The Great Depression was a period in American history rife with a rich poverty culture; hobo sign, Hoosiervilles, flour sack dresses, “move along” laws. Novels and iconic photographs
documented for future generations the devastation wreaked by hard economic times on ordinary hard-working Americans, and the vivid stories from our grandparents keep this bit of history alive. We read, see and hear tales of families run out of town because the homeless were not allowed within city limits after nightfall, trains full of children of poor families being shuttled across the country as ‘orphans’ in need of adoption, the carefully accumulated life savings of seniors evaporated instantly as more than 10,000 banks failed and left the majority of America’s elderly completely and unexpected dependent on charity.
Fortunately, in this enlightened era, we have left such abominable behaviour in the past. After years of crafting a culture of tolerance and respect for all mankind, and not merely those who look, talk and shop exactly as we ourselves do, we can look upon the barbaric actions of our predecessors with a discerning eye and the knowledge that such things no longer happen in modern times.
Denver city councilman Albus Brooks has proposed a highly controversial bill outlawing “urban camping”. Though proponents of the bill point to needed tourism dollars from the downtown area and revenue from the popular 16th St Mall, the bill institutes a ban not merely on those specific areas but throughout the entire city limits.
Much of the controversy stems from the bill’s attempt to either change or ignore reality. In the
summer autumn winter spring of our recovery, homelessness is on the rise. The most recent study on Denver’s homeless population puts their ranks at more than eleven thousand people; 62% being families with children. The U.S. Conference of Mayors determined that homelessness increased by 12% in one year alone.
Compounding this problem is the lack of funding to effectively handle it. Denver, with its fatally cold winters, has struggled for years to carve funds away from stadiums and tourism to sufficiently staff adequate shelter beds for women and children. The situation will grow more dire almost immediately, as many shelters are closing or reducing the number of beds available by this summer.
Yet, the sole nod to the essential facts of the situation from Councilman Brooks are that Denver will try to find a safe place for Denver’s poor to sleep at night, and if that doesn’t materialize, well then, the DPD can always house the poor in jail.
If you are not moved, dear readers, by compassion and the knowledge that in this economy there but for the grace of God go you, then you should still be incensed by the sharp demand on the taxpayer wallet – fully expected when a city makes poverty a misdemeanor.
Occupy Denver met at Lincoln Park on Friday to discuss the proposed law, and brainstorm alternatives which might actually do something productive to address the stand-off between wealthy downtown businesses and poor Denver citizens who stubbornly refuse to cease existing. It was suggested that the first priority should be determining a safe place for people to sleep at night, away from those who just want to shop for expensive consumer goods in peace. The Denver jail was dismissed out of hand, as not only a violation of citizens’ constitutional rights but also an undue burden on Denver’s taxpayers. Constructive arguments were raised that, since all citizens fall under the definition of “the public”, then public parks would be the best place to allow people to sleep in a place which was safe and out from underfoot.
Also touched on was the strain this would put on the DPD, an agency not known for the sort of kind and gentle touch required when dealing with mentally fragile individuals or women
The sheer inadequacy of this bill to fix the problem of Denver homelessness is astounding, and yet Councilman Brooks already has nine votes; enough to pass it into law. If anyone is surprised that nine council members are willing to commit to a new law before hearings or public testimony, please submit pictures of your shocked face to firstname.lastname@example.org. These pictures will be artistically assembled into a decorative collage to be presented to Denver city council upon passage of the bill into law.
A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. ~ John F. Kennedy
America stands at a crossroads, although the exact nature of that fork in the road is widely debated. Many feel that it is the choice between violent revolution or peaceful civil renaissance. Those on the left tend towards the opinion that this is the brink between a capitalist or socialist economic system. Those on the right lean more towards this being the epochal decision between Constitutional freedoms and a nanny state. All of these opinions are correct. Much like a patient who feels the fever without understanding the underlying disease, people are united in voicing their unease that our current conditions can or should continue as is, and fill their uncertainty as to root causes with whatever seems to make sense from their limited biases. This is a case of thinking too hard. The answer is actually quite simple. The choice facing America today is to continue in the direction our leaders have set for us, or to plot a change of course.
