Was Occupy Wall Street Coopted?

OccupyNewPlymouthphotoOccupy New Plymouth (NZ) Oct 15, 2011

Deeply curious where the Occupy movement had disappeared to, I recently ran across an article about a new project called Rolling Jubilee. It seems a coalition of Occupy groups has joined up to pay off individuals’ personal debt. Rolling Jubilee is a project of Strike Debt, a group formed in November 2012 by a coalition of Occupy groups. It seeks to oppose all forms of debt imposed on society by banks.

The aim of Rolling Jubilee is to abolish millions of dollars of personal debt by purchasing it (at random) on the secondary debt market, as collection agencies do. The latter commonly purchase debt for as little as 1% of its value and then reap enormous profits by demanding debtors pay the full amount. Instead of seeking repayment from debtors, Rolling Jubilee simply erases the debt.

In its first six months of operation Rolling Jubilee raised sufficient funds to buy and abolish more than $8.5 million worth of debt. They list debt they have purchased and eliminated on the Rolling Jubilee website. Most appears to be medical debt, i.e debt incurred for treatments that aren’t covered by health insurance.

A Far Cry from Ending Corporate Rule

At first glance Rolling Jubilee strikes me as a typical feel-good kind of project – like walking 20 miles for a cancer cure – that allows liberals to believe they are making positive change without threatening corporate interests in any way. The project is a far cry from Occupy Wall Street’s original goal of ending corporate rule. I honestly can’t see any way that paying off patients’ medical debt is going to help dismantle the corporate oligarchy that currently rules the industrialized world.

Banks and corporations seem to have the same reaction I do. They love Rolling Jubilee. Business Insider describes the project as brilliant. A Forbes column on the Rolling Jubilee featured the headline “Finally an Occupy Wall Street Idea We Can All Get Behind.”

According to Forbes, banks, credit card companies and student loan agencies can’t forgive debt because the IRS considers this kind of debt relief a “gift” and charges the debtor tax on it. This is utter nonsense, of course. It makes you wonder if the people who write for Forbes have ever met or talked to any unemployed or homeless people. There is no way the IRS is going to tax anyone without income or assets.

Making a Cottage Industry Out of Revolution

Twenty years ago this example of Occupy morphing into a less politically threatening pro-corporate entity would have been condemned as cooptation. However in an era in which CIA-funded left gatekeeping and democracy manipulating foundations head up the nonviolent movement, cooptation doesn’t seem like the correct term any more. Maybe we need to invent a new term – pre-optation, perhaps?

Britain’s Famous Anarchist Superhero

v for vendetta

I have spent the last few days enjoying the ten issue graphic novel whose superhero “V” wore a Guy Fawkes mask that Anonymous has adopted for their hactivist campaign against banks, defense contractors, the Pentagon, CIA and other US government sites, as well as PayPal, Visa and Mastercard for their close links to NSA and other intelligence entities (and their refusal to process Wikileaks donations after November 2010). Following the September 2011 launch of Occupy Wall Street, the stylized Guy Fawkes mask was widely adopted by the Occupy movement.

The V for Vendetta series, written between 1982 and 1985, was published in its entirety in 1988. The plot line is set in a future fascist state in the United Kingdom. A mysterious masked anarchist revolutionary superhero, who calls himself “V,” works to destroy the totalitarian government. Alan Moore, who is credited with coining the term “graphic novel” for sophisticated adult-oriented comics, is the author of V for Vendetta. David Lloyd is the illustrator responsible for the iconic image of their anarchist superhero.

Moore produced other critically acclaimed graphic novels. At least four were made into films From Hell (2001), The Watchmen (2009), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) and V for Vendetta (2005).

The film production of V for Vendetta involved many of the same filmmakers who worked on the Matrix trilogy. In addition to retelling the story of the original seventeenth century Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot (one of the first modern false flag operations), the film version includes many topical references to oppressive aspects of George W Bush’s presidency – including government surveillance, torture, media manipulation, corporate corruption and the so-called “war on terror.” It also features footage of both the war in Iraq and an anti-Iraq war demonstration, as well as references to a rabidly right wing TV network called BTN. This is believed to be a fictional version of Fox News.

