Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Happy first birthday, Occupy Dayton!


Click to embiggen the above screenshot of
Occupy Dayton’s likes on Facebook
You may know that I “like” Occupy Dayton.

I put “like” in quotes because I actually don’t like them, bless their hearts, but I “like” Occupy Dayton’s page on Facebook. Now although I don’t really like Occupy Dayton, I don’t dislike them—I sympathize with them and their goals—but I think they’re rather silly and ineffectual.

I don’t actually give them a lot of thought—I haven’t blogged about them (and their process-y-ness) since a couple posts last fall. The only reason they came to mind today is that, because I still “like” Occupy Dayton on Facebook, I see their posts, the most recent of which was one today about their planned rally tomorrow on Courthouse Square to commemorate their first rally there exactly a year before.

Unfortunately for Occupy Dayton, not many other people in Dayton think about them either. When I first blogged about Occupy Dayton, last November 11th, 5,325 / 537,602 = 0.991% there were 4,046 people who “liked” them on Facebook. A year later 5,325 people “like” Occupy Dayton on Facebook. That’s growth of 31.6%, but unfortunately 5,325 is still only 0.991% of the 537,602 residents of Montgomery County.

In other words, Occupy Dayton is the 1%. No, not that 1%, but still not the 99% they hoped to represent.


Click to embiggen the above screenshot of Occupy Dayton’s online forum, innundated with SPAM
Their website, not at its original domain of occupydayton.org (which the group lost after some of the processing and bickering they seem to have continued after I blogged about them last year) but rather at the new domain of occupydaytonoh.org, also does not paint a pretty picture. The last post on the home page is dated June 20th, the last General Assembly minutes are from February, and the forum is awash in ads for products I will not name here for fear of drawing unwanted visitors to my site. No one, not even any of the 1% of Daytonians who purport to care about Occupy Dayton, is minding the Occupy Dayton store.

Of course, not being part of the solution, I am part of the problem. I could go to the rally tomorrow, but I won’t. Instead I sit in my easy chair and poke fun at a group made up of earnest, well-intentioned volunteers rather than doing anything constructive myself to try to make a difference. Shame on me!

I’m jaded, and old, I admit. Once I was a newly out 20-something who was a member of Queer Nation Dayton, a group that liked to process and that perhaps did a tiny bit of good but that didn’t last. Perhaps, in some ways, I’ve turned into one of the older fags despised by those of us in Queer Nation back in the day. (But only to a certain extent—I’m still visibly out, I still do some volunteering, and I’m not a member of the Log Cabin Republicans or GOProud.)

Will Occupy Dayton have a second birthday? I wouldn’t bet against it, but I also wouldn’t bet any money that they will either. I will, however, predict that they won’t have many more Facebook “likes” if they don’t change something about what they’re doing.

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Occupy Process Dayton (to death) (part 2)

Processing online about a tent:

Occupy Dayton has decamped fom Courthouse Square to Dave Hall “Solidarity” Plaza
It’s time for an update on Occupy Dayton. If you’ve been following Occupy Dayton, you know that they decided that it would be in their best interest after all to move from Courthouse Square for the Grande Illumination (read Occupy Dayton’s statement on this decision). Occupy Dayton followed through on this decision by moving to Dave Hall Plaza, which they’ve renamed “Solidarity Plaza.”

Taking a look at the numbers, 4,495 people now “like” Occupy Dayton on Facebook, an increase of 370 or about 9% from 11 days ago and bringing them to 0.84% of Montgomery County’s population—still not quite 1%, and still not discounting non-person groups such as Occupy Lima, Ohio and Army of Artists and Occupy Clifton (a different group from the now defunct Occupy Northside-Occupy Clifton group I mentioned on 11/11?) and Occupy Riverwest that “like” Occupy Dayton. [Occupy Riverwest? What the fuck is that? Oh, a neighborhood in Milwaukee? And it “likes” Occupy Dayton. Seriously? Are at least 25% of the “people” who like every Occupy page on Facebook just other Occupy pages on Facebook?]

