Thursday, October 27, 2011
Postcard from Oakland
This morning the helicopters stopped hovering. Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant/Occupy Oakland Plaza in front of City Hall was mostly empty. A few tents, maybe a dozen people meeting, a few dozen milling about. No fences that I could see. A woman handed out donuts to whoever wanted them. The aroma of strong marijuana filled one corner. There were more television cameras than cops. No windows broken, no trash, just city folks fixing a water pipe. This was the epicenter of a riot that made international news?
Some have criticized the larger Occupy Wall Street movement for not having a clear message. I think this is one of its beauties. As with an abstract canvas, you can see what you need to see. Like the early abstractionists, the protestors share an overarching vision: the current regime won’t last. And I don’t mean Obama. I am talking about a society that puts money ahead of human beings.
Occupy Wall Street and its sister occupations are really about something quite simple, if global. We have to stop seeing money as God. It’s just another bead, another system of trading. It has no intrinsic value. Like any system of trade, the tool is only worth what we perceive it to be. The larger truth is that human life (after birth, in case you were wondering) is what matters here. It comes first. The Occupy movement exists to stop the world from spinning around a money axis and get it spinning around a human axis.
One day, corporations will ask if a decision is best for the communities they SERVE, not for the quarterly returns. By the way, “publically held corporation” is a misnomer. It is a way for the one percent to take advantage of the resources of the 99 percent. All of us need to ask, whom are we serving? How is our work of service? Not whether we make maximum profits or have enough to look richer than our brethren.
It is easy to walk around the Occupy SF or Oakland camps and see mostly homeless folks. Admittedly, some of them don’t seem mentally balanced. Some of them smell. But they are the foot soldiers of this chapter of an evolving revolution. At night, after we protest with them (and then go shopping at Whole Foods before going home to our comfy nests), they sleep on benches or, for a few weeks, in tents in front of City Hall. I admit that I am not inclined to engage with them personally, but I am no longer afraid to walk among them. And they may be leading us to a promised land where people come before profits.
Our prayers go out to Scott Olsen, a veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq and was injured by a police projectile Tuesday night. Today his condition was upgraded to fair.