Monday, October 31, 2011

Rage Against The Machine - No Shelter

Copwatch@Occupy Oakland: Beware of Police Infiltrators and Provocateurs

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why Occupy Wall Street has already won

We've already won. We've already shown the hypocrisy of those in our country who cheer for protesters in other countries, then demonize those who would do the same in our own.

If the movement stopped tomorrow, shut down and went home, we've still won. We've got kids who never voted interested in the political process. We've woken up apathetic people who are starting to realize the system is broken and perhaps even some politicians have awoken to the fact that we're on to them.

Credit unions have seen an uptick in business and big banks have been forced to back off adding fees to the accounts of the middle and working class. The rabid attacks on #OWS and the participants shows just how scared those who benefit from the status quo are right now. First they ignored us. I remember the snarky comments from Ali Velshi on CNN about 6 weeks ago when the first occupiers showed up and he told me it wasn't a news story worth covering. Then they mocked us as being "commies" and we responded with military members supporting us. Then they fought us and created pictures of police brutality that blew up Facebook and Twitter. Now we've won and everything from here on out is just icing on the cake. We've changed the national dialogue, and we're just getting started.

The kids who are marching, taking rubber bullets and being vilified by Fox News are future members of our government. They're learning the art of peaceful protest and the harsh realities of the system of democracy. I couldn't be more proud.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We are all Scott Olsen

Every day we go to work, pay our bills and struggle to get by. We live paycheck to paycheck. The lucky ones get a vacation once a year to go spend their money in some tourist trap like Myrtle Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Panama City Beach. The rest of us, we dream of a day or two away from the shift work.

Even the people who were idealized by the likes of Fox News for fighting in a useless war in Iraq are now coming home and finding the American Dream left them far behind. At first, we were just disgruntled. Then we raised our voices a little, only to be mocked by the media. Now we're angry, and with the possible death of a Marine, we're gonna be pissed the fuck off.

The working class has been treated like the toilet paper of the rich. We are useful for the time between when we are bought and when we wipe the ass of the more fortunate. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate and applaud the people who have worked their way from rags to riches, but that story has become more and more rare as the years go by.

We are not just cogs in the wheel. We are not resources to be used up and then thrown away. We are human fucking beings. We just want a little slice of the pie. We are patriotic Americans and when we realize that we no longer have a real purpose or place, we'll take to the streets.

You can't kill us all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The strength of peaceful protest

In aikido, one learns the process of self-defense by using their opponent's strength against them. With the proper practice, a 100 lb woman can defeat an attacker 4 times her size. The purpose is not to kill, but to disarm, to neutralize. Aikido is not about performing spectacular leg kicks or destroying your enemies in a flurry of punches and screams. It is the "gentle way", the "path of least resistance".

This applies to the art of peaceful protest, the kind we see going on now with Occupy Wall Street. This is how we will take the violent actions used against us and with gentle guidance, disarm those who attack us, in a figurative sense of course.

First there are the attacks upon character. Calling those who protest "dirty hippies and communists", "lazy" or whatever other ad hominem charges is a common technique used in propaganda. We have already defeated that by showing the world that we are a collection of people from all backgrounds and social groups.

Now they have brought in the police and riot gear. This is the only other way the status quo knows how to confront dissent. Ironically, with every arrest, with every video of police brutality on the evening news or Facebook, we will win. This is the way of aikido, using the attacker's strength against them. Stand together, stay peaceful, and vote.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Saving capitalism and the true free market

I believe in capitalism, a system where one is free to make as much money as they want off an honest idea or product. I believe that if you are willing to put in the effort to create a successful business, you should be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

At the same time I believe you also have responsibilities. As the saying goes "with great power, comes great responsibility." If you are a successful person, you should make sure that you are not exploiting others in your trip to the top; and once you are there, help others climb the same ladder, instead of kicking out the rungs on your way up.

This is what Occupy Wall Street is about. Sure there's people in the crowd that believe in Communism but most of us know that isn't a successful economic model. We are trying to save true capitalism from corruption, corporate socialism, and greed. A true "free market" would never have bailed out banks who made terrible business decisions, got saved by the taxpayers, and then thanked us by foreclosing on our homes instead of negotiating new mortgages.

Our issue is not with the people who have legitimately accumulated wealth through hard work, reward the employees who helped get them there and don't try to find ways out of paying their taxes. That is what makes America great, that is the "American Dream". Our beef is with those who have made their wealth by manipulating financial markets, exploiting their workers, employing lobbyists and accountants so that not only do they not pay taxes, they manage to get corporate welfare that we the taxpayers end up paying for. That's not capitalism, that is the very "socialism" that their most brainwashed supporters ironically denounce.

The "free market" is one in which consumers get to choose which company they want to do business with and there are more than just one choice. The free market should be one where a business thrives because of the product it produces, not by using politicians to pass regulations that stifle anyone else who tries to compete. In the free market, the bad apples would be allowed to rot, without contaminating others.

