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How to Change a System: Occupy and the Question of Non-Violence

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Oakland police respond to protestors. Photo by Kyung Jin Lee.

The Occupy movement has changed the way Americans view political activism.  And there’s a raging debate over what tactics should be used.  How is social change achieved, and does violence have a role to play?  On this edition, a debate from Oakland, California between practitioners of non-violence, versus those who believe a diversity of tactics is what Occupy needs to move forward.

Featuring:

Josh Shepherd, Navy veteran and Iraq veterans Against the War activist; Kazu Haga, Kingian Nonviolence trainer; Matthew Edwards, Iraq war conscientious objector, Melissa Merin, human rights activist; Paolo, organizer and Occupy Oakland participant; Rev. Phil Lawson, Methodist minister, and civil rights activist; Sean O’Brien, DASW organizer; Starhawk, global justice activist and author; Rahula Janowski, moderator.

***WEB EXCLUSIVES***

Full audio of the December 15th 2011 debate, titled: “How Will the Walls Come Tumbling Down? Diversity of Tactics vs Nonviolence in the Occupy Movement.”

Part 1: Introductions and Opening statements by 8 panel participants.
Part 2: Questions and answers by Panel participants
Part 3: Questions by audience, answers by panel participants
Part 4: Closign statements by Panel participants

Panelists’ opening statements:
Josh Shepherd
Kazu Haga

Matthew Edwards
Melissa Merin

Paolo

Rev. Phil Lawson

Sean O’Brien

Starhawk

Noam Chomsky speaks at Mid-South Peace and Justice Center 30th Anniversary


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Music:Fat Cats, Bigga Fish by The Coup
My Favorite Mutiny by The Coup

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Author: IreneFlorez

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5 Comments

  1. the show cuts off in the middle of Kazu Haga’s presentation. i want more!

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  2. Incredible event, very articulate and well spoken panelists, and the recording engineers: thank you for informative, heart-felt exploration of ideas!

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  3. Heard the “debate” on violence vs. non-violence on your show this morning. Simply appalling! I don’t know which shocked me more, that this insane discussion took place inside a church, or that Occupy Oakland evidently can’t tell when instigators are in their midst. The fringe Left really doesn’t change much: I saw this same sh*t go down back in the ’60s.

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  4. List of Grievances:

    Occupy Wall Street is all about the struggle for a more equitable distribution of wealth and fairness in the economic life of the country against rich and greedy individuals and corporations who are exploiting the majority of the population, sample proof is that one percent of the population control more wealth than ninety percent of the rest of the population. Wall Street advocates that profits for companies are more meaningful and important than human life, society and communities and therefore should be acquired at all costs.

    The movement is not only about the inequitable distribution of wealth and greedy practices of individuals and corporations, it’s also about other social injustices and bad practices in the country ranging from global trade, to outsourcing of jobs overseas, shifting manufacturing work to China and other countries purely for lower costs, to global warming, rising poverty levels, high costs of college education, health care and pharmaceuticals, environmental issues etc, it’s high time for an overhaul of the system.

    When manufacturing is sent to China, we in America are loosing jobs, intellectual capital, while CEO’s, management and Wall Street all make record profits, this is certainly not in our national interests.

    An apt and timely lesson to be learnt from history is the fundamental causes and results of the French Revolution, an inequitable distribution of wealth entrenched in the wealthy and starving and desperate people caused an era of discontent and protest leading to the collapse of the French government and aristocracy and a total meltdown of the country, let’s hope that we are not heading in that direction though the signs are similar with people losing hope and becoming desperate. Many Americans are living in a comfort zone outside of reality and therefore do not see the plight of the poor and desperate.

