On Privilege

Something that struck me as odd during my travels was the pervasive awareness of privilege, White privilege in particular.

Not just by people  of color, but by White people with those advantages, coming down on themselves for the abuses their peers have committed, and the legacy they have been born into.

Those of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds other than those of the first English and Anglo  have always known of the challenges that face us simply due to physical appearance,

The mistrust is culturally ingrained as part of our history in this country. But it is making progress.

I have personally heard privileged Anglo individuals admitting that it is people like them that have taken us into the sad state we’re in.

It was literally a rich White male saying rich White males are the problem. But it was that exact statement that truly gave me pause.

He wasn’t actually saying all rich White men are a problem with society, he was just finally acknowledging the fact that privilege and advantage is given to a very small segment of society in this county, and in turn, being exploited for their own benefit to the detriment of nearly all others.

He was acknowledging the fact that our current society marginalizes people of color at every turn.

Some people of color dismiss it as fashionable in these types of situations, but I saw their intent to be genuine.

I come from privilege too. As a second generation American of Mexican descent, I did not know the same rough barrios my parents did. We struggled, but I always had food on the table.

It was not until I got older and experienced those same drug infested crime riddled streets for myself that I began to understand. I had to find out for myself how these realities were, they were not my daily life, as they were for my parents and grandparents.

Still, I see their struggle as part of my own. I am only able to do what I do through the efforts of my grandfathers in the fields and the Army, my grandmothers care and supervision, through the constant raw physical exertion of my father and the dedicated perseverance of my mother. Their struggles to give their children better lives have given me these wonderful opportunities to share information and help facilitate change.

It is the privileges they have afforded me that makes me want to do what I can for others.

We all have certain talents, strengths and privileges. Whether it is our skin color, socio-economic status, natural ability, or hard work ethic, we all have gifts at our disposal.

We should not ever be ashamed of who we are or what we have been given. It is simply that we must use these gifts to their full extent.

Having a gift is not something to be ashamed of, not using it, is.

On Racial Inclusion

There is a very real mistrust of the Occupy movement among many people of color. This has led to a widespread push to consider renaming or creating sub committees and working groups for the Decolonize movement.

I do not think either movement is exclusive, and do see the value of both, but this post is just to explain a little bit about why the differences are felt so that each side may understand why their is such intense feelings for names.

First is an example of movies.

Pop culture reservations aside, most of America watches movies. Whether it is on TV or the internet or even in a theater once in a while, people watch these movies to be entertained. It shows the a world they can relate to in some way. Even when it is a cartoon or film about another world, there ares still themes and character types that translate into our own experience.

Well what about the people that don’t see themselves in those movies? Or only see things they recognize and identify with portrayed in negative fashions?

This is what happens to people of color.

In the movie industry, which pervades most American’s lives as well as those around the world, race and socio-economic status are typically favored to white individuals. Being a person of color usually makes you the villain or comic relief, very rarely a serious hero.

Only independent or blacksploitation, or foreign-made films really take a look at these serious inequities which are being reinforced with every single piece of media we watch, read or listen to.

Then you look at the history.

This nation was built by imperialist Anglo slaveholders who wished to be free from persecution. They slaughtered most of an indigenous population of unique cultures to create their own utopia.

The system was set up for the benefit of these first immigrant men and all others were marginalized. It has been less than a century since even women could actually vote in our government. Not to mention the Civil Rights movement and Chicano movements, whose gains can still be counted in small victories, later infringed upon anyway. We locked up thousands of U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry during the WWII. We’ve swept aside treaties with Native American peoples pretty much at whim for out entire history as a nation.

Reading something so blunt strikes many people as odd, or wrong in some way, but I am not naive. Call it conspiracy or consciousness, adversarial nature or awareness, it doesn’t matter much.

This is reality.

Which is not to say it is not to say change isn’t coming. We should consider these failings as lessons we can build on. The only real failure would be letting the status quo continue and these gains taken back and forgotten.

This is not meant to blame anyone directly, it is simply the system that has been set up and complied with by everyone. Some are simply unaware of what they are doing,

The system is incredibly insidious because of the subconscious delivery of these messages. Anyone not taking the time to deconstruct them might overlook their significance. They might just be pictures on a wall. But that is only on the surface.

Everyone should take a second to look around, analyze their surroundings. They must actually think about the pictures, literature and other messages they are constantly fed.

These messages are not there  by accident.

People in power write the policies that create these messages. Not being aware of their impacts is no excuse. Being aware of them and continuing to comply with them only continues the cycle of oppression.

When you only see good things happening to White people, and people of color being portrayed negatively, you don’t have to be racist, you’re just judgmentally socialized.

It becomes a structural part of your psyche. You don’t have to know it to be the truth, it just is. The same way the military trains you to do things without question, children are being raised with preconceived notions that will rule their lives.