We are the 99% and we support the honest 1%.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A little revolution is a good thing

Sometimes, the status quo doesn't work for most of us. In the 1700's, people like the Founding Fathers decided that being a colony run by the East India Trading Company, with no representation in Parliament wasn't acceptable. This led up to the events that included the Boston Tea Party, then the America Revolution.

People like today's "Tea Party" forget that little piece of history. It wasn't that we had representatives and were taxed unfairly, it was that we had no representation; America was little more than a plantation and policies were dictated to us by the company through Parliament.

That is pretty much where we are today. We have a representative government but it isn't representing us any more. Just like back then, it represents the interests of the rich and powerful. The East India Trading Company is still around but today's lobbyists come from other major companies like GE, Bank of America, Goldman Sach's, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and others.

We've been taught that our vote doesn't matter, our voice cannot be heard and the little protests that we have from time to time won't change anything. Instead of acknowledging and negotiating with the disaffected, media tends to belittle and demonize those who challenge the status quo. It isn't just Occupy Wall Street, it was the hippies, the Civil Rights movement, the women's equality movement, the push to ban slavery, etc.

The status quo will react with spin and force to ensure it remains. It will seek to divide us against each other and try to exploit our differences even as we try to find our common ground. We can fall back on our old fault lines, point fingers at people being Commies, Hippies, Punks, Skins, Liberals, Conservatives, Racists, Yuppies, Rednecks, Coonasses, and whatever else. Or, we can put aside those differences, find that our shared interests all involve a representative government once again, and demand that.

The Founding Fathers didn't all see eye to eye. There were slave owners and Abolitionists. There wasn't one America, there were 13 colonies and it took some time to unite them against Britain. There were huge differences but they got together to form a "more perfect union". Note it was written "a more perfect union" meaning that the union wasn't perfect and there was always room for improvement.

That's what we are trying to do today. We are trying to unite people of all demographics behind a common belief, that we are a government for the people, not the corporations. We are trying to put our religions, racial beliefs, politics and everything else aside to take our government back.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The hippies were right

I admit, I have never cared much for hippies. Maybe it was the kid on the bus in highschool who fit the stereotype of being burnt out, unwashed and reeking of patchouli oil. Maybe it is my next door neighbor who lives in what looks like an abandoned house, has drum circles at 2am and gets upset when I want to shoot the coyotes that roam the local fields. Perhaps it could be that we've been taught that they are all lazy pot smokers who have no ambition to attain the "American Dream".

But what if the "American Dream" is really the "American Nightmare", an endless cycle of work, debt and consumption that ends with death, and the realization that you've never truly lived? If that is the case, perhaps the hippies, the beatniks and the other "losers" were right. Maybe the rest of us have been hoodwinked into believing being a "success" was buying into that cycle of consumption, work, debt and becoming just an another cog in the wheel, another brick in the wall.

I'll never be a hippie. I like my hair cropped close, my music often aggressive and I'm not into drugs. I don't need to take pills to make my world weird, it is weird enough as it is. Yet, I respect them for realizing "this is all bullshit man" and tuning out. I think we could all learn to consume less, be less dependent on the system and that maybe a peaceful protest now and then is a damn good idea.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rise up and be counted

The Revolution is here. Despite initial resistance from major news sources, it is now being televised. Across the country, across the world, tens of thousands of people are marching in the streets.

At first they ignored us. On Twitter, you can see my heated exchanges with a CNN News anchor (Ali Velshi) who told me in a snarky manner that Occupy Wall Street was not a story. Then the mocking began as they tried to paint everyone involved as "dirty hippies", "leftist lunatic Communists" and other ad hominem attacks. Now that they've failed in that, they're ready to unleash the dogs.

Yet, with every arrest, with every use of pepper spray, the crowds grow larger and pop up in new cities. This is a wave that cannot be stopped and the people who stand in opposition will be swept out. They will find themselves on the losing side of history. Politicians are suddenly paying attention and trying to co-opt, to harness the energy of the movement for their own gain. President Obama has said that he sides with the protesters, but he has got corporate money in his coffers as well. I dare say that the vast majority of incumbents do as well, this has to end.

The ideological purists of the Occupy movement are angered at the thought that politicians are trying to use the energy for their campaigns but unfortunately, that is how the system works. Every major social change started with protests and discontent of some sort but ultimately, it took votes cast by Senators, members of Congress or decisions made by the Supreme Court to make it law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the product of activism, protests and sit-ins. So was the abolition of slavery, the repeal of Prohibition, etc.

Occupy Wall Street is the first, and necessary step. We are learning to shake off our apathy and abandoning the myth that one person does not matter. Yet, I do not believe the current system of inequality can be changed by just protests alone. Next, we have to get involved and make changes through the political system which ultimately decides what is law and what is not. If you have a representative who will listen and vote for the changes that are needed, support them and make sure you keep them honest. If you have a representative that will not listen and is too deeply in the pockets of those who have a vested interest in the status quo, help remove them from office via the ballot box.

