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August 16, 2012
Strike Debt organizer explains how debt interconnects our grievances

Check out this exceptional explanation of debt from the September 17th NYC email list:

All,

I’ve been organizing around debt for almost a year now, but as others point out, debt is one theme among many in Occupy. We are facing and fighting many problems, with many different angles. As it should be. Debt is just one. We need and should continue to maintain many other fronts without a doubt.

But I am very glad this was brought up - thank you “A”. I think it highlights some very important points about debt, and is a great chance for some clarification and discussion around the issue, at least coming from one perspective organizing in Strike Debt.

I have to address this recurring topic: we’re taught to see debt as an exclusive problem of the eroding middle class. But it’s not. It’s anything but. The middle class being forced into indebtedness is just the tip of the iceberg in a much bigger story.

So why focus on debt, especially since so many don’t have debt – and many don’t even have access to debt? It appears that debt is some weird kind of privilege. But it’s more complicated, and for me it’s becoming more and more clear: the economic system we live in runs on debt, in all sorts of ways that we don’t see at first glance. When we look carefully, we see that global capitalism in its current form is a system that uses debt to
channel money and wealth from the 99% to the 1%. This has been happening for centuries — globally. The IMF and its structural adjustment programs are a great example. Sovereign debt is basically an imperial tax that keeps most countries in the world poor, servile and dependent on rich countries. Debt is a primary economic tool for keeping the imperial structure in place, and it only works because of militaristic bullying and the threat of violence, exclusion and exile. Greece is a perfect example. It’s being held hostage and civil society is being completely dismantled because of its sovereign debt. Big, rich countries are telling Greece: pay your debts or we’ll kick you out of Europe, your currency will lose value, you’ll lose access to global credit, etc. But it’s a big bluff. Argentina and Iceland are great examples – there are other ways. Continued growth and production in order to pay debts is killing the planet, and taking us all down with it.

It’s only recently that this same structure (which we call austerity) has been forced upon the 99% within the rich countries. And it affects us in all sorts of ways, not just people who are actually in debt. Municipal debt is a great example. Municipalities are broke, owe tons of money, and have to cut services all over the place. Schools get closed, universities become privatized, hospitals lose services, welfare structures get axed, because somehow every town and city in the country is in deep debt. We never ask: to who? Non-debtors are screwed and manipulated by debt just as much as debtors; it’s just not as obvious. Countries and cities owe money to the banks, so instead of taxing the banks they make us pay for basic social goods, which often means many of us go into debt to the very same banks.

Even when it comes to actual debtors in the rich countries, it’s not as privileged or middle class as it seems. I BEG everyone to look at the numbers in predatory lending: sub-prime mortgages, insane interest rates and outrageous default rates at for-profit colleges that purposefully prey on low-income communities. It’s horrifying. Payday loans, which are a huge problem across the country, especially in low-income communities, regularly charge 400% interest without shame or regulation.

In Strike Debt, we are not trying to build a debtor’s movement, but a movement to resist and transform the debt-system. Debt is personal for many people, but above all it is deeply structural. Only some of us are debtors, but we are all debt resistors. Debt resistance comes in many forms: fighting for free education, defending a foreclosed home, fighting for basic services, fighting for free healthcare, offering mutual aid (so people don’t have to go into debt), refusing payments to the banks, fighting for higher wages (so people don’t have to go into debt), etc.

We don’t need to focus on debt, but it is a powerful framework to be very practical and also offers sharp global analysis and connects many dots. Those in debt know how horrifying it is – especially those in default. Those who don’t have access to credit/debt know how frustrating and disempowering that can be too. The whole system needs to change. All people need and should have access to fair credit… whole societies which were fairly equitable have been run on fair, accessible credit and networks of trust and not violence. We need to figure out ways to offer each other types of credit that don’t disenfranchise and disempower. It’s a huge task, but I think it’s a great first step to a more just, humane and equitable world.

For me, it’s been helpful to break it down like this:

Objectives: transform economic structure, rebuild community ties & solidarity

Themes: Debt affects everyone; it’s a major way the 1% takes the wealth of the 99%. Resisting debt is a way of fighting our global economic system.