    Here are a list of concerns:

    1. Wall Street – it’s all about profits at all costs without respect or consideration for people and communities, high profits for investors is okay in theory, but not practical at all, no company can continuously produce high profits irrespective of swings in market cycles but investors demand recurring high profits and corporations have been reciprocating by cutting costs by laying off workers without the welfare of workers at heart, also, foreign investors like Saudi Arabia, Japan, Russia and China are investing heavily on Wall Street and benefiting on the profits of US Corporations, but they do not care about the US worker at all or the plight of the US economy. Corporate greed and exploitation and power and wealth in the hands of a few has resulted in the majority being left out and short changed resulting in an unequal distribution of wealth, One of the biggest misconception and bad practices is that companies exist purely for profits for investors, this is the reason for the demise in society and the economy, companies exist because of workers, without workers no company can survive, therefore it is the moral obligation and duty of companies to support it’s employees during swings in the business cycle. What happens to all the extra profits that are generated when we outsource jobs or send manufacturing overseas? This money is used to increase the CEO’s package and give top management higher salaries, the balance is shared with Wall Street, who is the net loser of this? It is the ordinary American worker.

    2. The rich and powerful are controlling government at all levels, ordinary people have no say in the process, so we are not truly a democracy, the government is controlled by wealthy individuals, large corporations and the media, a good example is the power of Pharmaceutical Corporations, Oil Companies and Medical Insurance companies over government. The rich control the stock market like cartels and insider trader, favors, closed groups and secret collaboration keeps the wealth tightly controlled within the rich set making it difficult for ordinary people to break into wealthy circles and therefore wealth remains entrenched in the same groups of people or families. Influence peddling between the wealthy and politicians is one of the root causes of the problem. Big Oil is making record profits by keeping gas prices high, this is a monopoly and the entire nation is powerless to do anything about it because they control the government.

    3. Greed of CEO’s and Management – leads to a culture of greed and the quest for more this lead to higher prices and inflation, in fact we have become obsessed with money and have created a new pastime and culture of greed, this has eroded basic moral values. There is an unusual imbalance between the compensation of CEO’s and ordinary workers, it is certainly justified for CEO’s to be compensated at a much higher rate but not but not at the ratio that is currently in practice, it undermines all financial and economic principals, this culture of greed has spread throughout all levels of management effectively side-lining the ordinary worker. At no time in the history of the country has there been such a big disparity between management and worker compensation, in fact, it amounts to CEO’s and management short-changing workers. When IBM’s Sam Palmisano retires, he gets a $110 million handshake, where does this money come from, from paying employees less and from raising prices, this causes inflation.

    4. Global Trade and Globalization – one of the primary practices of economics over centuries is factors of production, each country has it’s own resources in the form of Land, Labor, Capital and Infrastructure to produce goods and services for it’s people, limited trade and bartering between countries has always been practiced, however, this system has gone out of balance because the US and other industrialized countries are currently not using their own resources but exploiting the resources of other countries purely for profit, these extra-ordinary profits from global trade has not been benefiting the country as a whole but only a limited amount of wealthy individuals, Wall Street and large corporations, the majority of the population have not benefited from this at all.

    5. Food – our food contains toxic chemicals and carcogenins in the form of artificial chemicals, flavorants, insecticides, pesticides, anti-biotics, growth-hormones, etc. this is one of the main reasons for cancer and all the myriad of other health problems in the country proof is that companies like McDonalds and Burger Kings are contributing to this problem, obesity and overweight population is going to be one of our major problems contributing to long term health issues, shamefully, the medical profession had been quiet about it because a sick and unhealthy nation means big business for them, once again profits before people, also, genetically modified foods are causing unpredictable health issues by causing an imbalance in nature.

    6. Overuse of drugs – we have become the drug capital of the world, pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession are over prescribing unnecessary medications purely for higher profits, ‘pill mills’ are the norm around the country, these medications cause an untold amount of lifelong health problems.

    7. High medical costs caused by pharmaceutical companies, the medical profession, hospitals, medical insurance companies all working in cohorts to fleece the general public for medical services, we have the highest medical costs in the world; these costs causes additional stress and other health related issues resulting in an endless cycle of health problems, also, the high number of of medical insurance companies creates additional layers in the health care which is totally unnecessary, unaffordable health care alone is a major stress factor on ordinary people.

