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No, you don’t want another Occupy Wall Street

3:48 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Anonymous masked protester at an Occupy event

Calls for a “new” Occupy seem to miss the point of OWS.

by AoT

There’s been a common theme lately of calling for a new OWS. I would be overjoyed if all of these calls were in fact calls for a new OWS. But they aren’t. I want to make clear that this isn’t necessarily an attack on people making these calls. They make them for different reasons, and those reasons are often reasons I agree with. But, they are in fact calls for a completely different movement, one that bears little if any resemblance to OWS. I’m going to go through the common refrains of what “the movement” needs and my responses to them.

Let me say first that I think that people really mean that they want another successful and visible social movement when they say they want another OWS they really . I’m completely on board with that, I want another movement with the energy of Occupy. The problem is that the things that made OWS successful are exactly the things people are calling to change.

1) Occupy just needs to occupy the voting booth

There’s a lot wrong with this one. I’ll start with the base assumption that the people involved in Occupy didn’t vote. The majority of people who participated in Occupy voted. I’d bet that the majority voted for candidates that most progressives would agree with. Worse than that though is the idea that there were enough occupiers to actually swing an election. There were about ten thousand of us across the country at the height of everything. It seems hopelessly naive to think that ten thousand people across the country could affect change by voting alone. They couldn’t.

So what exactly is it that occupying the voting booth is suppose to mean? It clearly can’t mean just going out and voting, because that’s already happening for the most part. The other side of that is going out and campaigning for candidates and causes. Of course, this is a democratic website, so it’s not surprising that people would be advocating for voting in the right candidates, presumably candidates from the Democratic Party. Of course, this is never followed up with the actual candidates to be voted or campaigned for, and when it is they’re the same old dems that are already in office or are “electable.” Or the quixotic quest for a primary that will get attacked every time as being a progressive purity quest.

But really, what we’re talking about here is business as usual. Calls for OWS to be another wing of the Democratic Party. We’re talking about OWS as doing the *exact* same thing as MoveOn or OFA. Literally the exact same thing in regards to voting.

2) Occupy needs leaders

This one is fun because it’s always terribly unspecific. Occupy “needs leaders” but no one can point to the actual leaders that occupy should follow. There just needs to be a leader there, leading and stuff. Of course, not only can people not point to actual leaders, they can’t explain how we should chose a leader. Paradoxically, folks like Trotskyists or Maoists are brought up constantly as an example of what not to do, despite the fact that they are the leaders out there offering to lead. The irony here of course is that Occupy was constantly criticized for not having goals and specifics, and yet the people who are calling for leaders are just as vague. They “want leaders.”

And all that is leaving behind the practical aspects of the issue. What happens with to a leader once they’re there? How do you maintain accountability while keeping people following them? Because based on my experience you have a choice of one of the two. Otherwise you dump the best leaders because they’ve got some horrible flaws, just like all your heroes have terrible flaws.

3) We need demands

Read the rest of this entry →

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: We Demand Answers! Why were Occupy Boston Charges Dropped? by UnaSpenser

10:43 am in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Author’s Note: Some of this has already been posted in my previous diary. I was asked to write again and include a description of the circumstances of our arrest, the charges, my plea, and some of the process we have been through leading up to this precipitous dropping of charges. While there are those who want to say this is just a matter of incompetence or an overburdened system or laziness, that simply isn’t true here. The press is a willingly manipulated in a calculated system of repressing and dissuading dissent, whistle-blowing and accountability of those in power.

As one of those awaiting trial, I find this whole affair, from illegal arrests, to injurious treatment, to 14 months of harassment via making us show up at multiple hearings, with many delays, to the propagandist stenography of the Boston Globe, to be a heinous abuse of justice.

Please keep reading to learn of the final bit of foul play by our government. They saw the writing on the wall and, once again, they abused their position of power and cheated justice and democracy.

Circumstances of arrest:
On December 10, 2011, the Boston Police Department arrested me for standing on public property. I had been on the property for a few hours prior the arrest. I had been on the property, off and on, for the previous 2 months. I came to Dewey Square – public land owned by the State of Massachusetts and managed by The Greenway Conservancy – to be part of delivering a political message to our government: we the people want justice for what the banks and elite class have perpetrated against this country.

Our message was clear, as is shown by the fact that these protests changed the public discourse. Until Occupy hit the streets, no one was talking about the inequity of power and justice between the 1% and the 99%.

Our message was still needed. Just because people were talking, doesn’t mean the issues were resolved or even being addressed by our government.

So, we had the right to stay in the streets and keep delivering this message.

I don’t believe it makes a difference – as our First Amendment gives us the right to assemble and address our grievances to our government, without any limitations of when and where being put on that right – but, in my case, I was not camping at Dewey Square. I visited one to three times per week.

I want to get back to that First Amendment statement. It is of tantamount importance that we all remember that it is our right to assemble and to speak out, at our discretion. It is not up to the government to tell us when, where and how we can assemble and speak. The whole point to explicitly naming this right is so that we, the people, maintain tools to keep abuse of power in check. Here is the text of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

“Congress shall make no law”… They are not allowed to curb, in any way, our right to assemble and petition our government. They can’t say, “you’ve been out there too long.” They can’t say, “You can’t do that here.”

When we just idly accept these “free speech zones” and complain about the “nuisance” of a protest and even support the forceful arrests of people who are peaceably assembling, in any way, we are giving up one of the single most important tenets of democracy. There is no point to almost anything else we stand for, if we don’t stand for this. We are not a democracy without it.

Yet, I have been told that I deserved to be arrested and injured for my apparently heinous crime of standing in a public space and talking. I refused to bow to a militarily armed “authority” and walk away and be silent just because they wanted me to. For that simple act, I was treated as a “terrorism threat.”

new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

Why aren’t people around the country outraged about this? Why aren’t we out in the streets until this kind of abuse of power is dismantled and the people who perpetrate it held accountable? There is a direct link between this approach to governance – at the service of corporations – and the apocalyptic destruction of arboreal forest land for the sake of putting more money into the coffers of the already rich.

