Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: the dominant narrative unravelling

My activist project for October was promoting four events.  Earlier this month, End of Suburbia director Greg Greene did a screening of his classic peak oil documentary at the BMW Guggenheim Design Lab.  I had the pleasure of reconnecting with Greg afterward, at workshops the next day at the Lab, and with Jim Kunstler after his not-really-a-debate with the mild-mannered James Russell.  Last week was a very modestly attended screening of Chris Martenson's The Crash Course
Come by on Wednesday, October 19 at 7 PM for a larger test of my new product - a screening of Transition video shorts.  Details here.

Very few New Yorkers seem aware of the issues discussed at these events. NYC is a busy place, after all.  On the other hand, Occupy Wall Street, after weeks of being ignored, has now gone viral.  I was there on Saturday afternoon, and went up to Times Square on Saturday night.  The tourists had quite the novelty, and so did everyone else reading about it it possible to mix these themes together?

Dave Cohen, who blogs at Decline of the Empire,
had this to say about OWS.   A great piece in the Onion Magazine on the One Percenters, and their domination of NYC. James Howard Kunstler came out for them. So have Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, a bunch of unions, a dozen NYC Councilmembers....  It would be pointless now, and a lot of unnecessary work, to list who's come out in support of them.  The Bloomberg Administration, inextricably tied to its kindred spirits within the One Percent, is on the defensive.  OWS is now routinely getting hammered on the front page of the NY Daily News.  They may portray OWS as frivolous scruffy anarchist hippies - but they're still on the front page. 

Corrupt corporate domination of the US government, and fuel depletion: what the two topics have in common is that they are both repressed material, censored out of officially approved conversation and media.  #OWS has forced its way into that discussion.

Doyle Canning, director of national strategy center smartmeme, suggests in this Yes! Magazine op ed that:

"...At smartMeme, we have always been interested in “Psychic Breaks:” moments when the dominant narrative unravels and there is an opening for a new story to take hold on a massive scale. We saw this opportunity come and go in 2008 when the stock market collapsed and $700 billion was given to financial giants. Underprepared and shell-shocked progressives mostly stayed home and kept quiet while the Tea Partiers harnessed common sense opposition to bailing out the rich into a movement that was cynically designed to support the status quo.

But we believe that #OccupyWallStreet is re-opening that window and provoking another such psychic break moment, one that can amplify common sense progressive demands for structural change. At least we hope so.

We have an opportunity to offer a narrative explaining what has happened, how we got here, and how we can move forward together. We are faced with the potential of rooting this insurrectional energy into a strong social movement that can rival the Tea Party and change the story about our economic system—a movement that could unite behind real solutions to the economic and democratic crises we face. The actions by Right to the City this past weekend in Boston offer us an instructive model on the kind of analysis and organizing strategy that is necessary now.

But we must be agile and graceful and bold enough—like the ballerina on the bull of the #OccupyWallStreet poster. We must be visionary and courageous and tenacious enough—like the youth of Roxbury blessing their occupied garden. And we must be brave enough, like Presley Obasohan, to put our bodies on the line and commit civil disobedience against the banks and for the people and planet that we love...."

In the movie The Matrix, when there was a disruption to the digitally produced illusion people inhabited, continuity errors would appear - a cat walking backwards, for example.  The OWS movement is a continuity error in the mainstream discourse that has gone out of control.  

In other news...

Anne Pope from Sustainable Flatbush recommends a book that approaches the multiple crises in our society a bit differently: Eco-Mind, by Francis Moore Lappe, author of the classic Diet for a Small Planet. "She cautions the environmental movement against what she calls "scarcity mind" and always speaking in terms of diminishing resources; instead she urges us to think of the real problem as scarcity of *democracy*. This is consistent with her argument in Diet for a Small Planet (back in the 70s!) that the hunger crisis was not about a lack of food, but rather about the extreme inequity in how food and resources are distributed..."

Here's a video game about climate change and peak oil. 

Learning about peak oil from a comic book.

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