    8. Wars for profit, not for defense, the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were oil wars to protect our energy resources, we did not do it for the love of the Iraqi and Afghanistani people, these remote wars destroy foreign countries, costs a fortune and has resulted in thousands of lost American lives and injured soldiers, these wars are solely responsible for the financial woes that we have today. The wars are the result of the action of a small group of individuals and armament manufacturers who wanted to go to war for a profit and personal agenda, how did we as a nation allow these unjustified wars to happen? , we should amend our constitution to ensure that wars are not waged by small groups of people or the armaments industry. George Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost $1.3 trillion dollars and has resulted in the financial meltdown of the economy and endless hardship and tough times throughout the country. war is an expensive business with no return on investment, therefore a bad investment, we can no longer be the policemen of the world, it’s too expensive and therefore not sustainable, it’s time to rethink our military strategies.

    9. Global Warming is for real, simply look at how the ice caps are melting or how the ocean temperatures are warming up, yet, a large part of the population are denying the issue and have chosen to ignore it because it’s bad for business to reverse or stop global warming, we are certainly warming up the planet because of our modern lifestyles, we can continue ignoring it at our peril, no other natural phenomenon threatens our future and existence like global warming.

    10. Damage to the environment, eroding and destruction of planet earth for profits at all costs, an example is the polluting of our waterways, coal mining, extinction of species, oil spills, de-forestation, etc. Destruction of our natural resources because of industrialization, an example is the power of ‘Big Oil’ over Washington, they continue to do as they please and use the natural resources of the country as their personal playground to destroy.

    11. Waste and Recycling – our modern way of life is replacing natural mountains with toxic man-made garbage dumps, each city has a man-made mountain in the making, there is no county-wide effort to limit the amount and types of trash we generate, the use of plastics and packaging should be minimized by law, like other modern nations are doing. Also, the amount of unnecessary packaging material and plastic and paper utensils that we waste is scandalous, we should be ashamed of it, no wonder we are totally dependent on foreign oil and trees.

    12. Our Energy Economy – our economy and lifestyles is much too dependent on Oil, we are an oil based economy, without oil our economy and life would come to a standstill, we need to find alternative forms renewable energy like solar, wind, natural gas etc., not nuclear, nuclear has too many hazards and the waste is not degradable, in fact nuclear waste has a half-life of one thousand years, so not a good solution.

    13. Eat local foods, we should grow our food locally and lessen the consumption of imported foods, imported goods, uses more energy and is expensive because of transportation of goods over long distances and the carbon footprint, food is not always ripe and fresh and therefore unhealthy, we are not using local resources for agricultural purposes. We should develop a culture of manufacturing and buying locally and lessen the need to deliver goods over long distances, companies like Fedex and UPS are the biggest consumers of energy which is unnecessary if we change our habits to supporting local and regional businesses.

    14. The Media promotes and indoctrinates a culture of materialism, consumerism, greed and commercialism, this has effectively eroded the moral values of society and is one of the primary reasons for the evils of the modern world that we live in.

    15. Outsourcing of jobs to other countries, the main benefactors of this are CEO’s and top management because they reward themselves with higher packages, this is one of the main contributors to high unemployment in the country, CEO’s and big corporations have very little loyalty to the country and it’s people, the driving factor here is greed.

    16. Shifting of manufacturing to other countries, once again its all about CEO and management greed by big corporations, we know that costs of manufacturing is much lower in other countries, that is understandable becuase they have a much lower cost structure, including production and raw material costs, but they don’t have to pay high mortgages bills like we do, so where does the loyalty of corporations lie, with foreign countries or with it’s own people?

    17. Health Care – how is it possible that the wealthiest country in the world does not have an affordable health care system given the amount of money that is spent on health care, it’s because of the layers and layers of wasteful health care insurance companies that make health care unreachable for ordinary, why don’t we have public hospitals and public health care systems like other countries, well, then corporations don’t make money and CEO’s and the wealthy don’t make exorbitant profits.

    18. Lobbyist who represent big corporations do the country a disservice and make a mockery of the democratic form of government, this is plain simple corruption.

