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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 3)

Caucuses also grew up in the encampment, including a “Speak Easy caucus.” “That’s a caucus I started,” Ketchup said. “It is for a broad spectrum of individuals from female-bodied people who identify as women to male-bodied people who are not traditionally masculine. That’s called the ‘Speak Easy’ caucus. I was just talking to a woman named Sharon who’s interested in starting a caucus for people of color.

“A caucus gives people a safe space to talk to each other without people from the culture of their oppressors present. It gives them greater power together, so that if the larger group is taking an action that the caucus felt was specifically against their interests, then the caucus can block that action. Consensus can potentially still be reached after a caucus blocks something, but a block, or a ‘paramount objection,’ is really serious. You’re saying that you are willing to walk out.”

“We’ve done a couple of things so far,” she said. “So, you know the live stream? The comments are moderated on the live stream. There are moderators who remove racist comments, comments that say ‘I hate cops’ or ‘Kill cops.’ They remove irrelevant comments that have nothing to do with the movement. There is this woman who is incredibly hardworking and intelligent. She has been the driving force of the finance committee. Her hair is half-blond and half-black. People were referring to her as “blond-black hottie.”  These comments weren’t moderated, and at one point whoever was running the camera took the camera off her face and did a body scan. So, that was one of the first things the caucus talked about. We decided as a caucus that I would go to the moderators and tell them this is a serious problem. If you’re moderating other offensive comments then you need to moderate these kinds of offensive comments.”

The heart of the protest is the two daily meetings, held in the morning and the evening. The assemblies, which usually last about two hours, start with a review of process, which is open to change and improvement, so people are clear about how the assembly works. Those who would like to speak raise their hand and get on “stack.”

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“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.” 

While someone is speaking, their words amplified by the people’s mic, the crowd responds through hand signals. 

“Putting your fingers up like this,” she said, holding her hands up and wiggling her fingers, “means you like what you’re hearing, or you’re in agreement. Like this,” she said, holding her hands level and wiggling her fingers, “means you don’t like it so much. Fingers down, you don’t like it at all; you’re not in agreement. Then there’s this triangle you make with your hand that says ‘point of process.’  So, if you think that something is not being respected within the process that we’ve agreed to follow then you can bring that up.”

“You wait till you’re called,” she said. “These rules get abused all the time, but they are important. We start with agenda items, which are proposals or group discussions. Then working group report-backs, so you know what every working group is doing. Then we have general announcements. The agenda items have been brought to the facilitators by the working groups because you need the whole group to pay attention. Like last night, Legal brought up a discussion on bail: ‘Can we agree that the money from the general funds can be allotted if someone needs bail?’ And the group had to come to consensus on that. [It decided yes.] There’s two co-facilitators, a stack keeper, a timekeeper, a vibes-person making sure that people are feeling OK, that people’s voices aren’t getting stomped on, and then if someone’s being really disruptive, the vibes-person deals with them. There’s a note-taker—I end up doing that a lot because I type very, very quickly. We try to keep the facilitation team one man, one woman, or one female-bodied person, one male-bodied person. When you facilitate multiple times it’s rough on your brain. You end up having a lot of criticism thrown your way. You need to keep the facilitators rotating as much as possible. It needs to be a huge, huge priority to have a strong facilitation group.”

“People have been yelled out of the park,” she said. “Someone had a sign the other day that said ‘Kill the Jew Bankers.’ They got screamed out of the park. Someone else had a sign with the N-word on it. That person’s sign was ripped up, but that person is apparently still in the park.

“We’re trying to make this a space that everyone can join. This is something the caucuses are trying to really work on. We are having workshops to get people to understand their privilege.”

But perhaps the most important rule adopted by the protesters is nonviolence and nonaggression against the police, no matter how brutal the police become.

“The cops, I think, maced those women in the face and expected the men and women around them to start a riot,” Ketchup said. “They want a riot. They can deal with a riot. They cannot deal with nonviolent protesters with cameras.”

I tell Ketchup I will bring her my winter sleeping bag. It is getting cold. She will need it. I leave her in a light drizzle and walk down Broadway. I pass the barricades, uniformed officers on motorcycles, the rows of paddy wagons and lines of patrol cars that block the streets into the financial district and surround the park. These bankers, I think, have no idea what they are up against.


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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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