Tag Archives: Occupy

Something to be Thankful For : Struggles, Seeds … and Surprises

A longtime friend, teacher and respected activist, Joe Ramsey, out of Boston sent this article to us to view.  Its published by the magazine Counterpunch and we have the privilege of his permission to republish it here.  When we think about our own efforts at activism which entails a lot of work on persuasion please consider Mr. Ramsey’s thoughts, especially when round the table with folks who possibly may strongly disagree with your points.  Sometimes forcing an agreement at the time, from those who disagree may not always be the best strategy:

Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises

In a world that often feels like its spiraling towards chaos, here’s something I’m thankful for. Something that gives me–dare I say it–hope.

A former student from two years back stops by during my office hours, unannounced. He’s now a junior, thinking of a senior honors thesis, maybe grad school. I’m not surprised by this part; he was one of the sharpest students in that seminar (“Literature and Society” it was called).  A *very* smart reader, and a good writer, too.

I *am* surprised to see him in my office though.  He often seemed frustrated in our class, annoyed at others for not being as up to speed as he was–like they were holding him back.  (And like maybe I, too, as teacher, was complicit in this.)  At times, he came off to me as conservative and skeptical and maybe even narrowly out for himself, as if he were approaching our course more as a demanding customer, rather than as part of a community.  Like he just wanted his “A” so he could move on.

When the topic of economic inequality came up one day in class, he was that white guy who argued passionately against the idea of raising the minimum wage to fifteen $/hour, because as a trained and devoted EMT *he* hardly made that much…and should fast food workers really get the same pay that a medical professional earns? Wouldn’t giving these lowly service-workers a raise negate all the effort that *he* had put in to bettering himself?

Needless to say, we had us some struggles.

Seeing him at my door, my first thought was that maybe he was hard up for a letter of recommendation.  Some application deadline forcing him my way. I had, after all, given him his “A.”

But now here we are sitting in my office, and he’s leading us into a discussion about critical theory, literature, and marxism, about Jameson and Lukacs, Taylorism and totality. (He’s skeptical; totality seems too seamless and pessimistic). It’s clear that he has been reading whatever he can get his hands on.  And now we’re talking about capitalism and the limited semi-autonomy of the public sphere and cultural works within neoliberalism, and suddenly he turns to me and says:

“Man, that discussion we had in class about the minimum wage, and the way you pushed me to rethink my position…that really had an impact on me…That was really important.”*

And then we go on discussing, about how it’s possible for people to become psychologically invested in positions and identities that actually are not in their own best economic interest–not to mention being ethically problematic–and how this relates to race and to gender and nationalism as well as class…and how maybe it might just be possible for literature, for culture, for classrooms, for people to resist individualism and the cold cash nexus, to carve out spaces for human connection and solidarity.  How maybe the possibility of a fundamentally different kind of world can be glimpsed through the cracks in this one…if we learn how to look for it.

We shook hands goodbye, but I wanted to hug him.seed sprouting sepia

*

And this is why I’m thankful:  Because principled struggles with people plant seeds and sometimes these seeds find soil to sprout, even when you don’t expect it.

Because sometimes our assumptions about other people’s social views can prove to be one-sided, or even flat out wrong.*

Because situations change, and surprises happen.

And it hits me: this is why I don’t give up on people who say backwards shit.

And this is why we must defend the humanities.

And this is why we must support and defend public education.

And this is why we shouldn’t reduce people to the flat floor of their weakness: they might just vault from their greatest strength.

***

Not just in classrooms, but in our broader social movement, it seems a crucial point to bear in mind.

Our impatient and cynical times encourage us to give up on those who express confused, antisocial, or backward views.  The Twitter-verse entices us to score points at the expense of the problematic and the privileged. Indeed, with so much work to be done, nothing that anyone says seems quite good enough.

And certainly, as events in Minneapolis and elsewhere make clear, there are genuine enemies of the struggle out there, people who cannot be reasoned with, who have declared war on the movement for social justice, who must simply be defeated.  Forces against whom the people must be defended.

Yet it remains crucial to resist the urge to lump those who express bad ideas in with the ‘Enemy’ camp. The temptation to give up on everyday people is a suicidal urge for any moment that seeks truly radical and emancipatory change.  Instead, it behooves us to be patient with those who still might be reached, including even those who argue most vociferously against us.

We must continue to struggle, to be sure–there is no facile optimism here–but patiently and humbly, having faith in the basic decency of people.

If we can work to unite with strengths to overcome weaknesses, rather than focusing on weaknesses to undercut strengths, we all might discover something surprising to be thankful for.

* Note: In a follow-up email, my student clarified the situation further: “I was all for raising the minimum wage,” he tells me, “I think there was just some general anxiety about a) losing my privilege and b) the move away from the emphasis placed on the individual, one in which I felt that my individual accomplishments and “value” might be compromised.” As he added, “I think there’s a weird sort of internal conflict in more typical liberals who still hold individualism as an ideal in society, which is really difficult to reconcile with the desire for significant social change.” Well said. 

Joseph G. Ramsey is an activist and writer living in Boston. He is a contributing editor at Red Wedge, a co-editor at Cultural Logic: an electronic journal of Marxist theory and practice, and a contributing board member at Socialism and Democracy.

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Wal-Mart Actions Around New Hampshire

Protesters in Manchester on South Willow Street on Black Friday.

Actions against the employment practices of Wal-Mart happened in three locations in the state this past Friday after Thanksgiving — known as “Black Friday”.

Activists from Occupy NH, Occupy Seacoast, the I.W.W. union and Occupy North Country set up protests, handed out flyers and in one instance, reportedly clashed with local police.

In Manchester participant Mark Provost said, “People were generally positive, honking their horns, waving their fists in solidarity, the jig is up, people know what is going on.”

In Somersworth, NH

In Somersworth Occupy the Seacoast held a protest outside the store in the morning, according to David Holt, “9 put of 10 people that reacted to us when we were outside were positive, gave us the thumbs up or honked and waved in support.”  David said that the group also went inside Wal-Mart with their signs, “We walked thru the Walmart with our signs and the management tried to herd us out, they called the police but we were gone before they showed up.”

When they were outside David said, “One cop pulled over in a cruiser and rolled down the window and we weren’t sure what he would say but he said he was behind us 100%.” Of the numbers of people in Occupy David said, “We had a wide range of people that had never come to an occupy event before, one of the people event printed up pamphlets and handed them out about what Walmart does.”

Some reported that an individual had a clash with the police in Littleton, but that person has asked not to speak to the press, so no further information is available at this time.

More about the action in Somersworth from the Foster’s Daily Democrat: Demonstrators in Somersworth Call for Changes at Wal-Mart

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A Boycotter’s Guide to the 2012 Election

Matt Richards submits in answer to “The Protest of Nothing”,  an excellent survey of presidential candidates and a compelling argument explaining the Boycott rationale through Matt’s perspective.

