I just returned from Occupy Oakland in downtown. What can I say? It is not immediately inspiring. Not clean. A bit muddy. Lots of straggly dressed youth mixed with older street people, radicals, liberals, anarchist kids with black rags covering their faces flying black flags. But there is order in the chaos. There is an excitement in the people there who are building community. (Remember that thing that we used to think we were a part of and then gave up on it when everything didn’t go the way we wanted.)
Plank and palette walkways wind through a hundred or so tents. There is a daycare tent, a kitchen tent, communications, supplies and information boards everywhere. It is a bit like the spillover of a grateful dead or reggea-ska event I might have seen at the Warfield on Market Street in 1991 when I first came to SF.I didn’t stick around too long. I heard one old timer yell out, “Don’t stay too long without something to say.” I don’t know if he was talking to me or not. I wasn’t sure if I had anything to say. Another woman on the mic said don’t come to just look. Get involved.
I’m not sure if it true with all young people but I think they, (I certainly did) have an acute sense of what is right and wrong. They know we have a messed up system that allows people to gain enormous wealth while others suffer and go without. Without quality education, without health care, without access to healthy food, without opportunity. We have all the resources and wealth we need in this country to make great things. Beautiful things. The young folk know that. They know we could do much better and the middle class has to get its complacent ass in this fight too.
I left Occupy Oakland because I wasn’t sure I hadn’t come to just look and I didn’t have much to say or there wasn’t anyone there who I wanted to say it to, or because I didn’t have the words to say it then, or because I didn’t like the eyes of some angry old men, or because I didn’t have the energy to stay or because I was hungry and didn’t want to eat the free food.
But inspiration sometimes seeps in. It isn’t always immediate. It is easy to think, that this rag tag group of protesters are powerless. But I remembered their wisdom--the wisdom of the young, and some old too, to know the blaring differences of right and wrong.
Maybe some of you, like me, have hit your mid-forties. (I sometimes believe myself sophisticated, able to see the subtleties, unlike 20 years ago when there was no such thing.) But there is nothing subtle about our tax system—or maybe that is the problem, it is entirely too subtle. There is nothing subtle about the number of people without health insurance. There is nothing subtle about the corporate greed machine and the CEOs that feed it’s furnace with cheap labor and the constant whittling and peeling of people, pay and benefits. The lopsided pay scale. The gloms of natural resources thrown into the furnace. The waste. The intellectual vacuum. The loud sucking sound of freeways. Politicians like Perry who want to do away with regulations and end the EPA. Out of work workers who say “screw the environment, we need this piss ant, earth-raping job. We need to suck every last drop of car cum oil out of the sand and pipe it to the Gulf of Mexico. We need to clear cut the forests. We need to get government regulation off our backs so we can USE IT ALL UP and have a job!” So you see the blue collars are screwed along with the white collars and the gold collars and blue-chip collars. And the poor who say “I’m going to get mine. The hell with all,” are part of it too.
But the young, the really young, know when something is wrong. Hell, the old people teach it. It’s wrong to be greedy, it’s wrong to pollute, it’s wrong to allow others to suffer at your expense. That’s what it is, our expense. And we are too damn cheap to do anything about it.
The young know right and wrong instinctually. They know what’s going on in downtown Oakland. The politicians have to get in line like everyone else to talk on the microphone. After all, they are just citizens, like everyone else and--while I’m at it--why should they be allowed to get a nickel of anyone’s private dime for their public campaign.
The world is an engine ready to explode unless the rats get off the wheel they’ve been racing too hard on. Make those wheels screech. Bring the world with you. One world. Our world. Bring the chew-up machine to a halt! Everybody. Please. THIS MEANS YOU.