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War of the Whales


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Why the Elites Are in Trouble

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Posted on Oct 9, 2011
Illustration by Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

“After the circles broke I felt disheartened because it was sort of chaotic,” she said. “I didn’t have anybody there, so it was a little depressing. I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

“Over the past few months, people had been meeting in New York City general assembly,” she said. “One of them is named Brooke. She’s a professor of social ecology. She did my facilitation training. There’s her and a lot of other people, students, school teachers, different people who were involved with that … so they organized a general assembly.”

“It’s funny that the cops won’t let us use megaphones, because it’s to make our lives harder, but we actually end up making a much louder sound [with the “people’s mic”] and I imagine it’s much more annoying to the people around us,” she said. “I had been in the back, unable to hear. I walked to different parts of the circle. I saw this man talking in short phrases and people were repeating them. I don’t know whose idea it was, but that started on the first night. The first general assembly was a little chaotic because people had no idea … a general assembly, what is this for? At first it was kind of grandstanding about what were our demands. Ending corporate personhood is one that has come up again and again as a favorite and. … What ended up happening was, they said, OK, we’re going to break into work groups.

“People were worried we were going to get kicked out of the park at 10 p.m. This was a major concern. There were tons of cops. I’ve heard that it’s costing the city a ton of money to have constant surveillance on a bunch of peaceful protesters who aren’t hurting anyone. With the people’s mic, everything we do is completely transparent. We know there are undercover cops in the crowd. I think I was talking to one last night, but it’s like, what are you trying to accomplish? We don’t have any secrets.”

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“The undercover cops are the only ones who ask, ‘Who’s the leader?’ ” she said. “Presumably, if they know who our leaders are they can take them out. The fact is we have no leader. There’s no leader, so there’s nothing they can do.

“There was a woman [in the medics unit]. This guy was pretending to be a reporter. The first question he asks is, ‘Who’s the leader?’  She goes, ‘I’m the leader.’ And he says, ‘Oh yeah, what are you in charge of?’ She says, ‘I’m in a charge of everything.’ He says, ‘Oh yeah?  What’s your title?’ She says ‘God.’ ”

“So it’s 9:30 p.m. and people are worried that they’re going to try and rush us out of the camp,” she said, referring back to the first day. “At 9:30 they break into work groups. I joined the group on contingency plans. The job of the bedding group was to find cardboard for people to sleep on. The contingency group had to decide what to do if they kick us out. The big decision we made was to announce to the group that if we were dispersed we were going to meet back at 10 a.m. the next day in the park. Another group was arts and culture. What was really cool was that we assumed we were going to be there more than one night. There was a food group. They were going dumpster diving. The direct action committee plans for direct, visible action like marches. There was a security team. It’s security against the cops. The cops are the only people we think that might hurt us. The security team keeps people awake in shifts. They always have people awake.”

The work groups make logistical decisions, and the general assembly makes large policy decisions.

“Work groups make their own decisions,” Ketchup said. “For example, someone donated a laptop. And because I’ve been taking minutes I keep running around and asking, ‘Does someone have a laptop I could borrow?’ The media team, upon receiving that laptop, designated it to me for my use on behalf of the Internet committee. The computer isn’t mine. When I go back to Chicago, I’m not going to take it. Right now I don’t even know where it is. Someone else is using it. But so, after hearing this, people thought it had been gifted to me personally. People were upset by that. So a member of the Internet work group went in front of the group and said, ‘This is a need of the committee. It’s been put into Ketchup’s care.’ They explained that to the group, but didn’t ask for consensus on it, because the committees are empowered. Some people might still think that choice was inappropriate. In the future, it might be handled differently.”

Working groups blossomed in the following days. The media working group was joined by a welcome working group for new arrivals, a sanitation working group (some members of which go around the park on skateboards as they carry brooms), a legal working group with lawyers, an events working group, an education working group, medics, a facilitation working group (which trains new facilitators for the general assembly meetings), a public relations working group, and an outreach working group for like-minded communities as well as the general public. There is an Internet working group and an open source technology working group. The nearby McDonald’s is the principal bathroom for the park after Burger King banned protesters from its facilities.