I’m writing this on the eve of the first televised debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, in response to Katie Talbert’s opinion piece, The Protest of Nothing: https://progressiveactionnh.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-protest-of-nothing.  There’s been a lot of buzz about an election boycott this year.  Over the past few months, the idea has been swirling around the internet, gaining some airtime on the podcast of Left-wing activist Cindy Sheehan, and drawing fierce criticism from icons such as Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky.  I’ve begun to notice how voting is considered a sacrosanct ritual among many Americans, especially progressives who still look toward the ballot box for social change.  As a result, many people have been asking me what I’ll be doing this November 6th.

There was something in Katie’s editorial that caught my attention.  She stated that “Democracy demands engagement for success.”  She seems to imply that both rebelling against the current system and engaging in democracy are two separate processes, both of which are important.  “Engaging in democracy” seems to be code for “voting and campaigning for candidates.”  It made me wonder—what is democracy?  How do you engage in democracy when the system set in place by the ruling corporate oligarchy seems completely undemocratic in nature?  How many votes does it take for democracy to suddenly activate?  Will it activate when 75% of the population votes?  When 100% of the population votes?  Or must we stop participating completely and attempt to build a system not controlled by the wealthy few?

So what is a young, anti-war anarchist to do?  Originally, I had just planned on rebutting some of the points in Katie’s essay.  Instead, I decided to review the full slate of choices this November, and evaluate what I feel are the pros and cons of each.  Without further ado, here it is:

Voting for Romney/Obama

PROS:

  • It only takes five minutes, and one of them will be President anyway
  • The Supreme Court
  • Voting for one of them might precipitate an economic collapse and make revolution come sooner

CONS:

  • Voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil
  • Voting for Obama/Romney completely defeats the purpose of the Occupy Movement and Arab Spring

I would give more attention to why both Obama and Romney are awful choices for President, but Katie already did a good job of that in her essay.  I mean…does the world really need four more years of drones, Gitmo, indefinite detention centers, and huge bonuses for Wall St. executives?  In my opinion, any of those things alone is enough to deserve either of them a lifetime prison sentence.  But the non-delusional among us know that either Wall St. Candidate A or Wall St. Candidate B will be sitting in the Oval Office next January.  So should we just grit our teeth, hold our noses, and spend five minutes voting for the person who will be the least awful?  Should we, for five minutes, ignore the drone bombing in Northern Waziristan, and vote for whichever of the two has the least horrendous social policies?  The one who will select the least worst Supreme Court nominations?

Honestly, it’s hard to tell which of the two is the least evil, and I have no interest in trying to decide which: http://ivn.us/2012/07/17/100-ways-mitt-romney-is-just-like-barack-obama/.  The whole thing would be an exercise in futility.  Whenever I tell Democrats I’m considering boycotting, they warn me not voting would be a vote for Romney, and that it will be my fault when he’s elected.  Whenever I tell the few Republican I know that I’m considering boycotting, they warn me that my absence from the polling place will result in Obama getting re-elected.  The partisan divide in this country is fierce, and I start to see everyone’s true colors show come election season.  To be honest, I don’t think we’ve had two worse candidates running for President since the days of Andrew Jackson.

The most interesting reason I’ve heard for voting for the two is that under an Obama or a Romney presidency, living conditions will deteriorate so much that people will be forced to revolt against the government.  The advocates of this position, whom I will affectionately refer to as “anarcho-totalitarians” presumably believe that once enough people lose their homes, their food stamp benefits, their jobs, etc, there will be a revolution, and a much better system of government will suddenly appear.  Of course, much of this is satire.  There’s even a youtube video entitled “Revolutionaries for Romney”, endorsed by none other than Vermin Supreme himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOf-g5UnIWo.  Satire or not, is there perhaps some merit to this?  Are we willing to vote for the worst candidate and cross our fingers that people will start revolting?  While it sounds somewhat appealing, I’m not interested in doing it.  I think Obama/Romney will do a good enough job making things awful without me “helping them” with my vote.

And of course, there’s the fact that a vote for a Wall St backed candidate completely undermines the objectives of the Occupy Movement.  Why would someone protest outside Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, then vote for the same candidates being funded by Goldman Sachs and Bank of America?  I sure as hell know I didn’t become an occupier so I could see a Romney or an Obama presidency.

Voting for Jill Stein

PROS:

  • Voting for her sends a message that we’re fed up with the two-party system
  • She’s on the ballot in 39 states, which is enough to (theoretically) win the electoral vote
  • If she gets 5% of the popular vote, the Green Party gets $20 million in federal funding next election

CONS:

  • She won’t win, and voting for her “takes votes away” from Obama/Romney
  • Protest votes do not “register dissent” the way we’d like them to
  • She’s a capitalist, and the Green Party is a capitalist/reformist party

And then there’s Jill Stein!  In the picture above, she and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, are being arrested for a foreclosure protest against Fannie Mae in Philadelphia.  Taking part in foreclosure actions and Occupy protests all over the country, Jill Stein has displayed a commendable level of courage, and certainly deserves her place as one of the forebears of the “Occupy Wall St” candidates.  I met her here in Manchester during Occupy the Primary, and she proved herself to be a very intelligent and articulate woman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbc4fCh3HVE.             Her campaign staff has been working tirelessly to get her ballot access in 39 states, a total of 447 electoral votes.

Why vote for Jill Stein?  Because it sends a message that people are fed up with the two-party system.  Her “New Green Deal Platform”, borrowing the memory of FDR, is appealing to a large section of progressives, and people who are fed up with the Democratic Party.  Many activists I respect and admire are voting for Jill.  They believe that registering their dissent in the polls is very important.

Why not vote for Jill?  We’ve all heard it.  Jill knows it herself.  She’s not going to win.  She’s somehow “taking votes away” from Obama.  But is that a reason for not voting for her?  I think it’s a terrible reason not to vote for her, because people not following their consciences is part of what has gotten the world into the huge mess it’s in right now.  In my view, there are much better reasons not to vote for the Stein ticket than “she can’t win”, because the implied alternative would be voting for Obama, something I have no interest in doing.

I doubt Jill is even trying to win the election.  Which brings us to the “main” pro of voting for her: if she gets 5% of the popular vote, the Green Party will receive $20 million in federal matching funding next year.  I actually tried to research this claim, and was able to find information about it here: http://www.fec.gov/press/bkgnd/fund.shtml.  Is this something that could possibly happen?  The last time a third party candidate got 5% of the vote was Ross Perot in the 90s, and the Reform Party dissolved by the next election—not a good omen for Jill.  In fact, Jill would have to get twice as many votes as Ralph Nader did in 2000 to pull it off.  But what if she does get the funding for the Green Party?  Would their $20 million in federal money give them the ability to compete against the billions of corporate dollars that will be funneled toward the Democratic and Republican candidates next election cycle?  Will we see the rise of a functional multi-party system in the United States?