However, whatever goodwill has been garnered by the move from Courthouse Square seems to be quickly being dissipated by ongoing processing. On Occupy Dayton’s Facebook page there are ongoing posts, often with misspellings and bad grammar, about the special $850 Russian tent approved for purchase at the last General Assembly, along with comments from people who disapprove of the repeated posts about the tent, people who disapprove of the processing it takes to get a tent purchased, people who disapprove of people complaining about the processing it takes to get a tent purchased, and people who feel the need to announce why they can no longer be a part of this processy group. (For the search engines here is an OCR’d PDF of the screenshot to the left.) Oy gevalt!

Perhaps instead of bickering online about spending $850 on a tent, the Occupy Dayton campers should follow the suggestion of the folks who first suggested the whole Occupy Wall Street movement and now declare “victory” and head home for the winter.

Whatever Occupy Dayton decides, and despite my sympathy for the Occupation movement’s general goals, I have to say that on this Thanksgiving Day one thing for which I’m grateful is that I’m not a part of Occupy Dayton, bless their hearts.

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Some notes after hearing Walter Brueggemann

Walter Brueggeman This afternoon I and a group of almost 20 people from my church, Cross Creek Community Church, UCC, went to Southminster Presbyterian Church to hear Old Testament scholar (and UCC pastor) Walter Brueggemann speak on the topic “Hope and Healing in a Broken World.” Afterwards most of us Cross Creekers met together over a meal to talk about what we’d heard.

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard Brueggemann speak—in October 2009 I took a day off work to go hear him at the SONKA Clergy Day. I don’t exactly remember why I went to hear Brueggemann that first time. I’m not clergy myself, nor do I wish to become clergy, but since returning to church in the early ’90s I’ve hung out with a lot of clergy. Cross Creek counts among our membership way more clergy than do most churches. I’ve learned through this association with clergy that they are human beings, usually with specialized education in theology, but as fallible as the rest of us and whose interpretation of what the Divine may be telling us is subject to challenge by non-clergy.

I didn’t blog about that SONKA Clergy Day in 2009, though I did take a lot of notes. Tonight, however, I feel called to process some of my thoughts about what I heard from Brueggemann today. That’s a bit ironic given my somewhat cynical blog post from just two days ago about Occupy Dayton’s love of processing, but a friend (retired clergy) who was part of our discussion (processing) after Brueggemann’s talk spoke of how writing letters to politicians was helpful not just to get her voice heard but also to organize her thoughts. Also, despite the fact that my blog post of two days ago could be taken as opposition to Occupy Dayton, I do claim to support some of their goals and I found that much of what Brueggemann said today resonates with their movement.

I’ll try to sum up what Brueggemann said in a sentence: Brueggemann compared what the Bible has to say about departure from empire (systems of money and power), whether exodus from the Old Testament empires of Egypt or Persia or from the Roman empire in the New Testament, to choices we as present day Christians must make about departing from the control of the American empire with its system of consumer violence and militarism.

That’s where the resonance with the Occupy movement starts. The Occupy movement is not one (only) of Christians but it is about the violence done to our society and the brokenness caused by the consumerism and militarism of the American empire.

Brueggemann also spoke about the anxiety and stress that comes from staying in the rat race and trying to avoid loss (loss of what, you might ask—perhaps the privilege I mentioned the other day). Brueggemann said that instead “we should seek a Gospel zone of freedom for our lives” and that we should “organize our lives for an alternative to the imperial system.”

A “Gospel zone of freedom” isn’t exactly something Occupy campers would picket for, at least not using those words, but they sure would advocate “organiz[ing] our lives for an alternative to the imperial system,” wouldn’t they?

Brueggemann explained that alternative as “neighborliness in an anti-neighborly socio-economic system” and gave four “marks of neighborliness”:

  1. Hospitality (as opposed to being exclusionary)
  2. Generosity (as opposed to “miserly selfishness”)
  3. Forgiveness (as opposed to “calculating vengeance”)
  4. Economic justice (or “valoriz[ing] people” that our dominant system discounts)

That economic justice stuff is certainly what the Occupy movement is about. Brueggemann went on to explain it by saying that it is “important to provide viable life resources and support for all people.” (Contrast that message to Michele Bachmann’s recent declaration that “if anyone will not work, neither should he eat.”)

