SPENDING SPOKES ON MY BACK
As I write this I’m under a fold-out table against a wall in a large open space filled with 100 or so people. I am laying on my back with my head resting on my baby blue Titans duffle bag. I’m tired. I spent the last night in Zuccotti keeping a good guy company. He hasn’t missed a single night in the park since Dec. 1st. I promised him I’d try to help his group, Liberty 24×7, raise a diner budget so they can take an hour break from the harsh winter once a shift while they try to keep Liberty Square occupied.
Ha, I’ve been calling it Zuccotti all this time and forgot about that symbolic, historic name reference. Goes to show that I’m not one for the abstract. A park’s a park. And then, sometimes, it’s not just a park.
But these guys are doing good work and I dare anyone to stand next to them overnight. The Brookfield security force ditches before they do, and they have pictures to prove it 🙂
So anyways, I’m tired from last night, and in my mind I’m comparing the guys occupying the park in 20 degree weather right now with what the hundred or so people are doing around me in this nice borrowed (rented?) space. Which action is more effective? Well, we know which action controls the purse strings. People aren’t braving the Zuccotti cold to access funds. Well they were until the spending freeze went into effect. And when GA’s are cut down to twice weekly, as proposed, then there will be less of a reason to be in the park.
Which is good, some people say. Occupations are supposed to be short and effective, make a point and then you’re done. They aren’t supposed to be mini-intentional communities. But I take issue with this, and maybe I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure a majority of the people who lived in the park will agree. I liked our mini-intentional community. When I walked into the park, I felt like I was liberating myself from all the BS of New York. Yes, there were problems and fights and gentrification already popping up. Someday scientists will discover that the gene that helps to accumulate and horde wealth is tied to a built-in human altimeter, or this is the only reason I can give for rich people always living in high places. It’s always the hills, the best views, the cliffs, the bluffs. In our park the difference was just a matter of scale, but sure as shit the college and library folks, degree dudes, lived “uptown,” meaning a foot or two higher in gradual elevation. And towards the bottom, through “anarchist row,” the park dissolved into a jumble of tents, confusion and the vague (sometimes omnipresent) smell of ganja.
While I was trying to diffuse a situation one of those last nights I walked into a jumble of tents, tarps and pallets stacked in a corner I’d never visited. These guys were hard at work on their future “duplex,” two stories I think they were going to make it. And yes, they played music and shared their weed. Good people.
And that was the story the park over in those last days, everyone doing their own thing with no coordination, our identity fracturing. Yet the physical geography still gave us a sense of unity that we’re appreciating now more than ever, in hindsight that is. The closest thing we have are the churches, which seem to be self-destructing, and these group meetings, which were still-born. Well, GA still kindles that populist fire in me everyone now and then, when the crowd is there and it’s facilitated wisely.
So I’m under a table napping while the crowd around me sounds hostile. I grew up in a household of yelling, this feels like home. But eventually I get up (startling some girls sitting on the table) and find a guy with a guitar case. Home is a nice place to visit, but music is better for my peace of mind.
Why are these Spokes Councils so dysfunctional? Well, the way it was explained to me, Spokes Council is a democratic process of decision making where groups nominate a speaker, the “spoke,” to each join in a larger assembly, a council of spokes, to come to consensus on issues. Everyone’s not supposed to speak, only your spoke. The logic is that instead of having a body of hundreds of people shouting at each other, you now only have dozens shouting at each other.
I think we’ve accomplished this tonight and can go home. Oooh, I can hear the shouting from out here. The guy I like to call cat-burger (longish but self-explanatory story) is calling out the privilege now, and fuck you with your degrees and fuck you too with your process. Nice. Was thinking it, but someone had to say it. Which is why it’s so hard to really get mad at the disruptions of process.
For example, funny story: the night our infamous Egypt Delegation proposal was coming up, I was taking stack. That was back when I was interested in facilitation, when I thought these decision-making processes were interesting. Not that I don’t still, but I’ve grown a little more critical over the months. So there I was, bright eyed and eager, running around taking names, assuring people that yes you’ll be next up to speak, sorry we have to put her ahead of you it’s a progressive stack, oh wait you are a transgendered male who identifies as a female AND an African American with just a bad case of vitaligo and relaxed hair? Well to the top of the list then sir!
So there’s this one disruption from my side of the assembly. The nice presenters who were describing the trip to Egypt, how it was for solidarity and as a cultural exchange, how initially the price tag of $30k or however much it was sounded like a lot but it was a worthy cause, on and on she was selling us on the idea. But then this guy, probably drunkenly, shouts out ‘that would feed a lot of people. $30,000 would feed a lot of people. That’s a lot of money. That would feed a lot of people.’ And so on. Eventually the proposal was passed, only to be axed later once the raid happened and violence broke out in Egypt.
And the funny thing is, it’s becoming harder to get fed now. It’s becoming harder to find housing now. I’m probably going to sleep on the subway tonight because I don’t want to bother with the churches and their lists. I’m starting to realize that $30k IS a lot of money. Heck, I’m scrounging to find $15 for another month of hosting for this blog. I have one contact left, when I really need to see I just close my right eye. Eventually I’m going to have to see an optometrist. And a dentist. And a bartender wouldn’t hurt, you know, to round it out.
I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that we can’t be full-time occupiers, at least not on the dime of OWS and the money that was donated. That was money to help our protest camp stay in Zuccotti – I’m sorry, Liberty – the winter. Now it’s just being wasted, and now our time’s being wasted talking about it.
This whole discussion started before I showed up, something about a guy who hit another guy over a metro card. That’s the only reason I’m still sticking around, really. No, not to hit someone, although…Naw, I just need a metro card.
So now I’m asking you good reader to pony up a couple bucks so in the future I can buy my own metro cards and avoid this craziness. At first I thought we should have a proposal, Buy Out Buy In, where we split the money out amongst the occupiers to “buy them out” then ask them to buy back into the movement, attaching a physical act to a metaphorical identity building exercise. But now I’m thinking maybe we should just go to the donor community at large, in what will probably be another record breaking year for campaign fund raising, and ask people to buy what good they recognize out of the Occupy Wall St movement.
Save me and others like me. Allow us to become full time activists. And let the rest go down with the ship.
Naw, we”ll still try to figure out how to further this movement. I just really hate these fucking meetings…