It was the film version of V for Vendetta that popularized the stylized Guy Fawkes mask. According to the New York Times, it’s the number one bestselling mask on Amazon.

Although the rights to the mask belong to Time Warner, both Moore and Lloyd are pleased to see such wide use of the superhero they created in mass protests against tyranny (see Alan Moore Still Knows the Score! and V for Vendetta masks: Who).

Link to online version of V for Vendetta (the graphic novel): V for Vendetta

My New Book Goes Live Today

Rebel cover

My young adult novel goes live today on Smashwords. The ebook (all formats) can be downloaded for $3.99 at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/361351. It’s also available from other purchase links listed at the bottom.

Here’s a 3rd and final excerpt from Chapter 24. Below is a YouTube video I made of myself reading the prologue. It’s my very first YouTube video. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but I found the process quite stressful – somewhere between getting a tooth drilled without anesthesia and childbirth.

Chapter 24

When Phillip woke her, she was dreaming about missing her bus and wandering around Northgate parking lot looking for a ride to school. She scrambled out of her sleeping bag, switched on the flashlight Phil handed her, and followed Geneva, Roderick, and Lacey into the lobby. Two people sat up as she picked her way through the maze of sleeping bodies.

 “What time is it?” she whispered to Lacey as she reached her assigned position at the right front window.

 “Two fifteen.” Lacey parted the heavy thermal drapes to unlock it. “The sheriff has just closed off both ends of McDonough Street.”

Ange reached around the right drape to grab the narrow aluminum sash, and there was a blast of cold air as she and Lacey eased it upwards. They heard voices through the two-inch crack as the street protestors moved into position around the building. It was comforting to know that Marilyn, Reverend McLeod, Oscar, Justin, Vanessa, Mos Def, and Rosa Clemente were all out there as a first line of defense. Marilyn and Justin would be busy texting every reporter they knew in greater New York. Knowing they would appear on network TV made cops far more reluctant to use potentially life-threatening force.

The voice came from just beside her. “Geeve me your flashlight.”

Ange startled, realizing Phillip was next to her. “Zees eez zee moment of truth, Ange. Are you een or out?”

“I’m in.” She grasped the weapon he thrust at her. Running her right hand along the butt, she found the pistol grip and the safety. It was a modified M16.

“Check your safety,” he reminded her. “Zat weapon eez fully loaded.”

Feeling for the safety, Ange dropped to her knees and used the barrel to push the drape to one side. By now, Roderick and Geneva would be in position at the other front window. Fabio, Alistair, Tafari, and Alex would be at the two cubicle windows and Victor at the small window in the kitchen.

The rustling and quiet whispering told her that most of the room was awake now. Two people got up to use the toilet. Behind her, Ange heard the cranky voice of a male protestor who had been roused from a sound sleep. “Wa’s up, man?” A chorus of nearby protestors hurriedly shushed him.

“Attention, everyone. Zee sheriff has come to evict us.” It was too dark to see Phillip, whose voice came from the vicinity of the front door. “For now, you are safest on zee floor een your sleeping bags. Zee building has to remain dark and quiet. No overhead lights, no flashlights, no matches or lighters. Eef you make a light, you endanger all of us. Eef you must talk, whisper.”

Closing her right eye, Ange lay her cheek on the sill and fixed her scope on the tiny scroll on top of the sign in front of the Nazarene Church. As they had practiced, the four shooters at the front windows were to divide the street into four sectors based on church landmarks. Hers was sector four. She was responsible for any and all cops who charged the building in a line of site between the southwest corner of the church and Patchen Avenue. She was to fire repeatedly until they fell, dropped their weapons, or withdrew.

Other purchase links:

Kobo: A Rebel Comes of Age

Apple ibooks (iTunes): A Rebel Comes of Age

Nook Book: A Rebel Comes of Age

Kindle edition: A Rebel Comes of Age

The Rally

Rebel cover

A Rebel Comes of Age – release date Dec 21, 2013

Another Excerpt from my young adult novel (from Chap 22)

When Clemente finally took the microphone, the stretch of McDonough between Patchen and Malcolm X was wall-to-wall people. The hip-hop activist, an attractive, thirty-something Latino woman with short, curly black hair and enormous gold ear loops, wore a dark blue hoodie in honor of Trayvon Martin.