Brueggemann then reminded us of what he called “the most dangerous Biblical teaching,” found in Deuteronomy 15, about the forgiveness of debts during Jubilee years. The Occupy folks aren’t calling for the cancellation of all debts, but they sure are calling for the cancellation of some debt (see OccupyStudentDebt.com).

Some other nuggets from Brueggemann’s talk:

  • Church is like a 12-step program for addicts to consumer capitalism.
  • The God of the Gospel is not the God of Empire.
  • The Gospel is a subversive revolutionary summons.
  • The Golden Rule is that the one with the gold makes the rules.
  • Our government is in the grasp of the rich.
  • President Obama is in bed with big bankers.
  • Loss brought to speech turns to energy. Loss not brought to speech turns to violence.

Brueggemann also made reference to something Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, said about change being effected not by institutions but by movements. Brueggemann then pointed out that movements begin small. So my mocking Occupy Dayton the other day for being 1% of Montgomery County’s population rather than being comprised of the 99% they claim to represent could really be a mistake.

Brueggemann then told the story of a woman in Liberia who started a movement for peace by sitting down in the street. I did some googling just now to find out more about who he was talking about and found out it was Leymah Gbowee, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her actions in leading other women in protests that stopped the second Liberian civil war.

Interestingly, Brueggemann then confessed, “I am not a candidate for sitting in the street.” Perhaps that’s because he’s 78 years old. Perhaps that’s because he himself isn’t ready to give up all his privilege (he’d mentioned earlier his anxieties from worrying about his retirement portfolio). Perhaps that’s because he’s a white man—white men, he said, are the last people to “get it” in any movement.

I too am not a candidate for sitting in the street, nor am I, as I made clear the other day, a candidate for camping out on Courthouse Square to occupy Dayton. But can I just dismiss everything Brueggemann called to our attention? Can the others in my church (many of whom, like me, have substantial privilege in our lives)? I don’t know. Cynics might say that yes we can dismiss challenges to our privilege. Others might say that change begins with movements that start small.

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Occupy Process Dayton (to death)

I’m one of 4,046 people on Facebook who “like” Occupy Dayton’s Facebook page. I like it in part because I do, theoretically, support the Occupy movement’s goals of attempting to rein in corporate greed and influence, but if I’m honest, I’m not part of the 1% who are the Occupy Dayton movement.

4,046 / 535,153 = 0.756% 1%, you ask? Wait, I thought the Occupy folks were the 99%.

Well, let’s do some math, shall we? According to the 2010 Census, Montgomery County, Ohio, has 535,153 residents. Take 4,046 divided by 535,153 and you get 0.756%, which, if you’re feeling generous, is 1% of Montgomery County’s population. (If you’re not feeling generous, you’d reduce that 4,046 because some of those people do not live in Montgomery County and because some of those “persons” are instead other Occupy movements—for example, Occupy Northside-Occupy Clifton “likes” Occupy Dayton on FB, or you’d reduce it because there have never been 4,046 people at Occupy Dayton’s camp or any of its marches.)

I’m also not a part of the more famous 1% because I’m not so wealthy that I don’t have to work or that I can afford multiple homes. I’m not poor though. I have a financial cushion that most people don’t. If I weren’t gay, I might selfishly think that the incessant Republican drive to reduce taxes for the rich could be worth voting for. (In case you wonder, no, I’ve never voted Republican, and yes, I voted No on Issue 2/SB5.)

So I’m in neither 1%, not the über-rich nor the people so angry they are protesting in the streets and Occupying public spaces.

But would you like to know another reason, besides my being an employed white man with a financial cushion, that I’m not part of the Occupy 1%? It’s that the Occupy movement, including Occupy Dayton, likes to process things to death.

