Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Decolonize DC? (un)Occupy DC?

Saturday we had a group discussion about the future directions of OccupyDC. It was quite clear that privilige was a major issue. Not just that it was talked about a lot by marginalized communities but by the fact that it caused a lot of disruption to the process. At the end of the day we listed what we would do and I put my name down for working on a name change. Well, here is the current draft of the proposal.


After our big group meeting it was pretty obvious the issues of privilige and minority voices was a pretty large issue. Without rehashing all of the details I am guessing that was pretty clear to anyone there! It is not like it will go away soon. The absolute worst thing we can do is to ignore it too as each time it comes up it will be an even bigger issue and I doubt anyone wants that. Just look at the movement as a whole to see what happens when voices are constantly supressed. Remember that all of the minority groups are part of the 99% too. In fact when you add all of us up you get a pretty significant amount of it! People of colour, women, people with disabilities, anyone outside the gender or sexuality 'norm', on and on.

So I am making a proposal that we change our name. There are many other things we could have done instead, the key thing is that we actually believe in what we do to address the issue. Putting something progressive in the site guidelines or our goals means nothing if people do not actually believe it was A Good Idea. This proposal focuses on our name precisely because it is about our identity. It is not just something we changed to placate one group or another.

Back to the proposal. The term 'occupy' is extremely problematic to indigenous communities, both in the US and abroad. Here we have been occupying since 1492. In other countries the colonization is more overt. For both the terminology brings up a lot of issues. Two possible ideas (unless someone suggests more) based on what other groups already used are "Decolonize DC" and "(un)OccupyDC". Maybe something like "Decolonize K Street/OccupyDC"? These name changes tie us more closely to the DC statehood movement too.

As one of the major groups (if not by size, at least by location) a lot of people look to us and what we do. We are in a better position to change the name that some small group in the middle of nowhere. Yes, GAs are independent, just as the people that form them are individuals, but the price for being in the position we are in is we have to always be mindfull of the examples we set. From a PR perspective we are one of the few places where a rebranding has the most chance of sucess.

This may seem like yet another group advancing issues that at first seem to have no relation to our goals. I would maintain all of them are linked to what we stand for though. For those that are calling BS on that I am most familiar with Pine Ridge Reservation so go and google that when you can.

Look at the pictures of the houses. Do you really think they are not in a housing crisis?

Look up the average salary (I will save you the trouble, it is $3000). Would giving everyone an equal chance not help?

Read up on the history, specifically broken treaties. Are these the actions of a noncorrupt democratic government by and for the people?

Dig deeper. Do you not see how greed, corruption and what companies illegally obtained exasperated the problem?

Okay, so what will changing the name do for all that? We are recognizing the problem. Not just as lip service but by our actions. That has had the most impact on everything we have taken on so far, rather than just yelling in the streets we have actually been building the community we wanted. By doing so we will get more people involved in the movement. Not just indigenous people but anyone who can see how that reflects on how we want to be seen. That we recognize issues and are willing to change our behaviours.

I have talked about indigenous communities because the connection is the most obvious. It does not take a huge logical leap though to tie those arguments (and sometimes the word itself) to every marginalized group.

I can see the arguments against this particular proposal so repeating them back does not add information. Wanting a common name. That even if every Occupy group became some other name overnight the rest of the world would still call us Occupy. That the word occupy is shorter and more concise.

No matter the outcome I still think this is a worthwhile discussion though. At the bare minimum we get these issues out in the open. If you are against giving margiinalized communities a voice please ask yourself why. Really ask yourself, not just give some pat reflex answer that you thought of in a few seconds.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Occupy and power

What is Occupy’s end game? What do they want? Who is the leader?

People insist on missing the whole point, the issue is to point to a problem. The solution is not something you can put in a soundbite but the general shape is easy to see who wants to.

It is about giving people a chance to take their power back.

Look at it this way, the power of an individual’s vote is the same for the most down-on-their-luck homeless person as it is for the richest person in the country. Government is absolutely nothing without the consent of the people.

The encampments and protests are important because they give something to focus on, that the movement is not going away. They are not the movement though. Individually, people are realising that, yes, they have the power to change things when they band together.

Whether it happened by accident or not, a lot of things are ideal it seems. Decisions need to be made so there is a general assembly, then people learn again what democracy actually is and find their voice. Due to logistics people have tents, which are probably more important as symbols than any sign or slogan.

Back in early October I predicted that we would see some pretty big changes in weeks or months. Not long after the news reports were filled with stories about how we had changed the public discourse. Based on that it looks like 2012 will be an interesting year.