October 18, 2011

Ready to Occupy The Streets? Take This Visual Test

“When the truth is found to be lies,

and all the joy within you dies,

Don’t you need somebody to love”

Popularized by Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane

For music purists and intellectual property rights attorneys, here is the full and proper credit for this powerful song. (the author wishes to thank his friend Doug Belscher for these historical details)  Don’t You Need Somebody to Love was written by Great Society guitarist Darby Slick and first performed by that band, which included his then-sister-in-law Grace Slick on vocals, the song made little impact outside of the club circuit in San Francisco. The song was first released in 1966, as a single on the North Beach subsidiary of Autumn Records and received minimal circulation outside of the bay area. Jefferson Airplane recorded it in 1967 

I wasn’t necessarily looking for somebody to love, nonetheless, I couldn’t stay away from “Occupy Boulder” on Saturday. There was a tugging at my sleeve and the calling of an old familiar friend from protests past. I had to see for myself, up close and personal, what this occupy movement is all about. Although, it took a month for Occupy Wall Street to make the national news, I’ve been watching from afar. Now, with the help of Occupy Together, our Boulder activists are getting organized and it looks like it’s here to stay.

Oh, before I dive into the substance of all this and administer your test, I’m Just wondering, did any members of the Jefferson Airplane read some of Thomas Jefferson’s letters, like this one in 1816 to John Taylor:

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies…”

Jefferson added:

“The system of banking we have both equally and ever reprobated.  I contemplate it as a blot left in all our constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away in its progress the fortunes and morals of our citizens”.  

Monticello, May 28, 1816

Broadway and Canyon will be the meeting place every Saturday from now on

If you agree with these signs, (this is your visual test) come back every Saturday with your own signs and join in the fun. Yes, fun. There was a decidedly festive mood at Canyon and Broadway – for Boulder’s first “occupy” day, everyone was curious and committed. There was a feeling of hope and optimism coupled with legitimate angst. Unlike the decidedly angrier protests of my formative years, the Occupy Together movement has a different feeling. I know, I paid the price for my early activism at the end of a Cambridge Cop billy club.

If historical lessons are worth anything these days, remember the single pointed focus of the Anti-War protests of the Vietnam era ultimately ended that illegal conflict, in addition to the sons and daughters of the elite being drafted and killed on the battlefields. During a fancy cocktail party at the Aspen Institute, the former senior ranking democrat on the Armed Services Committee and the father of the Pell College Grant Program, Senator Claiborne Pell, admitted that the Senate finally voted to end the funding for the war because, and I quote: “a million people took to the streets”.  

This time, if there is a focus, it’s about systemic, fundamental change. The occupiers want to usher in a new era; nothing short of a complete transformation of the way we do business will address the many grievances shouted out from sidewalks and parks all across America. Nothing short of radical, structural change will satisfy this movement.

Anger at the system will not be enough to capture the hearts of the larger population. If this movement can’t find a way to make it fun and compelling at the same time, it may whimper and fizzle out.  The occupiers must find a way to allay the fears of the “haves” while simultaneously supporting the reasonable desires and needs of the “have nots”. Certainly the 99% are not “have nots” by global standards, however, questioning how much is “enough” for the 1% is a legitimate question the Occupy Movement is raising.

Considering the many misdeeds of banks and bankers, an unreported aspect of this movement relates to the financing of extractive industries, including and especially mountain top removal for coal. Big banks funding companies that trash the planet for the sake of profits is no longer acceptable to an awakening population. People who previously ignored the connection between social justice, economic justice and environmental degradation are showing up at “occupy” rallies and protests. Short term gain at the expense of a healthy planet sucks, in the opinion of activists who have the courage to call a spade a spade. Claims of energy independence as an excuse for natural gas fracking are a sham. Unless energy independence is based upon clean, renewable sources of “fuel”, our economy our communities and our planet will suffer grave consequences.

The “national security” argument, as justification for our “endless war on terror”, is also bogus…with luck, everyone will connect the dots between spending 300 million dollars per day on the American Troops in Afghanistan and our current economic woes; not to mention the billions already down the drain in Iraq and the billions that the Bush administration gave away to his high finance pals, with no accountability. Did history repeat itself again? Remember when Ronald Reagan and Neal Bush raided and bankrupted the Savings-and-Loan industry costing tax payers a 150 billion dollar bail out?  During Reagan’s two terms in office 138 members of his administration had been convicted, indicted, or investigated for criminal activity, which was a record of graft far surpassing even Nixon.

While we’re at it, perhaps some young investigative reporter would like to track down the $6.6 Billion that “went missing” in Iraq after George and his Pentagon buddies airlifted $12 billion in taxpayer dollars for “post war” reconstruction.

Here is what one pundit has to say about this global occupy movement. If you don’t want to read Thomas Friedman’s entire article, here’s a quote:

“This particular round of protests may build or may not, but what will not go away is the broad coalition of those to whom the system lied and who have now woken up. It’s not just the environmentalists, or the poor, or the unemployed. It’s most people, including the highly educated middle class, who are feeling the results of a system that saw all the growth of the last three decades go to the top 1 percent.”

Eugene Robinson Washington Post columnist had this to say: Protests Inept, Silly and Right on the Money

We have no shortage of politicians in this country. What we need is more passion and energy in the service of justice. We need to be forced to answer questions that sound simplistic or naive — questions about ethics and values. Detailed policy positions can wait.