As I told the Boston Phoenix,

“If I can watch people in Syria march when they know that they’re going to be shot at,” Nevitt tells the Phoenix, “then I can’t stand here and let our government tell us that we don’t have the right to assemble in a public space.”

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/news/144030-catching-up-with-the-ongoing-trials-of-occupy-bost/#ixzz2KQxFazvg

How many people in the US cheered and supported the protesters in Egypt? Look at this statement from Obama, at the time:

“I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.”

Except in the United States, apparently. The protesters in Egypt defended themselves by throwing rocks at armed agents of the government. They even burned down the headquarters building of the ruling political party. They turned a public square into an encampment where they controlled who came and went. For this, they were given international attention and our President proclaimed that they were within their rights.

Yet, here, at home, no such proclamations are made. No one threw rocks at government agents, or anyone else. No one burned any buildings. No one denied entry anyone else entry into any public spaces. Still, President Obama was silent when his own citizens exercises these “universal” rights. And people throughout this land have supported the repression of protest and the violent arrests. The vast majority have simply remained silent, going about their lives as though nothing is wrong. Basic, “universal”, human rights are being violated and suppressed in this country. The very foundation of democracy is being ripped out from under our feet. And the people who get the vitriol or lack of support are those who are saying something.

In a diary I posted two days before getting arrested, I explained why I was willing to take this risk. I implore you to ask yourself why you don’t care enough to do the same. Does it really take them coming for your or someone dear to you before you get how critical this is?

Initial Treatment
It was very disturbing to me to see the media report about how well the Boston Police handled the arrests of peaceable protesters. First, there is no justifiable reason to arrest people expressing their First Amendment rights. Second, it is an authoritarian abuse of power to approach those peaceful protesters, who are letting the police know they are willing to be arrested without resistance, with what was basically a battalion of fully-armed riot police, including big guns, large canisters of tear gas and a sound canon. (As someone with hyperacusis from a chronic illness, a sound canon would have been excruciatingly painful and likely deafening, for me.)

More important, is that Boston was one of the later cities to forcibly remove peaceable protesters. They had had time to see the public response to pepper spraying and rubber bullets. So, they came at 5am, in the dark, when no one was up. They pulled their trucks in to the square and kept the press back, so that no one could witness how they handled us.

They committed their abusive treatment more surreptitiously. For instance, I and eight other women were handcuffed and placed in the back of a transport vehicle. The inside was a metal box with metal benches. No seat belts. With our arms bound behind us and no body restraints, the truck was sped up just before making a turn and we were all whipped around inside the truck. The truck was then jolted to a stop and the back door flung open, as a police officer was yelling at us in anger. I suffered a permanent back injury from this. There are other injuries, but I will only speak of my own, as I don’t want to jeopardize anything for anyone else. But, the police department was given much public adoration for their gentle treatment. I suppose we should be thankful they didn’t send drones into Dewey Square or shoot us on site for having the audacity to gather and speak. That’s how many in public seem to view things these days.

In jail, I was not able to stand. My comrades made space for me to lie down on the cement benches in our cells. (I was moved to three different cells during my stay.) When I was called out, after several hours, to have my charges read to me and filed, I had to ask for a seat. We told the police that I was in pain. One of my beautiful sisters was so good about yelling out the bars to tell them that we needed medical attention. None came. I was simply processed as though nothing was wrong. (I would learn in the emergency room later that I had a ruptured disc and fractured facets.)

When my charges were read to me, they listed “trespassing” and “resisting arrest.” I laughed at the latter charge and asked how they could make it when I had asked the arresting office to help me stand up. The two officers present were not at the arrest scene. One walked away and came back a few minutes later and said, “we’re removing the resisting arrest charge. You don’t look like someone who would resist arrest.”

I was furious. What does that mean? I’m white and I’m a woman and I was in my late 40s. If I were a 23 year old black male would you say that? What if I were a transvestite? Of course I don’t look like I could resist arrest, now. I can barely walk because you injured my back!

That’s how our justice system works? A capricious decision by a cop based on how he views you in the station, even though he had nothing to do with the arrest and had never had an interaction with you before? One could say that I got the benefit of this by having them scratch that charge. Yet, I wanted my day in court over that charge. I was all too aware of how that subjective power is used against people that don’t fit the demographic that this cop is sympathetic to. I felt like a traitor to my comrades. Especially my comrades of color or youth or not perceived as a hetero cis-female. It wounds me deeply to gain any benefit from the systems of oppression while my fellow citizens are murdered, beaten, jailed and otherwise crushed by it. It is simply not right. I didn’t stand out there, risking my body, for this abuse of power. One reason I was willing to risk myself was for the sake of those for whom the risk is even greater, due to their demographic status. I want them to know that those of us who can benefit, don’t want to when it comes at their expense. I’m still furious about this.

We would later learn that although almost all of us had originally been told we had a charge of resisting arrest, when we got to our arraignment, only the men had that charge remaining. None of the women. I sat in Dewey Square with men and women. I behaved no differently from the man sitting next to me. On what basis were these charges meted out?

After about 8 hours of laying on concrete with an injured spine, I was released on bail. I was not told of any restrictions. I would not have accepted them. I would have stayed in jail.

Processing Our Case
I’ve lost count of how many hearings we’ve had since our arrest. I have been at the court house at least six times in 14 months. There were some motion hearings that defendants were not required to be present for. So, the City has attended at least 6 court appointments regarding my case, but it maybe closer to 10.

Of the 47 of us who were arrested on December 10, about half of us plead “not guilty.” I do not believe that I was trespassing. I was on public land. I was exercising my First Amendment right to free political speech to address my government. I cannot have been trespassing.

I did not accept any restrictions to my actions while the case was being processed. None of us, who plead “not guilty” did. Many of us have traveled out of state. Many of us have been back to Dewey Square. Many of us have been in other protest actions since our arraignment. Had the State tried to impose restrictions on me when I had not been determined to be guilty of any crimes, nor have I been shown to pose any sort of physical threat to anyone or anything, I would have defied those restrictions.