If I were taking bets, I’d wager the odds are 100,000 to 1 that we’ll see our economic system collapse under the weight of its own greed and selfishness before we ever see a functional multi-party system in the US.   My main problem with Greens is their propensity to engage in magical thinking.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard the phrase, “But if EVERYONE voted for Jill Stein, the wars would end!  If EVERYONE was a Green, Wall St would be held accountable!”  It is this thinking, in part, which keeps people from realizing their own potential.  It convinces people the solution to their problems is as easy as pulling a lever.  Even in the million to one scenario Jill was elected President, what are the odds that she would end be able to “fix” a system designed by Wall Street.  Jill has too much integrity in her views and personal life; Washington, as it is now, has no place for her.  Why toss a good apple into a rotten barrel?

            There are those who would question whether Jill Stein is even a “good apple” at all.  I’ve heard the critique of several socialists that she has never come out in support of socialism.  That she merely wants to reform capitalism into something “less bad” while keeping the power structure that oppresses working class people and minorities intact.  While I certainly understand the criticism, I think she’s a good person and a good candidate.   I wish her all the best with her campaign, and if she does get federal funding, I hope the Green Party proves me wrong.

Voting for Gary Johnson

PROS:

  • He’s on every ballot except Michigan and Oklahoma, giving him more electoral access than Jill Stein
  • His views on abortion/the death penalty/gay marriage/the drug war are decent

CONS:

  • He’s a right-wing wackadoodle
  • He won’t win, and did terribly in the Republican primary

While Jill Stein has been busy courting the Left and disenchanted Obama voters, Gary Johnson’s attracted attention mostly from Libertarians and Recovering Republicans.  Libertarians of a bunch of stripes have been raving about him over Facebook.  Especially tonight, when he’s being “locked out” of the debate.  Unlike Jill, he’s never been a professional activist.  As a former governor of New Mexico, he’s a politician, and he’s familiar with the system he’s running for.   Some people think someone with experience runs a better campaign, but to me it just makes him untrustworthy.  I guess it’s just a matter of perspective.

His views aren’t going to be as attractive to progressives and those on the Left as Jill Stein, either.  He certainly has some good points: wanting to keep the government out of people’s uteruses, his opposition to the death penalty, his support of gay marriage, and his opposition of the drug war, to name a few.  But for many, including myself, those views are overshadowed by his typical right-wing rhetoric.  The worst of this, in my view, is his position on healthcare.  Remember Romney telling people they should just go to the emergency room when they’re sick?  I talked to Gary Johnson when he came to New Hampshire, and he actually told me, “When I was governor of New Mexico, no one died due to lack of health insurance.”  Talk about delusional!  There’s a difference between supporting a terrible policy and denying reality, and I definitely think it’s a line he’s crossed over.  I wasn’t left with the impression that he actually gives a shit about people who are suffering.

            The only thing that makes Gary Johnson a better choice than Jill Stein is that he’s on the ballot in more states.  I’ve actually heard friends tell me, “You need to vote for Gary Johnson, because he’s the only one with enough electoral votes to realistically win!”  In this way, some of Johnson’s supporters are just as delusional as Stein’s supporters.  Let’s be real, here: we will not see Jill Stein, nor Gary Johnson, in the White House this January.  The only reason to vote for either is out of moral conviction.  And since most of the left isn’t going to be morally compelled to vote for Gary Johnson, let’s move on.

Voting for Rosanne Barr/Peta Lindsay/Stewart Alexander

PROS:

  • They’re the only socialists on the ballot

CONS:

  • Voting for them is “divisive” and takes votes away from Jill Stein
  • They might not have the popular appeal Jill Stein does
  • Voting for them is still participating in capitalist elections

The socialist candidates are the most paradoxical among the field this year.  They want to “Build a Party of the Working Class”, but do it within a system they consider to be a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”, or, as I’d put it, “the dictatorship of the 1%.”  They want to have a working class revolution, but do it within a ballot box which is counter-revolutionary.  Or at least that’s what it would seem at first glance.

Peta Lindsay of the Party for Socialism and Liberation is appealing because she only wants to use the election as a gimmick to get the message of socialist revolution out to the general public.  She is under no illusions that she will win.  She is only on the ballot in 13 state, and, perhaps most illuminating, she’s only 28, and therefore ineligible for the Presidency under the current constitution.  And the platform she wants to get out there is a pretty stellar platform: http://www.pslweb.org/votepsl/2012/media-coverage/media-lindsay-globe-gazette.html.  Likewise, Roseanne Barr is simply trying to use her celebrity to get the message of drug decriminalization, socialism, and feminism out to the general public.  Her platform might not be as cohesive, but I think she has a much better chance of getting it out to the people than Peta.  (There’s no way the mainstream media will cover Peta, but they’ve already given a bit of attention to Roseanne.)

The most hilarious thing about the two of their candidacies and Stewart’s candidacy are the ire they’ve drawn from certain Jill Stein supporters.  I have seen them accused of “dividing the progressive vote” in a time where it’s absolutely crucial to vote for the Green Party.  The irony, of course, is that this is the exact rhetoric Obama supporters tend to aim at people voting Green.

My conclusion is that the Peta/Roseanne/Alexander tickets are not tickets to vote for, but tickets to lend moral support to.  They don’t want people voting for them; they want people to help them get their message out.  That’s definitely something I’d be willing to help them do.

Writing In Ron Paul

PROS:

  • Ummmm…he’s kind of anti-war?

CONS:

  • Everything else about him is awful
  • He’s not even running as a third party/independent candidate

I wouldn’t even bring this up if a whole lot of people weren’t planning on doing it anyway.  In 2008, Ron Paul received 41,905 votes in states where write-in votes were counted.  Based on how many of my Facebook friends are voting for him instead of Gary Johnson, I imagine that number will be ten times as high this year.  So why are people so enchanted with this Texas Congressman?  Because of his anti-war rhetoric.  Because he said he would bring American soldiers home “as soon as he can get the boats there.”  Even though he voted for the Authorization of the Use of Military Force which got us into Afghanistan.  Even though he said he wouldn’t hold Obama accountable for his war crimes.  And even though some of his top campaign contributors are military contractors Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin (I shit you not): http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cid=N00005906.  Let’s face it: Ron Paul is one of the slimiest, weaseliest, pandering-est politicans this side of the Rocky Mountains.  You don’t stay in office for over 30 years unless you’re willing to compromise your integrity over and over again while putting on your good guy face to the general public.  I call it like I see it.

And since he’s not even running, we might as well get over him.  Moving on.

Writing in Vermin Supreme

PROS:

  • He’s hilarious, and is appealing to more than just third party candidates
  • He gets why he’s running
  • He’s the only legit Anarchist on the ballot
  • Voting for him sends a message that we’re fed up with the entire election system
  • Free ponies! Okay, maybe not…but he did give me free long johns.

