(A special thanks to our guest blogger today for sharing their recent experience at a Moveon.org Training meeting.)
There were two moderators for our training. One was a woman whose personal narrative was that of a former bakery owner who was forced out of business by evil corporations. The other was a young man who graduated from college yet feels disenfranchised because he can't find a job that pays better than minimum wage.
Others in attendance were people representing the Green Party, the Democratic Socialists of America, various other local factions of Moveon.org and the Occupy movement as well as a State Legislator who happened to be in all of my breakout groups. Many were openly willing to define themselves as progressives and for "single payer" healthcare. What was more interesting was that most of those in attendance were probably the hippies of the 60's. Only now, they are grandmas and grandpas.
Before the training began, we spent 15 minutes discussing the "ground rules". What was fair? (Weren't we adults?) We determined that we had to show respect for others and that those who wanted to make a comment had to do so within a three minute time limit. We then spent another couple of minutes trying to determine who would actually get out a watch and keep track.
In order to get our attention after each of the many breakout and role playing groups, the moderators would clap a rhythmic pattern, over and over. Some around the room even commented on the juvenile behavior. What was even MORE annoying was the fact that everything the moderators said came straight from a prepared script that they read. Word for word. The statements, the questions, and even the answers they would expect to hear were pre printed for them. When someone gave an answer, they would refer to their script to see if it was on the list. Any answer that was not mentioned but on the list, was then read to the group.
I found a copy of the script.
Once the rules were out of the way, we watched a video of all of the different "stories" behind the 99% movement. "We ARE the 99%". It talked about what led up to the 99% movement starting with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) up through the 1980's under Reagan and his anti union position, the 1990s when jobs were shipped overseas, to 2006 with the protests over illegal immigration and then to the recalls in Wisconsin over collective bargaining.
"We want a different kind of democracy and we want it now."
We then created small groups and discussed our own personal stories. It was exactly like the tactic I have read so much about with community organizing. Everyone has an agenda that they have been affected by yet somehow, we are supposed to come together for the greater good. We agree to help one group if they will agree to help the other. When we were done discussing our problems, the moderator began to ask whose story was affected by:
Healthcare? (most everyone raised their hands)
Housing? (a few responded)
Debt? (a few others)
When he got to the subject of racism, sexism and immigration, not a SINGLE hand went up. In fact, the moderator looked shocked and said, "Oh wow. Really? No one for racism or sexism?"
Of course, after having these issues shoved down our throats for the last two months, in their own little bubble, I would imagine this reaction might have come as a bit of a shock. The training booklet even mentioned that "the 1% appeal to racism, sexism and homophobia to keep us fighting each other. They say that immigrants are to blame for unemployment rates...."
So, it must be true.
We then created lists which were nothing but self-loathing and bitter resentments.
- Over qualified and under paid
WE ARE STRUGGLING WITH:
- Inept/corrupt politicians
- Lack of voice
- Clean air and edible food
- Corrupt corporations
OUR NEW FUTURE:
- Liberty for all
- Sustainable economy
- Good jobs/secure for all
- Single payer health care
- Social justice
- People and environment working together
- Economic justice
- Equity in education
- Publicly funded elections
We then broke out into groups again and were given a large sheet of paper. We were told to create our ideal town sometime in the future and draw what it would look like.
The first thing our group drew was a park which took up 1/4 of the page. Next to the park was a school with, of course, solar panels. We then decided we needed a wind farm off in the distance. The next building we put in our town was a credit union which was next door to the city hall. You might be wondering where the companies are that employ people who produce something rather than those that are takers and dependent on tax dollars. After all, we had a city daycare. Don't hold your breath. Next, we made sure to have an urban garden. We made sure to put it right next to the school so as to make sure the children were fed well. And, if we had an urban garden, we naturally needed to have a farmers market. We then drew in a "SINGLE PAYER" hospital which was right next to the Women's Center. But before we could draw in some low income housing developments, the moderators began going around to the groups wearing stickers on their shirts that said, "Walmart", "Dick Cheney" and "Exxon". They took their own pen and drew in a big building as they told us how important a Walmart would be in our town. The evildoers then started to tear up parts of our town (seen in the top left corner of the paper). Other groups clued in to the action and began standing up, linking arms, and yelling to prevent them from destroying their perfect, communistic, utopian society.
We then started to discuss non violent, direct action.
This is what they consider "non violent, direct action".
We discussed how it made us feel. Which means we created another list.
- Like war
- Like being ripped off (no pun intended)
- Not many stood up at first
- Felt snuck up on
We then were subject to another propaganda video called
It was a shorter version of a documentary which features radical leftists such as Bernie Sanders, Van Jones, Deepak Bhargava, Jakad Imani from the Ella Baker Foundation (started by Van Jones), and Maryland Congresswoman, Donna Edwards.
The film also had an interesting quote by Gar Alperovitz, author of America Beyond Capitalism who said about the Occupy movement, "Challenging of the populous way, challenging huge payouts, these are beginning signs of people who are waking up slowly and I call it EVOLUTIONARY RECONSTRUCTION. Building from the bottom. Challenging from the top. This is a long-term rebuilding of an entire basis of a system and that's a hard thing for people to grasp."
