Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Occupy Pickled Bologna!

It's been almost a year since I last posted on Pickled Bologna. (To my one follower, I apologize!) I've spent most of the interim writing elsewhere about film, but in the last few months I've become deeply interested in the development of the Occupy movement, the most important social movement the first world has seen in decades. I've wanted to get involved, but as I don't use Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking sites or tools, I've decided to reactivate PB as an Occupy-friendly blog. Who knows--perhaps someone will actually read it now!

To clarify: I'm not a camper, I'm not a hippie, I'm not a pot-smoker, and I've never relied on government assistance in my life. I'm a white, middle-class, middle-aged guy with a job and a family. I've lived in Oakland, California for thirty years and support and endorse the 24-hour a day, 365 days a year occupation of our public space. We've allowed the definition of 'public space' to be so narrowed over the years that the very concept now barely exists (e.g., Zuccotti Park/Liberty Plaza/Brookfield). It's time to change that.

I was appalled when the Oakland Police Department cleared the Occupy Oakland camp from Ogawa-Grant Plaza on October 25th. Though Jean Quan was conveniently out of town that day--the day that her future in politics effectively came to an end-- City Administrator Deanna Santana was in the office, and Haig be praised, she was in charge. Once in the saddle, Santana (who'd once worked for OPD) eagerly ordered the police to take the gloves off.

We all know what happened next, but so far our esteemed City Administrator has managed to avoid most of the blame for the near murder of protester Scott Olsen and the brutalization of scores of others. Though Mayor Quan has proven herself an inept administrator in thrall to the Chamber of Commerce, it's my belief that Santana is the real power behind the throne, the true villain of the piece, and the driving force behind our ostensibly 'progressive' city's response to Occupy.

My politics, once shockingly mainstream, had been moving to the left ever since 9/11. The election of Obama and his subsequent failure to even pretend to be interested in issues of social and economic justice and civil liberties moved me further down the road. Santana's decision to attack peaceful protesters was the Eureka moment when it finally dawned on me that 'progressive/liberal' Democratic politicians have been feeding us a line for decades. Call me dim, but it's taken me this long to realize that all they're interested in is the perquisites and exercise of power. In fact, they're just like right-wing Republican ideologues, only less effective.

So here we are at the end of 2011. As I'm typing this, OPD is breaking up another Occupy Oakland encampment--this time on an enclosed piece of property so valueless that it's purported owners (Lafayette resident and Ross Dress for Less exec [1% represent!] Mehrdad Dokhanchy, Brian Collins, and Edward Hermmat) DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER TO PUT A LOCK ON THE GATE. And yet, once a group of activists and homeless people erected a few tents on the other side of that gate, this empty lot suddenly and magically acquired tremendous value--so much, in fact, that the foot soldiers of capitalism (er, OPD) were once again called upon to reclaim it for its slumlord masters, who presumably use it as a tax write-off.

I will have much, much more to say about the Occupy movement in the coming days. In the meantime, Occupy Everything!

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I am a semi-aquatic marine mammal who enjoys eating fish and krill, as well as taking long underwater swims