CONS:

  • He’s not on the ballot in any state
  • Voting for him still counts as “participating” in the system
  • Americans are too stupid to get satire

You have to have been living under a rock for the past year if you’ve never heard of this zany, over-the-top satirical candidate who promises free ponies for every American.  The king of meme, Vermin Supreme gained millions of youtube views when he glitterbombed anti-gay Democrat Randall Terry at the Lesser-Known Democratic Candidates forum, transforming a rather mundane event into a media spectacle.  A perennial candidate since 1988, Vermin has perfecting campaigning into a performance art.  This Democratic primary, he got more votes than ever before, scoring a good 833 votes in the race against Barack Obama.  More importantly, he’s probably generated more press than Jill Stein or even Roseanne Barr.  He has a weapon other third party candidates don’t that connects him with the average, everyday American: his super-satirical style of humor.

If Jill Stein is the “Occupy Wall St candidate”, Vermin Supreme is the Occupy Wall St. God.  As the above picture can attest to, Vermin Supreme has been to more Occupy Wall St rallies than any other candidate.  Vermin lives, breathes, and sleeps Occupy.  In my view, he really captures the spirit of the movement.  And he’s the only candidate who’s a legit anarchist: if you dig under the exterior sarcastic despotism, you’ll quickly find the creamy revolutionary filling inside.

The main criticism I’ve seen of Vermin’s campaign is that he’s “not taking it seriously.”  Which is like telling Jonathan Swift that eating babies is gross and he should stop telling people to do it.  Like the comedy of Dave Chappelle, Vermin’s complete mockery of the political process might fly over a lot of people’s heads.  I like to think Americans are smarter than they are, but all my experience has proved this to be false; the only ones who laugh at the cruelty of life or the cruelty of the electoral system are the ones wise enough to get the joke.  Regardless, given that he’s not on the ballot in any state, if you cast a ballot for Vermin this election cycle, rest assured it will make no difference whether you place it in the ballot box or burn it.

Or, in the immortal words of Vermin, “A vote for me is a vote completely thrown away.”

Vote for Nobody/Leave Presidential Slot Blank but Vote Locally

PROS:

  • Local elections are much more important than the Presidential election
  • You can vote on things you want, while still showing disapproval of the system

CONS:

  • You’re still not completely withdrawing from the system you acknowledge as illegitimate
  • There might not be any independents running locally
  • If you live in a state with electronic voting machines, they might “fill in” your empty Presidential spot for you. (I have not found evidence confirming this, but if someone finds any, please let me know.)

This option is one of my personal favorites.  Curiously enough, most of the criticism I’ve seen of election boycotters is that they are “Letting Obama/Romney win” by not voting.  Which means it’s the presidential election, the one that’s most controlled by corporate money, the one where our votes matter the least, that people tend to value the most.  What I appreciated the most about Katie’s editorial is that it wasn’t the Presidential elections she told people they should “get engaged” in—no, she focused the battle happening in state legislatures across the country.  I can certainly see why people find value in local politics; I don’t think we have a whole lot of influence in any part of this electoral system, but if enough effort was put into it, I bet people could certainly make a dent in local politics if they really wanted to.  The presidential elections are a totally lost cause, but when it comes to the down ticket, why not have your cake and eat it too?  Why not leave the presidential slot blank in protest or “Vote for Nobody” while voting for initiatives and local candidates that are important?

The main problem with this strategy is when there are no local, independent candidates to throw your support behind.  I actually went to a progressive “state legislator training session” in Concord, and told the trainers I was considering running for state house or senate sometime in the distant future.  When I told them I would never run as a Democrat or a Republican, I was all but laughed out of the room!  The fact is, the two party system not only has a stranglehold over the federal elections, but based on the way the rules are written, they often dominate local elections all over the country as well.  The last time I voted for mayor, I voted for the one Independent, Glenn Ouellette, and he got 2% of the vote.  While I admire those who want to change that and run as independent or third party candidates in local politics, I feel like my time and energy is best spent elsewhere.  And since I don’t imagine any third party candidates are going to throw their hats into the ring in the next few months, why not go the full way and boycott the whole damn charade?

Boycotting the Elections

PROS:

  • It’s the most “revolutionary” of the options, in that it rejects the whole system
  • Shows solidarity with people boycotting elections worldwide
  • Shows solidarity with indigenous communities struggling against a Colonial Power
  • It feels freeing and relieving

CONS:

  • “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain!”
  • Boycotters are mistaken for apathetic; it sends the wrong message
  • It may not be appealing to minorities and marginalized people
  • There aren’t enough people doing it; it won’t catch on until Third Parties/celebrities publicly join in a boycott
  • There are better things to boycott than elections

So, we’ve finally come to the crown jewel of the controversy: the election boycott.  The crass, boisterous, in-your-face election boycott which makes no compromises and offers no apologies for itself.  It’s beautiful the way a castration is beautiful; it takes all we’ve been taught as a culture about democracy, throws it bloodied to the dirt, and spits on it.  Some will indeed call it “The Protest of Nothing”.  I don’t blame them.  Really, there are too many things to protest these days, and it’s easy for The Protest of Everything to look like the Protest of Nothing to the uninitiated.    The biggest myth about the boycott is that it takes no courage to perform—boycotting is not for wimps.  There are few things more frightening than unshackling yourself from the illusion of hope and learning to trust your own abilities.  And yes, the election boycott throws the baby out with the bathwater, but this presupposes the bathwater is morphine, and the baby was a battery in the Matrix, and that maybe we’ll build a bridge over our failures before the floodgates of cataclysm close over humanity.

I hyperbolize.  But my point remains the same: the boycott’s not for everyone.  That being said, there are plenty of good reasons to boycott.  The first being the solidarity it shows with groups of revolutionaries around the world who are fighting tyranny by boycotting their countries’ elections.  From Egypt to Mexico, there is a growing movement of people boycotting all over the planet: http://electionboycott2012.org/election-boycotts-around-the-world-and-now-in-the-us-too/.  I’ve heard the argument that those societies are very different front ours; that people in the United States have much more voice in their government than people in “third world countries”.  The truth is quite the contrary.  We are the model for tyranny everywhere: there are few undemocratic governments in the world that the United States has not had some hand in bolstering.  Furthermore, there is more corporate cash poisoning our system of government than in any other country.  We are living in a society where dollars equal votes.  Also, there is no military empire larger than ours; to oppose the elections is to oppose the military interests attached to the system.  Dr. King once said his government is the largest purveyor of violence on the planet.  Not much has changed since then.

