I was at Occupy LA (OLA) yesterday for seven and a half hours. I stayed until about 9:30 pm and had to leave, but up to that time I would estimate there were well over 2,000 people on site, with roughly 80% or more of the people being in their twenties. The police helicopters (“pigs can fly”) circled regularly overhead, shining their very bright search beams down on us, trying, no doubt, to gauge the number of people and the overall mood. The fact that so many came out to defend the occupation undoubtedly led to the Major and LAPD deciding that they would let the deadline of Sunday midnight pass. A victory for the movement! As one speaker put it during the General Assembly, Mayor Villaraigosa welcomed us on October 1 with open arms and the City Council joined with us in support a few weeks later, but now, on November 27, we're "criminals."
Some observations: what people who have not come to the occupations and/or who have not been closely watching what’s going on don’t fully appreciate is how far this movement has come in several weeks and what exactly is going on. There is a gulf between the people who have been actively involved in the movement and those who are still on the outside of it. I spoke to a mediator who has been attending and assisting at OLA for several weeks, and she independently observed that the changes that people have been going through in OLA (and we can safely say this is true of the Occupy Movement as a whole) are not really understood by most by-standers. She described the atmosphere at the camp as being “palpably electric.” She told me that she’d heard there was an Occupy in Sierra Leone. “Sierra Leone!” she exclaimed.
As I sat on the hill on the grass facing the center of the General Assembly in the dark evening and listened to the speakers and participated in the occasional “mic checks,” I thought to myself, “This is going to be one of the things that people do that they will look back on years from now and say, ‘This is one of the best things I ever did in my life, and it is one of the best times I ever had in my life.’”
One of my thoughts about this was that we should be patient with this movement and give it the time and space to develop and we should also be impatient with the movement and help to push it to rising to its highest potential. By itself it is a tremendous, life affirming, incredible movement, but it also needs to find its way forward and answer some very knotty questions. What is the real source of the problem – is it crony capitalism and too much money in politics and can we “get back to our democracy,” or is it something more fundamental than corporations being too powerful and the problem capitalism itself, with “democracy” never being what people think that it was? How do we deal with the question of leadership?
I had some really interesting conversations with folks, which hopefully I’ll have time to write about, but I have to leave it at this short post for now. If you haven’t attended an occupation or occupy action, you should go. You cannot appreciate what is going on unless you do. Young people and not so young people have created liberated zones – holding onto a public presence is a very important thing for the movement – and the kind of schooling that is going on in their ranks and how they are schooling the rest of the society is outstanding. This movement is countering the vicious dog-eat-dog mentality and value system of the neoliberal nightmare as people seek an alternative to this madness.
Causes Dennis Loo Supports
World Can't Wait, Occupy, War Criminals Watch, Doctors without Borders, Wikileaks, We Are Not Your Soldiers