Change is the only thing that stays the same, and yet we resist it. Change takes us outside of our comfort zone, into the unknown, and perhaps out of the fat and into the fire. We may understand inherently that things never stay the same, and also that our current path is not one destined for a good resolution, and yet mankind has this tendency to sit back and take the path of least resistance. Wise words were once spoken on this very subject.
… All experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
You may recognize the quote. It was written at another time in human history when we faced the choice of taking our destiny and our citizenship into our own hands, or acquiescence to the usurpations of uncaring leaders. It’s part of the Declaration of Independence.
The time is ripe for an alteration from our current disastrous course. In the most recent poll, taken a mere three days ago, Obama had an approval rating of 24%. Congress is even worse, scoring just 9% three months ago. Voter turnout has been declining for decades as Americans become disenfranchised with an unresponsive political system and no palatable options. Americans are adamant that they are fed up. Change will happen; the only question is whether it will come at the hands of leaders America professes to hate and distrust, or via the citizens.
Citizens disgusted with the system – which, by all polls, are the vast majority of you – continue to take up their constitutionally-protected rights to agitate for a change of course. People in power also don’t like change, especially anything that involves losing some of that carefully hoarded power. These power elites have taken up an assault on constitutionally-protected rights in order to protect their non-existent ‘right’ to rule. Your first amendment rights, formally acknowledged in the Constitution to be an absolute right not ruled by government whim, has been corralled into “Free Speech Zones” the government selects for you, during hours of the day the government decides are appropriate to its purposes, and only with a permission slip you paid the government to receive.
And if you object to this too loudly? Government-subsidized men with court-approved low IQs and psychological exams designed to weed out men with sympathy will beat and shoot you.
Tell me again about these rights you have. They no longer exist. You let them be taken away.
Another quote from John F. Kennedy is, “Do not pray for easier lives. Pray to be stronger men.” We cannot stop this collision course between that classic conundrum of the unstoppable force – an arrogant leadership – and the immovable object – America’s distrust in their own system. It is not possible to beat American distrust until all is well again. Neither is it possible to ignore power-mad leaders until they become more interested in the common welfare. Action will be taken, the only question is which action.
Many would love Occupy Denver to go home. Change is uncomfortable, and they’re still hopeful that if they hide their heads in the sand and ignore the problem long enough, it will magically disappear on its own. In truth, the best case scenario is that Occupy Denver never goes home, never gives up.
The worst thing that could happen is that Occupy Denver goes home and goes away. Then, citizens of Denver would be left with politicians and their police who have learned well that their citizens do not truly care about their rights as Americans. That is a lesson they will use again, and it will not be only against people the corporate media tells you are unlikeable. No, this is one lesson repeated many times throughout the course of history and the outcome was always the same.
It will be used against you.
Tactics committee held a teach-in today at the camp, titled Urban Camping 101 Part Deaux: Travois, Tacos, Bug-Out Bags and the Art of Escapology. The class was very well-attended, with between fifteen and twenty people turning out to watch the building and demonstration of a travois plus an in-depth discourse on safety tactics and protecting the camp’s gear and supplies during a raid.
Yesterday evening, after hearing Occupy Boulder was under a raid warning, the same Tactics committee mobilized in solidarity for our brother encampment to the west. Vehicles were rounded up and a carpool arranged to leave from the Occupy Denver camp to convoy over to Boulder to offer any assistance desired. At final count, twenty-six Denver Occupiers joined up with the Boulder camp for support. A summit was convened, the Tactics committee held a class for handling a raid to great interest – Boulder will be facing their first – and Occupy Boulder graciously handled the refreshments. Eight members of the Row and Denver supporters stayed the night at the Boulder encampment, and a good time was had by all. Tomorrow night Occupy Boulder is staging a dance party for zero hour – 11PM – which many Occupiers and Denver supporters plan to attend.
Supper at the camp was spaghetti and meatballs, and weather was blissfully warm. Your Occupiers enjoyed the sunshine, wandering around in short sleeves and tidying up the camp to even higher standards of cleanliness. Cole has instituted a rolling garbage truck – a shopping cart reinforced with cardboard and bearing a sign saying, “NO Littering – Max Penalty – Bitchslapping… hard”. It’s a wonder how a brief respite from the cold completely changes the tenor of the camp.
