What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ahhh... the nuances..

So again, I straddle two worlds and two worlds that are so incredibly complex in their own rights, and yet so even more profoundly complex when facing each other.  A political party and the anti-politics of Occupy... or wait, occupy as anti-political?  Isn't it hyper political, even while denouncing the political system and its own roles in it?  Wow, who knows, so really this being said, anything I say further will probably really make no sense, as Occupy really makes no sense (and by no sense, I mean this in the most endearing Daoist view of "the way", of something as being undefinable, unknowable, of simply being without being, doing without doing.  No one can define what "it" is, other than that "it"' being thousands of people acting uniformly separate.  Thus, comparing a political party to Occupy is a non-starter...

I do however, want to bring to light some observations of mine during the back and forth of both worlds.  I want to take a second here to think about the people.  Now I haven't done any real analysis or questioning of individuals in either place.  But as a participant observer, one can start to pull out sentences, themes, patterns, and structures that seem rather evident.

Tonight a comment was made about pushing, making quota, and getting to a place where one could "pay the rent" within an implication of ideology and principles taking a back seat.  I thought it worth exploring the concept of compromise that most everyone is forced into to survive our daily lives.  I mean, here I am, I don't pay rent.  I bounce around between several living scenarios, and am really just paying for food and transport.  I am afforded this luxury for two reasons, because I am willing to live a stabilized transient life style, and because I have found sympathetic people that will let me stay with them.  Most people - and I'm sure me longer term - are not willing to live this type of lifestyle by choice.  So we have to work, find a means of income.

What I find interesting, in a very limited observers role thus far, is that the two places that I am intertwined have such very similar interests, yet are still worlds apart.  At Occupy Wall St. we are currently having a very principled debate over taking money from rich corporately engaged funders.  Most every voice in the movement that I'm hearing is against it - on principle.  Yet if the political organization I am working for was offered this money up front, they would jump on it. As was said to me at work, money is politics, money is the way you vote in our current system.  This concept is such a stark contrast to Occupy, a place that seems to be so categorically opposed to money in politics (though again, what is ever concrete in occupy?).  The difference is usage of the system, and a principled disengagement from it.  The political party uses it to enact change.  Raising the minimum wage, anti-fracking, clean elections, no corporate personhood, health care for all, all issues occupy speaks to as well.  But Occupy isn't writing legislation, lobbying congress, or offering a specific stance.  Or is it?  (Occupy the SEC, Albany millionaires tax, Occupy Nashville's three demands, etc).  Oh wait, so you mean to tell me that Occupy is politically engaged?  Wait so how grey did our grey area just get?  This is getting complicated.

But anyway, I'm rambling a bit.  So back to work.  How is my coworker so wholly capable of making a career out of critiquing the very political apparatus that takes private funds, while simultaneously purporting to believe, and push through a fundraising job, that money is votes?  She fights the system within the system, hypocritical or not, through generally accepting that to be the way it is or has to be.  Ask for money to get money for a political campaign to get money out of politics..........

Yeah, I suppose we all should be confused.  And then of course there is occupy.  Asking for nothing, demanding zilch, but drawing a whole lot of attention.  Everybody knows Occupy, few know the party I work for.  One is getting specific things done within the system, the other causing a ruckus and making waves that may ripple the entire pool - based perhaps soling on principle?  Wow, tough game to play.  For me though, it's always been about principles.  How does one take money, even ask for money, so that a system that you fundamentally oppose can perpetuate itself in an effort to eradicate its perpetuity?  Sigh....  but what can II do?  I am like everyone else trapped in our social structures, limited by my own agency.  It's a job, and I need a job so I can keep eating, sleeping, and occupying.  Ugh... I'll never understand it.  Principally unprincipled. How has the world come to this subtle balance between being and being.  I really wish there was a way to figure it out!       

Dinner time!!