Types of debt: sovereign, municipal, consumer, education, medical, housing

Ways people are affected: cuts in services, cuts in wages, indebtedness, exclusion from (low interest) credit, missed opportunities to avoid being in debt

Possible Tactics: debt strikes, debt refusal, labor strikes, foreclosure defenses, fights for free education, fights for cancellation of debt (individual, household, municipal & sovereign), occupations, community building and mutual aid, other direct actions

Sorry for being over-didactic, I just love talking about this shit. I’ve been trying to make sense of this for months, and I finally discovered the language to share it (due of course to help and coordination with my comrades).

We are all debt resistors. Tell others: join the resistance :)

With love,
Wxxxxx

Strike Debt / All in the Red have been doing great organizing around debt for the last few months and plan to coordinate one of the morning actions on Monday, September 17th — Occupy Wall Street’s first birthday. They recently also issued this first Communique:

Don’t sleep! Stand with us in Lower Manhattan on September 17th.

April 16, 2012
"Your consent is the ring." (Financial District, NYC, April 16, 2012)

"Your consent is the ring." (Financial District, NYC, April 16, 2012)

January 24, 2012
Second WePay Accountability Update

Hi fam!

So, we’re getting to the end of January, which is the second month of my three-month crowd-funding experiment / life gamble, and it’s time for an update / plea for help! Ahahah. 

I’ve raised $2150 over the 2 months that I’ve been raising money. This has been my only income during this time, as I’ve poured myself into #OWS. I’ve vastly appreciated all of your support.

Still, this puts me about $1850 behind my goals for December and January (and puts February’s additional $2000 seemingly out of reach). This is proving to be a serious challenge for me personally, so I’m hoping that we can push together to raise funds that bring me a little further from the brink! (If I had you at “further from the brink,” please see my WePay campaign here - if not, I invite you to keep reading for the rest of the deets).

More accounting details to follow, but first, a little bit about what I’ve been up to.

December was a more outwardly-eventful month than January’s been so far, but as much as the cold has been a limiting factor for Occupy Wall Street, it’s also provided many opportunities for internal community-building, organization-growing and inter-occupational networking.

First and foremost, I’m continuing to bottomline the @LibertySqGA coverage (which I consider to be the primary and most obvious service I’ve been working to provide). I’ve gotten help on some key nights from fellow team member @jopauca and guest tweeters @shawncarrie and @PoweredByCats but, for the most part, this is a nightly gig for me. So far, we haven’t missed a GA or Spokescouncil since we started, and that’s a streak I’m deeply proud of!

I’ve been helping to plan an inter-occupational skill-sharing and movement-building bus trip, which leaves tomorrow for Providence, Rhode Island, which is its first stop! This is a great example of the kind of internal work we’re doing to grow as a movement during the coldness of winter.

I’ve also been, as ever, providing live coverage, mainly via Twitter, of #OWS actions and events. First Night in Liberty Square was a great start to the new year, complete with bogus NYPD aggression, and then the next evening I was able to document the DI Winski of the NYPD hassling us in trying to hold our General Assembly at 100 Williams Street. This video was posted on Gothamist and led to our next GA, on January 3rd, being a successful direct action. We showed up in massive numbers and were able to collectively assert our right to gather in the public space at 100 Williams Street. If you haven’t seen the video, please check it out — it’s pretty nuts, IMO:

Since then, I’ve also covered the #NDAA actions at Senators Gillibrand and Schumer's office and at Grand Central Terminal. I hope that these events raised public awareness of the creeping militarization of the United States' law enforcement and justice systems and the insane injustice of indefinite detention, which had already become the status quo even before the #NDAA provided (unconstitutional) legal cover.

Perhaps my proudest moment was the publication of “Eviction Memories,” co-written by myself and @Molly__O, on nplusonemag.com. I’m hopeful that further donations of coverage to more widely-read publications can increase awareness of Occupy and the challenges and suppression we’re facing. N+1 have done a great deal already towards that end with their first 3 issues of the Occupy Gazette, and should be applauded for it, IMO.

For more videos, please see my TwitVid page and (for longer-form flicks) my YouTube channel.

The nitty-gritty

So, since my last update, I’ve received:

28 generous donations! That’s so amazing. Here’s the spreadsheet that breaks it all down, by contribution, but the takeaways: 

Average donation: $47.51
Median donation: $33.78
Mode: $48.25
Max: $193
Min: $4.5

Total Contributions: $1282.71
Total Deducted: $1080.21
Current WePay Balance: $202.50

Here’s how the deductions add up:

I paid myself back my $300 food budget for December, so that’s -$300.
I paid $625 in rent for January (for myself and 2 day-one occupiers)
I paid my phone bill for the second time, that was $-120.
I’ve purchased four $27 weekly unlimited Metrocards (rather than the one monthly), which totals $108.
I’ve also allocated the $300 for my January food budget.

