Friday, November 25, 2011

Images from Occupy LA/ 22 November (part 2)

Plastic shelter/sculpture.

 Poster pinned to a tent on the south lawn.
Local media
More local media.
And more local media.
After the rain, rebuilding the library.
Library needs.
Land and Liberty.
Red pins on the map represent Occupations in the US and around the world.
Souvenirs made on site at the Occupation.
Art Center at Occupy LA.
Tents on the north lawn, library midway on right.

 The Welcome Tent near the sidewalk on the south lawn.

 The Wellness Tent on the south lawn.
Very young fur person at OccupyLA.

Images from Occupy LA/ 22 November

Homeland Security cruises past the encampment.

Across the street is the OccupyLA encampment on the south lawn of City Hall.

Entering the camp, walking toward the plaza.
The re-decorated plaza.
It is what it is. Whatever that is.
Gathering in the plaza.
Outside the media center.
Occupation residents on the south lawn.
Indigenous people's sacred space.
Do you know about Chemtrails?
Welcome to the kids' space.
Behind this wall is the Kid Village.
Inside the Kid Village.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Turkey Day

    It appears the “Super Committee” has failed to reach agreement on measures to cover the government’s deficit of $1.2 trillion by today’s deadline.  The fruitless talks will trigger a ten-year across the board cut to all programs. For example, Medicare reimbursement rates will drop 30%, Social Security benefits will shrink.  All “discretionary” funding will be reduced by 3% a year. Happy Thanksgiving,  Amerika!
    As expected, the members from the GOP refused to budge on tax measures the Democrats proposed, and, thankfully, the so-called liberals held firm on Social Security and Medicare cuts the Republicans wanted. It should be plain to all that those potato-heads in Congress are beholden to the deep pockets who pay for their campaigns, more than they are to their “constituents” back home who pay their salary and voted them into office.
    The importance of “campaign finance reform” has never been so obvious. The Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC tilts the table in favor of corporate power in the struggle for political sway.  Advocates for consumers’ rights, environmental protection, social justice, a woman’s right to choose, et al., will have less access to the forum of free speech. Corporate domination of the media, seeking to limit the terms of acceptable discussion, effectively does so during the campaigns as it spotlights the party-preferred candidates.  The exclusion of “third party” candidates is a shameful, and persistent, indictment of the media’s anti-democratic bias.
    The Kerry-Feingold campaign finance reform law was an improvement in some ways, but badly flawed in others. It was supposed to be that way.  To indulge in a well-worn trope, letting Congress write campaign reform law is like turning over the security of the chicken coop to the foxes. Remember, these are the folks who vote themselves raises, in the dark of night, while the rest of us are struggling to stay even in a crumbling economy.  Serious reform has to come from an independent authority, recognized by the American people. I don’t know what that authority that might be, but a Constitutional amendment preceded by state referenda might be a strategy worth considering.
    To return to the current debacle, it’s important to put this episode in context. The attempt to resolve the deficit is really a distraction from the structural contradictions that need to be addressed.  We should all realize by now that when capitalism exceeds the human scale it becomes destructive. Our social institutions can no longer be “profit-driven.” Our common wealth can no longer be “privatized.” The attempt to balance the budget and control the deficit is one part of the State’s strategy for preserving corporate capitalism.
    Another aspect of the struggle we must always remember is the State’s willingness to use force to “preserve order.” This lesson has been taught to those occupying New York, Portland, Oakland, Berkeley,  Atlanta, UC Davis, Toronto, and the list will grow. Here in LA there are negotiations under way to relocate the Occupation to unoccupied buildings the city would lease for $1 a year.  Sentiment among people at the GA tends toward rejecting the City’s proposal. I’d like to find out more about this. It may not be a bad idea. It might defuse the energy of the movement, appearing to allow itself to be co-opted, moving indoors. Then again, a protected shelter could allow the movement to grow in other ways and develop some new models for organizing and making the transition to transparent governance.
    Leaving the lawn around City Hall voluntarily is not necessarily to be gone for good. This week in Cairo and Alexandria, spreading across the country, the people have returned to the squares to demand the military get out of the way. Scores have been killed. I pray it will not come to that here, or anywhere else, but if we do leave the encampments, and then have to return, then we will.
    Since we have come to petition the government, to exercise our right to speak freely, and demand redress of our grievances, before we depart we should obtain some form of redress from the city.  The city should accept some conditions that are consistent with the Occupy movement. Perhaps terms like these.  The city and county will:
  • provide shelter for homeless people   
  • accept a 24 month moratorium on enforcing foreclosures and evictions of homeowners
  • reopen trauma centers
  • establish a living wage policy for all employees
  • divest from companies that pollute
  • divest from Wall Street
What else?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

