Monday, October 31, 2011
Halloween Reflections on (Un)Occupy
One was going to the Country Club area and hearing tons of Spanish from the parents while their kids went trick or treating! It was sweet at this particular moment in history. Friends were discussing dressing up as zombies with signs saying "we are the 1%." The other was making sure that we find out what the richest census tract is in Albuquerque and going there for the taking of the treats.
After having participated in a few General Assemblies (GAs as short) I am starting to get it. The effort at direct democracy is important. It fits the sentiment that has grown against the two corporate sponsored parties. Even some of the liberal and progressive radio talk show hosts have begun to talk about more choice. They stop short of proposing proportional representation as a solution. Another option that might work is instant runoff voting as a local an intermediary improvement.
What I like is knowing that the direct democracy work is not new nor necessarily a "white hippy" thing like many people assume or report. It has been working in many places for a long time. The participatory budgeting was implemented because the Brazilian Workers' Party took over Porto Alegre, Brazil and implemented an increasingly democratic practice. It has even started in Chicago. Some schools also use direct democracy - youth power!
Here in Burque people are working on specifics to some degree. There is the Anti-capitalist conversations, Socialist Drinking Club, Stop Foreclosure work, Solidarity with the Oakland call for a General Strike, an electoral reform affinity group, and more.
What is not being discussed openly, mainly out of some politeness, is the bottom line. There are many people and communities that were doing poorly while the economy was doing "great." People fighting for the health and self-determination of their communities while others went about their business. These folks now get fairly upset even hearing the word privilege. Which is unfortunate. Things will not change as fast without them.
The reality with this "crisis" is the reality of many different moments in US history. When things get tough for Middle-Class, White folks then it is important. It's tough to say, and likely tough to hear. It is probably tougher to go beyond hearing and to listening and transforming.
Part of it is attempting to say it in a way that is not about hate, resentment, or anger. Just a reality. One that needs to be discussed and overcome.
Some of us have been struggling a long time. Part of what happens is that the establishment will soon throw out bones that get enough people feeling like, "I'm OK, things are good again." Then slowly things may slow down. The concern for communities that have been struggling with persistent poverty for decades may start to wane. Any concern for the issues Indigenous people have been dealing with for centuries may fade quickly - as that is where the (un)occupy name stemmed from. Seemingly some of the most difficult feelings to deal with as well.
Concern about racism may move back to the "we had the Civil Rights movement" already mind-frame and complacency may set in. Maybe the rhetoric about dealing with racism, colonization, sexism, homophobia, the homeless, etc... will all just fade to where they were the last time a large number of Middle-Class people felt comfortable.
OR - maybe this will not be THAT moment again. Maybe this will be the moment where we decide to fight until we have democracy in which we ALL get to participate. Maybe this is the moment where we decide to fight for REAL equity and address racism, sexism, colonization, homophobia, and of course classism fully instead of bailing out early once we get some improvements. Maybe this will be the moment where we stand together until everyone gets a fair share of human needs. Maybe this will be the moment where we truly re-invent society and not just accept even a large amount of us getting better off. Maybe THIS is the moment where we say that NO ONE GETS LEFT BEHIND EVER AGAIN!!! SOLIDARITY!
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Electoral Reform draft
OCCYUPY ESPA asked for an article on electoral reform - here is what I sent them.
It is time to reform our electoral system. When you think about quality of life, health, and fairness in our society we can easily blame corporations – and we are justified to do so. Another thing we can blame is our electoral system. Private money, lack of choice, and lack of access are literally making us sick.
Our electoral system is very old – the first of modern European-based democracies. Thinking that it is the best is like thinking a Model-T car is the best because it was one of the first cars. Improvements have been made to vehicles and to democracy. We should use those.
Some of those improvements would help out our economic situation as well. Since those elected to power often set the regulations, or lack of regulations, on our economic system. Given the legit distrust for the electoral system and politicians we need better ways to regulate them – more democratic processes.
One of the most easily to think of given the corporate power in America is the implementation of mandatory public financing for all elections. Imagine if each of the cities standing in solidarity right now were to win this. People power would have a better chance over money power. Now, we can’t pretend that those with money would not look for ways to use that resource to undermine democracy. What would be different is that there would be a system to minimize that.
If this were to be implemented nationally it would have a huge impact. Even locally it would mean that one does not need to be well off to run for office. Currently there is almost no representation by working-class elected officials. If this happens in one city because of this movement that is still progress. If this happens in many cities in one state that will be a shift toward a democratic culture for that state. If this were to happen in ALL of the cities currently it would be an important shift toward national implementation. That would mean that elected officials would no longer have to be millionaires to run for office. I don’t know about you – I would prefer to be “represented” by a union laborer than someone who can spend a million dollars on a campaign.
There is a great deal of research that shows that countries with proportional representation distribute the resources of society better, are happier, and healthier. That is a major shift for US politics. Proportional representation is something that was not thought of at the time of the founding of the US. One thing that could start us along that road locally would be “Instant Runoff Voting.” Also known as “Rank Choice Voting,” this system makes sure that there are not “wasted” votes when there are more than two candidates. Having this seemingly minor reform would transform those who could run.
As it stands now many “progressive” political machines will discourage good candidates from running in order to be able to beat Republicans. This so-called progressive approach actually gives New Mexicans, and Americans LESS CHOICE! That is how dysfunctional our current voting system is. And instead of challenging it liberals and progressives just try to beat it by eliminating choices.
Ending photo ID for voting, easing ballot access laws, and same day voter registration would also help out in creating a more democratic electoral system.
For those of you who vote – again I ask you imagine what it would be like for each of our cities to win instant runoff voting and mandatory public financing.
Sunday, October 09, 2011
One thing I've noticed is that many people are talking about breaking out of the two party system. You can register for other parties. Registering with "no party" or "independent" does not tell people running campaigns where you stand on the issues.
You can register with the following parties in NM by placing the three letter abbreviation in box 5 of your NM voter registration form:
La Raza Unida de Nuevo Mejico (LRU)
New Mexico Socialist Party (SNM)
New Party of New Mexico (PNM)
Peace and Freedom Party (PAF)
Socialist Labor Party (SLP)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Worker's World Party (WWP).
Monday, October 03, 2011
During one of the meetings we discussed this not being a new movement. This really is an opportunity to connect movements. Today we had a conversation on both electoral politics and direct democracy. We also talked about the rank voting process going on in Minnesota.
I keep walking around more and more. Homework and all of that is going OK. I want to work out today but I'm very tired.
It was a fun and tough weekend. Had good gigs and also a lot of challenges.