Posted on 18 April 2012.
Editor’s note: This is the thirteenth in a series of excerpts from Jim Gober’s book titled “Deep in the Heart of Occupy Austin.” A new excerpt will be published at OccupiedStories.com every Wednesday, so come back next week to follow Jim though the evolution of Occupy Austin. The final installment will be April 25th.
Today was Friday October 29, 2011, the day we found out APD Chief Art Acevedo is just another slime-ball, like the rest of the fascist ilk. His slick speech on Thursday night about how he supports us, blah, blah, blah, was met today with what was basically an eviction notice. He came around and personally passed out the fliers himself, with a big smile plastered on his thick skull, of course. There were so many rules, they would be impossible to follow. For example, everything has to be moved once a day, such as the food table, so it is not a “permanent” structure, and any sign not being held when they show up to fuck with us will be confiscated and tossed. Then the power washes will resume three times a week which means the freezing cold plaza will be soaked with water between 3am and 5am, and don’t think you can evacuate to the Island across the street, because the park curfew is now enforced there after 10pm.
Then there were enough other rules to keep the GA meeting arguing until late in the night, with some vowing to do nothing but stay there and Occupy–which is unfortunately not a radical idea, but creates the danger we may lose our core supporters. It’s funny that no matter how hard I rack my brain, I don’t remember one Tea Party protester ever being evicted from anything, even the town hall meetings when they did nothing but disrupt the entire meeting while a Democratic senator was trying to speak about delivering affordable healthcare to everyone. But look how many OWS protesters have already been forcibly removed from every meeting, park, plaza or “town hall” for just standing up to complain about their desperate plight, which is real and not manufactured by the propaganda machine. The police brutality forced on the innocent people who can see through the fascist lies is unspeakable.
I was beginning to feel our little sideshow may be about over, and may be over in much of the country. What is amazing is how Acevedo managed to move us along. It never occurred to some of us (including me), that have never experienced the psychological part of crowd control, only brazen force, exactly how it was going to be used against us. But this was a typical fascist technique we should have recognized: smile while you fuck ‘em over good. Now we have a choice: to physically engage them, which will last for about 5 minutes before we get beaten and gassed and handed a police record the fascists can use to forever lock us out of the plaza and society, or we can get worn down by constantly moving our shit around, to appease King God Acevedo, until we finally get fed up and leave on our own.
Meanwhile, as the fascists are having us move things about, the billionaire Koch brothers will spend billions to defeat Obama, and once that’s done they will install a fascist dictator into our government, which we are only a presidential election away from having. This news comes as dirty tricks by the GOP will prevent 25% of African-Americans from voting in the next election, and the fascist money flooding to the corporate media will brain-wash us into believing that having our throats cut by big business is good for us. Do you really think the corporate media, from Rockefeller Center to Main Street USA, that stands to make millions from the corporate “citizens” in the upcoming election cycle, will be on our side? Hell, no.
All of this news about a bunch of rules that amount to nothing more than hastening the demise of the Austin occupy camp follows on the heels of more arrests in Nashville, where the camps are being cleaned out, and the order in New York for the protesters to give up their generators and gasoline, which provide power and heat. So the camps, which just yesterday thought they were getting a reprieve, and also thought the fascists were backing up because they had hearts, are today getting demolished. For some reason, this passive-aggressive tactic is even more demoralizing than outright confrontation, and causes the protesters to seethe with anger even more than if we had our day in the ring with these jerks. Today, in America, niceness is a weakness and is there to be plundered, and now we felt like we were hogtied and about to be raped.
In reality, the camps could not last forever, and as I said before, to be seen is to be heard in America, so they had to be cleaned up. The fascist state cannot tolerate anyone making a complaint or wandering around homeless and upset because they’ve been picked clean by our system. But true to what a grass roots movement is, the anger is stronger and will only grow. Cut us off at the top and the roots just get deeper. This is real grass roots, not the astroturf of the Tea Party. I believe the camps should be allowed to remain and dissolve on a consensus vote by the occupiers, which is coming anyway, because most of the people involved in the camps have little or no real-life management skills. I had to laugh last night when I heard one of the young protesters say the reason the number of protesters was thinning out was, “people were afraid to come and learn from our young minds.”