Our political commentators are becoming fuddled by a phenomenon that, while not even close to being new, has been markedly increasing over the past decade. In the great game of party politics, American voters are refusing to play along.
For nearly sixteen decades, the Democrat and Republican parties have been playing to a captive audience, as it were. Naturally, when you only have one rival your platform consists largely of announcing in firm, stentorian tones how wonderfully different you are from this lone rival and, failing all else, pointing out that at least you are not as bad as the sole other option. As the differences between the two parties shrank down to the microscopic, American voters have been treated to proportionally greater emphasis on the latter, and entire elections have devolved into campaigns which can be summarized best as, “Sure, I’m no prize, but at least I’m not quite as bad as that other jackass.” The problem inherent in being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils is that your choice is still pro-evil. The only real surprise is that it has taken Americans 158 years to tire of this game.
Perhaps there existed an iconic age when Democrats and Republicans presented two distinct choices cognizant of and reachable to the American Everyman commonly known as Joe SixPack. I don’t know, I’m not really that old, despite what my knees tell me. For most of my adult life, at least, the political game has been about the illusion of choice. Quick, name the political party full of wealthy people and sexual scandals! Quick, name one presidential election that did not have rich old white men in power ties on both sides! Quick, name the politician who is the single biggest recipient of campaign donations from Wall Street banks!
But that’s different. Why, we’re not sure, but the TV says the parties are different and TV would never lie to us. The Democrats are anti-warmongering and for social safety nets, and the Republicans are for fiscal responsibility and old-fashioned interpretations of the Constitution. Then Clinton targets aid to needy families and bombs Sudan, and Bush 2.0 sends deficit spending into the stratosphere and calls the Constitution “just a goddamned piece of paper”. Amnesty for illegal immigrants? A progressive Democrat platform, last given to us by Reagan. Voters grew so disgusted with Bush Jr’s policies they voted a wide swath of Democrats into office, who in turn so disgusted voters that they were replaced with Republicans, who have so disgusted voters that Democrats seem poised to take back the House. Is anyone detecting a pattern here, or is that just me?
While the many heads of the political hydra continue to spout soundbites on social issues to distract us, the Beast itself has devoted more than thirty years to pro-bankster legislative policies which have effectively siphoned the wealth and capital of the American public to elite financiers. The wages and net worth of voters have gone down, and inflation has eroded the purchasing power (i.e., value) of those dollars you manage to hang onto, and yet at the same time mega-corporations have grown more profitable and monolithic. This is not a bug, it’s a feature. Only those with a severe lack of critical thinking skills will offer any excuse that such a long-term policy stance comes from one side or the other, as both “parties” have encouraged and facilitated this economy-destroying position as they trade control of our legislative and executive branches between them like a game of Hot Potato.
And yet, the Hydra wants us to believe that the left-right paradigm is so compelling that we have no choice but to buy into it. We are not supposed to be for student vouchers and also for gay marriage. One is a conservative stance and the other liberal, and agreeing with both is not allowed. If you’re for gay marriage, then you’re a Democrat and that means you have to accept every other position on their platform. Deciding that our liberal politicians are deficit-spending our children’s future away in order to gain the political benefit of programs today that they refuse to fund sounds too much like asking for a balanced budget, and a Republican once backed balancing the budget so you have to be against that. You’ll just have to change your mind and either hate gays or be in favor of Democrats financially raping your children.
Conservatives are not allowed to support Occupy Wall Street. A conservative Occupier? Sacre bleu, c’est impossible! That’s what the Tea Party is for, innit? Ah, and now we see how neatly we are manipulated. A false dichotomy has been put into place, and the stooges in the corporate media even assure us that we have no choice but to participate in the “proper” section for our protesting. Liberals over here, conservatives over there. Ne’er the twain shall meet. Benjamin Franklin, after signing the Declaration of Independence, was quoted as saying, “We must all hang together, or we will surely hang separately.” The entire notion of political opinion being an either/or proposition, a compelling dichotomy in which we must hang all of our faith, is nothing more than a lie. It is a means to manipulate the public. Divide us, segregate us into smaller sections, and once weakened we are more easily conquered. All those who doubt this, raise your hands if you’ve voted some utter jackass into office who signed legislation you hated, all because s/he was the lesser of two evils. Congratulations. You were defeated by the Hydra.