“Brothers and sisters, look at us,” she proclaimed. “When hip hop fights back, watch out.” At this, the crowd broke into ecstatic applause, accompanied by whistling and cheering. When the uproar died down, she called up all eighteen Freedom House residents and their sixteen Mandela House counterparts and lined them up on either side of her. “This isn’t a building we’re fighting for today. We’re here to support this phenomenal group of young people. They are our soul and conscience. Like Van Jones says, it’s time to change from fighting against something to fighting for something. No matter what we believe, what we all want, nothing advances or happens without organizing. Lots of it.”

Reverend McLeod came to the stage in a dark gray ski jacket rather than his usual suit and overcoat. Ange assumed that this was to distinguish between his activist and ministerial role. He began by complaining how sick he was of Wall Street’s longstanding pattern of theft from the African American community.

“Yah suh,” a woman in the front row came back, as if they were in church.

“First, it was our supermarkets, then our schools and now our homes. Surely the time has come to say enough.”

“Um-hmn,” the woman agreed.

“The time has surely come,” another woman echoed.

“Marches and rallies aren’t enough to check this power. The time has come, brothers and sisters, to put our bodies on the line. As Reverend Martin Luther King did. People of conscience are called on to break unjust laws, just like our brothers and sisters in Occupy Brooklyn who secured a home for brother Carasquillo and his family.”

He paused dramatically for this to sink in. “Where will you be, brothers and sisters, when the sheriff comes to put these young people out in the street? Will you all be comfortably at home watching American Idol or whatever nonsense they are showing now? Or will you be here with them?” His voice soared. “I tell you where I will be, brothers and sisters. I will be here in front of this building. No matter if the sheriff’s officers come at dinner time or midnight or three in the morning, they will have to walk through me.” He paused again. “Who will join me?”

The reaction from the crowd was stunned silence, followed by quiet murmuring. When Ange turned to look around, she saw the ten live-in protestors and six Occupy activists tentatively raise their hands. “Um-hmn-um,” McLeod vocalized reprovingly. “Looks to me like a long, lonely night.”

***

A Rebel Comes of Age can be pre-ordered from the following links:

Cover photo credit: sand_and_sky via photopin cc

A Rebel Comes of Age

Rebel coverRelease date: Dec 21, 2013

Prologue (excerpt)

Ange’s skin crawled as Phillip placed the M16 in her arms. The gun was cold and unnaturally smooth. It smelled like burnt rubber. Then he left her alone with PJ, a tall, thin, forty-something with wavy, shoulder length black hair and a long, unkempt beard. The small unheated barn, with its dirt floor, was virtually empty except for a large utility table covered in scratches and stains. PJ had a laptop plugged into a socket that hung from the ceiling on a cord. He played her a video of a young woman disassembling an M16A2. The woman, who was white, had dark brown hair and wore a plain white tee shirt. Two men in uniform shirts stood on either side timing her. She looked up at them triumphantly as she set the last part on the table.

PJ was dressed in faded overalls fastened over a bulky gray cardigan and two sweatshirts. Ange could see them at the collar line—one gray and one dark blue.

“You see that?” He dragged out his vowels with a singsong intonation. Lacey said he was from Appalachia. “Two minutes ten seconds.”

He clicked replay and they watched the video again. Then he closed the laptop, shoved it aside, and replaced it with a glossy black and white poster depicting the M16 parts in the order they were to be removed.

“Okay. You do it now.”

Copying the woman in the video, Ange turned the weapon over to find the safety. Then removing the magazine to check the chamber, she removed the bolt carrier group. Laying the receiver and charging handle on the table, she broke the BCG down by removing the bolt retaining cotter pin, bolt and firing pin.

“Well done. Now reassemble it.”