Added up, that’s $1453 in expenses. The total deducted was $1080.21…

So, I have $200 in my account, which is rad. But I’m actually $-372.79 overall! Oh, plus the additional -$0.86 from last time. So, adding back the $202.50, I’m $-171.15 all told. 

That’s based on the core budget — there was some wiggle room included, though, which is where I got the $2k/month from. That wiggle room has still been required — for example, to fill prescriptions without insurance, to purchase warm clothes, holiday travel, etc. That means that all told I’m $-1850 off-plan, in a tough spot, with my savings very much drained.

So, what’s the plan?

Here’s the plan! I’d like to try to raise at least the rest of my January budget, meaning an additional $1850, between now and Februray 5th. I’m extending the WePay campaign (which was originally to end at the end of January) until then. At that point, I will hopefully have paid rent through the month.

For the rest of February, and March going forward, the goal is to find other ways to fund what I’m doing. A new citizen journalism guild that myself, the @LibertySqGA team, the OWSNYC livestream team, and others are forming, may help with this. I feel better about fundraising as a collective, as collective, consensus-driven fund allocation provides more accountability (as much as I am proud of how I’ve done solo on that front). 

So, please — if you do enjoy my coverage, or find the @LibertySqGA team’s output useful, please throw down (even just a little bit!) so I can stay on top of this and other projects! I really, really appreciate all the help. Folks who have contributed should expect some kind of personal thank-you within the next couple weeks, because I really appreciate your trust and faith and hope and support. So so so much love!

Cheers,

Dicey

Donate with WePay

January 22, 2012
"Eviction Memories", from nplusonemag.com

@molly__o and I wrote this remembrance of our experiences during Occupy Wall Street’s illegal eviction on November 15th, and N+1 were nice enough to publish it! The portions of the piece that are from my point of view were adapted from my tweet-and-video-timeline previously posted on this Tumblr.

January 22, 2012
DiceyTroop on YouTube

This is one of the two locations where my videos of Occupy Wall Street protests, meetings, rallies and direct actions (frequently guest-starring the police officers that frequently commit acts of illegal suppression and brutality against us) are currently catalogued. The other is TwitVid, but their site is having trouble right now.

December 15, 2011
Accountsourcing! (First WePay Accountability Statement, Plus Meme Report)

On November 29th, I tweeted a link to my WePay campaign and posted it on my Tumblr. My goal is to raise sufficient funds to cover my basic expenses, so that I can continue to #Occupy full-time.GOTHAMIST EAT YR HEART OUT

At that time, I promised a “weekly” accounting statement. It’s taken me until now to need to pay myself back for my expenses, so as I’ve initiated that process, it’s time to release my first of these accountability statements.

In the first two weeks of my WePay campaign, here’s what my contribution to #OWS has looked like:

* 30+ hours of attendance of meetings of the Facilitation Working Group, Direct Action Working Group, and other ad-hoc meetings. I make an effort to tweet out important outcomes of these meetings, but this component is primarily focused on doing work within the movement. The benefits of this focus are twofold: a) we need people available to do work within the movement! and b) the better I understand what’s going on, the better I can capture it for the benefit of folks inside and outside this occupation.

* 13 #OWS General Assemblies and Spokescouncils livetweeted. The length of each of these meetings varies but is generally between 3 and 6 hours apiece. The rest of them (4?) were livetweeted by @heratylaw and @jopauca whom I’ve been working with to run @LibertySqGA, @LibertySqGA2, @LibertySqGA3, and @LibertySqGA4. They’ve been amazing about stepping up to cover on many nights where there is an action or other event I’d like to attend. When they’re unavailable, though, I remain committed to making sure these livetweetings happen.

* A particular focus on being present at and documenting direct actions and other #OWS events. Since November 29th, I’ve posted 40+ videos at yFrog, Twitvid (which I’ve now switched to), and YouTube (which I use for anything lengthy or edited). Many of these have received upwards of 100 views. Events included: the #N30 day of action (starting at 7:30 and ending with the “Detention With Obama” fiasco), Occupy Lincoln Center, the #D6 OccupyHomes action, “Mockupy” (#D8/#D9), the #D12 action including the Winter Garden fiasco. Many videos have been widely circulated, and some even have been embedded on NYTimes.com and WSJ.com, among many others. For a more detailed attempt to track the resonance of my reporting, please see below the fold.