The idea that a certain group of people with no experience and little education are in control, or are “smarter” than everyone else, has a corrosive effect on America, and I presume will destroy the occupy movement. For example, older workers, which these days includes anyone over 50, are now pushed out of society to fend on their own. They are considered too dumb for even the most basic work, even when they have years of experience doing it or advanced college degrees. Half of the problem has to do with the healthcare expense burden older workers place on American companies, while the other half has to do with a marketing machine that convinces everyone in a society that dumb is smart and anyone who questions anything is an idiot. It reminds me of the dumb kids who bully the smart kids at school because they make the lazy dumb kids look bad. It also reminds me of how every progressive idea in America is piled on by the fascist press until it disappears under a pile of right-wing bullshit. Americans must stay dumb. The carousel of stupidity must continue to spin, so the fascists riding on it can wear their pretty bonnets and waive at the poor folks, who fought tooth and nail to get a ticket so they could ride along and pretend they were rich too, but for some reason, the carousel never stops to let them on. Really smart people don’t dump their money on dumb products or believe hollow slogans which mean nothing. But it is America’s innate ability to follow the slogan that is causing us to follow the fascist ideal as well. This is an ideal where we harshly judge each other and get apoplectic because someone isn’t going along with what the voice on the latest electronic gizmo tells us to do. Like lemmings, every living generation in America is now rushing to see who can jump off the cliff first simply because we can’t think for ourselves.
But to be fair, the Occupy movement has generally been inclusive of everyone, including the older folks, but you could see from last night’s meeting the youngsters were in charge, and were making it known they’ve successfully pushed out many of the older people who made the process work until now. Maybe it’s because, like the young man believed, the old people are afraid of learning things from all those “young minds.” But in reality, too many of those young minds at the plaza are not in control of anything due to an absolute inability to get anything done besides spout off a lot about a system in which they don’t have a voice or real knowledge. Add the cold weather and even the true protesters, who braved the cold the night before, had left much of it to the “brains” of the outfit that weren’t coming up with any solutions, were splitting into cliques, and were also getting bogged down in the new rules set out by the police.
Once Friday evening rolled around and the deadline of 10 pm to move or rearrange our belongings neared, I noticed many of the original protesters had magically reappeared to lend their support. But I worried too, because these were our leaders and a raid followed by arrests would permanently remove them from the camp. They should have stayed home. The clouds of doom were gathering on the horizon, and you could see the mighty ship we worked so hard to build listing frightfully in the cruel waters of history. Still, there were some incredible, passionate rallying speeches, including a beautiful one by my young friend Kendall, who had soaked up the philosophy of the movement like a sponge, and of whom I was so proud. Hopefully, he will go on to college in order to flourish in this world, even though it will mean taking on massive amounts of debt that will put him way behind his peers, most of who will become cogs in the wheels of the fascist machine. But Kendall, if he holds true to his values and keeps an open mind, has great things ahead.
I started thinking that this is the time we need to think about digging deeper into the movement instead of simply occupying. It is time to join the different groups and become involved in not only the Occupy community, in which I still strongly believe, but the community at large. As of today, the occupation brand of civil disobedience is pushing us further to the fringe where we can be ignored or taunted. Just today, a man about 30 years old stomped up to the steps of the plaza and demanded everyone take this crap off his city’s property. Then he stormed off. This man is the type who would stand by while our skin was being stripped off by a pair of pliers. One would hope people like that don’t outnumber us, but they do in the media and other places where money makes the rules. So we must work against the fascists on the national stage, on their turf, with intellectual arguments, which they will never have on their side. Something tells me we will never accomplish anything by wandering aimlessly around a makeshift camp hoping for the world to change.
But believe me when I say there are heroes in the local movement that existed on that plaza–especially the women, like Jamie, who leads the night marches every night at 9:30 and is constantly coming up with ideas to get more people to the plaza. I can still hear her chant and never again will I hear a call to action that carried more conviction and came from deeper in the soul than when Jamie shouted, “This is what democracy looks like,” over and over until she lost her voice. And other women, like Michelle, who worked the welcome desk all day, then was disheartened to see the food line of hungry homeless form faster than she could get across the plaza to get a slice of cold pizza. People like Michelle and Jamie and a host of others did without a lot to keep the scene together. And to all those folks, I am deeply indebted. But when our main focus becomes dancing around a bunch of rules made up by disgusted fascist suits–rules designed specifically to trample on our right to peacefully assemble–one has to question: What the fuck are we doing? Oddly many people in our society want to see us hurt, even though we are fighting for them. I suppose mean is ingrained in our culture and has been since the days when the Puritans believed that if you were sick or poor, it was your punishment from God, and you did not deserve help. And if you didn’t fit into their rigid view of society, which changed depending on who was in charge, you were burned alive at the delight of the others. Sound familiar?
The Occupy movement has changed me as a person. I am enlightened, tolerant and genuinely love the people I’ve met, who enjoyed exchanging ideas with me. For the first time in years, I had conversations with people who had open minds and not minds moldy from age or slammed shut years ago because of some prejudice or another they are not even aware they have. I enjoyed talking to people interested in what I had to say, and also being interested in what they had to say. We let our ideas soak in and not just roll off all the layers of preconceived notions. The Occupy movement is and will continually be fun and interesting, but to be effective we must change our tactics. That is what political movements are about, and like it or not, this is a political movement.
