Listening to the 99%

Ordinary Americans have been silenced. Technically we live in a democracy, but both liberals and conservatives have seen the country slip out of our understanding.

There are many voices calling Obama far-left, but even he seems absorbed by the old-boys network. If Wall Street held a gun to our heads and threatened a Great Depression if we didn't bail them out, why aren't more of them in jail, why are politicians of all stripes -- Obama to Tea Party -- friends with these thieves?
The Tea Party is furious, but just seems to want to set us up for a repeat, to give Wall Street even more power to buy Congress. It's not as if the CEOs wouldn't have made millions even if we didn't bail out their banks; unregulated and un-bailed-out Wall Street would do the same things again, make themselves millions, and leave us in a Great Depression after the next crash.

A choice between missing or mis-directed anger.

Occupy burst on the scene giving people a voice.

Not necessarily answers, but at least a voice. Two things that stood out to me in the early days when Occupy changed the nation's conscious:

  1. Listening each to all our stories. On the web, the most powerful website I read wasn't an analysis of the breakdown of the economy or a list of solutions, though there are many of those. To me Occupy was best represented by the site that let you, me and everyone tell our personal stories. Lots of stories, each read by a handful of other people, all of us talking, all of us listening.
  2. Showing up. Meeting your neighbors. People who didn't go to their local occupy event and just start meeting people missed out on a piece of history. None of the blogosphere came close to capturing the experiences: it's not about agreeing or disagreeing, thumbs up or thumbs down on Occupy, it was a brewing of democracy, a place to meet and share ideas. Occupy claims to be leaderless, but it's more than that: it's not about a central platform either, but Occupy is really the step before democracy. It's not a decision making body. We don't have to all agree, we have to all go meet each other, shake hands and make eye contact, tell our stories to each other a few at a time. Decide you think someone is a jerk after you've listened, not before! Meeting neighbors, as well as meeting our country's desperate people who have less than a safe tent to sleep in, isn't about policy or position, it's the step before democracy, it was an experience, and it was beautiful.

    I've also seen the Oakland Occupy stand out as the movement's failure. Here, now, ordinary people don't feel like they have a voice. You have to go to meeting after meeting. People aren't there to listen to you, but to tell you what to do. Consensus has been manipulated, so that things are done under the banner of a movement that have the support of a small minority instead of widespread consensus agreement. I've seen Occupy both give and take away people's sense of having a voice.

    This trail along the map looks at Occupy as a movement

    The same economic issues were a spark that lit anger exploding into the Tea Party a few years ago, and now that spark has flowered into a wonderful feeling of rebellious hope as Occupy. What are we up against, and how do we turn a shout of joy and resistance into a movement that can help people?