Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Philly: Philly & New York

Richard, of OHTARZIE, responded a comment I left. Here’s my reply, highlighting what may be some features specially characteristic of the Philly Occupation.

>Richard wrote:

What you describe is very different from what I see here and what I hear about from other cities. i am not simply speculating that there are Obamaphiles here. There just are. Nevertheless, what I see and hear is certainly more radical than anything Americans have done since the 60s. There is no question of that. I think you may be onto something with self-generating momentum to greater radicalism. It could be that everyone’s heading toward the same place but at different speeds.

I am curious, are they using the Horizontal leadership meeting facilitation stuff in Philly? Have been wondering if that’s been embraced all over. Would also like a little more details over what is specifically radical about the Philly group and what is their general movement bent: anarchism? socialism? Are they inclined to agitate for policy changes like tax hikes on the rich? Criminal investigations of the banksters?<

The only apologists I’ve heard for Obama have been from a few Afro-Americans, who want to give him some slack for being asked to do an impossible job, but even there–his Wall Street cabal comes up. Over all I’d say he’s held in about as much esteem as Jr. Bush.

Philly has it’s wealthy enclaves and suburbs, it’s hipsters and yuppy micro-brew beer bars,, but is overwhelmingly a working class city with a long festering discontent with the political establishment, local state & national. Mayor Nutter is a pro-business Democrat who’s in deep trouble with the unions–a potent factor in his kid glove treatment so far–the unions love us. TWU (public transit) is paying for 2 PortaPoties–and have their ear close enough to the temper of peeps here to have one of them wheelchair accessible.

While there seem to be a significant number of the occupiers in NY from around the country–Philly is overwhelmingly local, with many of us regulars commuting daily from neighborhoods, making for a strong organic outreach that helps spread the word and draw in new people (We had 310 tents as of yesterday’s morning count–hard to say how many overnighters–some tents have 4 or 5 peeps, some are one person mountain tents–but has to be over 600 and could be as many as 1000–which makes our actual occupation quite a bit larger than NY). And neighborhood support in Philly means labor unions & working class–a strongly disaffected demographic that doesn’t blink at radical, militant proposals. The young tattooed mufti-pierced kids here (they're kids to me! I’m 70 years old!)… don’t look like that cause they have corporate management jobs in mind for their futures). I’d guess that might be true in NY as well. I can’t offer any statistical verification, but in conversations I’ve had–they are always from working, low middle class, municipal service families. They don’t have now and don’t envision having any sense of entitlement or stake in what they see as the established order. This is not movement of future young Democrats!

We use pretty much the same process model as OWS. Working Groups (committees–about 40 now in Philly) send reps to the Coordinating Council (CoCo), if they want to bring proposals they’d like to present to the GA. CoCo votes on those they feel are ready. Basically–if the purposal is clear, the WG is well able to explain and defend them, they are put on the agenda for the WG. CoCo meets two hours before the GA. They take the proposals to Facilitation, whose sole purpose is to step back from advocacy and guide the meeting through the agenda, and see that Process is observed. It takes a team of 6 to 8 facilitators. We make an effort (so far pretty successful), to have different faces up front for every meeting, and bring new people in every GA. Both Fac and Coco are open to anyone to participate fully. WG’s also bring brief reports (& appeals for Occupants to join) to every GA.

Transparency is a huge issue–peeps come from outside with near paranoic fear of hidden power in any form whatsoever. City wants to meet with us–GA has rejected proposal after proposal for how to do this, from a liaison committee with legal team, to a select group to “listen” & explain to them our process.. why we take so long to make decisions (clash of horizontal and hierarchical power cultures) … seems to have come down to–they can either just be part of the GA, observing process like everyone else–or agree to a meeting preferably livestreamed, or at minimum, with a video posted and available immediately after. The more we learn to trust one another, seems the less trust we have for THEM.

As for the general bent–there’s a handful of very genial anarchists, fully committed to democratic process. They all of them came before the GA, introduced themselves–this, to reassure everyone and defend themselves after one or two trolls attacked them on the web, accusing them of all sorts of nonsense. Everything else you can imagine. It’s a VERY big tent. Ending corporate personhood would prolly get unanimous support–strong recognition of linkage–that we can’t isolate cause from cause. Everything is related. One reason why no specific set of demands or manifesto has come out of this. This will take time… we’ve been at this less than two weeks, and have managed to build a community, 300 + tents, feed 1500 peeps a day, including several hundred homeless–many of whom are part of the camp (they lived around City Hall before we came)... all from the ground up. If there are 'leaders' here in any traditional sense, I couldn't tell you who they are. I don’t think anyone can say where this will go or what its limits may be. We’re really breaking new ground. .

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