She repeated the entire process three times. Then Phillip returned with a pair of ear protectors and safety glasses and took her to the firing area. A mixed race Haitian, he was slightly taller than PJ. He wore his hair in long dreadlocks, and Ange guessed he was somewhere in his early forties. Phillip’s face was long and narrow with deeply set eyes, a large hooked nose, thin lips, a sparse, untrimmed beard, and permanent creases on his forehead and around his eyes. Like many of Ange’s activist friends, he dressed in an assortment of free and secondhand clothes. Today he was wearing dark blue track pants, a mangy leather jacket that looked like it had been through the washing machine, and a woolen maroon cap that covered his forehead and ears.

Ange had hoped that PJ would take her for target practice. She didn’t like or trust Phillip. He didn’t seem to like teenagers very much. His desire to work with them puzzled her. She strongly sensed he had some ulterior agenda that had nothing to do with empowering the homeless youth of Bedford-Stuyvesant. She was also convinced it was his idea—not Fabio’s—that they use weapons to defend themselves against the impending eviction.

Occupy Homes, like Occupy Wall Street and other left-leaning movements, had always opted for nonviolent methods in confronting the police. Although Bank of America had yet to acknowledge the teenagers had taken over the abandoned Credit Union building, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the bank obtained an eviction order.

Recruiting and training teenagers to shoot automatic weapons wasn’t normal, no matter how radical you were. Lacey said that military-style assault rifles were illegal in New York State, that PJ most likely belonged to some right wing militia. She gave no clue—and Ange didn’t ask—how she knew these things. Ange assumed the ex-boyfriend who taught Lacey to shoot was the source of information.

Lacey and Geneva were already outside in the firing area. They lay side by side aiming at multicolored concentric circles attached to straw bales. Phillip directed Ange to lie down next to them. Gritting her teeth, Ange did as she was told, determined to block out the churning nausea in her gut with sheer force of will. The sooner she learned to do this, the sooner she could end the firearms lessons and this whole sordid chapter of her life.

A Rebel Comes of Age can be pre-ordered from the following links:

  • Kindle edition available after Dec 15

Cover photo credit: sand_and_sky via photopin cc

An Occupy Wall Street Novel

Rebel cover

My new novel, A Rebel Comes of Age, is scheduled for release (as a $3.99 ebook) on December 21, 2013.

It’s a sequel to my first young adult novel, The Battle for Tomorrow. In the first book, sixteen-year-old Angela Jones is arrested and sent to juvenile hall for participating in a blockade and occupation of the US Capitol. The sequel takes place a year later, when she and four homeless teenagers occupy an empty commercial building owned by Bank of America. Their goal: to transform it into a teen homeless shelter.

Over the next five months, they work through all the typical problems of inner city teenagers – including raging hormones, the temptation of drugs and alcohol, racial tensions, and pregnancy – as they struggle to win community acceptance. When Bank of America obtains a court order evicting them, the adventure turns deadly serious as they realize lives are on the line. When the other residents decide to use automatic weapons to keep the police SWAT team out, Ange experiences a major personal crisis and is forced to re-examine her attitudes towards guns and violence.

The Lost Generation – Life After Work

A Rebel Comes of Age explores the question of life after work. In the five years since the 2008 economic meltdown, 25-40% of 18-30 year olds still find themselves permanently excluded from the workforce. What we are looking at, in essence, is an entire generation sidelined to the fringes of society. Despite all the government and media hype, the capitalist economic system is incapable of creating jobs for them.

We are all conditioned to believe that life without full time work is unlivable. I seriously question the validity of this viewpoint. As a species, human beings occupied the planet quite happily for 250,000 years without selling their labor to a wealthy elite. Two centuries ago, the concept of waged work was virtually unknown, and most of the world’s current seven billion inhabitants are officially classified as “unemployed.”

With more equitable distribution of economic resources, freeing people from the drudgery of work opens up infinite possibilities for more creative and socially productive activities. Some analysts attribute the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street to unemployed youth taking up social and political activism as an alternative to work.

A Rebel Comes of Age provides a brief snapshot of a group of homeless, unemployed teenagers who find themselves building a movement, without quite realizing this is what they are doing.

My next post will feature an excerpt from Chapter 1.

***

A Rebel Comes of Age can be pre-ordered from the following links:

  • Kindle edition available after Dec 15

 

Cover photo credit: sand_and_sky via photopin cc