* Some long-form writing. See my recent post about 2012 tactics. I’m hoping to ramp this up and work it into a regular schedule. Issues I’d like to cover are explanations of our structure, inclusion/exclusion, the role that anti-racism/anti-oppression strategies have or could have in the Liberty Square occupation, and the role of Trinity Church especially re: the Duarte Square space for which re-occupation is scheduled to occur on #D17. Additionally, I’m working on pieces for other, trusted publications.

* Hosting of displaced occupiers — as I’ve noted before, the rent covered by your contributions doesn’t just keep my life and relationship from falling apart, it also helps provide a place to sleep for some other occupiers who have been left without a place to sleep by the eviction. Two occupiers are staying regularly, and others tend to cycle through.

So, how’s my fundraising going?

As of 6:00 PM EST, December 14, 2011, 23 amazing supporters have given $880.00 to help me to continue and increase my contribution to #OWS and to citizen journalism.

My initial budget, which I made for a 3-month period from December through February, was $6000. The core of that was broken down ahead of time with the remainder for unforeseen expenses which would still be diligently accounted for.

Rent: $625/month. (*3 = $1875)
iPhone data plan w/ tethering: $120 (*3 = $360)
Student loan payments: $300 (*3 = $900)
Food: $300/month (*3 = $900)
Unlimited metrocard: $108/month (*3 = $324)
————————-
Total: $1453/month.
3-month total: $4359 

And how have I been doing?

Number of contributors: 23

All totals are post-WePay fees:
Average donation: $36.92
Median donation: $24.13
Largest donation: $193.00
Smallest donation: $14.48
Total balance: $849.27

Money spent:

1 Month Rent: $625
1 Month Unlimited Metrocard: $104
1 Month AT&T iPhone service w/ 4GB Tethering plan: $121.13

That leaves me with a balance of -$0.86!

What does this mean? It means that so far, I’m barely skating by! Emphasis on the “skating by” - which is great!

Except: there’s been no money for my food budget nor for my loan payments. I’ve been digging into some savings in order to cover those expenses. That’s not sustainable; I will need to expand my fundraising efforts in some way going forward.

That said, I’m not looking to clog up my Twitter or my Tumblr with fundraising requests. But, since this post seems like a natural place for me to drop one more: please, if you are able, consider contributing to help me sustain efforts both within #OWS and as a conduit of information and transparency. Tell your friends!

I’ll also be looking for other sources of funding. I’ll keep y’all advised — in detail — and will count them towards my goals.

Since the Winter Garden arrests targeting citizen journalists — which I suspect I escaped only because I was, ironically, in costume as a reporter for the “Squid Press Conference” that happened earlier, the idea of an #OWS Citizen Journalist’s Guild, or something equivalent, has picked up a bit of steam. I’m hoping this will lead to a collective framework to support all of the citizen journalism happening in and around #Occupy.

Your contributions to my sustainability are enormously helpful and I’m deeply grateful for everyone’s support. Please hold me accountable! I’m here doing this because it’s bigger than I am. Each of us here on the ground at Occupy Wall Street try to strive to remember how many other folks are involved in various ways, and truly we should all be working for you and for all of us. I appreciate your support in making that sustainable.

And remember - #OCCUPYEVERYWHERE! Always.

<3
Dicey 

Read More

December 13, 2011
Some Thoughts RE: #OWS Tactics For 2012

Via CurrentTV’s Storify collection of 12/9 #OWS tweets, the Huffington Post reported that Charlotte, North Carolina, which is scheduled to host the 2012 Democratic National Committee meeting on the week of September 3rd, 2012, is taking some questionable, predictable steps to prevent #Occupy from disrupting the DNC.

http://twitter.com/HuffPostPol/status/145192256066957314

Given that the national conventions of both parties have histories as flashpoints for populist outrage, it’s not surprising that Charlotte might expect occupiers to stop by. 

Pretty familiar huh?
Is that cop on the right smoking a cigar??

In 1968, during the heated campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President, anti-Vietnam protesters were brutally suppressed by Chicago Police during the Democratic National Convention. Blended with the shocking trauma of prominent populist candidate Robert F. Kennedy’s murder, the left’s experience in Chicago that year was a defining moment in American political history and is commonly perceived as having crippled establishment nominee Hubert Humphrey’s general election campaign before it even began.