We made it clear from the beginning that we were going to fight these charges and fight them loudly. Our first motions were extensive requests for materials and statements from multiple governmental agencies regarding who was involved in monitoring us and determining what actions to take against us. We had seen Homeland Security trucks and various surveillance cameras on site. At one point, after we had filed a motion demanding to know if BRIC – a regional counter-terrorism agency – was involved in any part of the monitoring or decision-making regarding Occupy Boston, the DA had the chutzpah to return to the courtroom and tell the judge, “I asked somebody at that office and she said, “no.”"

The judge wasn’t too happy with that defiance of a court order. He then gave the order very specific wording which required signed statements from someone accountable.

This was the process. We would make discovery motions and the City would respond with delays and absurd statements that did not fit the definition of meeting discovery requests.

Fourteen months into this, and we were starting to feel that, not only were our charges bogus and the arrests illegal, we were now being denied our right to a speedy trial. We wanted the court to rule on the very legality of the arrests. To see if the court would support the notion that the police can arrest people who are doing nothing but gathering and speaking for sake of political expression.

That would have been one avenue of having our day in court. Having the court determine that the arrests themselves were illegal would have been a very strong political statement. We made our case for it in a hearing this past Monday. The judge said he would make a ruling this coming Monday.

Yesterday, on a Friday with a blizzard underway, one business day before the judge would have made a public ruling, the District Attorney let the Boston Globe know that the City was dropping all charges related to Occupy Boston. After 14 months, many court hearings, many rounds of being forced to comply with motions, and declaring that we must face criminal charges for our actions, they suddenly decided to drop the charges with this claim:

“There’s now parity with prior cases arising from the protests,” Jake Wark said. “They’ve served essentially the same sentences.”

Guilty. Sentence served. No trial.

My Reaction: (yes, this was an immediate reaction with fast-flying fingers. This is me being reactionary. I allow myself those moments. I had only learned of the news just hours before posting this.)

Occupy Boston Protesters: Guilty and Sentenced Without Trial
I wanted my day in court. It was clear, they were going to delay and delay. Over one year later, I still did not have a trial date. I was also never told with whom I would be a co-defendant. (we wanted one trial and the judge insisted we be broken into groups of 5. He then only named one group and the rest of us were left in limbo) All of this was designed to make it impossible for us to prepare. Trying to crush our resolve and our souls slowly.

When we pushed back and filed a motion for charges to be dismissed, the judge said he would rule this coming Monday. Preempting what the judge might say in court, the City surreptitiously dropped the charges today. During the beginning of a blizzard. On a Friday afternoon. Without letting any of the defendants know. We didn’t get the courtesy a single communication to us. We all learned by reading it in the Boston Globe. And that is where we read outright lies:

but at least five defendants will contest the dismissal in hopes of fighting the accusations on their merits.

um, we filed the motion to have the charges dismissed. the hearing for that motion was this past Monday. that’s on the public record. high quality stenography, I mean journalism, there.

“Our clients feel that they deserve a day in court to contest their arrests on constitutional grounds,” said Jeff Feuer, of the National Lawyers Guild, which is defending the demonstrators. “They were using a public park.”

that’s my lawyer. I wonder when they got that quote. I’m pretty sure that’s from an earlier time when we were being asked about why we didn’t accept a plea deal. Since we’ve had no contact from anyone about this latest move of dropping the charges, I doubt this is a contemporary quote.

A spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said prosecutors decided to resolve the cases because the defendants had abided by certain restrictions imposed by the court for more than a year. Other protesters charged with trespassing and unlawful assembly had agreed to similar conditions in resolving their cases.

What restrictions? This is just outright fiction. I pleaded not guilty. I was not under any restrictions, as I had not been found guilty of any crime and I would not consent to be punished as though I had. I dare the Boston Globe to tell me exactly what restrictions I have supposed adhered to and to prove that I consented to and complied with them.

“There’s now parity with prior cases arising from the protests,” Jake Wark said. “They’ve served essentially the same sentences.”

This is their way of saving face. Trying to claim that we somehow accepted guilt by serving a pre-sentence. Who needs a trial when you can just get people to agree to “restrictions” and then say that they’ve “resolved” their case by “essentially” serving a sentence?

I will not stand idly by and be portrayed in the public as though I have served a sentence for a crime I did not commit. Nor will I allow our justice system to proclaim that they can determine, without a trial or a sentencing process, that someone has paid enough of a penalty that they can consider the case resolved. It’s bullshit. And makes me wonder what they thought the judge was going to say, on the record, on Monday.

Here is the press release about this from the National Lawyers Guild, who are representing us.

NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD, Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.
14 Beacon St., Suite 407, Boston, MA 02108  
PRESS RELEASE
______________________________________________________________________________
Contact:
Urszula Masny-Latos
Tammi Arford (defendant): 617-686-8892 National Lawyers Guild, Mass. Chapter
Andrea Hill (defendant): 574-206-5632 617-227-7335
______________________________________________________________________________
CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST OCCUPY BOSTON DEFENDANTS DROPPED
Boston, February 8, 2013.   Today, without any notice to defense counsel or the defendants, Suffolk County prosecutors went into court and in an unscheduled, unilateral action dismissed the criminal cases that had been brought against five Occupy Boston activists which were scheduled to begin trial on Monday, February 11. The prosecutors also dismissed all of the criminal charges remaining against the other Occupy Boston activists who were still awaiting trial as a result of the mass police arrests in October and December, 2011.

We believe that the DA’s decision amounts to an acknowledgment of the unconstitutionality of the arrests and criminal charges that had been brought against hundreds of Occupy Boston participants, and shows that the state has finally
admitted that the demonstrations by Occupy activists were legal and constitutionally protected.