It is striking, how those centuries-old quotes from our Founding Fathers have so much relevance in these interesting times. Truly, we have come full circle. Recognize the false dichotomy for exactly what it is, and learn to think independently. Hell, learn to think at all. The alternative is going to the gallows separately, still complaining that balanced budgets are Republican and Occupy Wall Street is an Obama conspiracy as the bank-owned noose goes around your neck.
Contributed by on the ground correspondent, Jo Newton
People are funny.
There’s a sort of person one gets used to meeting when one is with Occupy; the armchair activist, the sideseat protestor, or, as I like to call them, people who Occupy Twitter. They come in many flavors. There’s the rabid progressive liberal who finds it personally offensive to discover conservatives at Occupy. There’s the conservative God, Guns and Gays issue-politics Republican who is convinced every “Occutard” loves Obama and joined the Occupation at the President’s behest. There’s those who voice support but also add that they wish we would protest <insert pet cause here>, and there are always those who second-guess every little thing we do; from allowing Denver’s homeless population to join our ranks freely and the burning of our own structures to the presence of cigarette smoke within fifty feet of a General Assembly – in a public park.
America has many opinions. The revolution should be about human rights. The revolution should be about the environment, with a side order of save the whales. The revolution should be run by Republicans, because God doesn’t like hippies and socialists have never successfully revolted. Everyone should take showers, because in the Battle of Valley Forge, George Washington may have been barefoot and sleeping in a ragged tarp in the snow, but he was clean-shaven. We need to be non-violent, like Gandhi. We need to arm ourselves and take to the streets, like the colonial Minutemen.
All of these people share something in common. It is that they have an internal vision of how the revolution should be run, and that they choose not to take their own advice. It is always “what you people should be doing”, and never “what I should be doing”.
I have a saying for the myriad almost-protestors who come down to Occupy and start off a conversation with a wonderful idea on which someone else should spend a lot of time and effort.
“I’ve got a full plate, pal. If you don’t want to do it, why should I?”
That not every element of the Occupy revolution is your cuppa tea is without question. What you should be asking instead, if you have any intelligence at all, is whether you consider today’s world situation to be tenable. Everything okay with you? With your family, your job? You fine with the political situation? More power to you, and how’s the weather on your planet?
Here on Earth, we’re facing a police state, economic collapse and a political court reminiscent of Mad King George (which ended well, I’m sure we recall). If you’re fine with all this, well and good. We wish you all the best. Go from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. May your chains rest lightly upon you, and may posterity forget you were ever our countrymen.
Ten years ago, Congress had an approval rating of 56%. According to CNN, these days Congress is running a solid 9%. If, like 91% of Americans here on planet Earth, you agree that these 535 utter twats are running our economy and country into the ground, then you have only one question to ask yourself.
Why aren’t you angry enough to do something about it?
Let’s be real here. Occupy is nothing more than a handful of ordinary Americans who have reached their limit, their “Eureka!” moment. When given the choice between the fiction of wealth or liberty, they chose liberty. You chose to stay in the comfort of your living room.
If ye prefer the tranquility of servitude to the animated contest of freedom, you have our blessings. If, however, you prefer the pretense of activism via Twitter and the internet to actually taking a stand, sit down before you hurt yourself. You are the most ineffective advocate on earth. Most people think you’re not only lazy, but a nutcase. And you are most certainly on the watch lists.
This is a DIY revolution. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
Lead, follow, or get the fuck out of our way.
In a state of post-holiday semi-sotted bliss, borrowing quotes like they’ll be outlawed tomorrow,
Locke in Socks
In this post-holiday, post-raid, mid-massive harassment comparative doldrum*, or what passes for it at Occupy Denver, perhaps some light educational entertainment is in order. Ah, what fun is Youtube.
Hysterical. Really hysterical.
I wish this weren’t so buried in partisan speech, because the math is completely accurate. I checked.
Carlin remains made of awesome and winning. For best results, take a daily dose of Carlin.
This is a great song. Do you know how much fun it is to have a bunch of committee members Occupy a bar and sing this song in karaoke? Good times, man, good times.
