I am writing a book based on my experiences with #OWS. The topics covered will include elitism, privilege, ideology, and daily life.
I came to New York in the fall of 2011 to sell a non-fiction book proposal entitled: “The Complete American’s Guide to Revolution.” I had a kickstarter campaign, website and professional query ready to be pitched. But when I found the real thing taking place in the form of Occupy Wall Street, I ditched my book proposal and jumped right in.
Little did I imagine how big the occupy movement would become, or how much of my own life it would claim. Over the next 30 days, I raised exactly $0 for my kickstarter campaign. But the following are some of the things that I DID accomplish while working with OWS:
- start a census of the park
- join the Occupy Wall Street archives
- establish a work space in the Occupied Office at 50 Broadway
- establish an “Occupy Farms” working group
- removed from Zuccotti during the police raid Nov. 15th
- propose that we divide our general fund among “occupiers”
ELITISM AND OWS
What I’ve found since working with Occupy Wall Street is that we’re willing to challenge society more than we’re willing to challenge our own assumptions. When I proposed that we divide up the hundreds of thousands of dollars we had left at the time among occupiers after our eviction, I ran into a lot of opposition. It dawned on me that people in the movement had very different concepts of direct democracy and how our resources should be managed.
I began to realize that there was a strong push from within Occupy Wall Street to steer this movement in a certain direction, for better or for worse. I saw that some people were having difficulty continuing to organize full time while others seemed to be entrenching themselves in positions of power and authority. That’s when I read an essay from the 70’s entitled “The Tyrrany of Structurelessness” and realized that Occupy Wall Street had fallen prey to elitism.
I began taking daily notes for a blog on January 9th to try and develop what I was thinking. In most areas where I disagreed with Occupy Wall Street, they had diverged from anarchist principles. I started talking with more people in the movement and on the street in an attempt to document the collective wisdom. The more people I talked to, the more I discovered that I wasn't the only one looking for perspective.
A lot of people were eager to join a conversation we weren’t having.
STARTING THE DISCUSSION
My hope with this current kickstarter campaign is to create space for this discussion. My story is a window into the daily life of an organizer within Occupy Wall Street. I’ve been sleeping in the subways, squats and churches with fellow “occupiers.” I’ve worked to try and audit OWS finances, established working groups and managed resources. I’ve made my friends and enemies. I’ve collected my fair share of stories.
Now is the time to try and glean the wisdom from these experiences and share them with the greater Occupy community.
Since I’ve been involved, Occupy Wall Street has gone through many struggles. We were evicted from the park. We have seen our donation base shrivel. We have witnessed infighting amongst ourselves over our dwindling resources. Most recently, there have been contentious splits over violent VS non-violent tactics, anarchist VS non-anarchist methodologies, privileged VS non-privileged activists. At a recent meeting of the “Movement Resources Group,” high end donors revealed that they envision an eventual $1.8 BILLION occupy movement budget, only to attach the caveat that it be managed by a “board” of 5 occupiers and 5 institutional members.
People in the room were brought to tears in their disgust.
What is the current face of Occupy Wall Street? What is the current identity of the movement it’s spawned? What is the relationship between the two? What were the heights of the idealism proposed in Zuccotti Park that inspired a nation? What are the realities we’re facing in trying to put that idealism into practice?
Can the Occupy Movement really change the world?
This kickstarter campaign is to replace a laptop that the NYDP broke when it forcefully evicted myself and 200 others from Zuccotti Park November 15th. It will also provide me the stability to spend the next two months catching up on the notes that I’ve taken since being a part of this movement.
I hope to share the perspective I earn in the form of a 70-100k word book.
The Greeks claimed that their Oracle at Delphi had two important sayings: “Know Thyself” and “Nothing to excess.” Occupy Wall Street has been successful at starting a discussion about inequality in our society. But have we been successful at the first maxim? Are we working as hard to know, and eventually change, ourselves?
My goal is to “keep it simple” and try to paint the bigger picture of what’s going on in Occupy Wall Street for other occupations as well as the casually interested. The conclusions I’ve drawn so far is that Occupy Wall Street, in addressing the abstract more than the specific (movement VS local politics) and experiencing the lion’s share of media, money and people by being the first, has fallen behind in the movement it created. This can be solved by refocusing on “Occupying New York City” instead of trying to steer a “national mass movement,” democratizing resource management, putting a priority on consensus training and learning from the thousands of municipal occupies that have sprung up across the country.
To keep true to our values, we need self-reflection. In order to have this reflection, we need to be able to see the bigger picture. Not a simplicity that cheapens the discussion, but an overview that makes the movement in New York City and nationwide accessible to those who wish to stay involved, or come out to occupy for the first time.
I plan on dedicating this work to three women who’ve inspired me:
Riverbend: the pseudonym of a young Iraqi blogger, a girl who’s personal writing impressed upon me the human tragedy of our voluntary wars of aggression.
Lynne Stewart: a Brooklyn-born attorney convicted of providing material support to terrorists in 2005. Originally sentenced to 28 months, Lynne was resentenced to 10 years, possibly a life sentence in light of her recent cancer diagnosis.
Guillermina Gonzalez: She came to this country from Mexico at the age of 17 not knowing English. Now she owns her own insurance agency in Southern California. She has had to let all of her employees go in order to keep her doors open. She has been fighting eviction from her home for the past 3 years. She is my mother.
Help to fund this project and you can receive your choice of rewards to the right, including having your own name listed in the dedication section. But more importantly than any shwag I can offer, even potentially coming to your town or country to talk about where Occupy came from and where it’s heading, more important than these things are the gift you’ll be giving the movement.
Great writing holds up a mirror to the world. If Occupy is to achieve a fraction of the change it calls for in marches and protests, banners and declarations, it’s going to need this mirror. Our own self-reflection will keep us from replicating the power structures we’re opposing, dragging the ugliness of the old into this beautiful new space we’ve created.
The moment is ours to claim. But this will take a revolution within as well as without. This will take talking about things we otherwise might not want to talk about. This will take wiping that lipstick off the pig and dealing with the reality we face, not the platitudes we preach.
A book that takes an honest look at where we're at as a movement. This is what you will be supporting by pre-ordering a copy of "occupyKISS."
Yours for the revolution,
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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