Fully ready to contest the charges at trial, the defendants and their representatives from theNational Lawyers Guild (NLG) had subpoenaed Mayor Menino, Police Commissioner Ed Davis, and Nancy Brennan (former head of the Greenway Conservancy) to explain why the City of Boston and its police department unconstitutionally applied the Massachusetts trespass and unlawful assembly laws to impinge upon Occupy Boston participants’ rights to assemble, to express their protected speech, and to petition the government. In addition, they had also subpoenaed Joshua Bekenstein and Mitt Romney (of Bain Capital), and Robert Gallery (CEO of Bank of America) to address their role in constructing and perpetuating excessive corporate power and an economic system that favors the wealthiest 1% of the population at the expense of the remaining 99%– an undemocratic system in which the voices of the people are ignored. The police action in arresting occupiers demonstrated that voices of conscience that speak out against
social and economic inequality are not only ignored, they are unlawfully silenced by the state’s use of violence, fear, threat, and repression.

This decision by prosecutors comes after 14 months of delay, during which defendants were repeatedly required to show up for court dates, only to have their day in court and their right to a jury trial delayed time after time. Defendants and their NLG lawyers spent months working to prepare a case that would potentially embarrass the City and set valuable precedent that would reaffirm the constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.

In making this decision, Suffolk County prosecutors have not only prevented the defendants from having their day in court, they have employed yet another way to trample upon those who voice dissent and discouraged them from challenging injustice and inequality in this country. In fact, a spokesperson from the District
Attorney’s office today admitted that these defendants, who never had the chance to present their case to a judge or jury, “served a sentence” imposed unilaterally by the actions of the District Attorney without ever having been found guilty of any criminal offense.

### END ###

Don’t be complicit in the repression of voices of dissent. Please take in the way this was handled: peaceful protesters arrested by using a battalion of militarily-armed riot police, then dragged through repeated courtroom delays, then charges dropped with a statement that they had “essentially” served a sentence. See how that works? Guilt determined and sentence handed down without the bother of a pesky trial.

Raise your voices, people. When these things happen, we need to yell louder that we will maintain our rights.

If you look in the comment section of that diary, you will see some people arguing that there is no malicious intent on the part of The Globe. It’s really just under-funded, lazy journalism. You will also see some arguing that the legal process is just a matter of an over-burdened system and incompetency.

I don’t buy it. This is the way the corruption of democracy works. Death by a thousand little cuts. Newspapers are struggling financially because they have abandoned their role and, therefore, don’t receive support. The role of the 4th Estate in a democracy is to be an independent check on anyone or any institution which manages to garner power over others. Instead, they’ve become a part of the power structure. Corporations have all the power in this country. Now, corporations own all the media outlets. When that shift occurred, when the mission of objective, investigative journalism in service to the public good was compromised for the sake of shareholder profits, the 4th Estate abandoned democracy. That they are a shell of themselves, with no budget and no journalistic integrity now and, therefore, don’t have the capacity to “intentionally” do a disservice to us all, does not exonerate them. They have made the choices which have landed them where they are. They made those choices in service to the 1%. It is not accidental that they can now look lame and beg for ‘understanding’ while they are complicit with the systems which abuse us.

If the courts are “over-burdened”, it is not because we have such high rates of criminal people who just have to be taken off the streets. It is because we have criminalized things for the sake of feeding a for-profit prison system and to maintain a system of oppression. We can relieve the court system of much weight by ending the prosecution of non-violent drug use, for instance.

In our case, the dropped charges had nothing to do with a court which was too busy to handle us. It wasn’t the judge who complained about having the cases processed in court. It was the DA who decided that we had already served our sentence.

It wasn’t incompetence, either. The City was very skilled at arguing against and evading our motions. They were very clear that we needed to be prosecuted for our audacity. There was never any indication that the Assistant DA handling the case didn’t know what she was doing. In fact, our attorneys expressed respect for her skills early on.

This was a calculated political decision. A series of calculated political decisions, in fact. The decisions to have Homeland Security trucks show up at the protest site was to intimidate us. The decision to arrest us was made to end the protest. The decision to do so with a military-style action was meant to frighten others from attempting to protest. The decision to push for our cases to be processed was to signal that it would be a long, painful process you would have to go through if you dared to protest. The decision to drop the charges before hearing what the judge had to say on Monday, was to avoid having a public record of what the judge would say on Monday.

I have no doubt about it. None of this was ever about whether we had actually committed any crimes. It was all about silencing dissent. Mayor Menino made that very clear, early on:

“I will not tolerate civil disobedience in Boston.

Civil disobedience is the cornerstone of democracy. It is a powerful tool that The People must use stop abuse of power. Voting is not enough. We are not relegated to one tool for our role in keeping democracy true to form. When those in power can control who runs for office, what we learn through media and what those people do once they are in office, you must use your other tools. Here in Boston, we enshrine this truth in our memorial site of the “Boston Tea Party.” An action against corporate interests controlling tax policy and fair trade. Yet, we now have a Mayor who made it known that he will crush any civil disobedience. You don’t think that Mayor is directing and/or strategizing the actions of the police and the DA? Think again. Our police chief is appointed by the mayor. Our current police chief has been on the job without the security of a contract for years, now. Every day, his job is only his if the mayor deems it is. Is that police chief going to defy this mayor’s wishes?

We now know that the FBI was monitoring Occupy. We know they helped coordinate the crackdowns and deemed peaceable protesters to be potential terrorists. The mayor of Oakland admitted that 18 mayors around the country were talking to each other about how to handle Occupiers.

None of this is about incompetence, laziness or an over-burdened system. It is about silencing voices which would demand accountability of those in power, justice for the “99%” and analysis and adjustment of our worship of predatory capitalism. Some aspects of the system have been crumbling to a state of auto-complicity for so long that we’ve become complacent. But that doesn’t make it any less unjust or any less responsible for the resulting oppressions.

Our responsibility, as citizens of a democracy, is to never become complacent. To never allow ourselves to be silenced or cowed into coerced obedience. When there is an attempt to repress our voices or deny us justice, we are obligated to speak louder and stand up taller. Every time. You know this is true. You know that there is no other way to maintain a just and sustainable democracy. Don’t vilify those who are pointing this out. Stand in solidarity. It is our only hope.

