I do not support an economic system rigged to benefit those at the top and keep down those at the bottom. The lowly collusion of politicians with banks, insurance companies, energy producers, weapon makers, and unions just to ensure funding and reelection is disgusting. So for the time being, as the Occupy movement sharpens its message, I support its national fight against this corrupt system.
Yet, I am blessed with a job, which in turn damns me from taking time during the day to camp and protest. So I started thinking about what else I could do to stand with the local 99% as they continue fighting to make this country a nation of equals.
Obvious. Had to get it out of the way. Cannot be overstated. San Francisco's department of elections has a helpful website
about registration and polling places, and with mail-in ballots, there really is no good reason not to vote.
One of the biggest knocks on Occupy is the movement’s lack of a definable message. Being "against corporate greed" is a fine stance, but it doesn't necessarily advance the discussion. Knowing the nuances of policy and wonky topics like Sarbanes-Oxley, the estate tax, and even farm subsidies, to name a few, and having ideas on how to change them, will move the dialogue forward. Attend discussions at The Commonwealth Club or SFDebate. Go to meetings of both San Francisco's Democratic and Republican parties, and everything in between. Know your socioeconomic statistics. Build your own perspective.
Donate Old Electronics with Recording Devices
The brutal actions of cops, imposter groups, and even Occupy participants would have been a game of media hearsay were it not for the myriad devices trained on the action. There cannot be
on hand to avoid the "he said, she said" that erupts in the wake of violence. Very little ambiguity followed the events at UC Davis and the officer who applied pepper spray to protesters. He was suspended within 48 hours of his sociopathic behavior, mostly thanks to quick video work. Help out. Empty that old electronics drawer of the "backup" cameras or phones that you know you'll never use and give them to an Occupy camp.
Do Something Awesome
Offering Occupy campers a bag of sandwiches from Ike's, or simply saying thanks as you walk by, goes a long way. But this is San Francisco. Harness your inner Burning Man and do something really awesome. Show up with a crew and sing songs. Pick up replacement markers, paints, and poster board at Flax. Put on a puppet show. Get T-shirts from Anthem printing that say snarky things like, "You can beat me, but you won't beat us."
Examine the Merits of Financial Boycotts
Some boycotts are simply ineffectual, like "Don't Buy Gas!" days or "Don't Shop on Black Friday!" If you fill up your car the next day or go shopping on Saturday, nothing has happened except a little blip on a big company's sales figures. I say go all in. Swap the SUV for an energy- efficient vehicle or commit to a slightly longer commute via public transportation. Chat with your family and decide you're all going to buy gifts from stores and distributors you've deemed ethical. Completely withholding your money is detrimental to the country's economic engine and causes further job losses. If you can afford it, the art is not withholding spending – just spending wisely.
Be Smart about Bank Boycotts
The Occupy movement has inspired people to move their money out of banks and into credit unions like
or, presumably, their mattresses. The heart of the exodus is well guided: democratize finance with your actions. But are all
banks the problem? A credit union is one answer, but you could also look at a local bank, like
. From a smaller outfit, you may not get instant customer service and ubiquitous ATMs when you travel, but that trade-off might be worth it for the social stance you've taken. And, often lost in the discussion is the fact that banks provide loans for people to buy homes.
Spread the Word, Proudly
For a lot of folks on the sidelines, there is a fear that supporting Occupy or the 99% is akin to saying, "I don't like bathing and believe we should live in an agrarian commune – stoned." Don't get caught up in that right-wing portrayal. Yes, folks with these beliefs are involved, but there is also a pulsing soul of humanity that sees a country with a broken socioeconomic system and wants to change it. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. You don't have to sleep in a public park to hold – and spread – a belief.