On Answers

“‘I don’t know’ is no longer an acceptable answer.”

That statement was one of the greatest things I heard from anyone during my trip across the Western Occupations.

A protester at the Occupy Seattle General Assembly stood up and said his piece. That was one of his boldest statements, and I am inclined to agree.

Though many people are still only now warming up to this movement, and activism in general, there should never be an instance where that phrase is acceptable. People should know why they are out there, what they are fighting for, how they want their society to run.

And if they don’t, here are a few possible answers.

The Occupy Movement began with Occupy Wall Street, a social change protest movement,  inspired by the Canadian Adbusters Magazine. It focused on the deceptive and oppressive practices of major wall street finance and investment corporations.

The frustrations are loosely focused around major banks, hedge funds, mortgage lenders, energy companies, war profiteer weapons suppliers, chemical manufacturers, agribusiness, big pharmaceutical firms, oil dealers and multinational corporations, job exporters and social destructors in general.

Often, these companies are one in the same. They all finance, own subsidiaries of, partner with, or otherwise collude with other companies of the same scale to enact practices which benefit only those in power and impoverish most others.

The banking reform issue cannot be addressed in an isolated fashion. Their shady practices are linked to all these other corporations as their financiers.

All these are and more are what the Occupy Movement and others are addressing. When asked, we must have answers, not for everything, but at least for something.

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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