Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How the process comes together, and how I come apart

No one posted where today's general assembly is scheduled to take place, just that it will be near the Railyard, so that's where I head – and, sure enough, that's where everyone is. The campsite is bustling; there's a circle of maybe 10 people in the grass – maybe for facilitation? Where is the meeting taking place, I ask. In the amphitheater over by the red rocks – oh, I never realized this was an amphitheater, but sure enough it's a circle with a tiered place to sit. Chris jokes that this will surely enable hierarchy. I can't decide what to do about names – now that I'm learning them, should I use them? It's liberating to write about this activism that's supposed to be entirely public, but still I'm so used to the relative secrecy of organizing in the past. And, I don't want to expand potential drama, just document and comprehend – for now. I guess I will use names sparingly, testing it out.

We sit down and the sun is setting, right behind the facilitator’s head – oh, it's gorgeous. A facilitator I haven't seen before, Rebecca– she emphasizes the excitement, which I appreciate. I can't believe there are close to 60 people, once again. Most of the meeting ends up involving intricate discussions of minutiae, and by the middle of the meeting half of the people attending have left. It's not that these discussions aren’t important, just that by the time we get to talking about the week’s direct action, no one seems to care. Shouldn’t that come first, when people still have energy?

It's impressive how the process come together, and how it comes apart. There are several extremely drunken Native guys who keep wanting to talk, slurring their words and struggling to form sentences. The fact that the meeting is predominantly white makes this all the more uncomfortable. This one guy struggles to say: take… care… of…our earth – or something like that – it's actually painful to watch, but people applaud, as if the fact that it's a Native guy speaking delivers some form of necessary authenticity.

At one point, a white-haired white woman I would guess is in her sixties -- someone who used to be a reporter for the Washington Post – makes a statement about manners at the campsite, a mixture of practical advice and guru speak. She did put herself on the agenda ahead of time, but it's not clear who she is speaking for. One person attempts to get clarification, but none is really provided. The meeting moves on – one of the facilitators have left, and now that it's dark it's hard for the remaining one to see when people raise their hands. Towards the end of the meeting, the cops show up – turns out they want to close the camp tonight, because of the fires going on after 10 pm the previous night – or, that's what they say, anyway. Tomorrow it will be something else.

Consensus is reached not to light fires tonight. I make a proposal to announce the police harassment on the Facebook site right away, so that people know that the campsite needs support. It seems like most people are in agreement, but the facilitator doesn't call for consensus; maybe everyone's too tired to notice? After the meeting, someone tells me they will make a post about the cops on the Facebook page, and asks around for a phone to use, but I notice the next day that no post is made. Makes me curious about how official posts are made on the site – certain people have access and certain people don’t, but it's something we haven't discussed yet.

How the process comes together, and how I come apart: when I get home, I'm so tired that it hurts, angry that I'm still awake, hating myself for going to the meeting – why am I such a mess? Because this is what happens to me; it's how fragile I am; I know this, but it doesn't make me hate my predicament less. Why am I in so much pain? Maybe because I went to Aspen Vista with Nadine yesterday – a beautiful drive, but a drive always hurts my body. A gorgeous walk in the even higher altitude that maybe drained me too much? And then, to get to the meeting, I went from a busy day, doing errands with Justin, right over there without even a few minutes of recovery. I wanted to be there.

Here's what I realize, in this horrible draining exhaustion: I hate being in Santa Fe, there's nothing here for me. When I go to these meetings, I actually feel like I'm back in the life that I want. But then I'm so drained that I hate myself for going. Is there any potential for balance? I don't know what to say, except that direct action organizing used to be the center of my life, and I miss that center. I miss making friends this way, creating relationships and a relationship to the world through political engagement with other people. Even when the meetings feel pointless – even when I can't believe some of the things that people say – still then I feel so much more engaged, this process of engaging with the world oh how I miss that and it's here and then later on, in the middle of the night when my head is racing in bed while I'm trying to sleep and I hate myself again for going, for all these ideas that are not the problem I mean they might be the answer except they're keeping me up and what will tomorrow bring?

But still this process, do you see what I'm saying? That's the dream of all of this – the process, really. Because I'm not sure exactly what the point of Occupy Santa Fe is otherwise, or not exactly, except for some vision of communal engagement to challenge the status quo. I'm not sure whether it's doing that exactly, but I do know that someone at the meeting said: I think we should go to the Plaza, and target more banks. And I got excited. Not that that’s the dominant feeling at the meetings necessarily, but it's progress. Someone else said: I want to be the first person to get arrested. It was during the discussion of whether to agree not to light a fire at the campsite, and his point was that he wanted to get arrested, but not for a fire. And so, I guess I don't know whether people applauded because he was speaking against the fire or whether they applauded because he wanted to get arrested, but still they applauded.


LizinLouie said...

I also read your post in Bilerico. I like your take on Occupy. I went to Occupy here in St.Louis and my perception was much the same. Of course, here in The Lou, Occupy has a Heartland "Flav-our". The people involved are knowledgable and committed. We were surrounded by Police on horseback and on bicycle (quite the juxtiposition)The most interesting thing that occured at Occupy, I was sitting at the edge of the amphitheatre (we have one too)reading and waiting for "something" to happen, and this male gendered person, older than most, approached me. He could have been inebriated, or an ex-prizefighter, or both. It is not my place to judge. He leaned in close to me (smelled like Jack Daniels)and said, " I know what you are" and winked. He said;"the nail polish, the make-up...That's cool, that's cool. Everybody's welcome here. Bring all your 'Gay' friends down here." Then he kissed my hand.Not much that happens in St. Louis can be considered surreal, but I think that qualifies.What did I learn that day? Occupy is an impressive movement with great potential. It takes all kinds of people; like him, like me. and..."What a strange, strange, trip we are on."

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

LizinLouie, thanks so much for writing! And, oh no, all those cops – horseback and bicycle, at least I guess there are no tanks…

And, you're right – a strange, strange trip indeed, I wonder where it will lead…

Love –