So we call people in the evenings, 4-9 at night with a 6:30-7 dinner break.  Last night for my break I went flyering for Occupy Town Square IV at Fort Green Park in Brooklyn (Sat, Mar 25th).  We work on the third floor, and underneath us is another politically inclined non-profit.  When I walked into their offices thinking I'd hand some flyers out, I was taken aback by the exact same layout and functionality as ours.  A bunch of cubicles making phone calls surrounded by the obligtor offices with doors.  Wow!!  I bet your saying, that's the way everything always is at businesses.  But more for me it just brought to question many things that run through my head about our political and non-profit world.

It wasn't the layout, it was the purpose and functionality.  Non-profit and political campaigns are simply about asking for money.  They are unfortunately not simply funded as an essential apparatus of the operating of a democratic state.  We do not as a society have an institutionalized funding apparatus for the things that are actually - to me - the most important to a society en large: governance and assistance.  Both of these are corner stones to democratic society.  And when I say governance, I do not mean the functionality of the government or what it does, but its guidance.  While we spend trillions of dollars on governmental programs from war, to social services, to government workers, we have left democracy fully and totally privatized.  There is no funding to amplify those voices being heard in small spaces, nor any funding to assist those not being heard in any spaces get into the public sphere.

No news here, but our democratic process - left unfunded - is left solely to the capitalist system and the free market for regulation.  Everything in the electoral system of any scalable importance is privately funded.  Hence these two organizations I've referred to spending so much time and effort on fundraising.  Why must organizations working so hard to bring to the fore political and socio-economic issues and injustices - so essential to a knowledgeable electorate - be so left upon itself?

Now I know, I am bring up an insurmountable political cauldron, but I am seeking more to just address a question of a principle: political awareness as a human right.  Why not?  The UN's declaration on Human Rights touches on political issues in article 21, but it's of course toothless and offers no substance.  But if anything is of importance, this is the first thing that a society should be promoting and funding: the awareness of our social world in a way that is transparent and builds social and electoral capacity.  Yes, I know, there are a million questions about what gets funded, how, by who, and how it would work in general.  But those are questions beyond the level of the "principle" that popped into my head, and they should be saved for another day.  At its core though, this concept stems from the public financing of elections and runs further into non-profits doing political work, and then even into non-profits doing relief, aid, and empowerment work.

Our society is bleeding.  Look around both America and the world.  Poverty is our greatest threat.  Disparity of means and wealth, health and wellness, human security.  Not some dictator or terrorist far off, but the poverty that keeps people down and allows them to be dictated to - our own Dictorship.  Our lack of transparency, our lack of democratic and social voice all handcuff us at every moment.   We live in a society where political speech is completely regulated on a systemic level in a way that discourages true democratic engagement and disallows true change. 

Fact is, these two organizations are both contingent upon not just money, but money that currently must come from private individuals, private foundations, companies, etc.  All of these entities have one thing in common: individual AGENDAS!  They all come from places not systemically promoting the greater good.  I want a political system that funds the agenda of itself, the free and fair democratic rule by the people - alllllllll the people.  Not just those with money, not just those with direct stakes in issues, but everyone.

How can this be done?  Well in our current context, we have to fund bringing a voice to everyone.  Meaning political pressure groups would need to be transparent and funded by a state-like apparatus.  Empowerment type groups and community organizations would have to be funded by a state-like apparatus.  All political parties would need to be funded by a state-like apparatus based on the common good.  They all could illuminate their issues to and for the greater good, and work towards addressing - or having their issues addressed - to and for the greater good.

Obviously, this is an INCREDIBLY complex and incomplete thought and does not actually fit well into our current socio-economic structure.  But the point I am trying to make is that a privatization of the democratic process - such as exists in America - does not serve the democratic process itself but rather those who privately can control and affect it through their own private individual means.  Again no mystery here, but still, it was tough to walk into a room and see it all so blatantly obvious, so blatantly preposterous.  That so much human capital was being spent on trying to make money to try to simply engage in the political process on such a basic level.  All this while, so much of our country's financial capital is being given to an effort to destroy both humans and their capital in agenda driven wars and policies throughout the world.  Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to make the Pentagon do door-to-door and telephone fundraising for their wars, just like we have to do for the fight against poverty and for a democratic voice.