We are all just people, with the same problems, the same successes, the same capabilities. We must show that in everything we do if we wish to see a change. Simply overlooking things so innate as movies, literature and  can undermine a whole generation.

There are only so many times I can say this.

Be conscious. Deconstruct your world. Build it anew. Build it better.

Which all comes back to the movements, whether it is Occupy or Decolonize, I think there is room for both.

They are separate ideals with overlapping concerns. If you are mindful that there are other groups working towards the same goals, cooperation can be used to build both movements, creating a strengthened base while maintaining diversity of thought.

There is long-standing mistrust and issues between those who have been working for specific causes, especially those of color, and the newcomers to the Occupy movement specifically.

The Occupy movements are a larger forum though, Decolonize concerns are directed and specific, combining them and spreading awareness is key to the success of both.

We must work together to make process real.

On What I Learned – The Conclusion

The Preamble

Hundreds of people signed a large copy of the preamble of the United States Constitution as part of the mass action for Occupy the Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA on Jan. 2.

It took many sleepless hours, eyes red and burning, staring at desolate roads through narrow headlight beams, to get to where I was going. But in the end, it was exactly where I wanted to be. Everywhere.

It took 14 days and roughly 4,500 miles to complete my tour of the Occupy Movements in the Western U.S. I started in the South, visiting Occupy San Diego, and worked my way up through California and Oregon to the Occupy Seattle General Assembly, East through Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, before finally head South through Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, and back to Los Angeles.

I was able to talk to all different kinds of people through this experience; young, old, rich, poor, students, teachers, factory workers and families. Everyone had their own reason for participating in the movement, but they also understood that those different goals could only be realized by working together.

The actions in each city were all a bit different. Some were able to work with police, secure permits and retain their encampments with help from local agencies. Others only maintained their Occupations through dedication and continued resistance to local government. Still, violence at the Occupations is usually coming from police.

It is true that there are still controversies over assaults, drug use and rapes that have occurred at the sites, but those are problems inherent to life in the open, not tied specifically to these actions. Neither the violence nor the drug use is condoned, but they are acknowledged as realities of life in the streets and at least being addressed; before the Occupy movement began drawing attention to public space, these issues were merely swept under the rug as the dirty little secrets of our society.

There are many issues this young movement is facing, as it is far from over, but at least these important discussions are happening.

In these small communities of conscious people, the discussions that will shape the future of our nation are happening. Between young and old, privileged and poor, all different races, cultures and backgrounds. People of all kinds are finally participating in the way we run our society. It is no different than the civil rights movement before it, or the fight for independence before that. There will always be those dedicated to the betterment of their country for the benefit of their peers.

This movement is dealing with the problems our society sees today. It is a sounding board for those who have been campaigning for individual causes their entire life, as well as newcomers, from all different strokes, who wish to take part in shaping their own futures. Many different groups are coming together, sharing their strengths, to build the country they wish to be a part of.

By stressing equality and community, these local movements are working towards a collective good through individual efforts. They are all trying to give the government back to the people, removing corporate influence over their decisions. They are working to stop exploitation of people, resources and environments for the benefits of individual companies who concentrate that wealth. They are doing all they can to reinstate the benefits of being part of this country to all those in it, not just a few. The people I met were all working altruistically, not just for themselves, but for all those being oppressed, especially the ones who cannot do it for themselves.

After seeing all these cities, all these different people, I realized that they were all working for one thing: each other.

– Serious Note

On Names

Robbery

The crowd grew as the Occupy Rose Parade march advanced down the route on Jan. 2, passing many of the same institutions it was protesting, confident in their constitutional rights to free expression and peaceable assembly.

They already know who we are.

During my trip, as I was getting to know some of the most socially conscious people I have ever met,  it occurred to me that publishing their names was probably not the best idea. As the trip went on, though, it became abundantly clear that it did not matter whether I printed them or not.

People have had their computers hacked into, websites infiltrated, communications intercepted and information seized. This is apart from all those already identified through arrests, protest participation and video coverage.

This movement is peaceful, nonviolent and LEGAL. There is technically no reason for protestors to be afraid of showing their faces. Sadly, this is not the reality. Law enforcement keeps track of participants, period. People get beaten, pepper sprayed and tear gas cannoned to the head.

Those who are trying to hide do so out of self-preservation. And with good reason. After the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, and the coming H.R. 3166: Enemy Expatriation Act, government sanctions on perceived threats are becoming much more severe.

The NDAA authorizes indefinite detention, with no contact to the outside world, no right to trial and no avenue towards release other than through the system that put you there. H.R. 3166 threatens to strip you of your citizenship in the United States and deny you all the rights thereof.

I did not want to unfairly endanger anyone for exercising their rights. Sanctions against those speaking out seemed far to severe and unconstitutional. If I printed names I could not ethically justify contributing to these sanctions.

As my trip progressed I began to see things differently.

The people I met and interacted with were all aware of what being part of the Occupy movement means. The challenges they face. The repercussions of arrest. The fact that they become targets for law enforcement.

