Would you Occupy Austin? What do you think of #OccupyWallSt?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Other than the occasional jabs at Rick Perry, we keep this blog pretty politics free. Yes, our stance is a little more on the liberal side, but that’s more a result of our lifestyle choices than an actual political position. I choose to believe that we Austinites are more open to political discussion than most folks in this fine state. With that in mind, please view today’s post as me processing my thoughts. I feel like something big is happening, and I need help understanding it. This is a conversation, not a diatribe.

Sometimes you can be hustling so much that you miss what’s going on around you. Heads down and focused, you’re moving at the speed of life. Then one day, BAM, something stops you in your tracks, and you realize something big is about to go down.

[UPDATE: Here are my 5 tips to prepare for Occupy Austin]

That’s how it’s been for me lately. With work during the day, followed by blog + music making at night, I’ve some how managed to tune out national news and Facebook. So when I saw this video of girls from OccupyWallSt getting corralled and then maced in New York City. Check it out:

At first, I was shocked: Young women trapped in a net like fish, and then with nowhere to go, they get sprayed and fall to their knees. Their screams rattling my body, I could only imagine how they felt.

After the initial shock of watching humans in agony, a next wave of shock hit me: This was happening in America, a country founded on freedom of speech. If this was happening in New York, could it happen in Austin?

The next video in my Facebook feed was this piece from MSNBC. In it, The Final Word host Lawrence O’Donnell shows several instances of people with video cameras getting physically assaulted. This includes unarmed women. He then condemns NYPD for its actions of brutality.

Everything he says is unsettling: This type of violence happens every day in America. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. But the focus isn’t on police brutality. It’s on Wall Street.

What is #OccupyWallSt?

Now that my curiosity was piqued, I looked up #OccupyWallSt on Twitter.  Seconds before my search, someone else had asked: Can someone pls explain to me what the purpose of the #occupywallst protest is? Another Twitter user reponded with this:

RT @Newyorkist: Start here: http://t.co/wysw9oRM MT @Ben_Howe …Can someone pls explain to me what the purpose of the #occupywallst protest is?

That link takes you to this inspiring quote:

“We’re talking about a democratic awakening. We’re talking about raising political consciousness, so it spills over; all parts of the country so people can begin to see what’s going on through a different set of lens. And then you begin to highlight what the more detailed demands would be, because in the end we’re really talking about what Martin King would call a revolution; a transfer of power from oligarchs to every day people of all colors, and that is a step-by-step process. It’s a democratic process, it’s a non-violent process, but it is a revolution, because these oligarchs have been transferring wealth from poor and working people at a very intense rate in the last 30 years, and getting away with it, and then still smiling in our faces and telling us it’s our fault. That’s a lie, and this beautiful group is a testimony to that being a lie.

“When you get the makings of a U.S. autumn responding to the Arab Spring, and is growing and growing—-I hope it spills over to San Francisco and Chicago and Miami and Phoenix, Arizona, with our brown brothers and sisters, hits our poor white brothers and sisters in Appalachia—-so. it begins to coalesce. And I tell you, it is sublime to see all the different colors, all the different genders, all the different sexual orientations and different cultures, all together here in Liberty Plaza; there’s no doubt about it.”

Cornel West, interviewDemocracy Now!, 29 September 2011

Reading that gives me chills, but what does Occupy Wall Street stand for? From news reports, the messaging feels a little disjointed–but then again, the movement is relatively new.

The first mention of #OccupyWallStreet comes from a post in AdBusters in July. Stating that money has more influence over politicians than constituents, it calls for “DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY.”  It also says the blossoming movement is “a step beyond the Tea Party movement, where, instead of being caught helpless by the current power structure, we the people start getting what we want…”

Here’s a well-produced video by #OccupyWallSt interviewing protestors. Nice to see folks of all colors and races in this video.

It’s true. We have bailed out the banks while they continue to look for more ways to take our money. At the same time, we are cutting off access to affordable healthcare and education. We are perpetually at war. And something in my heart tells me all this happens because the corporations control the politicians. Instead of listening to the will of the people, our politicians give their ear to the corporations, the sound of cha-ching deafening the cries of the people.

It reminds me of one of George Carlin’s last stand-up routines, particularly these:

 

Occupy Austin?

Taking that lens and focusing it on Austin, I have to question what our local government is doing to make this place a city in which common folk can live. They are doing so much to woo big corporations with tax cuts, and simultaneously courting the rich to move here. That leads to higher property taxes, which in turn, get passed on to renters. This pushes common folk further outside the city. And since the public transit in our city sucks, people have to spend more money, driving longer distances.

As it turns out, there is an Occupy Austin. And they plan on occupying City Hall starting this Thursday, October 6th, at 3PM.

But I’m still a little skeptical

I’m a little skeptical of these mass movements. Working in marketing, I know how well strong messages, emotional appeals, or branding can influence people. Like many of y’all, I voted for Obama. His message of change seemed to resonate with my feelings at the time. But ‘change’ is an abstract goal. 3 years later, I ask myself what kind of change he brought.

