Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Yourself

Regular readers already know that I think the Occupy Wall Street protest holds the potential to speak productively about the outrages perpetrated against the people by the plutocrats who have been running this country into the ground for thirty years or more, and who recently have come perilously close to putting it into an economic death spiral.  Whether the protest realizes this potential will depend entirely on its staying power and seriousness of purpose.  Lord knows there is an appropriately huge and deepening reservoir of dissatisfaction and disillusion with the status quo abroad in the land sufficient to batter down any and all barriers to reform.  But social change of any significant magnitude requires direction, discipline, and commitment to practical policy goals; in short, leadership and coherence.  And, oh yeah, not taking no for an answer.

I have expressed similar sentiments in other posts, and even suggested that a practical target for the New Orleans manifestation of the protest might be the Avondale shipyard, which is under threat of closure.
Recently, however, there have been some optimistic developments regarding the possibility of keeping the shipyard in operation.  Of course, should the Avondale situation be resolved favorably , other local issues could provide just as sensible and practical a venue for undertaking the type of direct action embodied by the Occupy movement.

And there is yet another sense in which I think we productively can take up this Occupy notion.   It is simply the idea of more openly inhabiting our own identity.  That is to say, occupying ourselves.  Saturday was a pretty good example of what I mean.  In the morning, twenty-four labor union members and activists hit the streets with our candidate for the Louisiana House of Representatives in district 103, Chad Lauga.  We have been campaigning door-to-door with Chad across the district for weeks.  Chad tells me that we have managed to cover the entire area of the district three times.  No small feat, as this is the largest, most spread out district in the state.   And it has paid off, Chad has a pretty good lead in the race, and may even be able to pull off an unlikely first primary victory without the need for a runoff, despite the fact that there are three other candidates.  This just shows what we can do by acting on our common commitment as union members.

In the afternoon, we all attended the New Orleans AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic. It had been postponed several weeks due to the tropical storm which came through here early last month.  Despite the dislocation of the picnic in terms of the calendar, there was a very good turnout of union families.  And as usual, the event was also heavily attended by local area elected officials and candidates for election.  Every year, the picnic gives us an opportunity to invite labor friendly office holders and office seekers to join us, and meet face to face with a large number of union members and their families, so as to get a genuine sense of the broad range and reach of the our movement throughout the community.  It is the best chance we get during the year to make a human impression on our representatives in office.  And it really makes a difference.  We are transformed from some faceless organizational label into real people they can see and hear and understand will be out voting on election day, as certainly as they come out for the Labor Day picnic.

Moreover, there are countless times and countless ways in our daily lives when we all can promote and advance our common goals and concerns simply by more openly expressing our own identity as a union member or supporter to neighbors, acquaintances, and the people with whom we do business.  It might be the most productive way in which you can occupy yourself.

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