    19. Fast Food, Fast Nation, Fast Life – our entire way of life is based on the premise of being ‘Fast’, this is running havoc with society by creating highly stressed families and communities, overweight people and is shaking the moral fiber of society, we need to slow down and reflect on our lifestyles, this is obviously contrary to what greedy businessmen would like to see, since they would like workers to work around the clock so that they can increase profits, this culture has to be reversed, it’s a shame that leaders around the country are not talking or criticizing it.

    20. G8 and G20 Countries – countries belonging to these organizations perform modern day colonialism and imperialism mostly on Third World countries which are overloaded with debt burdens and then fall into a cycle of endless debt which they cannot repay and therefore remain enslaved by debt and cannot make any progress, these organizations represent modern-day financial cartels and mafias.

    21. Trade with China – how can me morally justify trading with China, it’s an autocratic power that enslaves it’s own people, where are the protests? it seems that its okay to do business with China as long as the profits are flowing, what happens to the Chinese worker, the environment in China doesn’t matter, we are certainly practicing double standards here by supporting the Chinese government.

    22. Living in poverty – the wealthiest nation on earth should certainly not have any of it’s people living in poverty yet the structure of society has created a class of people who are poor and desperate.

    23. Tax avoidance by big corporations by registering in foreign countries (tax havens) is robbing the country from valuable tax income.

    24. Freedom of Press and Speech no longer exists in our country, the media is totally biased either reporting in favor of large corporations or to either the Republican or Democratic party. As protests spread around the nation and around the world, people are getting arrested, are we becoming a police state with a zero tolerance policy and limited freedom of speech and press.

    25. Social Security Reform – funds are not widely invested so there is effectively no return on investment

    26. College Education costs, high prices of textbooks, high tuition costs and many other factors provides a bad foundation for new college graduates and sets them up for failure with all the high debt that they are forced to incur and it gives them a bad start in life.

    27. Financial and Bank Reform – our current financial woes have been caused by ignoring basic financial and accounting standards, it’s time for reform.

    28. Credit Card solicitations – the exorbitant cost of credit card solicitations is more than the GDP of some countries, millions of trees are cut down for paper that is used and the usage of credit cards that are freely granted cause untold stress and angst to the majority of the population when debt has to be repaid, this cause an endless cycle of continuous debt that people are burdened with, banks and financial houses do it purely for higher profits with thinking about the grief and burden it causes to ordinary people, this is one of the factors of modern day slavery.

    29. Government Reform – Infighting between the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington is impeding progress and productivity, this is a financial drain and waste of tax payer money, another mockery of the democratic form of government, it’s time for an overhaul of government and Congress, Washington is totally controlled by wealthy individuals, talented and experienced ordinary people cannot serve in Congress or the Senate, the entry ticket has a price and only the wealthy can afford it.

    30. Government Overspending – we have the best financial minds in colleges and the financial industry, yet we cannot balance our budgets or spend wisely, no wonder we have a deficit of a couple of trillion dollars, why do lawmakers, politicians and accountants not understand that it does not make financial sense for the government to borrow large sums of money from hostile governments and pay billions of dollars in interest to service this debt, if the US government was a regular business, it would be bankrupt many times over and would be out of business, how did we allow this to happen? (hint: the rich and wealthy working in cohorts with politicians ignoring basic financial principles).

    31. Core family and community values – the family and community is the core of any nation, these values and practices have been eroded and is the cause of a myriad of problems and stress in the nation.

    32. Unions – the power of unions has been diminishing as large corporations have side-tracked unions and have dictated working conditions and policies to their employees, the most visible effect of this is lower compensation to workers and higher packages for management and the CEO.

    33. Our Constitution – Our Founding Fathers who wrote the constitution had checks and balances written into the constitution that safeguarded the rights of individuals and communities and also to keep government and business from becoming too strong these underlying principles have been eroded by greedy businessmen and politicians. It’s time to take the county back and return it to the people.

    In closing, the Occupy Wall Street and affiliated movements calls for fundamental and systemic changes in how we live and work, from the government to political parties, from Wall Street to Main Street, from our fast foods to our fast lifestyles, we need to pause and take a break, evaluate the purpose of life, we need to slow-down and enjoy the journey, we need to live a moral and just lifestyle and make the country a better place for all of it’s people. not only the elitist one percent.

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