And Occupy Wall Street itself is in some ways a descendant of the anti-war and anti-globalization movements that converged in massive numbers at the 2004 Republican National Convention. The NYPD’s response to Occupy Wall Street was also honed in those protests, when Ray Kelly’s finest infamously detained a thousand people in an oily, asbestosy warehouse for days.

So 2012’s DNC and RNC may both seem to some like an inviting rematch. They are certainly an opportunity to disrupt, and to further challenge the frighteningly militaristic police response to protests that began with the Battle of Seattle and has been continually and frighteningly deployed and honed ever since.

This is a personal assessment, but I think for some folks there is a post-traumatic attachment to these conflicts; potentially it’s an unintended consequence of many activists’ up-close-and-personal understanding of the militarization of law enforcement. Surprisingly enough, being violently denied access to your inalienable rights to speech and assembly can be a real source of resentment.

But despite this emotionally and politically meaningful history, and despite the massively problematic fact that our nation’s militarized police are so predictably gearing up to crush dissent during the election of the United States’ most powerful elected official, there are many reasons why I think we should generally avoid focusing on the 2012 primary conventions. And if we do make plans that relate to the 2012 elections, they should focus on core unique strengths of #Occupy, like what Matt Taibbi called "providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything”. 

A few reasons, then an alternative idea:

First of all, is this even really an election year?

On the Democratic side, there’s no primary; Barack Obama’s nomination for a second term is assured. On the Republican side, there’s a bunch of vaudevillains performing slapstick on a sound stage.

Ugh. Really?
How can anyone take any single one of these guys seriously?

While Obama occasionally polls beneath a “generic Republican,” no flesh-and-blood Republican has been able to sustain any kind of lead over the President. But whether or not that trend continues, nothing of importance will happen at this year’s DNC. And dignifying this year’s Republican field with a collective response is, frankly, beneath us.

Secondly: Messing around with the ticking time bomb that is America’s electoral process might be enormously counterproductive.

The protesters that converged on the DNC in 1968 reflected outrage and opposition to the likely nomination of Hubert Humphrey:

Humphrey … went on to easily win the Democratic nomination at the party convention in ChicagoIllinois. Unfortunately for Humphrey and his campaign, outside the convention hall there were riots and protests by thousands of antiwar demonstrators, many of whom favored McCarthy, George McGovern, or other “anti-war” candidates. These protesters…were attacked and beaten on live television by Chicago police, which merely amplified the growing feelings of unrest in the general public. Humphrey’s inaction during the riots, as well as public backlash from securing the presidential nomination without entering a single primary, highlighted turmoil in the Democratic party’s base that proved to be too much for Humphrey to overcome in time for the general election. The … unpopularity of [President Lyndon Baines] Johnson, the Chicago riots, and the discouragement of liberals and African-Americans when both Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.were assassinated during the election year, were all contributing factors that caused him to eventually lose the election to former Vice President Nixon.

So, an unprimaried incumbent Democratic nominee, with the albatross of war around his neck, in the face of a great deal of mistrust among the Democratic base, responded feebly to very public suppression of speech and then lost in the general election. There are a number of oddly familiar themes, and an outcome worth pondering, no?

The fallout from Humphrey’s loss to Nixon continues to this day. Meanwhile, the civil rights movement remained politically and culturally resonant and won several reforms, but it left structural racism mostly unaddressed. The anti-war and other counter-culture movements of the ’60s and ’70s eventually expended the mainstream cultural capital they had and became defined within the context of traditional politics.

The point of all this? Our electoral system is a shaky and undemocratic mess, especially at the Presidential level. Interacting with it can lead to unintended consequences, and if we’re going to do it, I think we’d better have a very good reason.

Third, in the interest of maintaining consensus, we should not encourage or endorse faith in a system many occupiers feel is too broken to fix.

While there are Occupiers actively working to push for systemic changes in the short term, often by appealing to legislators and elected officials, most proposals that involve using the collective voice of Occupy to do so are rebuffed by General Assemblies.

I think most of us are well-informed about the grievances of which reformists seek redress: the insanity of corporate personhood, the criminality of the financial sector, the problematic nature of currency, weakened protections for human and civil rights, and our government’s failure to invest in or even to protect the commons are a few common themes. But even if we object to these things, a large percentage of occupiers reject the idea of reform, which many of us hoped we were casting our votes for in 2008.  Why waste our voice, whether we use it to beg or to demand, on hopelessly muffled ears?

