( This is an e-mail I sent in response to a suggestion of banning or shunning people for use of offensive language with regards to sexism, racism, any other isms. Please try to think of solutions that do not involve institutionalized prosecution within our movement based on generalized opinions or ingrained/indoctrinated hatred. We are all still affected by the hand of the puppet master looming over us, whether conscious of it or not. )
It's been quite awhile since I've been to a General Assembly, for some of the mental health reasons stated by others, and for some ideological differences not stated. I have, however, attended actions, kept up-to-date, received updates from many of the dozen or so fellow Occupiers who live with me or frequently visit our humble home, and I am currently working through reading the couple hundred or so emails that have piled up since I have no internet at home. That being said, the current state and future of Occupy Philadelphia is a bit disturbing to me.
Coming into the Occupy movement, there was only one agenda on my mind: freedom for the masses. Freedom from the oppressive control of the national and world governments, freedom from the multinational corporations that put together the menu of lifestyles we are "free" to choose from, freedom from tyranny of the majority, freedom from tyranny of the minority, freedom from the banks, and most of all, the freedom of not having to live in another being's ideas about the world. Because, let's face it, all types of oppression stem from one group trying to force another group into their own mold. it just doesn't work, and it's a lot of this forcing that I'm seeing within Occupy.
You see, one of the many wonders of the world is its variety. People of all cultures, creeds, and ideologies live in this world, and have the total autonomy built into their person to reserve the right to these things. When we talk about Occupy on a grand scale, the kind of movement that is going to change the world, we have to be careful. Once we've started alienating, banning, or shunning people, we've told them that in our new world, their ideology is no longer accepted. We all know that racism, classism, sexism, etc., exist in our world. It would be naive to think that we could stop people from forming generalized opinions, so we have started to prosecute those whose generalized opinions offend a general public. Keep in mind that some people like to be angry, some people are really sensitive, some people like to be volatile, and some people love to hate. When speaking of autonomy and freedom, try to imagine organizing your own community to be aligned by similar ideology, not necessarily your whole nation, and definitely not your whole world. These larger views are the paths toward oppression.
If we were to win the war tomorrow, no more banks, free housing and food gardens for all, no more wasteful consumption from worker-slaves for sake of efficiency, and Occupy Philly were to make the new rules, I imagine we would need many more prisons than we have now to "ban" all of the people who do not fit into your ideology. The "greater good" is oft a tool of fascism, and too large a picture is painted only by a machine. Keep in mind the lessons of H. G. Wells' 'The Time Machine,' and that even the KKK have been defended by the ACLU on the issue of free speech.
Instead of bickering over peoples' personal generalized opinions, many of us are moving now into mobilization for the spring and summer, and will not be letting Occupy Philly's General Assembly waste any more of our time. It'll be a big year if we can learn to keep our eyes on the prize and not fall into so much in-fighting that's consumed our general assemblies and driven off so many keen activists. And while I realize that institutionalized -isms account for a huge measure of government control, institutionalizing non-ism-ism will only put the abuse of power in opposite hands. There are ways to enlighten another human, but public cross-examination and defamation only put one on the defense, and run counter to constructive cooperation. We work next to people, whom we would never dream of spending recreational time with, with civility, and it is only through cooperation without co-option of others' ideologies that will open eyes and change the world.
Don't ask, just do. The struggle is global, but life is individual.
Matt from Safety