Want to make Occupy Oakland work better? Start with yourself!

Categories: Reflections

I don’t rant much, or at least I don’t feel like I do, but I gotta tell you I’m a little pissed off.

Occupy is NOT a hierarchical, nonprofit with full time workers, access to grants or funding. None of us get paid to be there. Not the kids at the vigil, not the people on the boat, not the P.O.C., the facilitation team, the media team, the web team, finance, or the admins and users on facebook, the website and other forums, NONE OF US GET PAID TO DO THIS!!! (unless you are an undercover cop)

This means that we are all showing up as much as we can, when we can, to change the world. When we first showed up (no matter what day it was) these problems that we were fighting already existed. Very few of us are new to alot of the problems we face. We also carried within us the institutional problems of our system. We all carried problems such as racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia etc etc into this movement with us. We didn’t show up to the commune, a march, a GA, or a commitee meeting, and suddenly become absolved of our “sins”, “demons” and personal flaws.

We showed up with the intention of changing the world for the better but what that change is means different things to different people. If you really want this to be a horizontal movement then please keep this in mind. NO ONE HAS A MONOPOLY ON THE TRUTH. We all have different experiences, different hardships, and they are all valid.

People who this system normally gives preference too, ACCEPT that privilege exist and that you probably benefit from it. Don’t be a douche. You may have worked for the good of all people your whole life but you are not exempt from perpetuating the inadequacies of this system you were born into. You will and probably already have shut someone down, talked over someone, assume that you know more than someone, condescended to someone, made someone feel like shit, and taken away someones power or voice at one point. So it’s time to start critiquing yourself every day. It’s time to start searching for incidents where you have done it, and learn to say you are sorry. If you can’t say you are sorry right away, do it the next time you see the person. This makes you a better person, this is a VERY important step in weeding it out, but don’t kid yourself, you will probably have to deal with this until the day you die. However if you work hard to do this you can pass on these tools to your kids and they may be able to rise above this to a better world.

People who are victims of the this system, remember that you you still got it ten times better then the people who are victims of our system and other forms of government in countries that are unabashedly exploitative, totalitarian, and oppressive. Remember that no matter what anyone says this is supposed to be a horizontal movement. That 99% rhetoric is a major simplification of that concept. If you feel that the same privileged people are organizing over and over then MAKE THE COMMITMENT TO BE RIGHT THERE WITH THEM. Safe spaces are one thing, segregation is another. Don’t forget to mingle with people that make you uncomfortable. Don’t let anyone talk down to you, don’t let anyone push you out or away. Don’t let anyone push you into staying in a “safe space” 24/7 because if you do you are allowing the system that we are trying to rise above to win. Put yourself on the facilitation team, the media team, tac, web, finance, food, etc.

Your education, your skin color, your class, your experience, where you are from, where you live, who you fuck, what you do for a living, none of this makes you an asset to the movement. What makes you a real asset is your willingness to be humble, to learn from each other to understand that you WILL be wrong. That everything you know is NOT the whole story. If you want to come anywhere close to the whole story and be a better person you are going to have to concede to people once in a while. Not only that you are going to have to be patient with people. If you really believe in the 99% rhetoric you are going to have to WORK WITH PEOPLE and check your ego as soon as you catch it, and ask yourself if someone is right when they point out that you haven’t.

The other thing that makes you an asset is how much time and effort you put into it. Brainstorming on facebook is great, but find a window in your busy schedule to attend a meeting and a GA every once in a while. Take the time out to suggest that people come over to your house on your time for the next meeting if that is what works best for you (we are community building right?)

Everyday is gonna be hard, so take breaks go home and watch a stupid movie or go dancing or something.

Now if you don’t want this to be a horizontal movement, if you want to be the leader because you feel you have been oppressed your whole life and now it’s your turn to win or you think you know better than others what sort of future we should all have, then please leave. We may not agree on everything but we do agree that we want to change the world for the better for everyone and since one person alone doesn’t have a monopoly on truth or justice then one person or one group cannot adequately represent the needs of the rest of us — and we all have needs and hardships that need to be corrected. What our future looks like needs to be decided on together, not by one person, or one group alone.

Please, keep these concepts in mind and make a concerted effort to be patient, respectful and civil at GA, your meetings, and when talking to people in general.

I recognize that our GA system and system of communication within our groups are flawed but they are flawed because we are flawed. Not only must we work daily (and yes it’s exhausting) to be better people to each other and with each other, but we also need to work daily to learn more about direct democracy and other systems for large groups of different people with different views to have a fair voice.

Ok, wow, now I feel better after getting this all off my chest. I want to acknowledge that I don’t think I am a person who does all of the stuff above. I have to work at it and I find myself failing when I wish I wouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean I should give up and neither should any of you.

And I leave you with this facilitation training video from OWS which has alot of info on direct democracy. It is not the end all be all of it, and yes it is led by a white male, but you should not disregard because of that. He touches on White privilege and breaks it down nicely.


OWS Facilitation Training


Comments are closed.