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Posts tagged Occupy

Grassroots Mutual Aid in Oklahoma

Here’s an announcement / call to action from InterOccupy.net.[1] They are helping to coordinate information about shelters, drop-offs, donations, food banks, communications & connectivity for folks affected by the Oklahoma tornados. From the post:

The absolutely devastating impact of the Tornados in Oklahoma has prompted a concentrated relief effort for those who have suffered in this region. There is no limit to who you can help or what you can doβ?¦ but please do something. Many #AmeriSec members and other humanitarian groups will be on scene to help in anyway we can. This is an operation that all can assist with and if money, transportation or any issues that would hinder you from being able to help please, use social media, video and any other means to KEEP the word moving. As we have seen with #OccupySandy the impact of individuals helping with natural disaster has a tremendous impactβ?¦ So Please assist in any way you can. WE ARE LEGION and WE have the ability to assist in the suffering on the ground so please help!

Please make video and pastebins with information that could assist independent relief workers and all others

–andrea @ InterOccupy.net (May 21, 2013). #OpOK Update: Oklahoma Relief

See the whole thing here, including lists of relief information and contact points.

There’s also a Community Action meeting gathering to-day (Tuesday, May 21) in Norman, Okla. From scott crow:

Today Tues May 21at 12 noon
Will be a meeting of decentralized coordination efforts: CSBI Building 1155 E Main Norman, OK 73071
Including: COBRA,[2] Food Not Bombs ,Occupy, C4ss, IWW and Rainbow folks
Hopefully a place will be set up to send donations, for people to contact them and for volunteers to gather.

— scott crow @ Facebook (May 21, 2013)

Edit (12pm). And here’s some more from Zakk Flash:

Tornadoes touched down last night in Moore, Oklahoma, killing at least 51 people (20 children among them). We canβ??t control the weather, but we can try to stop climate change before it gets worse, and we can definitely help build solidarity networks to respond to emergency situations.

Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA) will be hosting a gathering of folks who are interested in the People’s response to the disaster. Folks are invited to come by my offices at Community Action (1155 E Main, Norman OK 73071) at noon today to discuss the current response from the Red Cross, organized labor, faith-based communities, and the like.

We’ll also be discussing decentralized relief and creative opportunities to help folks most affected by the storm. Not everyone is connected or comfortable working with NGOs and there are independent efforts that can make a huge difference. Look at Occupy Sandy as an example.

In the meantime, if you have any type of medical background/credentials and want to help relief efforts, get to the Warren Theater. If you donβ??t have medical credentials but want to help, get to the Home Depot in Moore.

— Zakk Flash @ Facebook (May 21, 2013)

If you want to help people in the area affected by the tornados, strongly consider offering support wherever possible, and wherever they ask for it, from decentralized, grassroots mutual aid groups like these. (They need your help a lot more than well-funded, bureaucratically organized efforts like Red Cross or Salvation Army.) Ordinary people working together in solidarity can accomplish remarkable, life-saving things.


  1. [1]This is a web project that I helped out with a bit last Fall; the same folks who provided the web coordination for Occupy Sandy in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
  2. [2][Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance. –CJ.]

Your General Assembly will always be Incomplete.

Last month there was a research report from Ruth Milkman, Stephanie Luce and Penny Lewis on the economic background of people who participated in some #OWS events in New York City. The New York Times and other press outlets picked up on one of the report’s findings — that More than a third of the people who participated in Occupy Wall Street protests in New York lived in households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more … and more than two-thirds had professional jobs. Over on Facebook, Thaddeus Russell’s quick commentary on the story was:

New York Times: In Occupy, Well-Educated Professionals Far Outnumbered Jobless, Study Finds

Thaddeus Russell: There has never been a political movement in the United States in which this wasn’t the case.

— Thaddeus Russell, near Los Angeles, CA., on Facebook (January 28, 2013)

Now as it happens, the authors of the study have complained about how corporate news media have reported on their findings.[1] So I don’t want to lay much stress on what the study showed or did not show about participation in Occupy Wall Street in New York — let alone make any very definite claim about #Occupy in general or what it may illustrate about the whole history of political movements in the United States. Thaddeus has made some interesting points on this, but I think there are also important counter-points to be made (not least what terms like professionals, political, movement, etc. are even supposed to mean in context). But whether Thad is right or wrong on this particular point — or on the more general point he is trying to drive home — I think the reactions to him making this kind of claim have invariably been illustrations of something that it is really important to keep an eye out for. From the Facebook thread:

Joe Lowndes (28 Jan 13, 10pm): So?