Let’s Talk ‘Decolonization’ by Unaspencer

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

I write today to, hopefully, start a dialogue and ongoing series about the concept of decolonization. I’m fairly new to the term. Some of the concepts have been in me for a while, but I did not have connection to a philosophy or political movement, much less a name. So, I’ll share my entry point and early thoughts about decolonization. I invite you to share yours.

When I left my house in Boston and headed to New York City to be present in Liberty Square last September, I was going as an “Occupier”, I suppose, since the action was called “Occupy Wall Street”. So many of us felt so strongly that the message about the deep layers of corruption in our economic and political systems resonated, that we didn’t even think about the word defining this burgeoning movement.

For me, the Occupy movement was connected to Arab Spring and the Encampanadas of Spain and even the Green movement in Iran. And Palestine.

Palestine. How could I even think for one moment that “occupying” was a good thing? Well, clearly, I didn’t think.

It didn’t take long, though, for some to realize that the corruption wasn’t just about banking and money in politics. The corruption goes to the core of the culture we’re living in. Some of the very tenets we base our value system on are unjust. Built right into what we believe is an acceptance of being the generators of pain and suffering for others. What we’re seeing in the blatant exploitation and inhumanity of the financial crimes is reflective of something in all of us: a predatory nature. A predatory nature that we socially codify through memes such as “possession is 9/10ths of the law” and “survival of the fittest” and “competitive edge” and “independence” and “free market”. That it is radical to suggest that a culture, which measures profit-making as the key indicator of it’s health, is based on something ugly, tells us that we have deeply rooted ways of being which foster the corrupt systems we live within.

I’ve had these thoughts for a long time. In my youth I was a very competitive athlete. I had a prosperous early career as a computer programmer in the 1980s. I have multi-faceted, ‘pedigreed’ American ancestry. A direct ancestor was celebrated for being the leader of the people who “forged the first great pathway west” through Kentucky and Tennessee. Family documents show them celebrating their colonizing efforts. (ironically, another branch of my family is quite likely related to Cherokee Chief Ross who led his people along the Trail of Tears.) In short, I was a yuppie, happily thriving in the world created by colonization.

I always had a bit of a “radical” edge, I suppose. Once, while I was at a business luncheon, in my fancy, $900, Donna Karn suit, a glass of champagne was sent to me with a note, “from one closet punk to another.” I looked around the room at all the other suits and knew who sent that drink. A moment of subversive solidarity. Still, I was pursuing “The American Dream” until I went to business school. There, when faced with the founding principles of capitalism, I wholly rejected them. Everything was cold and with zero concern for a just and sustainable existence for all people. War terminology applied to business practices. I could not adopt that. I had gone to school to “boost my resumé” and, presumably, my career. I ended up turning down offers to join venture capital firms. I would go on to run the first urban composting company in the United States, a very mission-oriented pursuit. Everything I have done since then has been mission-oriented.

Still, I didn’t have the words for how I perceived things. I no longer felt good about the concept of “competition”. Competitions have winners and losers. A society built on “competitive spirit” requires losers. Far more losers than winners. Only one person claims the title at the end of a tennis tournament. Everyone else is some varying degree of loser. It rankles me to no end that someone who is second best in the world at what they do is “suffering a disappointing loss” at The Olympics when they receive their silver medal. Moreover, I feel great pain about the history of our culture. It’s a living history. Here in the United States, we have committed and continue to commit genocide against The First Peoples. The early settlers came here for economic opportunity and they generated their successes by dragging millions from their homelands and enslaving them to get free labor and greater profits for themselves. Every single aspect of what this country is would not exist without slavery and genocide. Yet, we continue to call this “exceptional” and we continue to state that the lifestyle we have become accustomed to is a good and normal thing that we should continue to aspire to and convince, well force, everyone else in the world to aspire to.

I could articulate my perceptions, but I didn’t have a name for it until I entered the world of Occupy and encountered an already existing movement called “Decolonize”. (Though I can’t attend often due to a scheduling conflict, I am eternally grateful for the Decolonize to Liberate working group at Occupy Boston.)

Decolonize. That word seems to scare people. Almost every time I utter it in front of people, there is someone who will ask, “do you expect everyone to leave here and go to Europe?”

The political act of decolonizing is not about rearranging where everyone lives. Even if you did that, people would still have a mindset, an ethical compass, which would lead to new colonizing and new systems of oppression. Decolonizing is about rearranging the way we think and how we treat each other. What does “justice for all” really mean? Have the vast majority of people living on this land experienced justice?

We know the answer to that question. Injustice has plagued this land. “Freeing” slaves whilst keeping the rewards of their labor was not justice. Giving native peoples barely survivable land land that you claim they have sovereignty over, which you do not honor, is not justice. Breaching every treaty we ever made with those same people is certainly not justice.

Those are obvious examples of injustices and we do hear lip service given, culturally, to these “historical” events. (We’re breaching treaties to this day and the 13th Amendment has an exemption to the banning of slavery, which we are taking full advantage of in our private prison system. So, this is not just history. It’s contemporary.) What we don’t discuss much or in a way which might actually lead to justice, is how the very tenets of “The American Way”, the very things we honor as almost sacred truths, generated and continue to generate these injustices. We’re like the child who says, “Sorry for leaving my trash on the floor, mom”, but doesn’t pick up the trash and continues to leave trash on the floor. It’s a superficial acknowledgement of wrongdoing without any righting of the situation or commitment to prevention of further harm.