In my view, we have a chance to think beyond convention as we collectively direct the movement. Acknowledging the existing system, which we broadly consider to be far from legitimate even across the reform/redesign divide, runs a high chance of damaging our consensus.

My fourth reason: #Occupy’s core innovation beyond traditional protest is that it is a network of social, political, and economic laboratories in which working alternative models can be tested, shared and demonstrated.

Like it or not - and we really don’t - occupiers have already experienced 1968-style suppression simply for holding our ground and maintaining our meta-protests in public spaces. Many of us were arrested for asserting our rights to speech and assembly. Our encampments were trashed and our belongings destroyed. Police departments across the country used crowd-control techniques not to protect themselves but to more easily subdue us.

But we never asked for any of that treatment. Our intent is to speak, assemble, and organize as the public has a right to do. Our occupations have been our homes and our workplaces not because police really hate it when we do that but because in so organizing we were able to present living, breathing, inspiring alternatives to our current ways of life.

It’s true — implementation is a big challenge, far too big to be fully unpacked here. There are many challenging realities, including that most of our nation’s resources are controlled by the political and economic actors most empowered within the tone-deaf institutions that govern our lives. If you were to make a list, it would be an enormously intimidating catalogue of resources that #Occupy does not have. On this list would be the military, every grid system and the loudest forms of media currently in use.

But one thing we do have, and it’s a doozy, is a better idea.

Less glibly, we have a bunch of ideas-in-development that are already far superior to the systems currently in use. Horizontal organization side-steps issues of corruption and when based on consensus models it can provide everyone a real voice. And we can get things done: the Occupy model of direct democracy is already being expanded beyond collective decision-making (most prominently displayed in its working groups and General Assemblies) to integrating existing and successful models for collectivistic democratic workplaces. And combined with other horizontal designs still in progress or yet to be conceived of, it’s not far-fetched to hope it can eventually form a completely novel political and economic structure.

So even as we keep learning and growing together, we’ve already got a bundle of good news to share. If we can use the 2012 presidential circus as a platform for a post-electoral demonstration of positive solutions, I think we should.

And finally: we don’t need to go to the existing nexuses of power; folks have consistently come to us - and quite probably will continue to do so.

Like the anti-war and civil rights movements, Occupy’s voice has become, I think it’s fair to say, reasonably powerful. But unlike the anti-war and civil rights movements, which faced a vast cultural gulf they needed to bridge with herculean educational efforts, #Occupy culture is, in essence, already very familiar.

After 20 years of the Internet, Americans of all ages and stripes have become accustomed to the freedoms of horizontalism. On the Internet, all voices are equal, as long as by voice you mean your computer/smartphone/exobrain. And even that bold claim isn’t comprehensive; the Internet also extends two of our most important senses, sight and sound. And the better our methods of accessing all of this info get, the more they boost our memory. The Internet offers a number of crucial new tools for self-empowerment and provides a vast, free environment in which to use them.

But the Internet isn’t enough. Our smartphones have begun enabling us to bring these enhancements to our real lives. It’s only natural that we would want our real lives, where we experience the full pleasures of being functioning human beings, to embody the same sense of freedom and creative potential. If this is, as I suspect it is, one common source of the urge to #Occupy, it’s no surprise that folks are drawn to #Occupied spaces.

(And it ain’t hard to tell why the institutions that have most recoiled in the face of #Occupy are the same ones threatened by the real democracy enabled by the Internet: those whose primary function is as middlemen between us and our democracy, our peace, our culture, and our freedom of choice.)

So, here’s my view: let’s forget the DNC and the RNC. Forget the unjust laws we protest, forget the money we distrust, forget the bloated zombie institutions of government. Remember the ties that really bind us in positive ways: our communities.

It’s said frequently, but we must #occupy so that our alternative model can be further developed and tested. Prior to August 2012, many #occupations will have gained quite a lot of insight on the ins and outs of current and future horizontal models.

So - and this is just food for thought - let me throw something out there. If we American #Occupiers want to have a true national assembly, to address issues that affect all of us as Americans, to share skills, break bread, make collective decisions together, and demonstrate our vision for the future, why not do it in Lebanon, Kansas, the geographic center of the contiguous 48 states?


 O RLY?
A park, you say?

