Editor’s note: This is the ninth 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.
Today was Monday, and I hit the plaza early and refreshed. As I passed the literature table, I met a middle-aged gentleman named James. He gave me a paper that announced a meeting before the city council on Wednesday. The meeting was about removing fluoride from the city water supply. He explained that fluoride accumulates in the pineal gland located between the lobes of the brain. Once there, it makes people complacent so they cannot think for themselves or form their own thoughts, especially when it comes to standing up to authorities or taking action. He claimed fluoride in the water dulls the thoughts and emotional processes. He said now that people are drinking more water without fluoride, people are starting to wake up. He struggled with the claim, and I told him I would look it up to get more information.
It turns out the pineal gland regulates the hormone melatonin, which is responsible for sleep and affects the aging process. Some studies show fluoride accumulates in the pineal gland, interferes with melatonin production, and accelerates aging. For example, it is widely claimed that the reason girls are entering puberty at such a young age these days is because of the accumulation of fluoride in the pineal gland. I couldn’t find much about fluoride making us more complacent, but if it prevents the formation of melatonin, which is the hormone that makes us sleep, and if we are tired all the time, maybe James is on to something. When I don’t sleep, the last thing I want to do is complain about anything except how tired I am.
After chatting with James, I stopped to talk to Sergio, whose socialist worker pin and pair of chopsticks poked in the side of his cap above his left ear caught my eye. I asked him if he was a Socialist, and he said he belonged to the Former Maoist International Movement. I asked why it was called the former movement and he said it was defunct, and he’s only met one other member who may be dead by now. Sergio said that he upholds the Cultural Revolution that occurred in China in the 60′s as how far society has progressed, and that society has not progressed at all since then. He said Chairman Mao did good things like bringing China together and giving women equal rights. He had a different spin on the “Free Tibet” movement. He claimed that women and children are slaves to the Monk’s patriarchal hierarchy and should thank Mao for liberating them, so Tibet should stay as it is, under China’s rule. He said just because a bunch of monks are running a country doesn’t mean they are good. Monk doesn’t mean good any more than the Taliban means good. I asked Sergio if the Cultural Revolution was hard on shopkeepers and businessmen and he said it was mostly hard on landowners and landlords. I asked if he would recommend a cultural revolution in the US. He says it’s inevitable due to the way resources are manipulated. But the time is not now for armed revolt because we would get crushed. He went on to say, “The white radicals from the 60′s and 70′s have faded away and now this is the time for young people to find their voice.” After doing a lot of research on the subjects we covered, I’m not so sure Sergio had all his facts straight, but he was nice enough to talk to me, and although it wasn’t like spotting Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, he was the last remaining member of the Former Maoist International Movement.
After I shook Sergio’s hand and began wandering about, I saw a couple of older women digging through the sign tent, where the used signs are stored. One pulled out a sign that said “Eat the Rich,” and the other decided on a tattered sign that said “Occupy with Unconditional Love.” They were headed for the honk if yer horny line, so I ran to catch up with them. We chatted for a moment in the shade of a live oak tree that arched over the edge of the plaza. Their names were Joyce and Jane. Jane was 72 and Joyce was 78 1/2. They told me they drove all the way from Bartlett, which is way out in the country about an hour north of Austin. Jane said she came to the protest before, because she believes everyone should have a chance to share in the wealth. She said they are going through rough times because of the drought as she has a farm and Joyce lives on a ranch. But they know many folks are having a tougher time of it right now, so they formed a non-profit organization called, “Food for Friends,” to help out. They started feeding just a handful of folks in their little area last year and now they feed over 120 people. They get donations by word of mouth. Jane said everything in our economy is lopsided and she is for occupying everywhere. She said the previous weekend she was in San Antonio to support Occupy San Antonio and Indigenous Day, which she hopes one day will replace Columbus Day. She says we are all suffering needlessly and all the money going to corporations for war and bailouts has prevented any positive social change.
Joyce said 2 1/2 years ago, she and another friend, who is 87, went out into the countryside and were shocked at what is happening to people who spent their entire lives taking care of others or working in the fields. These people have little or no savings because they were paid in cash for 50 years or more. Minimum wage was non-existent when they were young. Joyce said the number of homes she and her friend visited with no electricity or running water was appalling. This is less than 100 miles from Austin, by the way, not in a third world country. She said, “These poor people were already mired in poverty but were getting by with help of extended family members until the economy went south, and now they are in dire straits.” So Joyce and Jane cook from scratch and deliver over 100 meals every Friday. They also deliver to Vietnam vets who have a whole other set of problems, including mental illness. Some of the vets haven’t signed anything since they were drafted, and have a deep mistrust for the government and anyone else for that matter. But the problem is not they refuse to get help, it’s the help they need is not there for them even if they wanted it.
One day, a man who has a business in Central Texas heard about Jane and Joyce and came by asking if he could help cook and deliver. About a week later he called Joyce and told her he would build her a brand new kitchen, which he did. She said, “I am very thankful for that, but it does not stop the injustice I see every day. When David Dewhurst gets on the TV and says Texas has the finest healthcare system, I say go to Salt Lake, the little section of town I serve, and take a look if you want to see Texas’ fine healthcare system at work.” Jane and Joyce also offer clothes, toothpaste and other things folks need. The recipients don’t have to sign anything and there are no questions asked. In fact, Joyce said, “If somebody is an alcoholic or on dope, we don’t care-they need a meal just like everyone else.”
Joyce had ankle supports on both her ankles and the two women helped each other over the limestone rocks by the sidewalk, that are difficult for even a young man to navigate, and stood in the honk if yer horny line for the next two hours until someone gave them a chair, and they remained for another two hours or more. These two women spend all week working for the poor and still have time to come out and make their voice known and show the world and our country that we must change to survive. They also believe we can no longer give all our resources to gamblers and thieves who are giving us the finger and laughing at us right now with the help of people so cruel, you can’t believe they are Americans. And right now, many of those people are trolling the Occupy Facebook pages and websites or driving by our protests just to call us names, mock us and waste our time. But Joyce and Jane hold on and help where they can despite being mocked, harassed and degraded by the right-wing fascist filth.