Occupy Town Hall – Establishment Tells The Ki. . .MIC CHECK!

The words to The Times They Are a Changin’ were running though my mind at Town Hall Saturday night, especially the lines “Your old road is rapidly agin’/Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand.” I’ll admit at times being frustrated and/or befuddled the mostly young Occupy Seattle members, but I was always inspired.

JM Wong from Occupy Seattle Speaks

While I may not fully understand the people’s mic (everyone echoing what the speaker says), or at least the usefulness of it when there are real microphones, the fact that everyone learns to really listen seems to really have made the movement “leader-full” as they put it, rather than leaderless.  We have not seen a generation of young and/or marginalized people find their voice like this since the 60s. . .and. . .they weren’t taking any guff (or sound bite management) from the establishment (some of whom, well, maybe Nick Licata at least, may have been those young people fighting the establishment in the 60s).

Councilmember Nick Licata Moderates

Now, Nick is one of our better politicians, but I had to acknowledge that even he represented the status quo or establishment Saturday night. I came even more around to seeing the young people’s point of view when I just checked out who the other establishment members of the panel were, other than Nick Licata and Lynn Dodson of the Washington State Labor Council, both of whom I’ve voted for in the past. While I appreciate the unions being out there on this, and, in fact am more likely to be involved in a protest they and some of the other more established groups are involved in, I was glad to see that Occupy Seattle members were not willing to be co-opted by the unions or Democratic operatives.

But, who else was on the panel, from the establishment side? I checked the Town Hall event page tonight before I blogged to figure that out. . .

Occupy Town Hall

Why were a venture capitalist (Nick Hanauer) and a, umm, yes, Democratic operative (Frank Greer), chosen as part of the panel in an Occupy Seattle discussion?

Frank Greer

Greer, who it turns out was a consultant for both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, especially grated as he tried to lecture the Occupy movement into developing neat little, sound bite ready, goals. While I appreciate his involvement in the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, it was considerably more of an inspired movement and struggle than the couple laws eventually passed he claimed it was all about.

Mic check!

Mic Check!

Come to think of it, the Occupy people were right on with their mic check that anti-establishment paper The Stranger so lampoons.

Vote on People's Mic vs Real Mic

While you can count me as one of those people who didn’t see the point of having a people’s mic when we had a real mic (hey, I’m over 50, long past the age you can trust me), and it did take a bit of time out of the discussion to have the vote (which turned out to be in favor of using real microphones), only a few people left over it, and the room remained packed, with the people engaged. Many in the audience were older  than me and didn’t seem at all offended by the young people (and for that matter, there were members of Occupy Seattle, older than me, voting with them).

People's Assembly Signals

We also got instructions on all the hand signals for an Occupy Seattle People’s Assembly, including twinkling (with raised fingers) instead of clapping in agreement. Something missed by The Stranger reporter was that most of the cheering or booing was by us those of us who weren’t really Occupy-ers (though, by hand count early on, most of us in the room consider ourselves Occupy-ers. . .well, maybe at least we’re part of the 99%). Occupy folks used their hand signals, including the hurry it up signal for Greer, which he complained about. The groaning earlier on about his sound bite strategy came from many of the non-active Occupy-ers in the room as well.

While I think the Occupy Seattle folks should take into account, that especially to the un-initiated, heading straight into a people’s mic style might not always be the best way to communicate (and the world does need to hear what they are saying), I also think the rest of the panel represented the status quo, lesser-of-two evils system that brought us to this point.  I think at least a couple of the other panelists said they were waiting for this movement to come along. Yet now that it has, they want to change it, back into their image, of sound bites and Democratic party politics; which hasn’t been working well (maybe because the Democrats are owned by Wall Street almost as much as the Republicans?).

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what the Occupy Seattle folks are camping out in the cold for. . .

. . .and I’ll admit, I don’t get the long-term camping out strategy; especially as I’m hoping to avoid ending up in a tent city as the economy tanks and my worker retraining funding seems shaky. I am impressed at how dedicated these Occupy people are, and that they’re not willing to be co-opted.

