Freegan Laws of NYC (an ongoing series…)
#47 – The Public Transit Paradox
-Jumping turnstiles gets you a ticket by a public servant, because public services are under funded
-The subways are under funded so many stations are left unmanned
-Unmanned subway stations are the easiest to jump
#12 – The People’s Fridge
-If you pass by a store that sells food, they will probably later throw out some of this food
-If the food is individually wrapped in pre-packaged containers, even better (Starbucks, Duane Reede)
-If the weather’s below 40 degrees and you find bags of these containers on the sidewalk, you’ve just encountered the people’s fridge
I am inside a wing of Trinity Church writing these notes into my little black spiral notebook. Of course, I also have my baby blue Titan’s duffle bag at my feet. This is the historic church a block from Zuccotti that predates the United States. John Adams is supposedly buried here. Or someone.
I left my friend’s apartment last night. Since I came to New York Nov. 1st of last year, I’ve realized that there is a difference between being casually involved in this movement and being pot-committed. I’ve also realized that I’m the type of person that can only be all-in. So explaining how I appreciated the hospitality, the offers to assist in job-hunting and the concern, I left what my friend describes as the “real world” to return to our cartoon version down here on Wall Street.
Only we’re not located out of Wall Street anymore. We lost the park two months and two days ago. I calculate this anniversary as I take the subway downtown around 11pm. 60 Wall Street is closed by now. There wouldn’t be any more meetings or assemblies going on. We’re a diaspora now, we’re scattered. But maybe a good reintroduction to the community would be a pilgrimage to our holy site, the park. So to the park I went, er, pilgramaged.
The good thing about Tuesday night was that it was a warm 30-40 degrees (coming from California, that just sounds unnatural). A night like this you could walk the streets without a plan. Luckily, I didn’t need much of one. I immediately run into a couple guys who belong to a self-described Liberty Park vigil, Liberty 24×7. Their goal is to keep a constant presence in the park until spring, to prove they can. To show the establishment, Brookfield properties, ourselves, that we’re not defeated. I just found what I’m doing tonight. As I sit here in a church writing and reflecting on my all night vigil, I realize just how much of a religious act it was. Symbolism and symbolic acts are very powerful. It may seem irrational to some, but like displaced people across the globe we are fighting for our own scrap of holy land. Something about what we were creating, or even just what we believed we were creating, calls to us. Something draws us back to the source, back in time.
We all have our personal stories, our personal quests we undertook before this movement. Sometime early in 2010 I found myself in San Francisco, living out of my car. I wanted to do an anti-war action to protest and wake up the world to the ongoing genocide in Iraq. All I could think of was to walk back and forth in front of the government building downtown that housed Nancy Pelosi’s office. I did this for 3 days, 5 hours a day. I wanted to walk the distance from Iraq’s southern border to Baghdad, the path of the invasion. All I did was bruise my feet.
We all fight our personal, moral battles. The only difference now is that we’ve converged to fight together.
The first two people I saw in the park last night were a guy from OWS en Espanol and another bearded old timer I hadn’t met before. The Spanish guy I recognized from his table in the park. I hadn’t seen him since the eviction, but he still bought me a cup of coffee and a donut for offering to relieve them early. The next shift would be coming on in an hour. The old timer said he’d been there since 10am.
Soon after they left I was the only one in Zuccotti. Contrasting that moment of sterile serenity to the gypsy circus I approached my first morning in NYC was interesting.
A drunk guy wandered by for a chat, offering to buy me something from the food cart, only to realize when we walked over that he’d spent all his cash at the bar. And then another old timer, this time in Zuccotti years and not real world years, came by for a chat.
What’s up Shazz?
I’m occupying the park. These guys are keeping a constant presence through the winter and I thought I’d help tonight.
That’s awesome man!
The Park Old Timer, or POT, went on to tell me some pretty cool stories about the occupation before I arrived. He said the first day it was a cluster fuck, with union guys at one end beating the same tired labor horse. But then some guys over on the west side of the park started organizing a GA, showing people the rules and process of how to hold a General Assembly. POT says that they claimed to be anarchists but he suspected they were IWW. He described how the whole afternoon 50 or so people in the park drifted first to the GA, then to the Union speakers, and then back to the GA. They eventually all settled at the GA, got their first empowering taste of direct democracy in action and the rest is history.
History still in the making that is. Once other global revolutions saw that we were holding GA’s, they sent literature and information on how they had organized into the working group models and governing bodies. POT explained how General Assemblies and Spokes Councils were originally intended to be a part of the same decision-making process. If consensus couldn’t be reached in GA, you broke out into a Spokes Council to hash out the details then reconvened the GA to approve what came out of Spokes.
POT then articulated the one thing that summarized anarchism better than anything I have previously read: you’re supposed to try everything until something works and then claim that this is what you were going for all along.
When did our movement become so static? When did we lose our anarchist spirit? When did we stop demanding the impossible, a better world, and instead warp those demands inward and smaller in scale. When did we become self-obsessed? When did we become self-defeating?
Perhaps the answer lies with religion. Sitting here writing, I just got caught up in a communion, or whatever they call that morning prayer thing in Catholicism. People came around and they all started reading stuff. Not wanting to appear rude or particularly heathenish, I kept up best I could and came away with the following gem…
A Collect for Guidance:
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: we humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all cares and OCCUPATIONS of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight: through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. WWJD? He’d probably hang around, at least for a couple days…