Thursday, September 20, 2012

Detroit ... Full of Issues

Opinion by Stephen Boyle
Member of Occupy Detroit, Free Detroit - No Consent and other organizations within Detroit

There are so many issues being faced by Detroit and it seems everyone wants to offer advice into the situation. It gets rather difficult to understand the stands around the issues until you look at the level of personal investment and capability of support had by those speaking and taking a stand.

Who Holds an Invested Interest?

  • City of Detroit residents
  • Workers in the city
  • Metropolitan are residents
  • Workers in metropolitan Detroit
  • Employers in the city
  • Employers in the metro area
  • People that formerly worked in Detroit or in the metro area
  • People considering coming to Detroit or the metro area
  • People who may invest in Detroit's future in some manner
  • Curious bystanders - oddly this may be one of the largest populations if you follow comment posts made about Detroit that somehow seem to think it should be removed from the face of the planet

James is a lawyer and civil rights fighter
I think that covers just about all the angles, and I'll say that the weight of personal investment runs highest from the top of the list to the bottom. Those that are at the top of the list quite often have a tough time hearing solutions from people with what is perceived to be a lessor personal investment. That's common in every community - those impacted directly are undeniably affected the most.

How to Occupy and Support?

Every position has the ability to learn through listening prior to (or while) proposing solutions to issues. Sometimes it will seem like a lot of venting going on with little solution. People just want to see change happen and positive results, be that in the removal of issues or growth of opportunities. Personal accounts can be valuable lessons to those whom haven't had to deal with them.

Micheal is homeless and stuck in a wheelchair
For example, today I was in a meeting regarding public transportation and we had several handicapped members attending. I mentioned that many of us don't personally encounter the difficulty these people do daily until we "break a foot", then we experience it for a brief spell and can go back to how we've known access. We have to consider with some handicap situations there is no "brief time" in the concerns raised. Things won't just get better unless we do something that makes it better for us. In doing that for ourselves are we then making it more difficult for others or improving for everyone?

Coming up with a least common denominator (LCD) solution is going to be the answer, however even that can be troubling or difficult to implement. Moderating a discussion to find that LCD can be difficult with a wide number of personal encounters and opinions. This is where consensus building enters and that is one area Occupy movements have championed worldwide. Everyone has a stake in creating a position and taking actions on it that unify. 

Can A Revolution Be Consented?

Jahsahn leads This Hood of Ours, a nonprofit in Detroit
One of the concerns is that radical measures may be tough to get passed through consensus. We may be able to inspire a revolution, but personal risks and encounters can stand in the way of being in the active wave of revolution. It takes radical and passionate action that sometimes sees the consequences and is willing to accept that being revolutionary is dangerous. Those that see they can't take the risks may choose to stand aside or offer support with limited involvement. All of these positions are helpful and needed for revolutionary action and should not be discounted. They are a reflection of personal investment in the situation and may end up changing the allies in your life as you mount an assault on society's standards.

I'd like to ask people reading to support the world you'd like to see and be as active as you possibly can. You'll meet people along the way, listen to new ideas, hear testimony, and hopefully be able to offer testimony yourself providing encouragement.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Yule be great, Yule be swell

Ah, the spirit of the holidays and a new year starting. Charity and good will to men. Everyone asks, "Why can't we keep the spirit of the holidays [or insert here your celebration of choice] all year long?"

As if in answer to that question, my seven-year-old just came up and said, "Mommy, what are you doing?"

"Occupy stuff," which is my pat answer to her when I'm reading news articles, writing, or catching up in my forums and workgroups online. 

With a sigh she said, "When is the occupy stuff going to be done?"

I'm sighing too, kiddo.

It's hard, to keep good intentions in your sights and hope in your heart. It's hard to hit the 'net each morning looking for inspiration and to read things like, " Brace yourself. The American Empire is over. And the descent is going to be horrifying."

It's hard to spend time reading and watching more interviews, more news articles, when your kid wants to play with you and you need a shower and your house is still a mess from Christmas.

So, I remind myself to think smaller. 

I remind myself that I know, especially as a former employee of government administration, that change happens in baby steps, slower than molasses. I remind myself how amazingly heartening it is to see people taking to the streets and taking to the internet (and good Lord, please, can we keep the internet free from censorship? Even Russia is wondering what we're up to: "If the US approves the [SOPA] document, it will automatically be associated with China and Iran which have repeatedly been slammed by the Obama administration for using Internet censorship."

