|image credit: http://endrtimes.blogspot.com/|
In case you’ve been in a Hide’n’Seek championship, here’s a brief description of the Occupy movement from the Occupy Wall Street.
Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing series of demonstrations that began September 17, 2011, in New York City's Wall Street financial district. The activist group Adbusters promoted the NYC protests which helped over 1,500 global cities (over 100 in the USA) get the idea to join in too. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and focuses on social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, corruption and the undue influence of corporations—particularly that of the financial services sector— on government. The Occupy slogan “We are the 99%” refers to the growing difference in wealth between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.
Dance Party Revolution: my night with the Occupy Chicago Alley Cats
November 4, 2011, one year from when I will next cast my vote to decide who will lead the USA, I showed my support for a nation that I pledge even more allegiance to: the rhythm nation. In fact, let's just remember Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation's iconic video now - the lyrics are just as appropriate too.
It was Friday night and I wanted to create bike gang with banging beats; what I got was a crash course in revolution (so many puns intended) when I joined the Occupy Chicago ‘Alley Cats’, a roving crew of Occupy cyclists posting and pasting pamphlets from the Chicago Loop to Humboldt Park (my home neighborhood).
|The Party Bike|
I turned up at ‘the Horse’, the main demonstration site of Occupy Chicago, around 8pm with my iPod speakers bumping some old school TLC from their perch atop my front basket and swinging my LED hula hoop. I’m more about parties than protests. I quickly made friends with stalwart Occupiers and I doubt this was solely due to the music and hoop trick lessons I brought as my offerings to the cause. I was upfront about the fact that I was there to have fun and be in a bike gang and that I would like to learn about Occupy Chicago but was not completely aware of exactly what it was all about.
I think that’s the problem that a lot of people have with the Occupy movement as a whole: we have unfortunately become so accustomed to absorbing information (eg. ideas, beliefs, news) as spoon-fed sound bites, that the complexity and density of the Occupy movement’s frustrations with the world’s entire dominant economic and social structures is considered inaccessible without the aid of Vegas-style flashing neon entry lights, when really the entry points are so vast one can start anywhere. People have joined the Occupy movement as activist, supporters or observers from a myriad of angles ranging from concern for unfair taxing systems, substandard education services, seemingly insurmountable unemployment rates, super high students loans for fairly useless tertiary degrees, housing scarcity, healthcare reform, corporate personhood revocation to overseas outsourcing (and I invite you to add more as comments).
As we rode throughout Chicago, I shared bouncy pop music and a few Occupiers shared their stories and explanations for what Occupy is to them and I came to my own conclusions.
|Chicago cyclist city pride|
|Alley Cat at work|
|Occupy Chicago pamphlet/pasting victim|
|Me and my work|
|Alley Cats at work|
|Chicago Occupiers had too much food and gave me this to take on the road|
|All societies have a social contract|
|Occupy Chicago at Jackson and LaSalle|
|The 1% ?|
In Chicago, more than 300 have been arrested due to actions related to the Occupy Chicago movement.
Unlike many other cities’ movements, Chicago police have evicted and arrested supporters of Occupy Chicago in Grant Park numerous times and Occupy Chicago has decided to not pursue a permanent camp. Instead, Occupy Chicago maintains a 24-hour presence at the intersection of Jackson and LaSalle and has very strong outreach efforts; 150 people attended a discussion on the history and current state of Chicago's Tax Increment Financing program, on October 14, representatives discussed the history of the Occupy Movement at the University of Chicago, November 5 was "Keep Your Children Occupied Day", a family-friendly face painting, coloring, bubbles, hula hoops, live music, and sing-along event and on November 22, Occupy Chicago representatives will host an education forum about the Occupy Movement at the Political Science Honor Society and Politics Club at Northeastern Illinois University.
I got a bit confused and put off side at first because I perceive there to be a certain aggressive and unwelcome connotation to the word ‘occupy’. In the above video an Occupier states, “Occupy your life!” This is how I finally got Occcupy. It’s what I’ve been working to find, highlight and celebrate on this site: engaged citizenry leading to better lives for all. Occupy is about being responsible and conscious co-creators of the our world and our roles within it.
Occupy is about people and power; recognizing that our choices – what we do and say or don’t do and say, what we buy or don’t buy, who we help or don’t help – have power and more often than not we are giving this power away by not consciously wielding it.
It’s not about taking over sections of the more than 1,500 global cities with active movements; it’s about the general population, the masses, the 99% taking responsibility for our lives, our choices, our inherent personal power and the systems we put in place.
It’s about realizing, recognizing and owning that there is no ‘them’ and that ‘the system’ is the way it is because we explicitly and/or implicitly will it to be so and therefore creating the world we want. This is why the Occupy camps are so important; they may act as living microcosmic examples of the collaborative societies we wish for.
Lynette’s comment that she found a sense of belonging and ‘home’ in her involvement in Occupy, immediately reminded me of my experience of Burning Man. Oh ok, now I get why some are suggesting the two movements may appear to be similar, however I think it’s pretty clear that though these structures attract similar people due to their shared cornerstones of mass civic responsibility, self-expression and de-commodification, they are actually very different movements themselves. Though I suggest there’s no reason they must stay that way.
I think it’s clear that a whole lot of people with a whole lot of different ideas, needs and causes hanging out in the same place for two months isn’t going to necessarily change public policies and like I said, I’m much more about parties than protests, but like placemaking, I don’t think the visible result is the point of this exercise.
Occupy is about creating a space and a platform for people who are frustrated with the system to find one another and form supportive relationships and communities. It’s about stressed out single parents seeing the news coverage and realizing they’re not a bad parent for having to work 2 or 3 part-time jobs to provide for their families, and most importantly, they’re not alone.
The conversations and relationships that the Occupy movement inspires and gives fodder to is the gold. This is how we create an engaged citizenry, which is what I believe to be the key to the social and economic evolution we need.
Check in with the live stream of Occupy Wall Street here.