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What’s next

In honor of the Year of the Protestor (as proclaimed by Time Magazine), the Journal of Ordinary Thought has reposted three poems from its summer issue on Art as Activism.  I like “What’s Next” by Lester Hemingway  (I like them all, but as you’d expect from a Hemingway, this one is pithy):



you’re angry.  me too

attention! the fruit is rotting

let’s save what we can


One of the best overviews of Occupy Wall Street is “The New Populists” in this month’s American Prospect.  Participant-observer Christopher Ketcham illuminates the fascinating dynamics of the movement with a depth and detail missing from most accounts, from the earliest discussions, to the intricate network of solidarity built on hard work and endless discussion, to the “blitzkrieg” – and markedly violent – police eviction on November 15, followed by a massive protest.

He notes the parallel with the populist movement of the 1890s – even citing a populist song on “the ninety and nine” who live in hunger and cold “that the one may live in luxury” – and America’s history of occupiers: Rosa Parks, lunch counter sit-ins, Martin Luther King’s Resurrection City, sit-down strikes in Flint, Coxey’s Army and the Bonus Marchers.  “The idea of occupation has outlasted Zucotti Park,” he writes.

Homes, schools, clinics 

We’ve covered the local movement to “occupy foreclosures”  — its roots in Boston and Florida go back years, and its opportunities are expanding everyday.  Another arena for occupiers is the fight to defend public schools.

At a recent teach-in by CTU and community allies, several angry parents spoke about the need to “occupy our schools.”  The Nation reports on occupy tactics being deployed to oppose the encroachment of charter schools in New York City and New Jersey as well as CPS chief Jean-Claud Brizard’s previous domain of Rochester — and his new one of Chicago.

The fight over school policy presents all the issues of the Occupy movement – the post-hoc, pro-forma charade of public input by CPS , presided over by a rubber-stamp Board of Education, makes a mockery of democracy.  Politically connected groups like UNO and AUSL have the inside track.  The wealthy elite – Penny Pritzker and the “billionaire boys club” — has overwhelming influence, even as corporate interests undermine school funding by evading taxes and sucking up TIF subsidies.

(Here’s an insight:  citizens pay taxes that keep government running; corporations prefer to pay politicians directly so they can decide how it’s going to be run.)

The Mental Health Movement hasn’t backed off its demand to keep clinics open.  Joined by Occupy Rogers Park, they mike-checked Alderman Joe Moore last month (Rogers Park’s clinic is one of six slated for closing), and they confronted Health Commissioner Bechara Couchair in Bronzeville.  They’re not going to give up.

If there were anyone in the City Council with a backbone, they’d move to restore the paltry $3 million being saved by the closings.  They might take another look at the $15 million TIF subsidy CME has yet to claim, particularly in light of the massive state tax break they just grabbed.  The city’s share would cover a year of operation for those clinics.

Kelly on NATO

Then there’s the NATO/G8 summit in May.  Writing from Occupied Afghanistan, Chicagoan Kathy Kelly marks the human costs of NATO policies there – including six children recently killed in Kandahar when a NATO plane “mistook them for insurgents.”

One activist with Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers tells her, “International forces have made people feel less secure….People here are suffering because of destruction caused by outsiders.”

Meanwhile, she notes, NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen has opined that Chicago “shares values that underpin NATO.”

Kelly counters: “Activists on the ground, envisioning a different kind of Chicago, and bracing themselves for the crushing, militarized police response that in recent years has consistently met protesters at these events, can only hope that this is not the case.”

“I’m looking forward to people from Occupy Everywhere coming to Chicago,” she writes.

“Many friends in Chicago are getting ready to meet the concerted state apparatus, so determined to run smoothly in its blind mechanical course, with simple human power. It’s going to involve tremendous work, but this is what life means everywhere now.

“The City of Big Shoulders earned its name before the period of modern U.S. empire, the decades of artificial prosperity secured from above and fueled from abroad, which this upcoming summit will attempt to manage in its decline.

“I think that underneath the hype, underneath the intoxicating flow of wealth seized from abroad, the plastic, mechanized, isolated comforts of the boom, Chicago well understands the real meaning of strength and determination.

“We’ll need to remember a force more powerful than violence in the time that’s coming, a strength that doesn’t turn us against our neighbors and isn’t handed down by the powerful, a courage that I see in the faces of the youth here in Kabul, confidently advertising it as its own reward.”

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Category: CPS, health, peace, school closings

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