Thaddeus Russell (29 Jan 13, 6pm): Joe, the tendency of political activists (and academics) to speak on behalf of others isn’t important?

. . . Joe Lowndes (29 Jan 13, 6pm): All political claims inherently involve speaking on behalf of others, unless you believe in some Rousseauian fantasy of authenticity through general will. Why does it bother you? In any case Occupy was many things in many places. In Eugene it directly involved hundreds of homeless people speaking and voting in GAs. But even if that weren’t the case, there is no reason why middle class folks should not engage in politics or make demands for fear of not representing everyone.

. . . Thaddeus Russell (29 Jan 13, 9pm): Paul, I am not talking about all political activism. I am talking about the common practice of making claims about the needs, desires, and ideas of people whose thoughts are not recorded — like the great majority of the poor, the working class, etc.

Thaddeus Russell (29 Jan 13, 9pm): Joe, what I am describing is often called cultural imperialism. Do you reject that concept or do you think I am misapplying it?

. . . Thaddeus Russell (29 Jan 13, 11pm): When Americans say the people of the world “need” or “want” capitalism it is cultural imperialism, right? But when Occupiers say Americans “need” or “want” New Deal liberalism or socialism it’s not?

Joe Lowndes (29 Jan 13, 11pm): By this overwrought logic, no one can assert or fight for any vision of collective life without it being imperialist.

You can read the whole thing to get a flavor of the whole discussion; there are some perfectly fair points (and also some cheap talking points both ways) about Occupy, the relationship between politics and shifts of identity or affiliation, representation, Gayatri Spivak, etc. But without wading too much into that (or the details, my own experience with several #Occupy projects, which I’m happy both to defend and also to criticize) the overwrought logic is what I wanted to take a look at. Because this is in many ways a digression from the specific argument about Occupy, but a digression that I think has something important to teach — and especially ought to have something to teach for those of us who want to find something of value in #Occupy and the process that emerged out of it. If the practice of occupying public space, open-air General Assemblies, consensus decision-making, spokescouncil models and all the rest was really supposed to mean something, to illustrate and to build an alternative to the political status quo, then we have to remember that the very things that attract us to the GA also have to remind us not only of the value of what we’re doing but also its limitations.[2] So as I wrote in the Facebook thread:

* * *

. . . no one can assert or fight for any vision of collective life without it being imperialist. . . .

Then maybe no one will assert or fight for any vision of collective life. Or, more accurately, shaping collective life will depend on actual explicit agreements among the people collected, rather than on one class of people’s vision being taken as representative of everyone else’s needs and desires. I don’t see this as a problem with the view that Thad is gesturing towards; I see it as one of its most desirable features.

One of the things that has actually been most valuable about Occupy was the extent to which the process explicitly confronted and tried to develop alternatives to political representation, in favor of an ideal of direct participation and negotiated consensus. And if that’s going to be the lesson learned then you also have to be willing and able to take the critical distance to apply the lesson to your own self and to your own projects as a whole: that however open and freewheeling it may be, there are always going to be people who aren’t participating, aren’t necessarily interested at all, and that you as a social actor have a responsibility to acknowledge that and try to question and actively limit your attempts to represent, speak on behalf of, claim expertise about, or impose a vision-of-collective-life upon, those others who were not part of the process or the milieu.

(Charles Johnson on Facebook, 30 January 13, 3pm)

  1. [1]And justly so — the sample they had available to study was from a single protest event, not widely representative of #OWS, and as a general thing virtually all newsmedia reports on any kind of statistical research are more or less always terrible, and much in need of clarification about basic points of definition and statistical reasoning.
  2. [2]It’s great to have open-process G.A.s, and it’s great to create spaces where you try, as much as possible, to invite everyone to take the chance to speak, and to take a hand in the decision-making process. But the G in G.A. can cause problems if you forget (or willfully ignore) the fact that your General Assembly will always be incomplete. There will always be people who aren’t there, aren’t available, or just aren’t interested. Every General Assembly is really a Particular and Peculiar Assembly. But if I point this out then that’s not because I want to give you a reason not to have incomplete General Assemblies. It’s a reason for you to get as familiar and as comfortable as you can with the spaces that the I.G.A. always leaves open — to try to adopt a kind of process, and a kind of social action, that not only aims at being inviting and open to everyone affected, but also holds itself back in claiming to speak for those who didn’t accept the invitation, and leaves space open for consensed-upon ideas or projects to be questioned, challenged, revised, ignored, competed with or routed around by the inevitable others who were not interested in or available for the process, and did not become part of forming the consensus.

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