Quinn Norton's eulogy for #Occupy

(via Boing Boing) Quinn Norton, a reporter who followed the #Occupy movement from near the beginning, living camp to camp with the protesters, has written a eulogy for the movement.  It's sad, kind of painful, and enlightening to read.  There are bright sides, here and there, but they're few and far between.  She's right -- obviously -- but I kept thinking, the whole way through, that #Occupy failing doesn't discredit the concepts -- that new kinds of social order fail because you try new things until one succeeds.

I cut out some of the pieces I thought were the most poignant, because it's a very long article and I understand if you don't want to read the whole thing.  But it's definitely worth reading.  It's one of the best pieces of journalism I've seen lately.

Here's the link.

Because the [General Assembly] had no way to reject force, over time it fell to force. Proposals won by intimidation; bullies carried the day. What began as a way to let people reform and remake themselves had no mechanism for dealing with them when they didn’t. It had no way to deal with parasites and predators. It became a diseased process, pushing out the weak and quiet it had meant to enfranchise until it finally collapsed when nothing was left but predators trying to rip out each other’s throats.

[...]

The police would quietly tell stories of their own to me. Never attributable, never usable in the normal course of journalism. They were the terrible things that go on in dark places in America, the things that hurt them, that turned their assumptions about other people so dark. They talked of picking up the same junkies again and again, of returning beaten girls to their tormentors, powerless to stop the sickening cycle of violence. One told me he’d covered up a disturbing sex crime. I looked at him questioningly, and he explained that the powerlessness of the victim meant the best he could do was let them escape into the night. We were both distressed, but him with a gun, and me with a pen, were both powerless.

[...]

As the camps became darker, the women mostly left, and those who remained were grateful to just be left alone. By my count Occupy had dropped from as high as 40 percent women to less then 10 percent, in an atmosphere of sexual violence, bare intimidation and hatred. By then for a certain kind of occupier, anything with breasts was a target in the camps, either for scorn or being too sexy or being insufficiently sexy. It was never the majority, but the majority did nothing to stop it. They had a progressive stack in the GA that purported to let women speak first, but no one talked about the comments, the groping, the rumors of rapes.

[...]

Less understood was the other part of Occupy — the part that was about the need for community. Occupiers came to the camps to care for others as much as they came to be cared for. People had to find a way to matter to each other in ways that weren’t mediated by the social services, the justice system, the institutions we stick each other into.

It was this need to serve each other, not any political message, that stocked the kitchens and filled the comfort barrels. It was that which kept volunteers up for days, taking care of drug addicts and neurotic students and old men with failing bodies.

By DC, the last eviction I wrote about, not even I could stay outside this need anymore. We all stood on the police line, cold and wet and sad, 12 hours into the rainy eviction. We took blows and kicks from riot police and SWAT rather than step on the people behind us that had slipped in the mud. We had relearned in each argument and every pitched tent that the fundamental job of humans is to care for one another, to keep each other whole and safe.

It was this drive which linked arms and quietly waited for violence in front of a thousand TV cameras the world over — this, and nothing more.

Fingers crossed that something better happens soon.

"The People's Bailout"

I've seen this mentioned a few times, but I've only just gotten around to checking out what it is, via Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing.  It turns out, you can buy up outstanding debts -- this is what debt collectors do (I guess the idea is the original company figures they aren't getting paid, so they cut their losses selling the debt at a massive discount).  Those debt collectors, in David Rees's words, "hound debtors to their grave trying to collect." The People's Bailout is a variety show that's taking place this November in New York, raising money from the Rolling Jubilee, buys debt just like debt collectors, for pennies on the dollar.  That's it.  The debt collectors have a second step, extracting the money from suffering people.  The Rolling Jubilee just buys it up and abolishes it.  The debt goes away, forever.

They explain in a youtube video:

It's my understanding that the economic system we work in requires ever-expanding debt -- money is made, loaned to the government at interest, the government loans it to the people at interest, and the people loan it to each other at interest, and to cover all that accruing interest, we have to print more money...

It seems to me like there has to be some point where we just accept that not all the debts are getting paid -- and this seems like an awesome way to do it.  We can dial back the impact of debt on people's lives, and if we can bring down the costs that get those people into debt in the first place (cheaper education, available food, housing and healthcare, etc.) we can keep the civilization we seem all to want, without creating a self-destructing underclass (and, by extension, a self-destructing civilization.)

These people are on my list for potential future charity debt listings.  I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.