OccupyLA 4

    This morning I was giving my class the etymology of 'encyclopedia,' acknowledging that the root, ped, from pedalis, could mean ‘foot,’ giving us a circle of feet, or from paido, the word for ‘child,’ meaning a ring of children, but this ped comes from paedeia, the Greek idea of education, knowledge, virtue. So, the encyclopedia is the circle or wheel of learning, knowledge contained within a circle, text on scrolls, rolled up. Digressing, I expressed my approval of the early Greeks’ practice of waiting for a child’s milk teeth to fall out before starting formal education. In contrast, we --in America-- send our kids off to school as soon as we can. Interesting research suggests that the human brain is not neurologically prepared for the complexities of decoding symbols until about seven years of age. Some have concluded that hastening this process causes stunting in other areas of development. (Joseph Chilton Pearce has long been an advocate for treating infants and children more sensibly. Jean Liedloff, in The Continuum Concept, offers a perspective that is truly radical.)
    Anyone who has observed children (or can themselves remember) knows that a child can become completely absorbed in learning something, and how quickly it is mastered. Our interest, aroused by something in our environment, draws us toward it. Our curiosity brings us back to the thing, the puzzle, the mystery of the thing, until we crack its secret. But if we’re bored, why bother with the thing? If it isn’t stimulating, we won’t respond. Most learning environments for very young children aren’t very sensible, and tend to upset their development. Most kids, in most schools, are mostly bored most of the time.
    This is not news.
    It has long been my opinion that if you wanted to cripple the imagination, stifle creativity and undermine self-esteem, you couldn’t do better than the way America educates its children.  (Paul Goodman’s Growing Up Absurd charts the terrain of the 50s and 60s. "Communique from an Absent Future", a document attributed to the Santa Cruz collective, “Research and Destroy,” extends the critique up to 2009 most powerfully.) There are viable models outside the educational mainstream; some are ancient systems; some are recent constructions. My interest is drawn toward learner-friendly environments, what they are and how we can shape more of them. I’m also interested in the process of generating ‘teachable moments,’ and breaking down the false status barriers between students and teachers.
    When I walk around OccupyLA, or watch the livestream, I don’t yet get a sense of cohesion and unity. It must be there or the occupation would not have continued through two months, despite police action and evictions. The General Assemblies and committees are likely the core instruments of education, organization and action. I hope I can spend some time attending a GA soon. My legs are getting stronger and I can handle being on my feet longer.
    I’d like to test my model against what is actually happening at the encampment. I’m curious how deep the occupiers’ understanding is for what they are doing. Certainly the people in the parks have been severely tested in numerous cities by police raids. There is a pattern in these assaults that is worth noting. The corporate media first report an incident in or near the encampment: an assault, a suicide, a man with a weapon. A follow up decries the disorder and garbage, the health hazard. The mayor warns of safety and health concerns for the occupiers. The camp receives notice to leave with a deadline for forcible removal. The police arrive punctually and proceed with their assignment. Except in Portland, I think it was, and a few other places, the people out-numbered the police and they backed down.
    The raids will not stop the OccupyWallStreet movement. Sympathy will grow and resistance will spread. The Occupation, those raided and those as yet still encamped, should recognize that their weakness was exploited. It is clear that the alternative services, first aid, security, childcare, library, media, etc, need to be more visible. The people in the Occupation can demonstrate for all to see that taking care of each other is a responsibility we take seriously. It is our common wealth. Isn’t this what democracy looks like?
*                             *
     I imagine Consciousness and Environment to be plastic interactive energy fields. We explore and shape our surroundings, as the world around us beckons and defines us. It’s a kind of Taoist approach to experience. Learning to live in harmony with our environment (including other humans) is one of the important opportunities/tasks we have as humans. Each Occupy camp is a full-time, round the clock, learning environment, a kind of learning lab, a situation outside most peoples’ experience.
    Let’s see what we can figure out?
15 November 2011
Eagle  Rock

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Images of Occupy LA/ 26 October

"Never let your studies get in the way of your education."
 "There is abundant evidence to show that high buildings make people crazy."   -- A Pattern Language  

"Economics [is] the science of values under the assumption of scarcity."  -- Ivan Illich

"Of everything that economics measures, women get less."  -- Ivan Illich

"... all conjurations of space require some action within the space, or it won't be real."  -- Edward T Hall