With our very ways of being, we cause harm and promote injustice every day. We cheer on the “winning” little league team without a concern for what the message of “life has winners and losers” implants in our children. We buy cheap food without making sure no one was abused to get it to us. We wear clothing made in sweat shops. We let children “cry it out” and put them in “time out” to show them they will be ostracized when they don’t ‘behave’, where ‘behaving’ means adopting the feelings and perceptions of an authority figure. We hug our children when they “make us proud” or “look so cute” or entertain us. Every aspect of our beings is shaped through a system of reward and deprive. And we’re willing deprive people of food, shelter, clothing and healthcare if they haven’t ‘behaved’. We are willing, in other words, to kill them. We kill people all the time. Our president now has a “kill list”. I don’t believe for a moment that we’re killing people as revenge for those killed in 2001. We’re killing anyone who dares to threaten the public perception that we are exceptional and democratic and harbingers of peace. We have the most weapons and an exponentially larger army than anyone on the planet has ever had and we dare to claim we are bringing peace. We are exceptional, yes. Exceptional at cognitive disconnect and self-deception in the name of glorifying ourselves and getting what we want, regardless of who pays what price.

But, it’s also micro. When we’re in a meeting and someone expresses a feeling about something and the first response is a rebuttal, we’re participating in the devaluing of someone. We tell them “don’t feel that. Don’t see that.” We do it to each other all the time. We compete over feelings. We compete over ideas. We normalize the concept that he who speaks with the most force gets to be ‘right’ and everyone else is silenced or ostracized. We see no room for simultaneous co-existence of multiple ideas, emotions and peoples. It happens in the workplace, in political dialogue, in families and even in the most intimate of relations. From the most subtle of interactions to the most tense, its all about who is best at dominating. We give up our agency in micro-moments everyday and hand our power to those who are most comfortable dominating.

Domination is the name of the game. It’s our “Manifest Destiny“. Our nationalism and self-proclaimed exceptionalism and sense that it is all part of a divine plan within which we are the chosen people, are all part of that ‘destiny’ and the Doctrine of Discovery. Most of us have probably never used those words. It’s not something we discuss often. We don’t have to. It’s the inherent axiom we embody. And it’s the sine qua non. We can’t generate a truly just and sustainable world until we purge ourselves of it.

That purge is supremely challenging. We must find a way to question every thing we do, the way we are in every moment, every assumption we have about what is ‘natural’ and ‘right’ and ‘acceptable’. We must do this without so destroying our own dignity that we either can’t bear to live or can’t bear to look or need to attack the dignity of others in order to feel better. Of any revolutionary movement out there, the resistance to this will be the strongest because we are rising up against ourselves.

I would argue that we are not rising up against our true selves, though. We are rising up against the selves we have been molded to become. From the moment we were born we were trained and brainwashed and ‘normalized’. A particular lens was fused to our eyes through which we are forced to perceive the world. Underneath all that is an original self, who can still look at the world in our innately natural way if we can remove those lenses. There isn’t a nice laser-surgery process to remove them in a few moments with some anesthesia to ease the way. It’s going to be painful. Yet, it will be freeing. We will be freed of the burden of supporting, and being weighed down by, the systems of oppression we’re existing in. And the connections we make to each other will be far more rewarding and joyous, as they are free of the guilt of achieving those connections at the expense of others. It will be liberating because we will not be forced to eradicate our true selves in order to survive.

I am trying to decolonize myself, my own mind. By doing so, I am creating space for something else. Cooperation. Collective. Interdependence. Exquisite joy.

In that vein, here are some of the ways I have challenged myself:

1) be willing to be wrong in every moment.
2) don’t allow someone to convince me I am wrong. If I don’t feel it, don’t just ‘cave’.
2) offer any power I have to those who have less
3) be willing to be threatened and to risk safety for the sake of justice.
4) always speak my truth with compassion, even if it creates tension with those I care about.
5) be willing to be uncomfortable in ‘mainstream’ society; reject coersion
6) be willing to share any material gains I may have

The list will grow, but those are a starting point.

Have you ever considered decolonization? What does it bring up for you? How do you challenge yourself?

Some links for your reading pleasure:
United Nations Declaration on the rights of inDigenous PeoPles

What UNDRIP can mean for the future

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: Statement on the Doctrine of Discovery

Colonization of the Mind: Normalize This!

Colonizing and Decolonizing Minds by Marcelo Dascal, Tel Aviv University

A Necessary Evil, or Just Evil? by T’Pau (T. P. Alexanders)

10:29 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

We are told we need the law. We need a million rules to ensure everyone has a fair shake, a level playing field we rely on as we move through life. But if you are lesbian or gay, the majority have recently passed laws giving people who prefer heterosexual coupling an advantage. The federal government has done nothing to come to this minority’€™s assistance. These laws are just the latest in a long litany of discriminatory laws.

We are told we need the law to define culture, to give the boundaries of permissible behavior. Yet, do you think you are aware of every law you live under? In every jurisdiction, outdated laws remain on the books. You are likely to have broken some of them without even knowing. In fact, most new endeavors begin with consultation of a lawyer. Legal professionals research for hours to ensure their clients won’€™t inadvertently break some little known law. Many of these laws unduly invade our private lives to restrict trivial actions, like putting a window in a wall of your home, so the state or some industry can make money.

We are told without the law, our society would crumble into brutish chaos. To me, the image of John Pike, dressed like an SS officer, strutting around a circle of passive students shaking a can of pepper spray, meant to be used at distance on an advancing crowd, is the image of brutish chaos.

Or perhaps those words conjure up the image of an octogenarian pepper sprayed in the eyes for speaking out against a government that coddles the rich and abuses the poor.

Or the Berkley students night-sticked in the bread basket to discourage peaceful assembly:

Yet, surely our teachers and parents are right. Surely we need the rule of law to guide society. We need some rules.

Or not.

Today we crawl outside one of our deepest and oldest mental boxes to consider the unthinkable–€”that changes in the law cannot cure society’s ills, because the law, itself, is part of the problem. Today we take a walk on the wild side in a lawless society.

Is It the Way They were Raised?

You are dining in your favorite restaurant. Next to you, a chair scrapes the floor as a man pushes away from his plate. Abruptly, he stands and your skin prickles. You sense something is wrong, but can’€™t put your finger on it. Without making a sound, the man’s hands travel to his throat. He opens his mouth in a grotesque gasping movement, but still no sound squeaks past his lips. What do you do? What do you expect others in the restaurant to do? Will you summon more people, experts in emergency medical care?