United States imperialism doesn’t only affect other countries, though.  Most people who argue that citizens are “obligated to vote” tend to forget the fact that the United States government is still a colonial power.  They tend to forget that those most hurt by upholding the current system are people living on reservations, the indigenous community who lost their homes, their language, their families, their history, their environment, and everything they had.  The boycott has gained some traction among some members of the indigenous community, who wish not to uphold a colonial power, and instead wish to choose their leader according to traditional custom.  This is most organized in Mexico, where two indigenous communities, the Nahua and the Purepecha, have decided to boycott the elections: http://www.grass-roots-press.com/2011/09/30/indigenous-communities-boycott-elections/.  I propose that, in solidarity with these communities, the Boycott the Election movement ought to change its name to the “Decolonize the Elections” movement.

Now, on to the negatives of boycotting.  The first thing I always hear from people opposing the boycott, usually Obama or Romney voters, is that “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain!”  Just like “Support Our Troops” this is a mindless piece of propaganda without much substance.  It’s effective because it doesn’t mean anything.  I believe that every person, whether they voted for Obama or McCain or Cynthia Mckinney or no one at all, has the right to complain about the corrupt and morally bankrupt system they didn’t build.  Moreover, they have the right to try to change it or destroy it in the best way they see possible.  No one should be silenced for expressing their victimization.  I would go on about this point, but I think the late George Carlin satirically refutes this point more eloquently than I ever could: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIraCchPDhk.

The next point of opposition I always encounter is that not voting makes you seem apathetic.  This is indeed a serious image problem.  Luckily, it’s a problem with a very simple remedy.  If people see you participating in society on days other than election day, they’ll realize you do care about what happens.  If you can show that you understand the issues the country is facing, it will buck their preconception.  If they see you helping your neighbor instead of spending all day in front of your TV (I realize I’m condemning myself), they won’t think you’re a heartless, apathetic dolt.  We all must become leaders in our community.  We all must help each other and gain allies wherever we can.

Of all the points of opposition to the boycott, the one that troubles me the most is the issue that it doesn’t speak to the concerns of minorities.  That because so many people of color, women, and immigrants fought hard for their right to vote, and still are, this is a tactic that really doesn’t speak to them.  As a person who is male and looks mostly white, I benefit from those privileges, and feel an obligation to confront the ingrained bigotry around me.  I don’t want to see the election boycott become like social movements of the past; we’ve all heard stories about the women’s suffrage movement excluding black people, the civil rights movement excluding gay people, the gay liberation movement excluding trans people, and so on.  I’m afraid of history repeating itself.  And I’ve seen a lot to worry me about the ilk I’m associating with—I actually saw an election boycotter tell a critic that he was “playing the race card” when he argued that the movement wouldn’t be appealing to black people.  This is clearly a problem that needs to be confronted.

So, is this election boycott really the movement of angry white men and young white libertarians living with their parents?  I don’t know.  It’s too soon to tell.  In Chicago, there was already a counter-protest to the burning of voter registration cards where an elderly gentlemen said that by burning their cards, they were helping voter suppression efforts and contributing to the disenfranchisement of “colored voters”: http://www.examiner.com/article/occupiers-burn-their-voter-registration-cards-protest.  While I don’t see how burning your own registration card can “disenfranchise” anyone, it’s a sign that the boycott may not have a message that’s appealing to minorities by and large.  But, hell…I’m not sure yet that the election boycott is appealing to most people, anyway.  And if history tells us anything, women, immigrants and people of color have often been leaders of boycotting efforts.  Emma Goldman was famous for standing against the suffragettes and stating that participating in capitalist elections did not further equality for women, because it did not take class order into to count.  W.E.B Dubois also gave a speech about why he refused to vote: http://www.blackeconomicdevelopment.com/why-i-wont-vote-by-web-du-bois-the-nation-20-october-1956/.  Perhaps we will see it catch on the more disenfranchised communities become, just as we’ve seen with indigenous groups.

The next criticism of the boycott is one I often level against it myself: it’s not big enough yet.  The election boycott isn’t really a movement, it’s a tactic which is of little value when it comes to changing the system.  The “Boycott the Presidential election” event page on Facebook has 772 attendees, which is more than nothing, but still isn’t really putting a dent in removing the government’s popular legitimacy.  I think in order for the boycott to gain traction, one of two things needs to happen: third parties need build a coalition to boycott the election, and/or A-list celebrities need to endorse the boycott.  I think the Party for Socialism and Liberation is likely to call for an election boycott way sooner than the Green Party; the Greens are still too engaged in magical thinking that they have the ability to eventually change the system.

Lastly, there’s the assertion of critics that it is much more important to take other direct action than boycott the election.  I can’t say I disagree.  Boycotting is just one tool in a toolbox of many methods to achieve a peaceful revolution: http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations103a.html.  It’s much more important to democratize your workplace to strike.  It’s much more important to boycott corporations which engage in unethical business practices throughout the world, or take your money out of banks.  I think the most necessary action of disengagement, championed by Cindy Sheehan, is to stop paying Income taxes if at all possible.  Income taxes go to pay for wars throughout the world.  When I hear about someone boycotting the election, then I hear that person is still paying taxes and has not even attempted to stop paying, I take it as a huge sign of hypocrisy.  If everyone in the country didn’t vote, it might not change the system, because the system does not require our votes to operate.  But if everyone in the country stopped paying taxes and redirected the money to worthy causes, we’d see a more peaceful, democratic society in place much sooner.

———————————————————————————————————————

So what will I be doing this November?  Right now, my plan is not only to boycott, but to Decolonize the 2012 Elections.  I probably won’t be putting much effort into actively organizing theater surrounding it, because there are projects much more worthy of my time.  What I do know is, I will be going to the polls, refusing to show my ID in solidarity with those whose rights are being oppressed, then getting my ballot.  I don’t know what I will do with the ballot afterwards…perhaps I will burn it, perhaps I will put it in a bottle and sent it adrift to sea, or perhaps I will turn it into a paper boot hat in honor of Vermin Supreme.  Your guess is as good as mine.

Do I know that I’m making the right decision?  No.  I only know that I feel the most free I’ve ever felt in my life.  I know that my conscience is telling me to do this, and my conscience rarely leads me astray.  Maybe the Green Party will manage to establish a presence in the future.  Maybe the US will see the rise of a multiparty system.  I think it’s very unlikely.  But I’m always willing to be proven wrong.

Matthew Richards is a life-long resident of Manchester, and was active in Occupy NH. As assistant director of New Hampshire Pridefest, he took part in organizing the first Pride event in New Hampshire after a decade long hiatus. He’s been performing regularly at poetry open mics throughout New England for the past three years, and competed in the 2011 National Poetry Slam as part of the Slam Free or Die team. His upcoming collection of poetry, tentatively titled ‘Revolution is a Ruthless Boxcar’, will highlight his experiences in the Occupy Movement.