It’s an indication of my lack of privilege in one area, being gay, that I have experience with processing things to death. Because I am queer, I have been involved in the gay rights movement. I was a part of Queer Nation Dayton in the early ’90s. I have Marched on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal rights and Liberation. I have volunteered on LGBT political action committees and Pride Dinner committees and attended countless meetings of more groups than I even remember now. I have been a co-facilitator for the Dayton Dialogue on Race Relations. I have served on the council and on committees at a justice-loving church. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t have done any of these things if I were a straight white man instead of a queer one, but I am queer, and believe me, I know processing.

It’s only because of my lack of privilege in one area and consequent involvement in these things that I even recognize the enormous privilege I have from all the other aspects of my life (being male, being white, being American, being lucky in family and personal connections). And I know that it’s because of the enormous privilege I have that I’m able to say I can’t stand all this processing. But I can’t, and I won’t.

How much processing, you might ask? Here’s a sampling:

Occupy Dayton General Assemblies
Date Start time End time Amount of processing
10/22/2011 3:15 p.m. 4:00 p.m. Only 45 minutes of processing
10/29/2011 3:15 p.m. 5:35 p.m. 2 hours and 20 minutes!!! of processing

Best comment: are yall still only holding GAs on saturday only? in eugene and portland we hold them every night. i think the camp is bigger here though. that way we can vote on pressing issues everyday rather than putting them off till next week… just a suggestion. and maybe get more involvement if people know that issues are voted, came to a consensus, every day [italics mine]. more people might come down to the camp??

11/2/2011 7:20 p.m. 8:42 p.m. 1 hour and 22 minutes of processing

Now on Wednesdays too

11/5/2011 3:35 p.m. 5:15 p.m. 1 hour and 40 minutes of processing
11/9/2011 7:13 p.m. 8:27 p.m. 1 hour and 14 minutes of processing

Followed by 239 (and counting) comments on Facebook

Why are there 239 comments on Facebook about the 11/9 GA? Because that GA had a special guest, Sandy Gudorf, of the Downtown Dayton Partnership, who came to ask Occupy Dayton if they would, pretty please, decamp to Dave Hall Plaza for the period of 11/23–11/25, during which time the Downtown Dayton Partnership has a permit for the setup and lighting of Dayton’s Christmas tree, the “Grande Illumination.” Want to instigate some processing? Ask the Occupy Dayton 1% to move so the larger crowds who fill Courthouse Square can continue a decades-long Dayton tradition.

This is not something that is going to end well. The Dayton Daily News is already putting the spin on this, saying that “Occupy Dayton protest must relocate for Grande Illumination.” If you wade into the 11/9 GA comments on FB, you’ll see there is dissent as to what the Occupy Dayton campers should do. And Occupy Dayton is not the only Occupy movement facing eviction.

So, no, I’ve not been down to the Occupy Dayton camp to use hand signals to participate in a General Assembly. By writing this blog post, I guess I can be taken as an opponent of Occupy Dayton, a viewpoint that if the Occupy Dayton campers take I can understand.

I think that’s a bit strong though. I wouldn’t count myself as an opponent of Occupy Dayton. They have valid points about the vast inequality in America and the world and about the power of corporations. I’m just too comfortable in my privilege to deal with their processing. That might turn out to be a poor decision on my part.

Update 11/13/2011: The number of people who “like” Occupy Dayton’s Facebook page has been growing since all this Grande Illumination publicity. Now 4,125 people (including “persons” such as other Occupy groups including Occupy Columbus, Occupy Wright State University, Occupy Ohio, Occupy Toledo, Occupy Detroit, Occupy Indianapolis, Occupy America, and Occupy Wall St.) like the page, an increase of 79 people or almost 2% since Friday (bringing them to 0.77% of Montgomery County’s population).

Also, the processing continues. In the last 24 hours there have been 173 comments on two posts about a possible counter-protest against Occupy Dayton and 44 comments on a post about whether a Dayton police officer was being truthful or misleading when he told a camper that driving on Courthouse Square was inadvisable because its foundation is crumbling and it might fall in (despite, as commenters have been pointing out, Dayton police pulling their cruisers onto the square, heavy equipment being brought onto the square for the Christmas tree, and plans for huge Grande Illumination crowds remaining in place).

 
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