This post from last Thursday is a list of the demands from #OccupyWallStreet. With more than 25 grievances, it doesn’t feel focused. Remember when someone would run for Student Government back in high school, and they’d promise everything just to get you to vote–even stuff you know could never happen, like shorter classes and shit. That’s what this feels like. If they had 3-5 focused goals, it would help me understand what they wanted and where they wanted to take this movement.

On #OccupyWallStreet’s reddit, a Tea Party veteran gives the #OccupyWallStreet people some advice based on lessons he learned from his experience with the founding of the Tea Party. He makes many valid points, including the idea that the cause can get co-opted by people in already in power or corrupted by large donations from people who aren’t actually in support of the cause. And then there’s this post from Alex Jones looking at where the money funding #OccupyWallSt is coming from.

Now what?

Overall, I think we as Americans need to have these discussions.  Big corporations, to me, have too much influence on politicians. And while the gap between the upper class and the rest of us widens, we need to ensure that we have a seat at the table so that the cost of living doesn’t get out of control–especially here in Austin. But I’m really worried that this may be another movement that will be co-opted, funded or manipulated like the Tea Party was–or maybe its all-encompassing messaging will again capture the minds of the disenfranchised (ala Obama’s Change) and then lead to nothing, making us feel more powerless to enact any real change.

That said, #OccupyWallStreet hasn’t had a chance to define itself yet. It’s still young–and the concepts are really exciting. We’ll see over the course of the next few weeks how things develop.

Ultimately, if you think it’s about Democrats vs Republicans, you’re stuck in a period of time that no longer exists. It’s about big money vs the people. And for me, a “democratic movement” propped up and funded by NGO’s–regardless of political affiliation–is not a real democratic movement that comes from the people. I hope this one is legit.

What do you think about #OccupyWallStreet?

Would you occupy Austin?

About Chris Apollo Lynn

78704er, cyclist, part-time DJ, new media mad scientist, urban farmer, not a robot, ready for End of Days.

8 thoughts on “Would you Occupy Austin? What do you think of #OccupyWallSt?

  1. Tolly

    Wow, thank you for this post, Chris. I was very curious about the movement too, and I’m so glad somebody wrote a comprehensive outline about it. (It’s a funny coincidence, too: I was just in the car with Ross saying, “FUCK Chase! Let’s pull out our money and take it to a credit union!!” Just to be defiant, more than anything; also because they want to charge us a $12/mo fee if we ever decide to open up a new checking account. To spend our own money. Anyway.)

    As you know, I regard Austin with a dreamy, gooey optimism and probably always will. So I don’t know if I’m quite ready yet to Occupy Austin. But I would CERTAINLY occupy Wall Street, because that mess is out of control.

    Here’s the thing … I think industry and innovation is OK. Both you and I work for creative, homegrown companies. But it does make me super mad the way corporate money shapes public policy, especially now that corporations are allowed to fund political campaigns. So there is danger in letting corporations get too big. WalMart is a good example.

    Those to the extreme right get so up in arms about socialism, taxes, and government oversight, but can’t they see that THIS is what happens when you shift power to corporations, instead? As for our governmental process, I still believe in it, but I think it dearly needs to be updated. Nobody likes the electoral college. And, I think our two-party system is now showing us very clearly that it’s not set up to formulate good policy. It’s set up to make the “other” guy look bad, and that’s why Congress & the President are at a stalemate. Also, as you astutely pointed out, corporations in the U.S. have the power to manipulate either side.

    We need more than two parties, and that starts at a local level. That’s why I’m not quite ready to Occupy Austin yet, because there is such a strong local spirit here, and people are so supportive of unique, passionate, individual endeavors. I mean, look at you and me! :) This is the city that nurtured my ideas and gave me a voice, because people here care more about creativity than money. I really do think Austin can be an example of something better, and rather than Occupy Austin I think we need to encourage people to Vote in Austin. And start NEW parties. And keep on spending your money locally. Fight the oligarchs on their turf; keep on nurturing this turf so it can continue being a healthier alternative.

    Reply
  2. Cory

    Thanks for the blog! It was thorough and informative.

    Unlike Tolly, I plan to attend Occupy Austin, simply because I believe what’s going on in New York, Chicago and San Fran is a possibly huge shift in the way this country is headed. If nothing else, my voice will be heard just in that I will stand alongside the others in the 99%.

    Reply
  3. Confused

    I’m having a lot of trouble understanding this issue. I grew up in Austin, yet now I at business school in a conservative area. I’ve learned all about government and corporate policy and I’m having trouble with the message that these people are sending. Yes, I agree that the corporate world has more power than an individual, but I that’s mainly because they are responsible for hundreds of millions of jobs. I feel like jobs are the main movement of this cause. People are outraged by the high unemployment rate, which is above 9.1%, and they are saying that it is due to the influence of the corporation and the 1% on the government. Corporations are interested in growth, which produces profit, and to achieve this, they need to hire workers. To make a larger output, there needs to be a larger input, which means more jobs. The government is continuously trying to decrease the unemployment rate, which is one of their major metrics that they base their progress on. The Federal Reserve is a factor in this, basing their action of interest rates and bond purchasing on the help that it will give to middle class and lower class workers. Both of these aspects lead into the banking industry, which seems to be the targets of Occupy Wall Street.

