Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To the rest of the world, we are the 1%

Sixty people at another general assembly meeting, I'll admit I'm impressed at this continued commitment! A majority are white people in their late-40s and older, once again – now, in other cities it may be true that participants in their 30s are on the older side as far as the organizers, but if I see any of that type of media coverage displayed in Santa Fe, it will certainly be a time for endless laughter.

For some reason, the same people seem to facilitate every time – people in their 30s and 40s who seem to have become the unspoken leaders. I'm not sure that any of the working groups have actually met yet, but perhaps there should be one about facilitation. Or, as skillshare, right? Although one teenager who seems to know many of the older people there volunteers to take stack. Calling on people, that is – first he asks me: what’s stack? Good question – no one exactly takes time to explain things here. Like consensus, for example. At one point, someone asks, and one of the facilitators says at Occupy Wall Street it meant 90% in agreement. But wait – that's not consensus at all! But no one stops to talk more about the process, perhaps this will happen in the future?

Facilitation is not exactly going smoothly – the facilitators are not assertive, that's what I'm thinking. Because, we’re allegedly brainstorming priorities for a campsite, and maybe 50 people have talked, but there are only six things on the list. When I say that 50 people have talked, of course, there are five or 10 who have talked way more than the others. Eventually, things are settled – or, not settled, but at least there's a list – and then we move on to talking about potential actions for the coming Saturday. Again, people raise their hand to say all sorts of things that have absolutely no relation, or only a tentative relation. Really – how many people can raise their hand to talk about outreach, when each time someone else points out that there is a outreach working group, would you like to join? People keep talking about building numbers, but can't they see that there are 60 people at this meeting? I mean, that's amazing to me! Yes, there could be a wider range of people present – I'm especially curious about Somos Un Pueblo Unido, the community-based immigrant rights organization that’s the only group I've seen organize effective mass protests, or any protests really – I'm curious about their decision not to show up at Occupy Santa Fe assembly meetings, or the protests. The outreach working group seems to be spearheaded by women of color, so I'm sure Somos will be one of the first groups contacted.

The campsite discussion is kind of strange – sure, it would be glamorous to have a campsite, but I'm pretty sure only a handful of people stayed overnight at the previous one. Are we just mimicking Occupy Wall Street? My contribution to the priorities list is that we should be interrupting business as usual. What is the best way to do that in Santa Fe? If there is a campsite, shouldn't it focus on housing issues? Somehow I doubt that, because people keep talking about vagrants – or, at the first meeting, it was transient people, they've been great so far but call 911 if anything gets out of hand. But, wait a second – you're sleeping in a tent on the side of a thoroughfare – isn't that transient? Today someone mentions a potential camping area where everyone has been cleared out – oh, a perfect place for an occupation, right? Clear out the wrong people, bring in the right ones. We are the 99 percent!

At least there's a more nuanced conversation about the cops. Or, not really a conversation, but an open question about whether camping can proceed without permission. Strangely, or perhaps not strangely at all, someone emerges during this conversation to announce that she is, in fact, in charge of activities that occur at the Railyard, the place where we are meeting, so convenient for me I mean I even walked to the meeting, with my food and water. But that's not what she's talking about – she says that she would like to work with us. Technically camping isn't allowed, she says, but there are ways around that. It almost seems like she's asking us to camp there, but she’s on her way somewhere else and no further discussion emerges on this particular point. Although, I think it does open more space for thinking about unpermitted camping.

But back to facilitation – we've gotten to the point in the action discussion where there’s a list, but five things on the list are basically the same – various ideas for a march, and the locations are all within 10 blocks. My turn for an intervention: why don't we consolidate these five items? Is that a proposal, one of the facilitators asks, although we haven't clarified any process for making proposals. But yes – a proposal it is! And then it’s approved – apparently the meeting is nearing an end, but I want to make an announcement about Occupy Canyon Road – I guess I’ve decided it's time for meeting, even though I'm so exhausted that I can barely imagine organizing anything. I mean, I can barely imagine writing this paragraph, but still here it is. I can barely imagine how I'm going to get to another meeting, especially when I leave this one and my whole body hurts, and then thinking about all these people 20 and 30 years older than me, sitting on bricks outside in the chilly air, isn’t anyone else hurting?

That's the thing about inspiration, for me I mean – it leaves me here in bed, wired out of my mind, I mean wired in my mind, even after listening to the feldenkrais CD which leaves me so thankful that I've discovered something that actually helps with the pain, helps me move through it, except then it’s the next day and I'm so much more exhausted, I can hardly even form sentences, am I really thinking of organizing something? But I can't help it – I feel like part of this thing, this Occupy/Decolonize movement, even if the decolonization part seems parenthetical to most of it, still I'm thinking about this one sign that I didn't see at Saturday's protest, but apparently it was there, because I see it in a photo: "To the Rest of the World, We Are the 1%." How do we incorporate this into our organizing?


lizlatty said...

thanks mattilda..really enjoying your report backs, insights, questions. i feel an immense amount of value in the blogs i'm reading from different occupy/decolonize encampments, trying to understand the different incarnations and manifestations, seeing where we are fumbling and soaring. i've just started spending some more time at the oakland encampment as i was out of town the last week-ish since it began. alot to think about, alot to do, so many questions.

also, love seeing your sand trays! i used to live with THREE expressive arts therapists in SF and sand trays were all the rage. that seems like a silly phrase to use in relation to sand trays, or maybe really appropriate re: rage? anyways, thank u for sharing.


mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Liz, it's great to hear from you! Any links of exciting things you've read, I would love to see them…

I'm curious about Occupy Oakland too – I've heard various things.

"Fumbling and soaring", indeed...

"Sand trays are all the rage" – I love that phrase, actually! More sand trays, that's what I say…

Love –

lizlatty said...

today i'm loving one of my goddard professor's blogs. jan clausen. she has been doing a "poetry occupation" at zuccotti park and she has lots of good insights as she's been organizing for decades through various movements.

also, i've been following my hometown, occupy detroit (or as some organizers there are calling it OWS Detroit, to show solidarity with the movement but to move away from the idea of occupying the people and land of detroit). been following them via their facebook page and a couple individual organizers working there (adrienne marie brown and jenny lee, vie their blogs and facebook pages) who are major organizers of the allied media conference. they are really trying to create a different model for the occupations there that takes into account the specificity of the socio-economic history and current state of detroit. some really exciting/powerful stuff coming from them.


mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Thanks for the links, Liz!!!