Now, in your restaurant, the couple at the table next to you drop a generous tip on the table before sauntering away commenting on the excellent meal and the fine service. The waitperson’s back is turned, taking an order from another table. A woman appears from nowhere. She snatches the money, making a bee-line for the exit. What do you do? What do you think others will do? Do you call experts in criminal behavior?

Be honest. Was there a moment of hesitation making your choice in the second story? Would you weigh the possibilities before you acted? Why? The waitperson needs your help, just like the choking man does, if somewhat less urgently. Still, the medical emergency seems reflexive, while the criminal emergency challenges your moral fiber, doesn’€™t it?

John Quinones of What Would You Do? made a career of challenging strangers with just that sort of moral question–situations that pit our sense of justice against our desire to mind our own business. In most scenarios, only the minority overcome the security of their private world to come to another’€™s aid where an element of criminality exists. Exploitation of someone considered weaker, a child or a handicapped person, and medical emergencies seem to be the exception. Particularly with children, the reflexive urge to provide assistance still seems intact. Why this separation? What makes one a reflexive behavior, and the other require contemplation that fails to elicit assistance in most cases?

From an early age, we are taught to relinquish our responsibility for enforcement against criminal behavior to authority. Bully on the playground? Tell the teacher. Witness someone shoplifting? Whisper it to a security guard.

DSC00332 Shoplifters will be CompostedBut teachers are ill-equipped to stop bullying. I was in my local dollar store the other day, and my husband commented on a sign threatening to prosecute all shoplifters. The owner curtly informed my husband the store lost $40,000 of merchandise last year to shoplifters. Remember, nothing in the store is worth more than a dollar. That is a lot of theft.

Wouldn’t it be better if we taught children to gather together around a person who was being bullied? How would a bully behave if confronted with a unified playground shouting him/her down? What if you cried out when you saw the shoplifter and the people in the store reacted with reflexes as keen as those for a choking man?

 

The Enforcers: Tarnished Icons

Not only are we taught to relinquish responsibility for criminal behavior to authorities, we are taught to trust authority. If you are lost or in trouble, a police officer is one person on a short list of people your parents allow you to speak to, even though he is a stranger. The uniform, alone, allows that person into a privileged class with teachers, doctors and religious leaders. We allow peace officers into our lives without question in an emergency, turning decisions over to them because they are the experts.

We have lost confidence in our ability to assist others in day to day justice. We feel as though we don’t have the skill or the authority to intervene. We aren’t all health care professionals, but somehow we jump to help in a medical emergency. In a criminal emergency, our sense of community and our confidence in ourselves has been undermined.

But endowing a person with authority doesn’€™t guarantee they will use their power responsibly.

Of late, I have come to question the role of law enforcement in our society. I have watched the police arrest thousands, whose crime is assembling for the purpose of political speech and redressing the government. I have watched them beat and pepper spray people who are peacefully sitting in protest.

These do not seem like the actions of someone I can trust. And I certainly don’t want to call this person in an emergency.

 

The Law: A Little Less than Blind

Lady Justice revisitedWhen my husband discovered that shoulder length hair kept him warmer outside during Flagstaff’s brutal winter, he also discovered he was suspected of criminal behavior for the first time in his life. It is unlikely that allowing his locks to grow caused him to have criminal thoughts.

Even when we all agree a law is a good law, such as those prohibiting murder, the enforcement of those laws is clearly unequal. The US imprisons more people per capita than any other nation. But you are much more likely to go to prison if your skin is darker, or you are economically disadvantaged. (See this link also.) Prisons are our largest and most costly social program. How can this be justice?

A petty thief steals a purse in an attempt to survive on the street, and gets life because it’€™s his third strike. A huge corporation steals millions in tax dollars and gets a pass because corporate consultants lobby Congress to rewrite the law and make the theft legal. Another man commits armed robbery and shoots the person behind the register. The armed robber will get the death penalty. A corporation murders hundreds or thousands by dumping a toxin into the water supply and gets a slap on the wrist, a maximum fine mandated by law, calculated into the expense of doing business.

In our last Anti-Capitalist diary, GeminiJen discussed Citizens United. The Supreme Court ruled campaign donation could not be restrained because that unfairly restricted the free speech of the rich.

At the same time, the not-so-rich attempt to make their voices heard over the din created by so much money in the politician’€™s coffers. Police arrested hundreds in New York during the Republican National Campaign in 2004. They roped off huge groups of people preparing to march, even arresting news reporters trying to cover the protest. The arrests were wholesale thrown out of court. Peaceful assembly for political speech and redress of government was still thought to be guaranteed by the Constitution at that time. Still, those arrests prevented people from exercising their First Amendment rights. They prevented unrest from showing up on your TV screen. Since then, preemptive arrests have become a tactic with every large protest in America. Now, just sitting in the wrong place with the wrong message can get you arrested, beaten and pepper sprayed.

It appears rules are only for the 99%. If there is no law preventing a behavior unapproved by the 1%, no bother, just get the police to enforced what the powerful want anyway. The police seem all too willing to cooperate with this mockery of our highest law, the Constitution.

That does not seem just to me, and probably not to you either.

Living a Lawless Life:

“That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary.”–Rabbi Hillel

If tomorrow heroin were legal, would you start using? Me neither. And I do not normally consider whether something is against the law before I go through my day. For me, and most people, we already live a lawless life. The law and fear of the justice system is not what prevents me from harming others. My own sense of justice and the Golden Rule are sufficient. Most often, when I am prevented from doing something by law, it is not something most people think should be prevented–€”like adopting a dog without a collar from the street, or speaking out in public. (I’ve recently broken both those laws, becoming a one person crime wave.) The law prohibits me from taking positive actions and from being a good citizen more frequently than it prevents me from committing harm or destruction.

On the flip side, people who knowingly break the law are clearly not restrained by moral sensibility or the law. They may be restrained by the possibility of punishment but that does not stop them from breaking the law, only from doing it where they will be apprehended.