This is my best assessment of the root cause of our discontent: Citizens have been persuaded to believe that money equals happiness. The 99% are waking up to the fact that an industrial growth society, driven by rapacious consumption and unsustainable development, leads us far astray from a meaningful human life. The heart longs for more than a race to see who can accumulate the most in the least amount of time.

If you want to go deeper, Tom Atlee is an astute observer in these turbulent times and an integral thinker on many issues – check out his views. Our earliest patriots recognized  the concentration of wealth among the few comes at great risk to a civil society. If I recall correctly, repudiation of the aristocracy of Europe combined with a desire for social and economic liberty was the primary motivation for the Revolutionary War.

Fascination bordering on obsession with The Dow Jones Industrial Averages and Gross Domestic Product diminishes human dignity, yours and mine. At this stage of our growth and evolution as a Nation, the notion of the triumphant individual and the self interest of the heroic entrepreneur has replaced the well being of the whole. The will of the people is ignored in favor of “executive privilege”. Ecological degradation is accepted as necessary collateral damage for economic growth and profound inequities are woven into the fabric of every aspect of our society. Get the picture?

Today, regulatory agencies, rather than the democratic will of the majority, dictate public policy. Even Mark Twain observed: “we have the best government money can buy”,  the pervasive depth of this reality represents a radical and profound shift in how our system was designed to work. We owe this development to our own indifference as much as we do to high paid lobbyists serving the interests of corporations and special interest groups.

No doubt, you have additional grievances of your own. Like night and day, there are always light and dark dimensions to contentious issues. Beliefs and ideologies die hard. When social unrest arises, it is prudent to remember that the veil of civilization is very thin.

Who would disagree with that assessment? It’s obvious, those benefiting from the status quo will find fault with anyone raising a defiant voice. They generously give you a right to your opinion and then smugly barricade the halls of privilege, whether public or private.

Of course, we have free speech in America: You can say anything you want, as long as it doesn’t really matter.

Who else would disagree with the protestors?  Any one of the 710,000 died in the wool Heritage Foundation donors who believe in a dangerous “win/lose” world,  the so-called free-market champions, perhaps a reincarnated Robber Baron, those who own stock in General Electric and General Dynamics, a laissez faire capitalist?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the life of privilege and prosperity our good ‘ol American Dream has provided for so many, for so long. The magnificent achievements of our modern world are breath taking, however, things have taken a radical turn in recent years. Sure, I’m all in favor of a meritocracy, but not when the system is manipulated and corrupt. Have you noticed how it is currently functioning, or rather dysfunctioning?

As a celebrated athlete, I had to confront a deeply disturbing proposition as a freshman in college. My very first expository writing assignment was this; my professor wrote on the black board:COMPETITION IS BAD FOR THE SOUL – DISCUSS. Imagine my dilemma. To this day, I’m a bit haunted by that assignment. How would you have responded, in writing? Is our concept of competition worthy of serious analysis in a world approaching 8 Billion hominids?

Preparation “toss up” question for your test, a true or false statement –

According to FOX News – the protesters participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement are “uneducated and potentially violent” – If you think this is a true statement, subtract 5 points and stop reading. If you believe this is a false statement, you may proceed.


QUESTION #1 – If you agree with the message on this T-Shirt, give yourself 1 point:

She wasn't in the parade, (darn) but this captures the spirit and the essence of the "Occupy Movement"

QUESTION #2 – (remember this is a visual test): If you get the irony of this flag and disagree with Corporate Personhood as ruled by the Supreme Court in response to the Citizen’s United law suit, give yourself 2 Points!

Get Your Own from AdBusters - www.adbusters.org/cultureshop/corporateflag

QUESTION # 3 – If you have a problem with pink hair, subtract 1 point. If you agree with all the signs you can read in this photo (don’t miss the one about Texas)- add 3 points

Vote Yes On 2B and 2C - Accelerate the shift to Clean Energy away from Xcel

For a rousing pep talk from Van Jones about the Municipalization of the Electric Utility for Boulder, check out this creative video from New Era Colorado:

QUESTION # 4: If you like this You Tube clip add 4 Points to your score, if not, subtract 4 points:

QUESTION # 5 If you agree with both of these signs, especially the green one, give yourself 5 points:

It is up to us! We deserve the Government and the Military Industrial Complex we allow

Here is your pass / fail question – if you can’t muster a grin equal to this Boston Terrier and you’ve lost your sense of humor entirely, you are not of sufficient sound mind and body to participate… go home and pull the covers over your head:

Even Dogs get it! Trickle Down Economics = peeing on a fire hydrant

This Boston Terrier “Mugsy” is from Whidbey Island -he was participating in Occupy Seattle last weekend. The back side of his sign reads:

“TOP 1%, JOB CREATORS?  ………….. BITE ME!  – I couldn’t post that since the Associated Press “owns it”.


If you scored less than 5 you may want to start paying attention.

If you scored more than 5, you’re on the right track, you’re waking up.

If you scored 10 or more points show up next Saturday at 11:00am and be sure to “like” the Occupy Boulder Facebook page  or visit the Meet Up web site.

It was a little difficult choosing my customary sign off song, however, since I began with the Jefferson Airplane – let’s end with one of their classics – a call to all volunteers! “Look what’s happening out in the streets, Yah, I’m dancing’ down the street … one generation got old, one generation got soul” …  it appears this generation is being sold


Onward with Courage

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