none of us have time to scour thrift stores for plain jersey. (Besides, even Goodwill is more expensive than Walgreens.) But the most powerful way we can vote on a day-to-day basis is with our dollars, and I don't want to feed the corporations we're trying to starve, not even under the guise of a revolution. 

That was an argument, and I'm not sure where to go from here. 

Totally open to suggestions. Please.
The element of chance emerging from interactions does indicate a different kind of future. It indicates a future in which we can all live with less fear. If there's anything I've learned in the past week, it's that when shit hits the fan, and you've been tear-gassed at a non-violent protest, the odds are next to impeccable that somebody will pick you up and carry you out of the mess, even if the only way I know this is from word of mouth.

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