Josh Farris

I think Josh Farris of Occupy Seattle made an important point when he responded to the other panelists trying to craft the Occupy movement into what they wanted it to be, which is why don’t they go out and do what they think needs to be done themselves? I think there are two points to that. One, why were already established organizations like the unions waiting for something to come along (and, I think, are too willing to let the Democrats they elect sell out)? Second, now that the Occupy movement is shining a light on the inequities and the corruption of Wall Street money and corporate greed on the system; why not take a strong stand, maybe in coalition with Occupy and others?

I’m heartened to hear that even the people I’m calling the establishment panelists are going down to Olympia to fight Governor Gregoire’s new budget, with its draconian cuts once again; but. . .are they just going to take the establishment line, like our Democratic Governor whom most of us voted for, that we can’t raise any taxes because of the Republicans?We can’t ask all those businesses we let go tax-free, including Chase getting an in-state tax break just for buying WAMU at a fire sale (while laying off thousands of Washington state workers), to pay any taxes. We  have to instead make a Sophie’s choice of which group of societies most vulnerable we cut and send off to Nickelsville.

Seriously, according to the Seattle PI, we now have families with children living in the Nickelsville tent city. Families who have had their safety net totally cut away in the last round of budget cuts, with a lifetime cap on assistance some of them have already reached.

We can’t have corporations like Chase pay their taxes, though. . .

Mic check!

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3 thoughts on “Occupy Town Hall – Establishment Tells The Ki. . .MIC CHECK!

  1. Unions haven’t been “waiting for someone to come along.” They’ve been fighting for the middle-class and for workers’ rights and many of these things for years while under constant attack in the mainstream media.

  2. I was glad to read your thoughts, though I don’t understand why a politically-active “venture capitalist” — who has seemingly been involved in creating many actual American jobs right here in Seattle — has no business to participating in a forum about a movement that presumably values participation by all.

    I was at the forum Saturday night, and it was a disaster that alienated my friends and I — all progressives. In fact, from my perspective, most of the audience either was alienated or enamored by the ability to psuedo-participate in an Occupy-style thing without the actual “effort” of showing up to a GA. I came to the event to learn and understand and left deeply frustrated. The Occupiers use the people’s mic to silence other people and take over the venue; they filled the queue such that only two non-Occupy members spoke into a microphone; and they alienated a room full of supporters who came to hear a panel about an important subject, not get involved in a petty dispute about process.

    I thought I’d share my views after reading @jseattle RT a link to this post.

  3. Carol Isaac, OS

    As my friend attending the Town Hall event pointed out, we were looking at a culture clash, the old guard activists meets Occupy Seattle. The ‘old folks’ were tested, i.e. given the chance to step outside the box.

    We are used to coming to a panel, sitting quietly and still, and being fed expert ideas. This was a chance to think with a method that increases each person’s chances for expression of thought, and puts a higher value on the equal participation of everyone.

    We were seeing the attendees being given a concrete method of moving the process of the discussion. The speakers and assembly benefit by knowing what the assembly is feeling about what is happening. Hand signals were taught that are used at general assemblies in the movement. People do not have to just sit and take whatever is happening. They can silently respond as individuals which gives facilitators something to do, move the process with real information about how the audience is internally responding.

    One of the hand signals taught was the one that says “I get your point” “Move on to something else.” The action was the rolling of fore arms around each other. The group known as the Raging Grannies were in attendance, and chose to use it to get the final speaker, Mr. Greer, to ‘move on’. They had asked an OS’er next to them if they were doing it right. Rather than accepting that signal to help him change his delivery, Mr. Greer became irate. There is a learning curve in changing democracies. By the end, he was twinkling another speaker participating from the floor.

    Democracy is changing. We, the human assembly, are on a grand learning curve and its gaining height rapidly now. Catch a ride. ; )

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