I remind myself that people are unhappy and want to have hope, want to make things better, not just for themselves but for their neighbors and their communities. Occasional burnout is inevitable. But people are still interested and still curious, and that curiosity is what will keep the occupy movement moving.

Just yesterday, a neighbor asked me if I was still working with Occupy Detroit. When I said yes, she said, "I'm still not sure what it's all about; I'm going to have to get down there and check it out."

It's a small and attainable goal. Let's just make sure that when people want to see what's going on with the Occupy movement, that we're still there to show them. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ghosts of banks past and present

When I grew up, banks were stoic institutions with high ceilings and marble floors, and the people who worked there dressed in suits and took dealing with money very seriously. I’d often go to the bank with my grandparents, and it reminded me of a library with the predominant sound being that of dress shoes clicking on the floor.

Things have changed.

Now, when I walk into a bank, I feel more like I’m being approached by a car salesman. Young guys in jewel-tone dress shirts and black slacks are the order of the day; guys who probably cut their sales teeth selling gym memberships are now overly-excited to offer me bank “products.” Their training shows: they wave away concerns about additional charges or fees and, smiling all the time, get me to sign on the dotted line.

And the banks taught us as a country to think less of our money.  For many banking transactions, we'd incur $2 and $3 charges; with every transaction, we were being taught that throwing money away is O.K. Same with the credit charges:  every month, ridiculous $30 and $45 fees for things like being over the limit for $1 or missing your due date by a day.  All we could say was Oh Well, and continue throwing money away. If the banks didn't treat it as sacrosanct, why should we?
And then the bottom fell out. We finally realized that the freewheeling Wall Street wave we were riding wasn't really taking us with it into prosperity; that we were given the loans and credit, encouraged to take a wild ride of unsustainable, paycheck-to-paycheck living and then, when it all blew up, we were dropped as the banks sold us off and ran with the money, leaving us with huge bills and shitty credit while the banks got a clean slate.

That's been more than a little depressing.

Sure, people are occupying their public spaces because they're angry. But it also feels invigorating, like maybe if we go all Early America on our government, we can get some of the ethics of that early government back into our country's lifeblood again. It feels hopeful because we can think maybe, just maybe, we can get the government, as a body of our representatives, to hear us. Because it’s not really about money at all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The big "Why I'm Here" entry

The reason I haven’t written is because I’ve been mulling. In a movement like this one, where organization and action are the order of the day, there’s not much room for mulling. But I’m a muller. I knew I wanted to write here about what brought me to Occupy and I wanted to say it well, so I put it off. Turns out I’m thinking simpler is better, so here goes:

Ethics is missing in government. And it’s not un-American to say so; in fact, I’m sure Thomas Paine would be lifting a pint to the citizens in the streets. Excerpted from his “Common Sense”: 

“Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world…and however our eyes may be dazzled with snow, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason will say, it is right.”

To do the most good, our government not only has to stand for us but it should also represent the best in our nature. And it doesn’t, and they don’t. 

Occupy has the most potential power of any political and social movement I can remember in my lifetime. Why? Because it’s inclusive of so many. Ninety-nine percent! You don’t have to be of any particular political affiliation or economic standing. Dissatisfied? Show up. 

That’s also what I find so moving about these growing groups of people, camping in parks or huddled over tables in meeting rooms or protesting in the streets: no one expects you to be anything but what you are. Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist or Anarchist, if you are dissatisfied with the government, let’s hear what you think is wrong. Can we agree that ethics in government is fatefully, horribly lacking? We don’t have to agree on anything else. In fact, our lively discussions will move us forward and inspire us. We just have to show that that majority of us think our elected officials are not serving us as we have elected them to do. That’s it, and it is simple. The government isn’t working properly, and it’s ours, and we want to fix it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Want a Blog, Get a Blog

I dig this "team blog" idea. Should make it easier for us to keep up with each other in an informal way, and also give us a chance to write personal opinions about what Occupy means to us. It will also get more content on the public web page (once we link the blogs there) so that the Curious Public can log in and have plenty to read. Once it's well-populated, I also think we should promote the hell out of the webpage. Something like this, but with more smiling and waving and maybe Santa hats:

The group email invitation I sent didn't go to anyone but the group admin (Hi, Dan), so if you'd like an easy-to-click invitation to start writing on the Media Team Blog please shoot me a quick email at or leave me a note here.