My thoughts on OCW
MIC CHECK, MIC CHECK!! Turn on the people’s microphone….
Statement presented by Matt Jenson, assistant professor of Piano at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, at the Berklee Occupies meeting on 11/10/11. Iteration 1
The first thing I’d like to say about the Occupy Wall Street movement is that ultimately it’s about CARING! It is about trying to straighten out the intense contradictions we are forced to live with in a system that can only envision solutions through the profit motive and economic growth resulting in an insulting and alienating role for individuals which is to be nothing more than consumers. (Aaaaaaah!!!!) More specifically it is about the corrupting power of money and the massive disparity in the distribution of wealth and power.
The movement is unprecedented because it is actually, finally, bringing into focus the root of the problem and, like a lumber jack, is beginning to simultaneously cut it down while trying to figure out the right seed to plant in its place.
In each and every one of us there exists two sides; one that is loving, fair and capable of being enlightened, and the other (which I believe occupies a very small fraction of the overall human make up) which is fearful, domineering and greedy. The capitalist system, especially as it is in practice now (if not as it has been practiced since it started), is the personification and mainlining of the fearful, domineering and greedy side in us and it is kind of like the playground bully who wields way way too much power over the functioning and health of the “playground”……and certainly does not represent the majority sentiment of the other kids. This bully must be removed from the playground, put into therapy, (if not a detox program!), given the love that he never received as a kid, and taught compassion while the rest of us work on creating a much more healthy “playground”.
One BIG problem is that the bully ain’t gonna let go of his power very easily. Prepare for a struggle.
The current system that we live with, or rather under the heel of, has been telling us deep lies and I’d summarize them thusly:
1) The path to human happiness and freedom, and indeed the very definition of your own worth, is through the
accumulation of material wealth.
2) The only way to achieve this is for a few people at the top to give us all jobs, and the wealth and freedom will
trickle down to everyone.
3) Everyone has the equal opportunity to get rich.
Consider these truths:
1) Once a certain amount of security is achieved (a roof over our heads, food, healthcare, some extra money),
more money and more things do not make us any happier.
2) The rich rarely share their wealth, and certainly don’t share a penny when the economic times are down.
3) Only a very few have the real opportunity to get rich. (But who cares, because being rich doesn’t make you happy anyway! And I
don’t understand why people would want to partake in the creation of wealth, when MOST of it gets funneled to the top!)
We must completely re-define what it is to be ‘‘ RICH.’
4) Debt (for the common person / student) equals the near elimination of freedom.
SPEAKING OF FREEDOM: I sincerely appreciate that I live in a country where I can express my views and, at least for now, for the most part, not be thrown in jail and that I can gather with others to discuss these views and take action. (Let’s hope that as this movement grows that Obama sees his responsibility to defend the Constitution and call out the National Guard to pull the pepper spraying, tear gas throwing local police forces off the Occupy protesters!)
However, do not let yourself be duped by the infuriatingly false logic ending up in the belief that too much government will severely impinge on your FREEDOM. The ‘freedom’ claimed by those in power today is the freedom to squeeze everything they can from the people and the environment, corrupting the political process, privatizing what should be shared by all, and destroying the planet. THIS IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT from the personal freedom of individuals to buy what they need and want with a reasonable level of disposable income, and within ecological limits established on the basis of HONEST research and public discussion. The status quo of today thrives on the basis of confusing these two planes of economic activity. People are thereby TRICKED into committing the most outrageous practices culminating in our current financial madness….all in the name of “not having government telling us what to do.” (Thanks to Victor Wallis for this concise clearing up of such a critical manipulation of understanding!)
Recently, through all of my reading, watching, thinking and discussing this phrase came to mind, “The end of economic growth does not mean the end of human prosperity.” …and I put it on a T-Shirt.
The economic downturn that has launched the Occupy movements will not be solved by trying to get economic growth happening again (or increasing it), as most EVERYONE is trying to do. We are reaching the end game of the contradiction of Capitalism because we are reaching the limits of our Mother Earth. To put it plainly, the mantra of continued expansion is not possible on a finite planet. This means that at some point, and probably in the near future, economic growth will come to a halt.
How’s that for a FREAK OUT statement?!?!
THIS IS NOT CAUSE FOR FEAR, BUT GIVES REAL HOPE and true optimism because, quite contrary to what the ruling powers of today want you to think, there is PLENTY to go around; plenty of food, money, water, space, LOVE and sustainable energy.
That’s the kicker: SUSTAINABILITY. Real sustainability and endless expansion can’t function simultaneously, so we are going to be forced to change the reasoning behind everything that we do and create an entirely new system from the ground up. At the core of this new system will be a locked down commitment to sustainability and a ‘steady state’, NO-GROWTH economy.
Can you imagine that? Most people can’t, but we better get going on this massive change of mind set, fast!!
MY RIDICULOUSLY UTOPIAN OUTLOOK FOR THE FUTURE…that some version of which will have to become a reality!
IMAGINE: Now that we’ve done away with the profit and expansion motive, learned how to compassionately sideline the greedy, fearful playground bully in us, we all have a couple of solar panels the size of a brick or two embedded into our roofs that provide for ALL of our energy needs (including that for your car…or personal space ship!), and our commitment to cooperatively providing for everyone’s basic needs are met…..perhaps a week in our lives will look like this:
- We only work 3 days a week because we’re no longer trying to produce
and consume meaningless STUFF and the meaningful stuff we do make
lasts for many decades.
