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Why I'm Going to Freedom Plaza
By Starhawk | Photos by Elaine
After nearly two months on the road, I managed to touch down briefly at home, long enough to hug my sweetie, connect with my dear friends, do the laundry and dry it on the line just before the first rains of the winter blessed us with their showers. Then I packed the bags again and headed out, this morning, to Washington DC to join the protests planned at Freedom Plaza. Asking myself, "Why? " And "Do I really need to do this? "
As much as I've spent years of my life involved in demonstrations and various forms of political actions, I don't really like them. I like being home, playing with the big white fluffy dog and the baby, sleeping in my own bed and making myself a cup of tea any time I want to. I'm older now. My knees are stiff and I get more like an Ent every year - that is, more treelike and less bendable. I have a hearing problem that amplifies all kinds of ambient, irritating sounds so they reverberate around in my head like a very bad sound system while meaningful noises and conversation get harder and harder to hear - which makes loud, noisy demonstrations a form of purgatory. I have a very full life, full of meaningful work aimed at changing the world for the better. There are many constructive things I could be doing, should be doing, am doing - besides getting out in the streets.
Yet, here I am. Do I really need to do this? Well, yes. Why? Because in the end, it always comes down to the streets. When the greed, the hypocrisy, the assaults on our freedoms, our pockets, our future and our common sense go so far beyond the level of toleration, there's no substitute for the outrage of the streets. Internet petitions are fine, and constructive programs of creative community-building keep us sane and help point the way to a future, but those noisy bodies in the streets put the politicians, the greedy bastards and the high-level criminals to take their frakkin' boots off our necks, thank you!
The protests mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, linking the continuation of that war with the erosion of our civil rights, the assaults on workers and the middle class and the Obama administration's reluctance to take a strong stand on climate change and environmental protection. But more than that, they are part of this global phenomenon, this surge of people swarming into public space in Egypt and Wisconsin, in Greece and Spain and Israel, in London and in Wall Street, New York City, to say "Enough!" Globally, the rich are stealing from the poor at a level that has reached almost surreal proportions. They back the theft with all the instruments of war, repression, and massive propaganda. Meanwhile the Earth's life support system are racing toward melt-down and the people in power are unable to do the clear and simple things we need to do to assure our children a viable future because they are bound to the service of greed. And so I find it hopeful that around the world people are rising up and demanding something different: a world where we remember that we are mutually interdependent, and develop systems that let us get good at it.
So, here I am, in a big Pagan cluster slumber party in the house of a supportive and brave friend in the DC area. We've had our morning meeting. We've made our plans for the day and for tomorrow. We're going to create a water station on the Plaza, with filtered water, and some sort of permacultural toilet facilities, hopefully. I'll be helping out with a nonviolence training tonight. We'll be offering trainings on the Plaza, and some sort of public ritual, sometime. Besides the actions in Freedom Plaza, we're interested in connecting with the Occupy DC group in McPherson Square, who are linked to the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York and around the country. On the 7th, there will also be actions targeting the hearings around the tar sands pipeline, the plan to pump the world's dirtiest, least energy-efficient oil from the New Mordor the tar sands have created in Alberta across the country's key aquifer to refineries in Texas. Obama could stop this travesty with an executive order, and we intend to make sure that he feels pressure to do so, and that indigenous elders are heard at the hearings.
Join us here if you can (email firstname.lastname@example.org or to look for the many sister actions in your own areas. Magical support, energy and protection are always welcome - think of us being in the right place at the right time in the right way, with the protection, energy, support, health and luck to do the work.
If you are in the Bay Area, you can plug in at our Bay Area action pages
And when this is all over, I promise to catch up with reports from the awesome International Permaculture Convergence in Jordan--meanwhile, a lot of it is archived at www.ipcon.org/.
Love to you all, Starhawk
DC Actions - October 6
"I hate young people!" I'm grumbling as I puff along in the wake of the march led by the Occupy DC folks who have established their base in McPherson Square. They've asked for drummers and music on their march, but they are travelling at such a fast pace it's all I can do to try and keep up with them, let alone drumming at the same time. Simon helps by carrying my bag - he's a young person but I forgive him for it. Finally we reach our destination: The Newseum where the American Ideas Forum is happening and where Dick Cheney is speaking. We hold a short, spirited rally and head back to the Square at breakneck speed for the general assembly.