Today, I brought a sleeping bag donated by my neighbor to the plaza and gave it to Buck, a middle-aged African American man who has become my friend, although he occasionally asks me if I am going to kill him, which I assure him I’m not. Why would I waste my tobacco and a perfectly good sleeping bag on somebody I was going to kill? His troubling questions aside, he was still very appreciative. He has nothing except the clothes on his back and gets cold and lonely at night, just like everyone else. Just like you. But tonight, there was no room for comfort. You could hear the rot-infested fascist tide on the march. Soon they would arrive to throw us into the streets in a desperate attempt to separate us from our right to free speech and assembly.
I thought no matter what happens tonight or tomorrow, I’ll be attending every organized march until I can no longer walk or crawl. And I will continue to put my energy, money and time into this cause, which has risen haphazardly without the use of millions of dollars of dirty money from the propagandists such as Fox News, the Koch brothers or Dick Armey’s Freedomworks. We are the people, and the Occupy movement will continue. Who knows how long the plaza will be occupied? But I’m afraid the camp and accompanying sideshow is drawing to a close, because we cannot waste our time and energy sitting in one place surrounded by the police. It is time to bring the fight underground, where we can work and think without trying to survive the elements or having some drug addled or mentally ill individual screaming about someone stealing their whatever.
Once the end comes, it will be up to all of us: the older and educated people with experience, who can put a professional face on this movement and begin to work through the established power structure, as well as the young idealists who have the energy and optimism essential to any political movement. But there has to be some guidance and organization. I have seen so many young people in this movement try to reinvent the wheel, unaware the US has a system to be heard, albeit confusing and complicated. And while it doesn’t cost money to break windows, it costs a lot of money to change opinion through a structure that, like it or not, includes working with the corporate press and reaching a wide audience with sane arguments instead of haphazardly planned events that only illustrate how angry people have become. Everyone in America knows what is going on now and everyone is pissed. We need to channel that anger into reform. So we have to raise money. That is how America works. At this point the occupy movement reminds me of someone sitting on the roof of a car instead of the driver’s seat and getting upset because the car isn’t taking them anywhere.
As I walk through the plaza tonight, I know this movement, which came into the world kicking and screaming like a child born in the darkest part of the forest, will grow up and walk into the sunlight and become a powerful force that will conquer the fascist demons that have pillaged the countryside. But to make it work, we must roll up our sleeves and stop sitting around the plaza waiting for food to arrive without even taking the trouble to hold up a homemade, worn out and illegible protest sign. And it is disgusting to see everyone grovel at the feet of the fascist police so they won’t run us off, which they eventually will do anyway.
At this point, the movement on its surface seems to be faltering because many in the US like to see people in pain, especially when the power structure those people dared to challenge crushes them. This allows the coward to say, “See, I told you so.” But oddly, while Americans look at pain and torture as a source of satisfying entertainment, they sit in their homes scared to death they will be the next victim. I’m sure there is a psychological term for that, but it escapes me-oh yeah, fear manufactured by the fascist corporate media. It keeps you in the house watching the TV so you’ll watch more commercials and buy more crap. That’s how a cult, religion and even a controlling spouse works to control you. They keep you afraid so you won’t leave the fold. The bogeyman, or devil, is waiting just around the dark corner. The sheep will always fall in line once the big scary sheep dog starts nipping at their haunches.
One thing I’ve been amazed at is the number of people who laugh at, criticize and taunt the homeless and sick in our country. And I’ve seen it all now. But I have also seen the light, and I am not going back. I am a warrior for what is right and what will be right for our democracy. My personal and spiritual growth experienced through the movement is amazing and life-affirming. I was dead inside and now I am alive again. I love everyone I’ve met and I know together we will make a change, but now we need to move to a bigger battlefield that is not surrounded by the slimy police, and away from people who occupy the camps that do things like vandalize city property or steal from each other. And for the young people involved in the movement who are hanging around the plaza and the occupy movements throughout the land and not doing anything: Read some damned books.
Whose street? Our street! Remember that? The plaza was our boot camp. We must follow our hearts and tell people every day to do their part to stop the fascists from rolling over us. There is no second act-this is it. Move your money to a credit union, shop locally, support local farmers, and don’t buy anything made in China. Look who is behind all the propaganda you hear. America is in no danger of becoming a socialist or communist state like the propagandists want you to believe. But we are in danger of becoming a totalitarian fascist state run by billionaires–and we are on the edge. That, you can believe. Let’s all work for the better of each other and this country and stop trying to strip others of dignity and then laughing when we do. Do you want to continue to be that country? Do you? If that is the case, may God have mercy on us all.