Considering that it is essentially the heartlandiest of the heartlands, Lebanon, Kansas is appropriately low-profile. It appears to be a very small farming community with a declining population (303 on 2000’s census; 218 in 2010). Its Wikipedia article shouts it out for experiencing “rural flight”, which I guess is like white flight, except, since Lebanon is 99.01% white, not as racist. Or more racist. I don’t know.

It’s possible that folks there would appreciate the shot in the arm and the prominence #Occupy could bring it. It has a service station, a library and a newspaper, the Lebanon Times — according to Google Maps. I could dig deeper, but if Lebanon is anything like the other very small farming towns I’ve been to, it’s probably close to being just that humble. 

Or, the Lebanonians (Kansan Lebanese?) might hate the idea. Engagement with the community would obviously be a pre-requisite.

As for timing, even though we oughtn’t care much about the DNC or the RNC, the media will want to focus on both. The RNC precedes the DNC, the week of August 27th. 

So, maybe we can meet up in Lebanon - or do something else - during the week of August 20th.

We’re pretty okay at self-documentation; folks will want to see our contribution that week whether the media cares or not.

And the bona fide democracy that would occur at such a gathering, were it to become, like, a thing (i.e., be developed collectively at #OWS and/or other occupations and widely consensed upon), would massively overshadow the pointless spectacle of the following two weeks’ political melodrama.

Though I feel strongly about ignoring the 2012 elections, #OccupyLebanon2012 is no more than a figment of my imagination until it leaves my brain and enters #Occupy’s creative and decision-making processes at some actualized point of entry. But let’s see how we feel in a few months.

And just for the record, if this, or another non-co-optive national #Occupation were to actually occur, I’d be down.

December 11, 2011
"W.A.I.T.: Why Am I Talking?" flowchart, in "the occupied office", 50 Broadway.

"W.A.I.T.: Why Am I Talking?" flowchart, in "the occupied office", 50 Broadway.

December 11, 2011
@LibertySqGA: Handsignals / Stack (Collected by @maxfenton)

Someone named @maxfenton super helpfully collected the 12/4 GA’s explanation of the handsignals, step up/step back, and progressive stack. There were a couple of things missing from this night’s explanation: stepping up and stepping back, and progressive stack, are ultimately about making sure there is space in the discussion for traditionally-marginalized (or just more reserved) voices to be heard. Also, don’t forget the Point of Affection! You just make a big ol’ heart with ya hands and direct it at someone you <3.

Like @maxfenton! Thanks buddy. <3

November 30, 2011
WePay the Revolutionaries?

After being up til 4 AM last night watching and tweeting about the evictions of Occupy LA and Occupy Philly, and then getting up at 5 AM to cover this morning’s actions, I woke up from an offset half-night’s sleep this afternoon to find that Rosie Gray had blogged my WePay page for the Village Voice, and John Del Signore had written it up in Gothamist as well.

Oh my, where to begin?

Well, first, I have a duty to point out that I am not nearly the first OWS participant, nor social media contributor, to start a WePay account to fund continued coverage of Occupy Wall Street. My fellow occupier and PR Working Group member, and media wonk Jeff Smith has had a WePay fund for awhile, and the much-lauded, much-covered-by-mainstream-media TheOther99 team have raised a ton of money while straddling a line between being independent media and participators in the movement. I’m not exactly sure how I became the story here, but the fact is, I’m not alone.

Secondly, I want to own up to the fact that this attention makes me nervous, because this is a leaderful, horizontal movement. I created this role on my own so that I could contribute to the movement, not to be a loud voice. What got me involved in OWS in the first place was the mind-blowing experience of seeing direct democracy used by large groups of people in public spaces. My primary goal remains to bring people into that experience, because its potential and beauty are undertold stories.

Since I showed up on October 12th, and began informally livetweeting General Assembly, I’ve developed a small but very interested Twitter following, and since we started the@LibertySqGA team and moved the livetweeting of GAs (and now Spokescouncils) over there, it’s blown up way beyond my own followership, exactly as I’d hoped it would.

We’re a collectivist movement. So, why am I raising funds as an individual? Am I trying to profit off the movement, as someone from Gothamist leadingly asked me in an email? (Trap accepted!)

Answer: No! I’m raising funds as an individual because the other members of the group with which I’m in closest collaboration, the @LibertySqGA team, @jopauca and @heratylaw, are in completely different situations than I’m in, in terms of financial stability and levels of time commitment. While they both offered to work with whatever I felt was best for me, I ultimately felt uncomfortable asking them to get behind what still would have mostly been an effort to raise funds for me.