I don't really hate them, however-just their tendency to compete for the Olympic Speed-Marching record. Really I've had an amazing day, mostly spent in the company of predominantly young people who have set up this occupation, separate but linked to the events in Freedom Plaza. The Occupy DC group are mostly locals, and they intend to stay in the square indefinitely. They're a mix of students and a good sprinkling of older people of varied backgrounds. "I quit my job at Morgan Stanley," says a well-dressed, gray-haired man. An older woman with a rugged face talks about the protests of the sixties. A slow-talking older man says that he wasn't an activist in the sixties, he knew that stuff was happening but ignored it. He's not an activist now-he's an analyst for a global corporation. But if we don't bring some reason into our tax system we will be destroying the base of labor upon which an economy rests.
The folks at Freedom Plaza, like us, mostly come from out of town. Judging from the nonviolence training we did last night, more than half of them have never done anything like this before and many of them have come to the action alone, without knowing anyone else. I admire their courage-I doubt that I would hop on a plane from Iowa or Texas to come demonstrate in Washington DC all by myself, with no support. What if the other kids don't like me, and I don't make any friends?
I spent a lot of the day in meetings. It was a bit like a relationship I once had where we spent far more time in couples counseling than we ever did having sex-I spent far more of the day in meetings than in the actions the meetings were meeting about. But in a sense, maybe the meetings were actions-interposing this exercise in direct democracy at the feet of the lobbyists and the Congress and all the systems that are captives of money and corrupt power. "Demoncracy," I wrote by accident - democracy made servant of the demons of greed.
Occupy DC has two General Assemblies a day. Freedom Plaza has its own General Assembly. With so many people new to consensus process, the meetings are sometimes ponderous-and yet theres an archetypal quality to it all, people sitting under a tree debating and discussing and coming to decisions together in a process designed to assure that everyone has a voice. I think we crave that experience, somewhere deep in the soul. It is exactly what democracy looks like, and right now it seems that all over the world people are hearing the call.
I did sit in on their facilitators' working group, and some of us from the Pagan Cluster gently offered some of our tips. (All of which you can read in the free download on my website called "The Five-Fold Path of Productive Meetings." Visit starhawk.org/. Three young men were down from the Occupy Wall Street group in New York and the DC folks were appreciative, thrilled, and admiring. These young folks who learned their activist skills a month ago and now the seasoned veterans and the experts.
The evening assembly went much more smoothly, we were told, than yesterdays. Simon-bless him-raised the issue of marching a bit more slowly, being aware of the tail of the march as well as the head. His comments elicited a long discussion and a plethora of suggestions. A tall,very dark man with a big smile from the Communications Workers of America explained how they always had marshalls in orange vests at all their marches. Some people liked the idea of marshalls, others were wary of establishing a role that gave people power they might abuse. I hear comments of staggering maturity and common sense: "I'm as anti-authoritarian as anyone, but I'm against illegitimate authority and this would be giving people legitimate authority." "We're asking people to take on responsibility and that's a good thing, to use it in service of the groups-like these facilitators are doing, to make the process more democratic and easier for everyone to participate in." We don't really come to a resolution, but do make a plan for the next day, a march to the IMF and World Bank. Many people don't know what the connection is to the economic interests at the heart of this action-others explain that the “austerity” measures we're having forced on us have already been shoved down the throats of the global south by the IMF, and the poverty they've created abroad is now coming home to us as well.
The Freedom Plaza folks will be supporting the tar sands protests tomorrow. Hearings are scheduled about the proposed pipeline that would carry the world's dirtiest oil over the country's key aquifer, running from Canada to Texas. I want to do it all and I want to do some trainings and I want to lie in the sun and sleep.
At the very end of the night, we wait until the last performer on the Freedom Plaza stage is done, then we strike up the drums and lead people in a spiral dance. “We are the rising sun, we are the change, we are the ones we've been waiting for and we are dawning”-we used Raven's beautiful chant and wove in and out under the stars, finishing with a cone of power. Then a young woman standing next to me asked for one more song. We sang song after song, from John Lennon's "Imagine" to a rousing chorus of "What Can We Do with the Drunken Sailor" with the words changed. It was very sweet, standing in a circle in the night, singing together.
Imagine! This is what democracy looks like. Imagine a world where we sing together, and together make the decisions that affect our lives. It isn't hard to do.
Then make that world together. It's easy if you try. The old, corrupt world falls away and a new world is born.
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