Highly informative and interesting.
*Yes, I am bored by cops waking us up at 1AM to sweat testosterone, steal and try to provoke sleeping people into saying something arrest-worthy. Personally, I roll over and go back to bed. If they want me badly enough, they can come in and pull my underwear-clad self out.
The most important service rendered by the press and the magazines is that of educating people to approach printed matter with distrust. ~ Samuel Butler
The press is often referred to as the Fourth Estate. This is a reference attributed first to Edmund Burke, and it speaks to the three branches of government – judicial, legislative and executive – which are hemmed round and limited by the unofficial fourth branch – a free press. As the theory goes, the ultimate check and balance to government is an informed populace, and it is the press which keeps them so informed. The Founding Fathers felt the free flow of information was so vital to a wise government that they addressed it first in the Bill of Rights, and spoke often on the subject.
James Madison had this to say. “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.” Benjamin Franklin perhaps wins the dubious honor of being the world’s first blogger, with his Poor Richard’s Almanack. These men – farmers, diplomats, merchants – who had just come through a war for independence and the right to self-governance knew only too well how important it was for the citizenry to be able to know the truth, and to spread accurate information far and wide.
That’s the theory anyway. In practice, a free press is just as capable of disseminating lies and propaganda as it is accurate news. While the media is supposed to believe it does not make the news, it merely reports it, we are nevertheless bombarded with news which blatantly offers the slant of your choice; and news which, like a gold nugget under a ton of cow shit, is a fragment of truth coated by a thick patina of the reporter’s personal opinion. When reporters decide their opinions are news and go looking for ways to prove it, the quality of the media suffers. To put it bluntly, they lie to us.
Andrew Breibart, commentator for the Washington Times and popular news pundit, offered a $100,000 reward for any video of Tea Party activists using racial slurs against legislators, an incident the corporate media insisted happened. In this Age of the Cameraphone (let’s put it on Youtube!) not one person in a crowd of hundreds – not even media journalists filming the crowd – were able to locate proof of the media’s allegations. The reward goes unclaimed to this day, and yet there are many who remain convinced that the Tea Party is racist. After all, it was in the papers.
We in the media are answerable only to the truth, but it isn’t as if Truth will come to our house and give us a good spanking if we lie to the public. Instead, we must rely on the public’s critical thinking skills to keep the press in line. Aha, and therein lies the snag.
At the candlelight vigil for the homeless on Tuesday, a Denver Post reporter twittered that Occupy Denver was deliberately trying to disrespect the homeless. Presumably because the Occupation hate homeless people. Last week, the Denver Post was portraying Occupy Denver as just homeless people, and therefore not really important. These two statements are not mutually inclusive, and yet it rests upon the public to put that together. That same Post reporter, when later confronted that he’d reported falsely two nights running that Civic Center Park was unOccupied, twittered that the Occupation was just “six homeless people and one journalist.” The question of who is disrespectful to the homeless seems clear.
The public has taken notice. Newspaper circulation has been dropping steadily for more than a decade as readers cease to bother with corporate media. The Old Grey Mare, she ain’t what she used to be. On the other hand, alternative media has exploded in growth. It seems the public still wants to know what is going on, they merely don’t believe the corporate media will tell them. Not with any accuracy.
This is true locally as well. Like it, love it or loathe it, Occupy is news. The public wants to know what Occupy Denver is doing. Corporate media coverage has fallen over itself to assure the public that the news on Occupy is nothing much; only a few dirty homeless people who despise homeless people – probably socialists and hippies as well, definitely no one identifiable to normal Americans. And then they find the drunkest homeless person they can to interview on camera about what Occupy is really all about, just in case the public didn’t get the message properly that all of Occupy are filthy, unemployed and not someone you’d invite to dinner.
Correspondingly, alternative news blogs such as the Westword and John Howard of Jumbo Tales have followers who avidly soak up the news they post on Occupy, and Howard reports his site hits go through the roof whenever he posts a new piece on Occupy. Denver is starved for real news, and seeks it out where ever they can find it.
The news is out there. If the corporate media wants to still be a part of it, they should cease attempting to create the news and go back to merely reporting it.
Contributed by on the ground correspondent, Jo Newton