yesterday I got to liberty plaza, finally.
since it came to my attention I have been making my way towards it, wanting to see it and feel it myself, though with some trepidation. I tend to roll with a critical crowd, and I have to work hard sometimes to keep my heart open when there are lots of critical questions sitting there for me to ask:
is it a bunch of privileged white kids?
is it stinky dropouts?
is it a mash-up of wingnut messaging?
is it our tame tahrir square?
is it the decentralized movement we have been awaiting?
is it safe for queer people, people of color, for me?
is it rooted with existing movements for economic justice?
I had to know.
so I went. getting off the train at wall street there is immediately a little hand written taped up piece of paper pointing towards zuccotti park. first I walked around the perimeter, lined with people facing outward with signs, taking in the love, admiration, disrespect, insults, and ignorance of the passersby with a generally curious and calm presence.
I wound my way through the inner park, taking in all the systems and offerings and community there, as well as hundreds of others like myself, come to see and feel this massive cultural happening. I saw a few folks I knew, but they were also there seeing how to plug in. that excited me.
what I felt there was a resounding yes, yes to all of my questions, and many more.
more precisely, what I felt was the surge of energy I used to get at a march, realizing that there were so many people wanting change, people who had walked completely different pathways to reach the same conclusion that they were willing to give their precious lifeforce to changing the systems of our time.
this has the potential to be deeper, because it feels less fleeting, less temporary, less spectacle. marches have left me feeling so unheard for so long.
here, i noticed the wingnut messaging, and the whiteness…and yet I felt close to tears a few times, seeing unexpected diversity in the crowd, seeing the self-organized systems emerging for creation of art, sharing of information, health and wellness. there was even a table of ‘coaches’ to help people figure out what their role in the movement could be.
no one is special, and everyone is needed.
to speak to the whiteness of the crowd, I actually felt moved to see so many white people, very normal looking white people, standing around the edges of this park looking liberated themselves, holding up signs that criticize capitalism.
some were speaking from their privilege, and others from their own economic struggles. but to have masses of white people in the streets talking about the economy with a progressive decentralized grassroots perspective, and have it not be the tea party, is a tipping point signal.
the crises are becoming clear even to those not being directly oppressed, or those directly organizing. and people are ready to stand up and dream of something different.
and yes of course it would be amazing to see even more people of color there.
my sense was that we need only show up, in whatever capacity we can, and there we will be. there is also a case to be made for white privileged folks sleeping in the park to hold space for people of color and poor folks who may not have the luxury to drop work and do so, but are in alignment. solidarity can look so many different ways.
I have been in movement spaces for a long time, and we have a way of doing things which is so steeped in critique that I have often wondered if we would strangle movement before it could blossom. sometimes I think we put up the critiques to excuse ourselves from getting involved, and sometimes I think we do it to protect our hearts from getting broken if it doesn’t work out. critique, alone, can keep us from having to pick up the responsibility of figuring out solutions. sometimes I think we need to liberate ourselves from critique, both internal and external, to truly give change a chance.
the major critique I have heard of this effort is the lack of demands, and multitude of messages.
my thought so far is, humans have a multitude of cares, of passions…trying to lockstep us into one predictable way of being is the essential desire of corporations, because if you can predict what people will want and do, then you can profit off of coming up with appropriate products and activities for them. this movement is instead making it as easy as possible to enter, no matter what passion brought you to the square.
and in terms of the demands, it seems the central demand is to build and expand a conversation that is long overdue in this country, a conversation which doesn’t have simple cut and dry demands. we are realizing that we must become the systems we need – no government, political party or corporation is going to care for us, so we have to remember how to care for each other.
and that will take time, and commitment, a willingness to step outside of the comfort of the current and lean into the unknown, together. to listen to each other across all real and perceived divides.
I have heard stories of folks having issues, bringing them to general assembly, and being able to shift the process, even as newcomers. I have seen random people call for the people’s microphone, and others – including myself – jump in to spread the message, regardless of the message.
the whole thing seems so utterly not produced, not micromanaged, and not acting from a place of crisis which excuses top down elitist decision making processes – not rushing itself.
I see this as a natural evolution from conversations and gatherings and organizing that has been building for years, call and response across time from the battle in seattle, the street forums that take analysis beyond the choir.
it’s taken a long time to get to this place. now it’s time to let the fruit burst on our tongues and savor the flavor of something tangible that we grew with our courage to hold the line against the inhumanity of corporate greed. let’s spend less time on the imperfection of the process, and more time articulating and crystalizing our lessons.
liberty square is important, the call to occupy wall street is important.
and like any anti-Zionist American with an analysis of imperialism here at home and abroad, I am not a fan of the proliferation of events that are naming themselves “occupy ‘insert city’”. I get it. we are going to occupy America with justice, to take up the space of being in this country, in these cities and in these banks, be vocal occupants of this place, reshaping it to something that yields solidarity in place of shame.
I love the other options I am hearing: “decolonize ‘insert city’”, “occupy within” and “foreclose ‘insert institution’”.
it feels spacious. it feels like something you can do, no matter where you are, by authentically applying yourself to the changes you wish to see. at liberty plaza it is a physical occupation. in Detroit it may be a massive redistribution of food and shelter resources heading into the winter. tomorrow I will get to see what it looks like in Oakland.
don’t sit this out. it has room for you. find out, start, or help shape what is happening in your town.