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NYC – Not a Place to Stand, Walk, Talk, Move or Breath Without Arrest

Chris Faraone of the Boston Phoenix describes his experience as a guest of the NYPD while down for the Occupy Anniversary:

I wasn’t supposed to be sitting in a bar, my right elbow bent like a bastard, on the night of September 17, 2012. It was the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street – a movement I’ve been covering for about a year – and the plan was to be out in the streets, tweeting, taking pictures, and scribbling obscenities in my notepad. That’s what I do. I’m a reporter. It’s my fucking job.

But I wasn’t on the streets, recording so much senseless brutality. Instead I was a victim of it, having gotten viciously tackled and abused less than two hours after reporting for duty. I hardly planned for this; if I had, I would have left my weed at my motel. But having covered comparable actions in more than 20 American cities over the past year, I’ve learned how to get my story without getting bagged. Or so I thought.

For the rest: The Full Story of How A Boston Journalist Got Arrested on Some Bullshit at the Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street

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What If

WHAT IF

What if we had a world
Where everybody helped each other
And tried to build each other up
In stead of tearing each other down
And blowing each other into pieces.
Would not suffering be banished?
With helpful hands and gentle hearts
Could we not bring humanity to a pinnacle?
Why must we continue to fail at
The only Commandment that ever mattered,
That being to love each other
So as to be willing to give up ones life
For a friend,
To turn the other cheek
And to love our enemies.
This was a Commandment,
Not an aspirational guideline
And apparently
the most difficult one of all to follow.
As a species, if we eventually
fail to follow it,
We deserve to reap the dire seeds
Of our own destruction and demise.
A meeker species will eventually
Inherit the earth
And i will thankfully be gone.
Already in my lifetime,
I have seen enough.
What if,
Peace.
Mike Murburg 08/29/12
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Why Occupy Monsanto Anyway?!

A very good explanation of what GMO’s are and why we should all be concerned, straight from the heart of Monsanto headquarters, St. Louis.   Don Fitz and his Green Time TV has two activists from St. Louis who have worked hard on educating people on the GMO issue.

St. Louis Occupy has worked hard developing Occupy Monstanto, which event in September will have many workshops to draw attention to the evils of GMO seeds.  Monsanto has waged a near-terrorist campaign against farmers throughout the Midwest.  Recently the farmers lost a suit filed against Monsanto in Missouri federal court on behalf of nearly 300,000 farmers, but they intend to press on.  Of course, in the “socialist” country of Canada, where corporations don’t yet reign supreme, one farmer did in fact win against Monsanto.

As mentioned in the video above, Monsanto has worked to incorporate the popular pesticide, Roundup, into the DNA structure of plants.  While the corporate rigged FDA has given a wink and nod to Monsanto on its Frankenstein GMO work, Roundup has its own set of problems.

Logo for crop-ready GMO Roundup soybeans.

Available at any home store, great on Dandelions and your genetic makeup!

As a large portion of the Midwest depends upon farming for their living, Monsanto’s push to own the agricultural business in the entire Midwest or even possibly globally presents a serious national autonomy and security risk.  Throughout the Midwest, small-scale farming operations dwindle under the pressure of large-scale corporate operators.  Indebtedness  incurred through efforts to keep up with ever increasing yield pressures also hampers development of green and sustainable farming methods.  While starving farmers apparently gives pop stars an opportunity to boost sales with fund-raiser events, they never challenge how capitalist practices have distorted the importance of a safe food supply and sustainable agricultural practices for national health and security.

Not Science Fiction – A Story of Corporate Charity

The perfect picture of the charity of Monsanto lies in the story of the East St. Louis plant that it built.  In order to evade taxes from East St. Louis, the plant received the go-ahead from the state of Illinois to incorporate its land into a township called Sauget.  Yes that’s right, its own town.  Simply so it won’t have to pay East St. Louis one dime of property or any other tax.  But that doesn’t stop East St. Louis from regularly spilling effluent into the streams that run into East St. Louis.

Sauget does not employ the impoverished residents of St. Louis as a matter of practice, instead its workers commute from outside of town.  East St. Louis in one of the most impoverished cities in America.  But executives, press and others usually think of this building when they think of Monsanto, the headquarters in the city of St. Louis.

Other good links about Monsanto:

Monsanto Watch

One good thing to see is when major companies battle which other — blood and money shed on both sides.

Shut Down Monsanto!

Now that you know what kind of scum they are, see their slick promo site

Overview of the Monsanto sponsored Herbarium at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens

As if all the above isn’t creepy enough for you, here’s an overview of a meeting of the WAF — a pro-corporate NGO which as the executive for the organization states in a pro business St. Louis mag, We’ve invited governors from agriculture-producing states the world over to come discuss the impacts of agriculture policy decisions at the local level,” says Kathy Moldthan, WAF executive vice president and chief operating officer. The governors will be accompanied by business delegations from their states, “who will network with other businesspeople from around the world and explore investment opportunities,” Moldthan adds.”

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Protesters in Vermont Subdued with Pepper Spray and Rubber Bullets

Very good article written by Dylan Kelly on the Vermont Commons blog on the unexpected police action against protesters who gathered against Tar Sands at the Governor’s Conference in Burlington this past weekend. Continue reading at the site, link below…

Peaceful Protesters Put Down by Militarized Police Force

Burlington- Unprovoked, the Burlington Police Department opened fire on unarmed civilians with pepper spray, rubber bullets, and brutal force in order to crush dissent and political opposition to the Northeast Governor’s Conference in Burlington. In addition to Gov. Shumlin, the Conference was composed of Jean Charest, Premier of Quebec Province; and the Governors of New Hampshire, and Maine as well as numerous other delegates who gathered in Burlington to discuss regional economic and security issues.

Arriving in great numbers from locales as far afield as Connecticut, Northern Quebec, and New York City as well as turning out in droves from Burlington itself, the protesters were determined to bring issues such as natural resource extraction, affordable housing, student debt, indigenous peoples’ rights, and a wide array of other issues to the forefront of the conversation between regional elites.

Click here to continue reading at the Vermont Commons site.

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The Occupy Movement – In Purpose and Conflict

Posted on the Occupy New Hampshire General Assembly Facebook today, so well said we couldn’t resist to re-post it here.

by Michael Joseph

I am writing this note for Heather Feather and Theresa Earle who were both disappointed in my stand on Sunday, July 15, 2012. They have expected more words of unity from me than those of division. I am attempting here to lay out what outreach I can do and also outreach that I see as less meaningful to the Occupy process in general.

When the Occupy Wall Street movement started, it had a clear purpose. This mission continues in the present time. Its mission is to draw attention to and to educate the masses in the great imbalance and hording of wealth by the megabanks and therefore the wealthiest 1% of Americans. The movement took off rapidly due to that great frustration with this infringement all over the world.