The difference between the Arab Spring and the American Autumn is that in the Arab countries, they were under dictatorships which allowed little or no participation in the political process. Here, we have the ultimate say with our vote. We just have to learn not to be tricked into voting against our self interests. We have to learn that our neighbor is not our enemy for whatever reason we've been told in order to divide us against each other. We can reclaim our country, if we really want to.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The story so far

On the morning of October 4th, 2010, I boarded a flight for San Francisco from Orlando. I promised myself that by the time I hit 30, if I didn't like where I was at, I would turn everything upside down and start again.

It was still dark when the plane left, and as I watched the lights of Orlando fade behind me, I wondered when I would see it again. It was a misty and cold dawn as we switched planes in Charlotte. The mist in the trees reminded me of my childhood home just a few hours up the interstate from where I currently stood. I could maybe switch my ticket or hop a bus in that direction instead. Maybe I could get my old job back and see the friends that I hadn't visited in years. No...time to press on. I knew there was no turning back at this point and I fastened my seatbelt as the the plane began the ascent to 30,000 feet.

I'd flown across the country before. This wasn't my first time on the West Coast and I was looking forward to it. Surely here, I would finally walk down through Chinatown and relive the haunts of my idol, Jack Keroauc and Ginsberg, the crazy Beatniks that changed my life forever.

The plane descended through the fog and we landed in the city on the bay. To my left was Google, Apple and San Jose. To the right was Oakland and East Bay. Ahead was the promise of something better and a family member who convinced me to make the plunge and do something so completely radical and life-changing in relation to anything I had ever done before.

I spent the next couple days trying to find jobs and a place to live. Other than the rather creepy offers of sharing a bed in the Castro District and hesitant maybes of working as a host in the Marina District, I was striking out. Suddenly, the same family member who I had counted on decided I wasn't worth helping any more. Off to the hostels.

I walked through every district, searching for jobs. Nothing. The hostels at night were an interesting place to be and having almost a decade of life on most of the kids who came through them made for both an entertaining and sobering experience. A few friends sent me money via Paypal but time was running out.

There was nowhere else to go and other than living in a homeless shelter, I had no other option but to leave town. But how? Finally, my mother wired me the money to buy a bus ticket and at 12pm the next day, I was on a bus, headed southbound to LA. 53 hours later, bedraggled and unshowered, and without my luggage I found myself in Louisiana. We still don't know where my luggage is but somewhere in the Houston area, someone is wearing some oxblood combat boots and a Florida Gators hat, in possession of my college diploma and whatever other documents I had.

The next few months were hell. Finding a job, even in Louisiana, was hard. I finally managed a part-time gig waiting tables which allowed me to buy a vehicle. Even transferring my driver's license from Florida was a headache in itself.

In January, I decided that even though I was not financially stable, I still needed someone in my life. I took it upon myself to go to the internet in search of love, since my previous experiences had been a failure. To my surprise, I found it. We've been together almost 9 months now, and I couldn't be happier with her.

Yes, there is still a long way to go. Life is not perfect now, nor do I ever expect it to be. However, I've seen more than I have ever expected to and lived more than most of the people I went to high school with. The story isn't over. Don't count me out. There's more adventures to come.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

United we stand, divided we fall.

When our eyes are finally opened, we will see the lie we have been living in. We've been taught from the beginning that our neighbor is our enemy. We've pledged allegiance to a flag from an early age and then sold products and philosophies wrapped in a flag that are anything but good for us. Every ethnicity has been stereotyped, every way of life has been vilified in one way or another. White people can't dance, black people are welfare bums, Mexicans are lazy and Arabs are all terrorists secretly.

Rednecks are all inbred, Cajuns are stupid, everyone who lives in San Francisco is gay, hippies never take a bath, punks are all lazy rich kids and skinheads are all racist crossburners who worship Hitler. All liberals are PETA nutjobs, or gay, or anything and everything else contrary to your way of life. All conservatives are gun-toting country folk who didn't finish highschool and other ad hominem attacks. Once you get past the lies, it becomes very obvious that we've been brainwashed into a state of division so we can't unite against a common foe. If you are outnumbered 99 to 1, the only way you can win is to convince the 99 that you are their friend and that the enemy is actually the same people they share so much in common with.
Time to start thinking for yourself, stop allowing other people to tell you what the "truth" is, and start experiencing the world as it really is.

We are not asking for communism, despite what you may be told in an attempt to discredit the movement. We are not just "dirty hippies", we are the overqualified unemployed, people who are one check away from disaster, those who have been foreclosed on and the rest of the working class. You cheered for Egypt and Libya and everyone else in the Middle East during the "Arab Spring". The revolution has spread, it is here, it has finally come.