"Isn't it really time that is the shit that hits everybody's fan"?  -- Thomas McGuane

                      "I don't think we can compensate for our misbehavior here on earth with visions of miraculous transcendence." -- Pierre DeLattre

"Every passing hour brings the solar system 43,000 miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules -- and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress."  -- attributed to Ransom K Ferm by Kurt Vonnegut

"It is indeed a matter of economic necessity to create a good society." -- Michael Harrington

Occupy LA 3

      Last Friday, when I visited OccupyLA, on the lawn around City Hall, I was delighted to find a little free library. I took a couple pictures. Browsing, I noticed there wasn’t much for young readers to enjoy, so I promised myself I’d return with some books for kids. So, I went back yesterday, after class, dropped off a sack of books and spent an hour walking around the site.
     Right away I noticed the food area had been dismantled and packed up. The Welcome tent was gone, the Donations tent empty. A couple of people were cleaning a large coffee urn. They told me the health department had shut down the food area and the others had moved to the west and south lawns. It struck me this might be a prelude to clearing the Occupation. The night before, police attacked Occupations in Atlanta, Chicago, Sacramento and Oakland. At least one person was critically injured by police in Oakland. (The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in Oakland.) Mayor Villaraigosa, who publicly sympathizes with the #OWS movement, said today the Occupation cannot go on indefinitely.
    Things felt different. It all seemed a bit more chaotic, less of the enthusiasm and good humor I saw last week. Still, it appeared to be a community learning to live/work together despite some growing areas of abrasion. This struggle to recapture our sovereignty is sometimes a grinding, boring test of our endurance and tolerance for the stubbornness and ignorance of our sisters and brothers. Living under circumstances that are uncertain, even perilous, is very difficult.
     On my first visit I picked up a copy of “Quick guide on group dynamics in people’s assemblies,” based on the texts “which reached consensus” in the Spanish assemblies of the 15th May Movement. I strongly urge you to read it and consider how to test it in everyday decision-making situations. I’m going to make an effort to attend a General Assembly meeting, at least to observe. I want to see how it works in this setting. A few of the other Occupations have drafted consensus statements and they seem to be circulating. I expect they can be found online somewhere.
     The first idea in the Quick Guide that caught my interest was ‘Collective Thinking.’ It is another description of complementarity, the notion that apparent contraries can be resolved and integrated at a higher order of analysis. The second idea that hooked me was the General Assembly as a social tool and the commitment to consensus. And, one more thing that I learned is the use of gestures to express opinions in the General Assembly. I won’t say more, for now.

*                                  *  
      I also collected a copy of the RCP newspaper and a “Declaration” from New York General Assemblies. Reading Bob Avakian is still a challenge, but much of his analysis rings true to me. The document from New York reads like a list of complaints and affirmations, a catalogue of hurts suffered by the people, failures of the government to protect and promote the welfare of the people, predations of the corporations and Wall Street. There was little in the content I’d object to. In style, it is a bit crude, needing some sympathetic editing. I think the best piece I’ve read in some time was from the UC Santa Cruz occupation, last year, “Communique from an absent future.”
    That was true until the other day, when a friend wrote to tell me about an essay by Charles Eisenstein, “No demand is big enough.” Among the significant points he makes is the reminder that the Arab Spring had no demands when it started. It all began when an unemployed fruit vendor immolated himself in Tunis, expressing a nation’s desperate longing for respect and human rights. The same grievances moved Egyptians to occupy Tahrir Square. And this movement continues to spread, even to America.
    We should remember and study what stages each of these uprisings passed through and consider whether or not a revolution has in fact happened. In the simplest terms, the state’s tolerance was sprinkled with police violence and media ridicule. When the state was forced to acknowledge the grievances of the people, it offered reforms, which were invariably rejected. This step was followed by the demand for regime change, which has been accomplished in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, thus far.
    The critical point we are approaching here in America is the government’s willingness to recognize the grievances of the “99%.” Reforms will be offered, promises made and, in this election year, pandering to the elites will continue sub rosa. As people realized, first in Tunisia, then in Egypt, reforms are meant to preserve “the system” and protect the privileges of the elites. We are facing the same predicament. Will the 99% accept reforms to fix “the system” and preserve the status quo? Or will we realize that “the system” is beyond repair? That privilege is incompatible with democracy?
     And, if we understand that, will we be able to bring about regime change?
*                    *                  * 
3 November 2011
Eagle Rock