    As to mortgages, this is due to jobs, the legal system, and fiscal policy. The way banks make money is by borrowing money from the Federal Reserve at a low rate, and then lending that money out to individuals. Without mortgages, most of America would not be able to finance a home, showing that they start for a good reason and they originally are a good concept. The point that people seem to be against mortgages is when they default on them and have foreclosures. When someone makes a mortgage, they are making a legal contract with the bank that says they will repay the loan. If the banks delivered on their end and enabled someone to buy a home and when the other party does not deliver on their own clauses in that contract, the bank legally has the right to foreclose. I agree that some of the policy on this is process can be impersonal, and there should be a more sensitive system to handle of foreclosures, but it is nonetheless a legal document. I know that if I was placed in that situation of foreclosure it would be devastating, but it doesn’t lead away from the fact that a mortgage is a legal agreement that both parties sign and agree to. Lay-offs and job losses have a play in this issue as well, going back to the issue of unemployment, which would be dramatically lower if these corporations weren’t in place.

    As to your incentives for corporations to come to states (such as Texas), that is what will fix this hurt economy and ultimately creates jobs for the hundreds of people that are in this movement. By giving incentives to corporations to have manufacturing plans and headquarters in areas with high unemployment, they are making jobs for Americans and not outsourcing it to cheaper alternatives over seas.

    Again, I feel like a lot of the people protesting in Wall Street are protesting against being wronged in some way from the corporations, yet the reason why it isn’t worse is because of these powers. I agree that there are some disadvantages to large corporations such as Wal-Mart, but Wal-Mart employs over 2 Million people in the country (which, doing the math is .4% of Americans). They also provide low prices so people will a small disposable income can have more buying power.

    I am trying to understand this movement and get behind it, but I’m having difficulty using my knowledge of the fiscal system to understand it. I agree that there needs to be change to decrease the unemployment rate, but I don’t think it is attacking the corporations which are helping control the problem by giving hundreds of millions of jobs to Americans. Please help me understand this.

    Reply
  4. Sylvia Benini

    OCCUPY AUSTIN ! LOCAL ACTIONS BEGIN THURSDAY OCTOBER 6th, 2011 at AUSTIN CITY HALL PLAZA, 10 AM.

    media contact :

    sylvia.benini@gmail.com
    512 ***********

    WHAT: Occupation of Austin City Hall Plaza
    WHEN: Thursday, October 6, 2011 10AM begin ongoing 24/7 encampment at City Hall Plaza
    WHERE: 301 W. Second St., Austin, TX 78701
    WHY: The Citizens of Austin Texas will present our demands and solutions to our Beloved Communities’ identified problems to the elected officials who occupy the Dais.

    OCCUPY AUSTIN is a grass roots movement that has formed in response to the actions on Wall Street, in New York City. As we have gathered together we have come to the conclusion that our system of economics is badly broken. Daily general assembly meetings are being held where anyone may come and participate in the return of our Democracy to Austin, Texas.

    Todays’ final organizing general assembly meeting will return to the Austin Texas’ CIty Hall Plaza at 7PM CST, October 5th.

    Today October 5th there will be a nationwide walkout of college students at 12 noon. OCCUPYAUSTIN will be in action at the University of Texas and Austin Community College. As in the New York City occupation local unions are now joining their efforts to this nascent social and civil rights movement. Members of Education Austin ( local teachers’ union ) will join in support of OCCUPY AUSTIN actions. Local businesses are volunteering services, food, and necessary items in support. Subcommittee magnets are now formed and operating to create appropriate identified nonviolent actions. Targets for actions have been selected. A evolving mission has become more clear through the organic processes of open and democratic community meeting.

    The General Assembly for Austin, Texas has released this mission statement approved October 4th at the General Assembly meeting.

    “Our mission is to assert our rightful place within the political process, and take the reins of power away from profit-driven interests.”
    “We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who occupy Wall Street and occupy around the world. We are dedicated to non-violently reclaiming control of our governments from the financial interests that have corrupted them. We demand that our public servants recognize that the people are the supreme authority.”

    ~Occupy Austin General Assembly~

    ###

    Reply
  5. Tolly

    Hey Cory (and Chris) – yeah, now I understand that Occupy Austin is more of a solidarity gathering, and not a “fuck you, Austin!” kind of thing. That changes my perspective.

    Are you there now? (Just in case you, uh, happen to be reading the comments section of Chris’s blog…)

    Reply
  6. Pingback: For My Pals in Austin « a Fan of #OWS

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