[by David Van Thournout]
It was a rainy afternoon for the first Occupy Iowa regional General Assembly. Around 100 occupiers gathered from various places across Iowa primarily to attend the action planned by Occupy Cedar Rapids protesting Air Cover Integrated Solutions possibly moving into the Cherry Building in Cedar Rapids, IA. The buildings owner welcomed us and our debate initially but seemed concerned with our presence. The confusing thing for everyone seemed to be that we just didn’t think that a building, currently the home to many small artist and craft shops, would be a good place to kick off the militarization of our domestic skies here in Iowa.
While we were speaking with the buildings owner, he mentioned that people couldn’t get through so we parted for the patrons which were coming and going as one might expect, it being an open house after all. We conversed for about 20 minutes with the owner and asked him to please not allow the drone facility to become part of his building.
After the mic check on Air Cover and our brief debate the police announced that we needed to move to the north side of the street which we did. While we were there for the next 35 minutes or so we saw the bus come by and drop some patrons off, some of the people riding the bus gave us the thumbs up.
You might argue with us about OWS methods, the confusion of protesting a building full of artists, or the edginess of the direct action in a normally fairly quiet Iowa town. But what you can’t ague with is that people are now talking about this in Cedar Rapids. In that, I would say the action was wildly successful.
Afterward I spoke with a young couple, occupiers that had come from Cedar Valley. Since they’d travelled far and also love small local businesses and are dedicated to shopping with small mom and pop shops at home, they naturally went over to the Cherry Building once things had settled down. Unfortunately they were not well received and ended up leaving because of the rudeness of one of the shop owners.
Another local business supporter who posted on Facebook said that they had in fact purchased something from the very shop owner who was telling us that we were hurting her business. and that she really liked the item, a hand painted and reclaimed piece of furniture.
My take on it is this:
It might be that the owner of the Cherry Building sees more money in the militarization of our domestic skies than in arts and crafts. I get that. Really. But I just wonder how long before the art shops fail in this jobless recovery and the spaces are taken over one by one by the drone factory until the Cherry Building becomes entirely a facility beholden to the military industrial complex?
Certainly there are benign uses for this technology and for that it could be argued that it should be made available. But before we unleash this potentially total violation of privacy upon ourselves, shouldn’t we at least be asking these harder questions instead of talking only about what good they could do?
I believe that it is a lie that these drones represent good jobs. We should discuss how many emergency responder jobs will be displaced and the centralization of police power this represents and what that might look like going forward. Many of us suspect that it will actually reduce the number of emergency responder jobs (a common effect of centralization) and even reduce a community’s ability to properly scale up to respond to natural disasters and other catastrophic events such as a nuclear facility losing electricity. Drones aren’t going to do the real work. These drones are likely to have a high potential for abuse.
Or maybe we could talk about how hackable these eventually armed domestic spy drones will likely be? Or maybe we could talk about the broader implication of this military technology in the hands of police and whether or not the fear based political model is really what we want in our skies (or anyone else’s for that matter)?
Bottom line? Democracy is a messy process. But we should be happy that it is happening at all rather than wondering what was accomplished. What other way forward is there other than together? On our own? That is a the propaganda of the oligarchs.
Occupy Wall Street uses a decentralized methodology that is similar in pattern to open source development on the Internet and in software. We are as a group able to gain the benefit of the wisdom of people like Frank Cordaro, a Catholic Worker, who is certainly a leader but even he knows he’s just one among many as this is more accurately described as leaderful movement rather than leaderless. This is by far the smartest movement in that regards in human history. It’s radical in the sense that it really is of the roots. We are leaderless because anyone who has ever gotten in high office and was really serious about making lasting and positive change in our world on behalf of most of humanity has been killed. But you can’t arrest an idea as occupiers like to say.
While we were talking after the action, a single police officer stopped by to thank Occupiers for a very civil action on our part.
The perception in the mainstream media that Occupy doesn’t know what it wants or that we’re nothing more than the radical left reconstituted are all narratives of the 1% and of an entrenched neo-liberal approach to “change”. Unfortunately it is obvious to all of us within the Occupy movement that the system (whether it be from the “liberal” or “conservative” perspective) is broken so badly that we can’t continue pretending that acting within its constraints will get anything truly meaningful done. However, how this anti corporatism that resides at the core of the Occupy philosophy gets turned into action is to directly support small businesses rather than spending money at a corporate franchise which extracts wealth from our communities and returns the usual low paying jobs and substandard products.
70% of occupiers are employed. Many of us went over to the Cherry Building and patronized the artists after the action. Some of us even bought some things.
Crossposted at qcmississippimud.com/
Also see Paul Deaton’s Dec. 3rd post Occupy Iowa Statewide General Assembly