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entropy2's avatar

By entropy2, October 10, 2011 at 5:45 am Link to this comment

@Inherit The Wind—your LOTR comparisons are apt. However, Gandalf (while tempted) also refused the Ring himself.

Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good.”

As obviously destructive as is the concentration of power in the hands of the corporate plutocracy, I, for one, am just as wary of ultimate power residing in the hands of the state.

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By David Reese, October 10, 2011 at 5:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great post!  Please keep devoting your blog to this movement.

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, October 10, 2011 at 5:05 am Link to this comment

Something tells me there will soon be a boycott of BK because they wouldn’t let the protestors use the bathrooms. What a moronic idea some manager had ... they will pay for their shortsightedness many times over.

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By exploitedtimes, October 10, 2011 at 4:51 am Link to this comment

So the occupation is depending on McDonald’s for sanitation? So I guess that means McDonald’s is one of the good guys in this Dead Show in the city?

The revolution will not be televised. There will be blood.

And yes, there will be feces.

And which union-busting corporation is sponsoring the internet for this so-called revolution?

We’ve got a ways to go before that word can be applied.

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By bpawk, October 10, 2011 at 4:31 am Link to this comment

Please remember that Washington enables wall street to bask in their greed by letting them have numerous tax breaks for the wealthy at taxpayers’ expense, bailouts at taxpayers’ expense and deregulation at taxpayers’ expense. The government (and by not directly criticizing the government - you too) are complicit in this.

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By GradyLeeHoward, October 10, 2011 at 4:04 am Link to this comment

What a wonderful gestalt explanation through the
eyes of a young woman, Ketchup. Chris has
illustrated what social empathy means. I hope he
will not neglect to return with a sleeping bag for
his informant, and all the gear he can carry for
others.

I write from a hospital bed where I am being
treated for an embolism and antibiotic resistant
infection, but I feel part of Occupy anyway. When I
became delirious Saturday the nurses say I preached
against the Oligarchy. I was so proud of what was
in my heart and subconscious, not hate and not
sexual aggression. You may be glad to know that
medical staff people remain at their jobs not
because they are frightened, but because of
responsibility toward patients like me. When I am
discharged I plan to rejoin te Occupation of
Washington, D.C.- a city where I was long a part of
the procedural democracy problem. I owe many
reparations.

The American immune system is massing its power to rid the body politic of a life threatening disease: corporate capitalism.

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By DarthMiffy, October 10, 2011 at 4:03 am Link to this comment

Inherit TW: a brilliant post.

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By Inherit The Wind, October 10, 2011 at 3:49 am Link to this comment

CH is usually a turgid writer but in one paragraph he articulates the whole of what the OWS is all about and why the “elites” and idiots like Herman Cain are baffled:

“This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening. They are deaf, dumb and blind.”

I’m reminded of two things in “Lord of the Rings”

1) Gandalf saying that Sauron’s biggest weakness is that he cannot CONCEIVE of anyone wanting to destroy the Ring of Power.
2) Smeagol saying to his Gollum-half “Leave now and NEVER RETURN!”

I am also reminded of Ayn Rand’s character in Atlas Shrugged saying to the parasitic dictator (whom she totally mistook as a “liberal” rather than a modern Republican) “What do we need YOU for?”

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By Should have seen it coming, October 10, 2011 at 2:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“There’s a stack keeper,” Ketchup said. “The stack keeper writes down your name or some signifier for you. A lot of white men are the people raising their hands. So, anyone who is not apparently a white man gets to jump stack. The stack keeper will make note of the fact that the person who put their hand up was not a white man and will arrange the list so that it’s not dominated by white men. People don’t get called up in the same order as they raise their hand.” 

And with that, and a long slow sigh, the hope of anything good coming of this movement left.  Your racism is not O.K. just because you are racist against people that you think it is O.K. to be racist against.  We are done…

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