Tag Archive for Occupy Movement

Progressivism: In pursuit of Justice

Lady Justice

Justice, both the scales and the sword.

“What is the current state of the Progressive Movement in America?” was the subject of a forum at the March Longmont Area Democrats meeting. The following are the especially heartfelt and honest prepared remarks by Padma Wick . Other forum members included Bob Kinsey, Strider Benston, Richard Juday, Rick Fitzgerald, and Jonathan Singer.


For many years I took part in various forms of activism to some degree. But I did not feel the ground under me cave until the 2000 election. Image a lake. Huge boulders have been thrown into the lake and those have produced movement. In my opinion the most profound movement has been the Occupy Movement, because it functions like moving water: fluid, organic and able to seep through and potentially break the wall sustained by corruption and violence. It will not be limited by the rules and demands of what Chris Hedges calls a dead system. Occupy has inserted into our language and press the grievances of the 99% (and perhaps more) of the people in the US and the world.

Of course, included in the 99% are Progressives, a term I often use and apply to myself. But I want to warn about labels. As soon as a label is applied that label can be usurped, distorted, dismissed and discredited. Sometimes we become attached to the label, rather than the fundamental cause which motivates us. For me the cause is the pursuit of justice: economic, political, social and environmental justice.

Some people remain loyal to a label, something like buying a brand, which has long since been bought out, outsourced and reduced in quality. As Democrats we need to be very wary of that. The temptation is to say, “I am a life long Democrat.” “My party right or wrong.” Certainly there are great members of the Democratic party, like many of you and our new State Representative, Jonathan Singer, who continue to fight the good fight. But I feel we should be vigilant and acknowledge that something has changed in the Democratic party. One of the skills of the Occupy movement is that it is vigilant and agile. It is not, as we have tried for so long, responding in the terms set down by Republicans and others in the ruling class.

With great respect for Jonathan, I say that I have no allegiance to any political candidate or elected official. My support depends on the degree to which they not only promise, but actually create (consummate with the power we assign them) economic, political, social and environmental justice. To quote T.S. Elliot, “affairs are now soul size.” At stake is not only the survival of our children and grandchildren, but of life on earth.

I have heard many people say, “I had no choice,” or “I have no choice but to vote for so-and so.” One ALWAYS has a choice! To my dying day I will have a choice. I may not make the right, courageous, or ultimately moral choice. God knows what I would do if the lives of my children or grandchildren were threatened. I do not judge the choices people make in extreme situations. Someone earns my respect for saying, I made this terrible choice because…….But I do not respect, “I had no choice.” As Strider BenstPon, has said, “If we say we have no choice, we are prisoners.”

Since Progressives value debate and differences of opinion, I will share with you the space I hold on the Progressive continuum. I will not vote for Obama, and certainly not for a Republican. Obama has said great things, both now and in ’08. But his actions don’t match his words. As a Constitutional Law Professor, who took a solemn oath, he has refused to use the legitimate powers of the President. He has not closed Guantanamo, ended rendition, torture, or insisted his cabinet pursue environmental and economic justice. Instead he has assumed unconstitutional powers for his and future Presidencies: the assassination of American citizens SUSPECTED of terrorist activities. And he has removed your primary Constitutional right of habeas corpus and made American citizens SUSPECTED of terrorist connections subject to military detentions without trial. The writ of Habeas Corpus called the “great order”, dates back to the Magna Carta in the 1200s, was lightly dismissed with the signing of NDAA. And there has been hardly mention of it in the press.

You will say I am unreasonable. At one time it was considered unreasonable to free slaves. Now it is considered reasonable to torture, unlawfully and indefinitely detain citizens, use drones against civilians, including Americans, and pollute our precious water supply for temporary gain. In such a situation I prefer to be unreasonable.

Our current situation is very difficult. I struggle all the time between acknowledging the gifts in my life and remaining informed and active. For balance I turn to these reminders:

Practice giving, but not so much that there is nothing left with which to work.

Observe precepts, but not so many that there is no freedom of choice.

Don’t confront what opposes, but find the place of least resistance.

Work hard, but not so hard that you don’t stop for tea.

Still the mind but not so much that it withers and dies.

So what can we, as individuals do? Break free of the bonds that have been created to keep our conscience subordinated to the will of a corrupt system. Do something that aligns with our true character. Remember that many forces are at work.

Whatever each of us does is a small part of a very large and complex flow that individually we can participate in, but not determine.

We occupy. We hope you will, too.

Nothing in nature takes more than its share.” “I Am,” Tom Shadyac, director.

Every weekday morning most Americans walk into the jaws of a beast that is consuming our world. They do it willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly, helpless not to contribute to an economic engine that drives without a brake. Like cancer it has an endless appetite for growth and like cancer it masquerades as healthy behavior.

To those around it, it seems normal, as normal as earning a living. Its grasping energy fixes our attention on money as a scarce and essential commodity and ensures our participation through the mechanism of debt. We occupy Wall Street and elsewhere to illuminate a diseased condition. This beast of endless consumption is not who we are even though its life is fed by our lives and its appetite by our own.

This relentless cycle is in fact a Ponzi scheme that will destroy our world in an endgame of extinction.