There has never been attention paid to limited government, but in a strong federal government that is fair and works for everyone. Professor James Pope’s testimony at the Occupy NH trial laid out the clear causes and effects of this power grab by the 1% at the expence of the 99%. His research showed that there is a direct correlation between the strength of organized labor and the ability of the 1% to control national dialogue. When organized labor has been strong, the ability of the 1% to control the agenda was significantly reduced. Additionally, those periods when the government had less power were correlated with those same periods of runaway wealth by the 1%. This note includes a link to his research. I believe that our acquittal on curfew violations and arrest hinges in large part on his testimony. He referred to the moments of change as “republican” with a small “c”, moments when the angry and disenfranchised populous rises up and exerts its full control.

I read “The Lord of the Flies” years ago for an example of how dangerous limited (or free) government really is. I also read Hobbs and Locke in my study of political science as an undergrad music student. I believe that Hobbs’s reasoning, for why society puts self-government in place to be the best argument for the cause of the Occupy Movement. Most of the Occupy participants have been progressives such as me. While the 1% are largely small government, fiscal conservatives and a call back to the old “Golden Age” when the average American could only dream with little hope of obtaining the luxurious pinnings of that elite. Whenever this structure prevails, delights of the wealthiest increase by leaps and bounds while those who struggle to make a living suffer more. The direct change in that old system was the rise of organized labor working for new legislation on work rules and benefits. So the clear remedy to our present situation, is a progressive movement to give the 99% a fair shake.

While the Free State Project aspires to a some of the ideals for opportunity enshrined in the Occupy Mission, its desire to eliminate central government services for the needy, the disenfranchised, the handicapped, the elderly, healthcare and the directed education of the young makes adoption of its principals almost completely incompatible with that of the Occupy Movement. In that there are minute areas of agreement, the free state project members might be consulted with the consensus of the General Assembly of the Occupy Movement. This is however, my singular opinion only and would need to be brought to the table for approval by members of the Occupy Movement embrasing the principals of Occupy Wall Street.

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Not Just One Voice

Some Occupiers meeting for sandwiches after.

Since apparently some who opposed the Occupy NH break-off over the gun issue have attempted to point the finger at a few more outspoken Occupy NH participants, we have posted here some of the comments and statements of solidarity concerning the break-off decision:

Read the Declaration of Occupy Wall Street that Occupy New Hampshire resolved to stand in solidarity with.

We welcome you to submit your statement, we will transfer this over to the Occupy website once we have re-established one.

Why I decline attending the Occupy NH GA.

This issue of gun toting yahoos has gotten out of hand. I was a police officer from 1977-1980. I open carried a Smith and Wesson 357 magnum for purposes of protecting myself and the community from gun toters who would use them for their stated purpose. I trained and know how to use it for those purposes.

I equate the notion of carrying any such weapon on a bright and sunny Sunday to pure arrogance. Arrogance carries its own punishment. What goes around will always come around. An innocent teenager was killed in Florida last winter by this same arrogance. George Zimmerman is going to get what he deserves. I will not acknowledge this sham!

– Michael A. Joseph

The Choice for Occupy

As a gun owner and outspoken advocate of an armed population, I would like to clarify that my opposition to the Free State Project (an umbrella term I will use to represent all FSP, Anarcho-capitalists and related ideologies) does not rest upon their insistence that they will bring guns to the statehouse today.  My rejection of their twisted ideology is systemic and my call for them to be ejected from the Occupy movement in NH is without qualification.

The “gun issue”, as it has become known is but a convenient porthole which we can use to inspect and criticize the greater movement.  The fundamental insistence on the primacy of individual sovereignty will forever cause the group to reject making their individual wishes secondary to the community.  It is because of this fundamental tenet that the FSP can never stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.

There are no solutions to the problems of the world we live in today which do not involve the combined work and sacrifice of all people toward the progress of humankind.  The degree of that sacrifice must be democratically determined by all people (and by people alone) and cannot be voluntary or subject to the trump of any individual.

It is for this reason that Occupy New Hampshire must not call for “change”, but must call for specific and pointed change that confronts and combats the myriad abuses of rampant greed and selfishness in our society.  It is praise for this selfishness, which Ayn Rand called “rational self-interest” which sits at the heart of the Objectivist worldview that informs modern Right-Libertarianism.

It is self-evident that a revolutionary movement cannot succeed by including those who disagree with the aims of that movement and who work against those aims.  There is no “common ground” in these circumstances because the mere inclusion of members of this ideology in the steering of that movement will limit the scope of that movement and prevent it from reaching its revolutionary potential.

For this reason, if Occupy New Hampshire does not issue a statement which sets itself clearly on a path opposed to selfish and abusive individualism, I can no longer participate in Occupy New Hampshire.  This will not be because I will abandon the movement, but because the movement will have abandoned solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, a worldwide movement of people struggling against greed, and the historic significance of this moment.

– Shawn Girard

Choosing Nonviolence

Originally I planned on going to the GA but then changed my mind when I saw the various feeds on FB blow up with gun language. I didn’t involve myself in the feeds because of the vitriol; I didn’t want to become a target. But I was convinced by respectful members of ONH to attend and it was the right decision.

Being surrounded by the armed citizenry was terrifying, more terrifying than being surrounded by thousands of police and their weapons of mass destruction, aggressively trained dogs and horses, LRADs, and snipers on rooftops. It more terrifying than being assaulted by the police as I was in Chicago. ONH members comforted me, helping me to ease my fear; not a single member of FSP tried to comfort me, to ease my anxiety. Rather, they strutted with their weapons, some out for all to see others (vaguely) concealed in attempts to intimidate ONH members into silence or compliance (I’m not sure which). Instead of actually engaging in dialogue, they brandished their weapons and dodged eye contact yet expected the peaceful to sit next to the armed as if we were all friends working toward the same goals.

I walked myself out out of imposed circle and sat across the lawn so I could observe from afar. I had to get away because I was afraid of my fellow “occupiers”, that is those who identify as FSP or are formulating that identity, of those with firearms strapped to their hips. I was not afraid in Chicago of my fellow Occupier. I found comfort from them, kinship. I did not find that with the FSPers today. I never have in the decade I’ve lived in this state, no matter how many I’ve met and engaged with Freestaters over the years.

What I saw today, their show of aggression and disrespect was deplorable on the part of the FSPers. Aggression and disrespect are not Occupy traits. I have sadness this occur because, like many Occupiers, I want peace and harmony and to work together building bridges. Whether the FSPers and Occupiers can work together has became moot.

I made my choice. I am comfortable with choosing peace and nonviolence. It is the choice I will *always* make.

– Michelle Cunha

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Not A Minute Too Soon

Beggar running after carriage

Just found this image online in a small grouping of pictures. Featuring a man running alongside a carriage; a near-extinct scene that was once a common feature of American life unfolds.  The caption with the picture said, “Rich Men in carriage and Poor Man running along side.”