The movie discussed Rosa Parks and almost mockingly bragged that she wasn't the little spinster that we have been taught in school who was just tired from a long days work and didn't want to give up her seat. Rather, she was trained in "non violent" action at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. The bus incident wasn't random and spontaneous. They said, "did you really think someone just happened to be there with a camera to take her picture?"
Van Jones claimed that black people who suffered after Hurricane Katrina were purposely not fed a single morsel of food because of their skin color.
Deepak Bhargava stated that there are two kinds of power. Organized money and organized people.
We then discussed the difference between civil disobedience and non violent, direct action. Civil disobedience was different because it means disobeying "unjust" laws. Non violent, direct action implies simply resistance and noncooperation. It also sounds safer and more inviting so that you can encourage participation from women and young children which broadens your base and increases your numbers. Numbers are important. What is interesting is that the packet they handed out which lists non violent, direct action ideas includes: disguised disobedience, civil disobedience of "illegitimate" laws, civil disobedience of "neutral" laws.
The booklet also states that so long as everyone in your group agrees to and understands their own rules and have a shared definition of non violent, direct action, then that will be the standard for the group. One group may think yelling obscenities is a form of violence while others may think clipping a lock on a foreclosed home or seizing someones assets is not violent and completely acceptable. This gives them leeway to excuse what they are REALLY doing which is domestic terrorism.
Next, we talked strategy. Plan number one was to choose our words carefully. Instead of saying, "war", "fight" or even things like "minimum wage" we should instead say, "solidarity", "unity", "diversity" and "living wage". Then, we needed to pin point specific "values". These include (another list):
- Health care as a right
- Work dignity for all
- Living wage
- Care for most vulnerable
- Income equality
- Education equality
Once you have your action item, you then need to begin the recruitment process. This was the big push at the training meeting as well as during a follow up conference call. In fact, there really wasn't a lot of "training" so much as "Here's how we combine our efforts. Here's our scheduled events. Now, go out and recruit people." We were asked to devote at least 1 hour per week to recruiting others. In the conference call that followed, we were told, "Numbers is what will give our numbers power. Numbers is what powers to be are afraid of."
The next step was pulling off your operation with your new recruits.
Finally, it was important to involve the media. There is an online training course with tutorials on how to contact and utilize the media. Your operation must have publicity. They even include tips on writing news releases and advisories. There is also a link to the CODE PINK website with tips on getting news coverage. If media does not show up to your event, you are encouraged to call them from the event itself. This became evident on the night of the Moveon.org tax day rally when the local news station only showed those at the Moveon event (and even interviewed one of the moderators of our training course!) yet didn't cover the TEA party rally that took place 15 miles away.
In the end, I was left feeling almost sad for those who were there. They seemed so angry and defeated. While I shared my personal story which included student loans, housing value decline and job loss, they all nodded their heads in pity and said that my issues were a clear example as to why we needed to fundamentally change our country. While my personal story was actually true, I have NEVER felt that someone owed me anything. The choices I made were mine and mine alone. For those events that were out of my control, I knew that it was my choice to determine how I would react. I CHOSE to look at my situation as an opportunity for growth and learning. I have never asked for a handout. I have never taken government assistance. My wife and I planned well in advance for these kinds of life changing events so that when we were faced with them head on, we didn't feel fearful, but rather, we were prepared.
The Occupy movement which has been co-opted by Moveon.org preys on people's emotions and deep seeded anger. It will only survive so long as they can get people to focus on all of the negatives and personal grievances rather than tell people they CAN have hope. They CAN strive for something better. To use Obama's own campaign slogan, "hope and change" and "yes we can!"...those who feel defeated need to know that they can hope that they can change their life story for the better. That kind of "hope and change" and "yes I can!" attitude can only come from within and not from government.
You can view their training videos here. One of the training videos has Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards (also in The Heist movie) who is helping in a role play exercise on how to
More training opportunities can be found here.
Welcome to the 99% Spring Online Training
You are about to join 100,000 of us gathering in homes, places of worship, on campuses and in the streets to train and prepare ourselves for non-violent direct action.
This spring we are joining together to reclaim our country through action, one neighborhood at a time.
This spring we are joining together to reclaim our country through action, one neighborhood at a time.
April 17: Tax day
April 24: Wells Fargo Shareholder meeting, San Francisco
April 25: 1T Day: Breaking the Link between Higher Education and the Banks on the day student loan debt passes $1 Trillion
April 26: GE Shareholder meeting, Detroit
May 1: May Day (support Occupy and Immigrant Rights Groups
May 3: Verizon shareholder meeting
May 5: Connect the Dots
May 9: Bank of America Shareholder meeting, North Carolina
May 24: Sallie Mae Shareholder meeting, Delaware
June 1: Walmart Shareholder meeting, Arkansas
There will also be a "March for Justice" protest on April 25th in Phoenix (Filmore and Central) to protest SB1070 and the Supreme Court Hearing. It is sponsored by the Alabama Student Group and Puente (who brought you the boycott Arizona march). Moveon.org is simply "supporting" the march. Remember... you rub my back, I'll rub yours.