We occupy to assert our inalienable right as human persons to enjoy a future for ourselves and our children and their children to an untold generation. We occupy to free ourselves from the infection the beast has spawned within us. We occupy to free future generations from indenture to the beast. We occupy in the faith that the human spirit will not rest until freedom and a peace based on justice govern human affairs, will not rest until our world is encircled by a vibrant nature.

Spring is coming; we hope at some point you will join us.

Occupy Movement demands fundamental change

Skeptics of the Occupy movement ask what they’re really protesting about and what they’re trying to accomplish. Most of the Occupy movement grievances are a byproduct of a dysfunctional system. I understand that changing the political system is like moving a mountain with a shovel; there are just too many people who benefit from the system, including politicians.

Politicians are part of the 1 percent. Do we honestly expect them to fundamentally change the political structure that they so greatly benefit from? To replace the old guard with the new is just changing who the beneficiaries are and doesn’t correct the fundamental problem.

This is not to say that politicians at all levels are complicit, but most have no incentive to change the rules. They are playing the game with the cards that are dealt and they have become proficient at it. And it becomes more and more difficult to not conform to the prevailing ideology of the fraternity as politicians attempt to move up in the political hierarchy. They may have started out with high aspirations, but most eventually succumb to the system that rewards patronage over public service.

The Occupy participants have many grievances, all of which are important, but the big picture must remain the principle objective. That objective, to me, is to change the economic/political system so it reflects the needs of the majority. You can’t have social justice without economic justice, and groups like Citizens United control the politicians who make the economic rules that govern our lives. The political system is unwilling and unable to protect the economic and social rights of the majority. The Occupy movement is attempting to bring fairness and justice to a system that is corrupt and economically rigged to benefit the few.

This is not an indictment of business or the free market. It is not asking for equal outcomes, only equal opportunities. It is not asking for a redistribution of wealth, but a stop to the obscene growth of wealth by the 1 percent. The 99 percent actually includes businesses that can’t compete against the “Walmarts” of the world. The movement should be appealing to many segments of society: small business, labor, veterans, seniors and minorities. The Occupy movement is trying to convey an idea that we are all together, with different but important stakes. With few exceptions we are all threatened by present circumstances.

To expect the present system to deliver reform that will meet the needs of the 99 percent is ludicrous. It is up to the Occupy movement to insist on fundamental change, and not just cosmetic appeasement, first through raising awareness and then demanding that we conduct political business in a different way. Rhetoric will no longer do; significant changes are required. We must address the central problem, which is the political system itself. We should demand nothing less than a complete publicly funded system. This would level the playing field and let politicians concentrate on substantive issues and ideas rather than raising money. This would solve most of the Occupy movement’s concerns and stop the necessity to always vote for the lesser of two evils.

Fundamental change can feel uncomfortable, unfamiliar, scary, risky and painful, but the alternative is complete dominance by those who have little regard for the well-being of ordinary citizens. Our political system must be required to represent the general public and not just narrow special interest groups. We need a political system with transparency. When greed and money become the sole criteria for success; the public is in great peril. The path we are going down will only get worse and we are running out of time. For more information about the Occupy movement, visit OccupyLongmont.blogspot.com.

Demands of the 99%

Tax Wall Street for gambling with our money. Pass the financial speculation tax.

Support education. Put teachers back in classrooms and ease the crippling burden of student debt.

Keep working families in their homes. Pass a mortgage relief plan that puts the needs of homeowners above the greed of mortgage bankers.

End too big to fail. Rein in the big banks NOW and hold the people who caused the financial crisis accountable.

Fair share of taxes from the 1%. End the Bush tax cuts for the 1% and close corporate tax loopholes.

Businesses should invest in jobs. Corporations must stop sitting on their profits and start hiring again here in America.

Extend unemployment insurance. Millions of Americans are still out of work, and unemployment insurance is a vital lifeline.

End corporate control of our democracy. Abolish “corporate personhood” and restore full voting rights to real people.

Courtesy of Working America

Is this list exhaustive?  Probably not.  Feel free to add to the list of demands in our Comments or at Working America.

“Take one step out of your comfort zone.”

For those who think that retirement is a time for “sitting around watching television and eating bonbons,” I would like to introduce you to 84-year old Dorli Rainey.

In the process of pushing and shoving the Occupy Seattle protesters, “Seattle’s finest” apparently felt compelled to pepper spray an 84-year old woman.  Apparently some see physically frail elderly women as a serious threat to the status quo power structure.  Rainey would have been trampled had she not been rescued by an Iraq veteran.

Born in Austria, Rainey moved to the United States in 1956 after working as a technical translator in the U.S. Army in Europe.  Dorli Rainey has personal memories of Goebbels and World War II.  She is a committed political activist with a footprint of activism from the civil rights movement onward.

Citing the advice and inspiration of the late Catholic nun and activist Jackie Hudson, Rainey says, “Whatever you do, take one more step out of your comfort zone.”

Seventeen or 70, Dorli Rainey should be everyone’s hero.  Watch the video and the vigor, wisdom and eloquence of this octogenarian will inspire and energize you.