So we've had a few visitors from OWS join us in the last few weeks, and I was lucky enough to hang out with one of them, Kris from Harlem. It was pretty interesting hearing what he had to say about Occupy LA. You're friendly, you have a great community, your struggles to improve the General Assembly and figure out 'the process' of consensus and participatory democracy directly mirror a similar stage OWS went through... But You Angelenos are goddam fucking whiny.
I've mentioned in previous blogs my belief that our lack of direct confrontation with police and authorities has led to a certain sense of complacency amongst some quarters. Our community often lacks - well, community, because of a few people who demonstrate little interest in learning, protesting or practising what the Occupy Movement is about.
The Farmers' Market tent-moving fiasco is evidence of this. Occupiers were asked to move their tents to accommodate the Farmers Market which sets up on Thursdays from 4am until 2pm. Most people complied - the Farmers are part of us. It's hardly like we're helping out Chase fucking Bank, is it? But several people refused to move their tents on the grounds that "they didn't want to accommodate City Hall". Conveniently overlooking the very real threat that the Farmers would lose their license, as a direct result of this action. This alone makes clear that there exists, in Tent City, a small but severe epidemic of individuals who interpret this movement as a license to Do What The Fuck You Want.
I see it everywhere, DWTFYW. The party contingent, schlepping around tents, stoned out of their minds, spilling two-buck chuck over people working 24 hour shifts. Some bum from Skid Row will wander in, lay down, and spend the next half hour poking around for a vein. The scent of weed lingers in the air, and as soon as you mention that this kind of image plays exactly into the stereotype that the right wing media are pushing to perpetuate, some screaming biddy will start waiving her medical marijuana card around, while some kid who doesn't have one will be double dipping with weed and shrooms, because she's smoking, so it's OK, yeah?
No it's not fucking OK. This party atmosphere is not fucking OK. We're here to demonstrate that direct democracy and collective decision making can work for us better than a corrupt and unjust capitalist system which thrives on promoting the 1% at our expense.
They do not have tents in New York - they sleep on the sidewalk. OWS operates a zero-tolerance policy concerning drugs and alcohol, because it's illegal to drink in the streets in New York, as it is here. It's illegal to spark up a joint, as it is here. If you do so in New York, you will get beaten, arrested, and thrown in jail. Breaking the law deliberately does not necessarily equate to civil disobedience. It does, however, equate to stupidity. Smoking a goddamn joint in public, drinking in public - is not civil disobedience. It's someone who doesn't give a fuck, showing they don't give a fuck. Unless you have a medical marijuana card, in which case, as a responsible medical patient, you should be smoking your marijuana discreetly and privately, not wafting around, proclaiming it's essential for your fucking sciatica, on the goddamn sidewalk in front of kids, the public, the police, and your occupying neighbors.
This is not about policing people - though New York's security team does, by all accounts, simply confiscate alcohol or drugs from any occupier who has drugs or alcohol within the movement. It's certainly not about throwing our hands up in their air and saying, "This won't work. People won't give up smoking weed". This is about reaching an acceptable consensus which allows Occupiers to feel safe, which does not invite the DEA into our camp, which doesn't give Police an excuse to bust us, which does not soil our image in the media. This is about consensus and collective decision making to find a solution that will protect our community and our movement, as well as the individuals' right to take medication when prescribed, so that we can continue to grow and learn.
Hell, we all love booze and drugs. I love 'em so much I spent two years in AA. I love 'em so much I left AA again. But I will categorically not drink, smoke nor do anything else within Tent City, because it is a place to work, it is a place to learn, it is a place to be the very best person you can be - and then get arrested because you're waving a placard outside Bank of America fighting for the rights of the 99%, and against corporate greed.
I'd hate to be the asshole tripping my tits off, waving my Crappy Merlot around, joint in hand, who gets Occupy LA closed down. All the other Occupiers across the world are proudly and peacefully being arrested for protesting passionately about their beliefs, against horrendous inequality and injustice. They're holding General Assemblies talking about the way forward, discussing Healthcare, Social Policy, World Economics...
Here, we spend General Assemblies arguing about why people can't agree that Tent City should be a sober zone: because certain individuals want to party, and other individuals can't smoke a joint in their tent or offsite. Imagine if some Twat in LA got arrested because they thought this movement meant you could Do What The Fuck You Want, and screw the consequences.
We have a tiny, small minority of these people living in Tent City. I suspect if the weather sucked, we had no food, and the police were beating our asses every day, they might not find Tent City and the movement so appealing. But because of our location, the geographic diversity and lack of center of LA, because of the peculiar problems created by a high rate of homelessness and unemployment, side-by-side with fabulous wealth, because this is combined with deep racial and ethnic schisms, all thrown together into a state with spectacular weather and natural abundance which is ignored in favor of imported crap, because we're five blocks from Skid Row, and we don't throw the homeless on the street like the state does, because of all this: we have some crazy ass, unique problems to deal with.
No one within Occupy LA is trying to take away anyone's rights. If you live in Tent City, you voluntarily joined a peaceful movement of Civil Disobedience which aims to address corporatocracy and injustice in the world. You volunteered to help construct, and participate in, a mass experiment in participatory democracy and consensus decision making, in order to see if that offers a viable alternative to the fucked up system which has taken our savings, our jobs, our cars, our homes, our healthcare, our education and our rights as human beings away from us.
In the light of that, the fact that you might jeopardise a farmers' livelihood because you didn't want to move your fucking tent, and you might jeopardise the whole beautiful movement, simply because you want to party, or you might jeopardise the movement, because you refuse to smoke a joint privately in your tent or discreetly offsite - that just doesn't fly. It isn't what Occupy LA should be about. It definitely is not what Wall Street is about.
There is more at stake than Doing Whatever The Fuck You Want. This is about our futures, and those of our children.
We have achieved so much in just three short weeks. We're growing every day. We're a safe haven in America, as pretty much the only large occupation which doesn't suffer from police brutality and authoritarian resistance. We have a strong, committed core community of people who are creative, intelligent, argumentative, passionate, fiery, hard working and simply brilliant. We have beautiful weather, even in winter, which means camping is easy for us. We can be a safe, secure haven for our brothers and sisters who don't have it so easy. We're getting there - we're so damn close.
Just please, next time you see a DWTFYW lurking around at play, tell them this movement is not about Doing Whatever The Fuck You Want. That self-interested behavior by the minority which impacts negatively upon the majority exactly replicates the behavior of those against whom we're protesting, we're marching, and we're occupying. We are better than them. This is our chance to prove it. The very fact we can have an honest, open, transparent discussion about this is evidence of that. We have nothing to hide, even our problems. We don't need to hide our problems. Because we will solve them peacefully, through consensus.
I love you, Occupy LA. I love you, Wall Street. I love you, Occupiers across the world. The People United, will Never Be Divided. Let's keep reminding ourselves of this as we deal with these issues in a way which is fairer, more honest, more humane, and more transparent than the existing fucked up system.
(PS I know the chant is "defeated" not "divided" - but I think, when our solidarity is being threatened from within, divided is more appropriate)