What if we gave up our fascination with rules? What would that look like? Chaos? Wholesale destruction?

Probably not.

A world without law, would not necessarily be a world without justice. Peace officers could still exist in such a world, but they might be less likely to cruise around looking for crime, and more likely to come when summoned. They would have discretion to detain a person, but only if harmful to themselves or others. For most instances, a bench warrant would be sufficient.

In a lawless system, a person could still accuse another of wrong doing. We don’€™t actually need the law for that. Lawyers would still be necessary to aide the accuser and defendant in arguing their case before a jury. A judge would make sure the participants treated each other fairly.

In our current system, corporations look for ways to commit destructive acts under the law. They use the law as an aid for wrong-doing or pay to have the law changed to their advantage. A person harmed by a corporation has to navigate a mine field of law that has been orchestrated by the corporation to put the average person at a disadvantage.

In a lawless system, a person harmed by a corporation could still take the corporation to court. A system without laws or precedents would decide every case on its own merits. Instead of laws tying a jury’€™s hands and barring real justice, each case would be decided on its own merits. Corporations could face the cold wrath of twelve people who sympathize with a human over a corporate “person.” A jury could fine based on the amount of injury, but also based on the defendant’€™s wealth and hubris.

That is what the jury did in the famous McDonald’s coffee case that sparked so much controversy. That is, before a judge unilaterally decided otherwise.

Based on its finding that McDonald’€™s had engaged in willful, reckless, malicious or wanton conduct, the jury then awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages; essential to the size of the award was the fact that at the time McDonald’s made $1.35 million in coffee sales daily.[13]

Since the purposes of awarding punitive damages are to punish the person or company doing the wrongful act and to discourage him and others from similar conduct in the future, the degree of punishment or deterrence resulting from a judgment is in proportion to the wealth of the guilty person.[14]Punitive damages are supposed to be large enough to send a message to the wrongdoer; limited punitive awards when applied to wealthy corporations, means the signal they are designed to send will not be heard. The trial court refused to grant McDonald’€™s a retrial, finding that its behavior was “€œcallous.” The judge, however, announced in open court a few days after the trial that he would reduce the punitive damages award to $480,000.[15]Both sides appealed the decision.–Utah Justice Law

In a lawless society, companies would not be able to squirm around the intent of the law with fancy foot work. They would, instead, have to consider “What would you do?” if you were on the jury. They would have to behave as though twelve average citizens were looking over their shoulder all the time. In other words, they would have to conduct themselves by the Golden Rule.

Think that is too complicated and uncertain? I would point out this system has already been tested. My profession operates under just such a rule. As a physician, I can be sued or my license revoked if I fail to “practice the standard of care.”€ The “€œstandard of care”€ is what a reasonable physician in my specialty would do in a similar circumstance. It is the Golden Rule of medicine. In essence, I have the “€œaverage physician”€ looking over my shoulder all the time. This vague edict forces me to keep my skills current and makes me a better doctor, even a 3 am when I don’€™t really want to be a good doctor.

A lawless system would not stop at the courtroom, though.

We would have to be trained from a young age that the care of justice belongs to us all. We are all responsible for keeping our community safe.

When the thief takes the tip from the table, what if you jumped from your seat without even thinking and yelled, “€œHey that person just took money that did not belong to them!”€ What if every person dining in the room rose to action on reflex? What if people blocked the door while others called for peace officers to issue a warrant for the thief to appear in a court?

Don’t think people can spontaneously act together to restrain a powerful criminal? Or maybe you think people would take on a vigilantly mindset and escalate the violence. What if I showed you actual footage of people behaving just as I have described, orderly and with restraint to enforce justice and not the law.

Most of us have seen the encounter between the police and the students of UC Davis, California. Officer Pike pepper sprays the faces of students peacefully assembled in political free speech.

But that is the only part of the film most people have seen. Pike’€™s behavior causes on-lookers to gather with the original Occupiers. The people make a mass decision that justice is not being served, even if the law allows such behavior by the police. The crowd spontaneously organizes and peacefully restrains and banishes the police. The community conquers the aggressor.

If a would be criminal had to worry about every set of eyes, not just a few brave souls or the eyes belonging to an authority, then would the crime be worth the risk? Would a criminal be so brazen, if he had to face twelve citizens who measured his actions by their own actions and their own work in society? Would a corporation be so brazen if they had to face twelve average people unlimited in their ability to punish?

The thief from your restaurant might be offered a choice by her warrant. She could accept the ruling of a judge or face a jury of twelve with unlimited powers. What would you decide, if you were on such a jury?

Twelve people could also have unlimited compassion. What if the thief was a mother who could not feed her child? What if the jury could require something of it’€™s community, like aid for the mother? What if justice demanded a positive community act instead of a negative one? If we didn’t house so many people in jail for laws many of us don’t wish to enforce, couldn’€™t we afford a more constructive social program for the poor? Could our current legal system behave is such a positive fashion?

It is high time we asked ourselves if the law has ceased to be be our servant and become our master. Has the law become an instrument of oppression wielded by the 1%? If so, perhaps it is time we simple give up our reliance on the law and move forward to a more enlightened and community involved approach.

Some Random Updates:

We recently started to reach beyond The Daily Kos. You can read reprints of our posts on several sites and we would entertain suggestions for more sites if you had any.

Check us out on:
The Stars Hollow Gazette

Docudharma

My Fire Dog Lake

We are also now on Facebook and Twitter.

Join our group at Facebook and get notifications from us about posts and other important news and events.

Some Personal Updates:

The situation I discussed in my last post has gotten worse. The church has rewritten the bylaws at my hospital to exclude sterilization for any medical or psychological reason. However, the editor of a local newspaper, The North Coast Journal, saw my story and is reprinting a version of it in the paper.

The charges against me for reciting the Constitution to a TSA officer were dropped. Undaunted by minor things like what is legal or not legal, the TSA still charged me a $500 fine. Apparently, they already live in a lawless society. The editor of my local paper also liked the these stories (Here and Here) and she is helping me rewrite the post for the local publication.