- Kids and young adults go to school full time, for free of course, because
society has prioritized the essential need for good education.
- From 10am-12p, with a nice lunch break, and then from 1p-4p on Thursdays and Fridays we all partake in true,
LIVING DEMOCRACY(…thanks to Francis-Moore Lappe for this term!), where we ALL partake in local community
sessions where group decisions are made about the running of your community and how it links up with society in
general. This just becomes an accepted part of life, as slow and messy a process it is. We’ll get better at it.
(This is what’s starting with the General Assemblies and Spokes Councils of the Occupy movement!)
- The rest of your time is spent further enhancing the things in life that make you (and humanity) truly happy:
- Spending quality time with friends and family.
- Taking care of yourself physically with exercise.
- Taking care of yourself spiritually with meditation, however you define it.
(…could be nothing more than a weekly dedicated afternoon where all computers, cellphones etc. are turned off!)
- Pursuing creative endeavors: music, art, poetry, or whatever floats your boat!
I believe that the destiny of the human race is to become a society of artists. I hope we can get there.
OK, BACK TO REALITY
The big criticism of the Occupy movement is that we have no specific demands. Well, here’s what mine are:
1. To eliminate money from having any influence over any decisions made about the functioning of society. (Start by
getting money out of politics so we can have REAL leaders, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mandela etc.)
2. The idea that corporations have the same rights as human beings must be completely eliminated. Corporations must
only exist to help mankind and the environment as a whole. (….and NOT through the ‘trickle down’ theory, which works to such a tiny degree that it is a complete joke when considering the needs of the entire population. Don’t be duped by this stupid theory either!) In addition, no longer can corporations produce waste in vast quantities while dumping (literally!) the costs on nature and society.
3. To hold accountable through fair trial, those individuals who crashed our economy (and will continue to do so) if
not brought to justice. (We can’t wait till the next time this happens to do this!)
4. To overturn all laws which legalized the abusive and destructive actions of the financial and business sectors.
5. To get rid of all complex financial instruments.
6. To break up all the big corporate banks and pass strict laws which make it illegal for them to gamble with your
money. Any bank or business that’s too big (and irresponsible) MUST fail!
7. To make it illegal for any CEO to make more than say 50% above his/her lowest paid employee and to get rid of
AS FOR MUSIC and THE MOVEMENT
Howard Zinn, in his short book, Artists in Times of War tells us what’s up for us artists and musicians:
“When I think of the relationship between artists and society – and for me that question is always what it could be, rather than what it is – I think of the word transcendent. It’s the only word I can come up with to describe what I think about the role of artists. By transcendent, I mean that the artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war.
The artist thinks, acts, performs music and writes outside the framework that society has created. The artist tells us what the world should be like, even if it isn’t that way now.
The role of the artist is to transcend conventional wisdom, to transcend the word of the establishment, to transcend the orthodoxy, to go beyond and escape what is handed down by the government or what is said in the media.”
And consider this from the martyred Swedish-American working-class song writer (c. 1910), Joe Hill: “A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once. But a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over.”
So, with all of this in mind, first, go get yourself educated about the truth of what’s going and discuss it with your friends endlessly. As Bob Marley sings: “Know who you are and where you stand in the struggle.”
Here’s my list of recent books/movies/radio shows that have had profound effects on my headucation:
- Pretty much anything by Howard Zinn
- Listen to Democracy Now radio (democracynow.org)
- The Nation magazine, the Huffington post, Yes magazine, Ad Busters magazine
- “The Great Disruption” by Paul Gilding (Although squarely a “green Capitalist” outlook, it is a good starting point.)
- “What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism” by John Bellamy Foster & Fred Magdoff
(Summary is here: www.mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/foster291011.html)
- “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein
- Listen to Cornel West
- Learn about Gandhi’s life. Learn about Martin Luther King’s life.
- Michael Moore’s movie, “Capitalism, A Love Story”
- “Playbook for Progressives: 16 Qualities of the Successful Organizer” by Eric Mann
- “Getting a Grip 2” and “EcoMind” by Francis Moore-Lappe
And, as infuriating as it may be, it’s VERY VERY important that you take in some of theory and rhetoric from the RIGHT. There’s no better way to engage someone you don’t agree with than to get in their shoes. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
- “Capitalism and Freedom” By Milton Friedman
- Listen to 96.9FM “Boston Talks” radio show! (I dare you to leave it on for an entire hour!)
And of course there’s FOX TV, Rush Limbaugh….. (I double dare you to watch/listen for an hour!!)
- Look up “The New American Century” and read that website.
- The National Review
Second, go and write some ass-kickingly great music and deeply poetic raps and lyrics that cut straight to the core. Make sure it’s accessible to the masses but isn’t simplistic and shallow. It can be done! Develop it, make sure it’s REEEEALLY good, record and perform it but NOT BEFORE IT’s READY, dig it? Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by releasing material that’s subpar. Just remember that even though it may seem like you’re not reaching people, you never know who you may wake up and/or profoundly change with your contribution.
Remember change has ALWAYS come from the bottom up, and your music, my music, our music is like the ax swing of the lumber jack that will help to build the poetic expression of the movement. And as each great song will help to chop down the diseased tree of the destructive system we live with now, we must all make sure to inject our music with a SEED for a positive, loving future!!