Also importantly, the @LibertySqGA team is a subgroup of the Liberty Square General Assembly’s PR Working Group, and for us to raise funds for personal expenses, rather than request them from the General Assembly, might have changed our relationship to the movement. I decided that owning this as a personal situation is ultimately more accountable to the movement as a whole.

But I’d prefer a collectivist effort. Accountability and collaborative outcomes are two huge benefits of collectivist models. Occupy Wall Street’s General Assembly recently consensed to spin off its first worker-owner co-operative, which is insanely exciting to me as potentially the start of a scaleable alternative economic model. But, unlike printing, which is the first co-op’s focus, the services I provide are free (with ‘net access), and they always will be, so the challenges in making that work as an independent, fair-wage-paying co-operative would be many of the same challenges I’m now experimenting with ways to overcome.

And, not to be super defensive, but to those focused on the money, this isn’t exactly a trade-up in terms of compensation. I left my full-time job, but I’ve got other freelance options that I enjoy and don’t find to be burdensome at all. I’m not into this for the money, and I honestly think that if you follow me on Twitter that’ll be more or less clear. It’s also not very different from other jobs I’ve had being paid to fundraise for traditional electoral political organizations, where my paycheck came from the money given to whoever was hiring the company I worked for.

After all, If Barack Obama can raise millions and millions from small donors like myself, and then work for the big guys anyway, crowd-sourcing a bare minimum of funds to hold my life together while I throw myself into the most promising movement of my lifetime seems likely to be a much better deal for all involved.

Finally, to zoom out: I think it’s awesome that this conversation, about compensation and the OWS movement, is being advanced. OWS has an economic message, and it also has economic solutions to offer. But Occupy is a laboratory, and we are working to perfect these and other new ideas. This is the story I hope we can tell next.

I spent a lot of time before setting up the WePay campaign thinking about what it meant to ask folks to fund my work, given that the movement is volunteer-driven, and that many, many hours of hard work, including professional services, are being donated by many committed people. I spoke to a lot of OWSers, too: a bunch of people on the ground here, the other members of the @LibertySqGA team, and those who responded to my musings about it on Twitter. So, I’ve got some ground to stand on here, I think.

OWS is a 24/7 movement driven by social media and on the ground physical presence. It’s a huge opportunity to work together towards change. But these strengths are also challenges for many — including, as one poignant example, sympathetic police officers — who feel, or just are, trapped in their financial situations and cannot participate full-time.

This can be a pretty big accessibility issue. After all, we, the ones with 9-to-5 jobs, leases, mortgages, overdue loan payments and frustratedly limited options, are a big portion of the 99%. Occupy Wall Street events, like actions, working group meetings, General Assemblies, and Spokescouncils, are constant, and together they represent a movement “narrative” that it can be tough to stay with unless you can give it a lot of focus. Many 9-to-5ers I meet in Liberty Square express frustration that it can be such a challenge to feel plugged into OWS at the working groups level, and to really participate in building that larger narrative.

That was my situation. I worked 9-to-6 5 days a week, with the occasional 24/7 on-call stint, providing professional services to the 1%. After two weeks of juggling my full-time job and allocating nearly 100% of all other time to OWS, I felt compelled to follow my heart, leave my job, and throw myself into Occupy Wall Street.

Money wasn’t on my mind, for the first time in years. To some who have totally internalized the wake-work-sleep ideal, this may seem like just absolute folly, but to me, it was a blissful, freeing moment that went hand-in-hand with firing on all cylinders for the first time since I was in my early 20s.

I embraced this and quit my job because I wanted to be able to be present during the day, to participate in the occupation’s organizational dynamics, and to lend a fuller portion of my abilities to the movement.

Finding ways for those of us in similar situations to join the movement, or sustain our commitment to it in the longer term, is something that can benefit many. If folks like myself, Jeff Smith, and TheOther99 team can find ways to sustain our commitments to the movement, without reneging on our financial obligations to those we love that depend on us to uphold our commitments, maybe we can help others find ways to do so, too.

Many will sneeringly disagree, but we occupiers are putting in a lot of work to try and improve the world we live in and solve some of the heartbreaking problems that our existing politics have failed to address. The more hands we have on deck, and the more folks who can actively lend their voices, ideas, and consent, the better.