Those who have already been arrested have confirmed this, guards and officers have admitted it. Reporters and activists have been visited by agents from the FBI and other departments regarding their involvement. Communications via secure servers have been intercepted and used to identify participants.

In hearing all this, from so many different sources, I began to realize how little it mattered what I chose. The government already knows who is participating, they watch the live streams too.

Still, it should not matter. Protesters are not doing anything illegal, Oakland Black Bloc actions aside. It is a constitutional right to participate in these actions. There should be no need to conceal your identity, but in reality, certain threats to civil liberties do stem directly from political participation, which just goes to show you which direction this country is heading.

All said, I decided that what is most important is that I share the information I gathered on this trip, the names are irrelevant. I am sure the government already knows who they are, but publicly declaring themselves is up to them, they know what they face.

Until then all I can say is that I am exercising my duty, as a journalist, to share the information the public wishes to know, the information corporate media is blatantly ignoring.

My name is Frank Thomas Cardenas. I publish this website and I believe in my constitutional right to do so.

– Serious Note

On Support

I’d first like to thank everyone that helped make this trip possible: My family and friends, who all contributed what they could to make this a reality; the many Occupiers I had the privilege to meet, all of you were amazing, always so hospitable and open, dedicated to the movement and sharing the good word (yes, I said it); and the American Government, without which this trip would have been totally irrelevant. 

This movement is a group effort.

Without mutual support and cooperation nothing will be accomplished.

That was exactly how my trip went, and I am so thankful it did. Today I made it back to base in Los Angeles, safe, sound and in one piece. Though the initial part of my trip is over, this is only the beginning of my mission.

During my tour I was able to interact with people throughout the movement. I talked to them about the issues they were facing, the tactics they employed, what was working and what wasn’t.

My goal in all this is to create a forum for discussion between occupations. It is a personal analysis of what I’ve seen and what people have told me they would like to know more about. It is a resource for those who wish to learn more about the movement and how to get involved. I am not advocating that anyone take any particular action, these are just the things I have seen and heard.

It is this mutualistic collaboration that I saw as so powerful during my trip. People were genuinely interested in each others well being. They supported one another and worked towards mutual goals, contributing whatever talents and skills they had. It is many people supporting each other, however they can, to bring about a positive change in this country.

There is no way I would have been able to take the trip if it was not for the support of those around me. Someone lent me a car, others sent me information en route. Some housed me, others fed me, and still others contributed funds. There is no way I would have accomplished this without their help.

And in taking this trip, I was able to help others. I shared information that people could not get elsewhere. I shared ideas with them, that came from others, that helped with their individual actions. Everyone was so appreciative, yet I was only doing what I felt was right, I appreciate that they were receptive to what I am trying to do.

Therein lies my point, this movement requires support, and people appreciate it. Whatever you can contribute, whenever you can come down, whatever you can share. Some have time, some have art, some have ideas, some have money. The movement needs it all to keep things going.

This is my contribution, make yours.

– Serious Note

 

On Me as a Traveler

I drive too fast.

Period. Not unsafely, just quickly. I stay in my lane, mind other cars, let people pass and cut in. I even do my best to follow at a good distance. It has just become apparent to me that not all people drive like Californians. Many even drive below the speed limit, a totally foreign concept to someone who grew up on the cutthroat drag strips that are the Los Angeles freeways. It seems the farther North you go, the slower things get.

I constantly want to stop.

A nightime scene I had to stop for in Legget, CA on my way to Occupy Eureka.

Life is interesting and I am not quiet sure when I will be back this way again, if ever. My only solace is my resolve to come back to all these wonderful places when I have the time to explore. The challenge is still actually making the time to take those trips. This tour has a very specific purpose, and sadly, sight seeing, hiking and camping are not it. Soon though…

I love traveling  at night.

Things are calmer, there are less people on the road and, most importantly, I am not missing the beautiful sights that would otherwise slow my progress on this particular trip (i.e. less heartbreak). During the night I just get places so much quicker.

I get bored easily, but rarely.

There is simply too much to look at most of the time to not be completely enthralled constantly. Even watching the fog roll through the trees, or last wisps of cloud get illuminated by the setting sun, or the scenic vista points, or huge stands of pines, or flocks of Aleutian geese honking as they pass. It is just the most wonderful experience to travel. The only time I really get bored is at night, when there is no moon or I am just really tired, in which case I get extremely bored and have to fight myself to stay awake every 3 seconds.

I like to drive in silence.

Probably because my head is so loud. Nothing really stops for me. I am constantly thinking about the things I’ve seen and heard, stories and posts to write, accompanying materials I want to include, where I am going next, where I am going to sleep, just all the different aspects of work I can.

Driving is a time of physical engagement that does not require too much brainpower. It is a sort of meditation for me. I get to quietly reflect and analyze my situation while still making physical progress towards my next objective.

– Serious Note