With his hat out to the men in the carriage it is abundantly clear that a transaction is proposed — by the running man — the beggar we like to say in this instance.

Immediately my mind came back to the Occupy New Hampshire split with the libertarian and Free Stater wing of the group today.  The divide for the most part occurred on the issue of guns.  Apparently some in the group chose to open carry at meetings and proposed open carrying at events.   Those who open carried in early Occupy NH events, particularly actions during the NH primary last year were never challenged.  Some brought their weapons, unconcealed to meetings.  While a gun fight never ensued and no one attempted to remove these individual’s right to bear arms, the Occupy movement lost some very key supporters and activists as people in near droves left, citing their disparagement that Occupy lets their General Assemblies turn into “2nd Amendment Show and Tell”.

The issue of guns and their presence at Occupy or their association with Occupy caused a heated debate that lasted for months and presented such an organizational challenge that the core members begged that the discussion cease.  Pressed to take a stand on the issue, ONH  decided to not decide and tabled it with the result that those who wished to open carry could do so.  The result was immediate; people left the movement.  At one General Assembly people literally ran out, vowing never to return when an individual came to the meeting with a hulking semi-automatic gun strapped to his side.

In trying to please everyone by making no statement, the Occupy made a statement anyway and the carry advocates won.  As a result, Occupy NH gained a few self identified Free Staters or libertarians which soon dwindled down to about two or three.  But the capitulation remained regardless.  Some Occupiers seemed to have some inherent problems with identifying where they stood on most issues, but would suddenly awaken and find their voice that seemed more often than not to swing libertarian and thus confusion would ensue.  Do we talk about this? Do we make a stand on that? Shall we? Shan’t we?

As a result, further and deeper analysis of oppression — discussion around who holds the power, that this type of work demands,  never ensued.  While some proposed that Occupy NH have some direction or mission, many, mostly Free Staters or their sympathizers blocked this decision repeatedly.  Direct disagreement occurred about the cause of our present corrupt political system, stymieing the process yet again.  Libertarians seemed no less reluctant to delve further into the meaning of the marketing phrase “Get money out of politics” than a cat to swim.

Also, when an effort was made by many to bring more structure and organization to the meeting process by bringing in the use of consensus and move the organization further forward, the obstruction began again in earnest.  Why have structure? the libertarians would ask, isn’t that mimicking the process of the state? Every decision had a stall; aren’t we turning into the enemy if we bother to take notes, record them and (gasp!) put our money in a credit union, register our name? So Occupy NH  came to a halt with funds from the primary stored in a can.  Movement forward on decisions and planning took a nosedive.

Efforts to have discussion around core issues such as white privilege, racism and all the other ‘isms’ — that is systems — that divide and thus oppress everyone gasped and choked for air as they were beaten down with heated vitriol by online libertarian warriors, resulting in the issues never playing out at meetings.  “Get Money out of Politics” remained a hollow catch-phrase.  While the earlier statewide GA’s, such as Nashua’s with their workshops, started the discussions on such issues as the NDAA or ALEC, actions never materialized as discussion evolved into disagreement and disagreement to tabling and tabling to stagnation.

Which brings us back to the picture posted above. The man in the picture runs after the carriage.  He knows his target well.  He is the hunter and all his last energy and strength will propel him forward, running fast enough to keep up with the men. Keeping up long enough hopefully to gain some change.  Out of options, if he doesn’t get the means for sustenance, he goes without. Long enough and he’ll die.

To many who propound the libertarian viewpoint, such suffering should concern no one.  In fact, sufferers, they say, need to look back inside themselves for their solution.  If this fails then obviously the individual did not deserve to participate in society.  They would say that the hungry and the starving possessed an incurable personal deficit that caused such failing.  Therefore, having proven their unfitness to belong in society, they had to expire.  No more thought required.  No social contract exists they say, to compel the men in the carriage to give up a small sum to a starving man.  To the libertarian, the unequal power balance that exists between those who have resources in abundance and those who haven’t, defines a concrete balance of nature.  Going so far as to equate taxation with theft, the libertarian serves the owner/wealthy class by ignoring the simple metric that labor  produces the wealth.  While labor seeks through taxation, agitation and other means, to take back the fruits of their labor, the wealthy seek instead to preserve the unequal balance.  By refusing to admit the power created through ownership and inequality, libertarians support the oppressive system in our culture.

Unless one has suffered the type of  desperation that would drive someone to run along a carriage like a dog or has experienced being pursued by hungry children in a developing nation, running to catch up around any American, they can never understand the cruel injustice of poverty.  Until one has worked everyday only to find their efforts simply make the rich richer, can one never understand where the real crime of theft occurs.  Cushioned as they are today, with the web of government programs to alleviate at least the most visible effects of capitalist greed, libertarians rarely get to see first-hand the brutality of that greed left to its own devices.  Nor are they challenged to see how their own lives depend upon the inter-relationship of government and citizen interest.  Ignorance is bliss.

Today those at the Occupy New Hampshire General Assembly  got to see live the many libertarians who espouse views favorable to the elite class.  Amazingly its clear and most libertarians will be the first to say, that they are not part of the 1%.  Why then protect their interests so fervently? What particularly came to this writer’s observation was the presence of those with visible disabilities and some with the infirmities of age.  What would happen to many of the people at that park, if the austerity measures they wish on others ensnared them?

Libertarians claim they have these issues in common with Occupy:

Gay marriage: To libertarians, a freedom issue.  To Occupiers, a human rights and justice issue.

Anti-war: To libertarians, a mix of xenophobia, isolationism and budgetary concerns.  The core issue of American imperialism, the military/industrial complex and the threat to human rights that military might and guns empower, never gets discussion.  Simplistic and shallow notions of the state remain.  Analysis of the deeper connection between the melding of corporate power and state power never occurs, with demand that the simplistic notion of the state as a rogue remain unchallenged.  Hidden then is the fact that the real unaccountable rogue force is the corporate state, that would grow like algae in a fetid pond, if not controlled somewhat now by the government structures the people put in place.

Occupy New Hampshire finally broke away from the libertarians, stating for once that the values of Occupy throughout the country do not align with libertarianism.  While flame wars carry on on Facebook unabated, the real issue on the ground is settled; Occupy can now move forward.  Arming itself with education, knowledge and awareness, the development of effective and strategic methods of messaging and direct action can begin.  We have a long battle before us and the time to start was yesterday.

We at Occupy have no desire to have a country of desperate beggars running alongside cars hoping for the voluntary generosity of those who horde the wealth of the people.  Possibly the only similarity between Occupy and libertarians is the claim of “taking it back”.  But it ends there; we wish to take back the people’s power, the people’s resources and the people’s voice.  The past is what we wish to leave in the dust like a speeding carriage wresting loose from the grips of the parasitic disease of corporate/government entanglement.

Kathryn Talbert, Progressive Action NH

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