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An Occupy Founder Says the Next Revolution Will Be Rural


Society & Culture  (tags: activists, americans, culture, education, freedoms, government, media, politics, rights, safety, society )

Kit
- 83 days ago - grist.org
The demise of Occupy left everyone with one question: "Now what?" Almost three years later, White is helping the founders of Occupy, US Uncut, and others to launch The After Party, a new political party on "a mission to restore democracy" [....]



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Kit B. (277)
Thursday May 1, 2014, 2:51 pm
Photo: Micah White



In a boarded-up hotel along a windy country road, a couple dozen activists are gathered for a workshop. They are mostly women, and mostly over 40. The workshop is being held by Micah White, one of the instigators of Occupy Wall Street.

After the dust settled from Occupy, White packed up his bags in the Bay Area and moved here to Nehalem, a small town in one of the poorest counties in rural Oregon. Nehalem sits on the Pacific Coast, in the shadows of popular vacation destination Manzanita. But White isn’t here for a vacation, and he came to town with a mission.

The demise of Occupy left everyone with one question: “Now what?” Almost three years later, White is helping the founders of Occupy, US Uncut, and others to launch The After Party, a new political party on “a mission to restore democracy” and occupy the ballot box in time for the 2016 elections. How? By organizing statewide ballot initiatives, ousting corrupt officials, and encouraging everyday people to run for local and county offices.

Inspired by the success of Occupy Sandy organizing efforts, The After Party also seeks to turn communities into self-sufficient hotbeds of social action. White and the After Party team want to create what they call “mutual aid flash mobs,” citizen gatherings where people can do things like start a time bank, plant urban gardens, fix local roads, organize free healthcare clinics, and build tiny houses for the homeless. Nehalem, population 267, will be a test lab.

White calls Occupy a “constructive failure.” Urban street protests, he says, only have a life cycle of about a month before their time is up. The encampments, the People’s Library, and the spirit of the general assemblies are all fun and games until everybody gets kicked out of the park. “It was magical thinking,” he says. For White, Occupy Wall Street challenged the core assumptions that activists have about how to achieve social change. “We believed that people’s assemblies were enough to gain political sovereignty. This turned out to not be true. To gain political sovereignty we must win elections.”


White chose tiny Nehalem as his home base because, he says, social change movements like Occupy are too focused on urban environments: “I mean the urban areas, they coddle you and you become this large, comfortable child-egg baby. One of the things that’s nice about living here is that it’s terrifying to move here. People hunt; they have guns. They have floods here where you cannot leave for five days in a row. This place is all about resilience and sustainability.”

Rural towns are where it’s at for White, “a clean slate” for building real social change in places still reeling from the economic and environmental impacts of exactly what people were protesting during Occupy. Among his plans for Nehalem, White wants to start a food bank for veterans, convert vacant properties into housing for the elderly, and start a loyalty card program that keeps local prices low for residents and high for tourists.

And then there’s the boutique activism firm White’s started. The idea is to train activists and galvanize support for causes similar to online social and political movements like Avaaz.org and Purpose.com. But the difference is, his new venture is unabashedly for-profit. “Occupy Wall Street generated tremendous money,” says White. “This whole idea that activists should do it for free and all that bullshit is over. Like somehow I’m supposed to be a full-time activist and have zero income from it? It’s ridiculous.”

Ideally, though, he thinks everyday people can come up with their own solutions for big problems like climate change and access to local, healthy foods, not so-called experts. In Nehalem’s case, the locals already have a head start: The town is home to an innovative recycling and reuse center called CARTM, an off-grid farm, and a thriving farmers market, plus a land trust for young farmers is in the works.

The region is also rich with resources like timber, which is being trucked out every day by logging companies. Part of White’s plan is to take back these resources and give them to the people. “The people here are land rich and money poor,” says White. “We’re actually sitting on value and money and natural resources. We’re the rich ones.”
***

By: Amber Cortes | Grist Mill |

Amber Cortes is a Grist fellow, radio producer, and a digital media grad student at the University of Washington .
 

Freya H. (298)
Thursday May 1, 2014, 4:47 pm
"Occupy" is not dead - it is just quiescent at the moment, regathering its resources for a new campaign. Look at WolfPAC and Wave of Action, and you will see what I mean. Occupy was just the barest of beginnings.
 

Deb E. (63)
Friday May 2, 2014, 11:51 am
The idea to "Occupy" public spaces is dead. Just doing that didn't work, and it didn't work because we'd need millions of people to do it before it would work. When we see that peaceful protestors are attacked with pepper spray and hit with police batons and shot with rubber bullets while actual criminals, people who are breaking the law and owe millions of dollars to the United States government, who lie about owning public lands, amassing small arsenals and the people to use those arsenals, using our public lands for their own personal gains, remain at large and untouched, we know that peaceful protest isn't going to change anything.

If this guy manages to get a whole bunch of people to vote for his new political party candidates, most of which would have, previously, voted Democratic, then we will watch as the Republican Party puts the final nails in the coffin of a country which was formed with a Democracy of, by, and for the people. The protection of the common good will be dead. He has a beautiful idea. If he can gather millions to follow him, it could work. I believe, though, that our society is full of people who are not willing to let go of their toys in order to make this a better world. All of the gadgets out there today, the fun and games that people are so addicted to, will not be given up easily. And, it may very well be, that is the entire reason those gadgets of fun and games were invented.
 

Angelika R. (146)
Friday May 2, 2014, 11:53 am
Freya already said what I was also going to comment, was stumbling over the "demise" of occupy.-?
But this guy got lots of courage and apparently serious enthusiasm, I wonder if we'll be hearing more from him and his idea, doesn't seem too bad. All beginnings have been and are difficult, let's see if this can get a foothold, it does make some sense what he says. I wish him luck and some success so that he'll carry on! Thx Kit.
 

Yvonne White (231)
Friday May 2, 2014, 2:57 pm
"Rural towns are where it’s at for White"... that's why I'm here! ;)
 

Kit B. (277)
Friday May 2, 2014, 3:54 pm

Funny Yvonne, very funny. Occupy may be dead in the sense of how people once thought about it, but for many the idea is still very much alive and needed more than ever.
 

Robert B. (57)
Friday May 2, 2014, 5:17 pm
Social awareness, pushed along by the Occupy movement and other groups, is gathering momentum and I think worldwide people are getting fed up with the world's bullies. This awareness movement is heading towards a critical mass. It will be at that point that the tyrants will be sent packing for good. The rich and power hungry will have a choice, either be a part of the solution or get the hell out of the way.
 

A F. (130)
Friday May 2, 2014, 5:23 pm
Thank you, get angry, folks! The time for change is now!
 

Ros G. (88)
Friday May 2, 2014, 5:59 pm
Thanks for the article and update Kit.........great comments
 

Brian M. (145)
Friday May 2, 2014, 6:09 pm
Gil Scott Heron said, "The revolution will not be televised...." In the event of a revolutionary uprising, not only will their be no media coverage of the brutal crackdown on dissent that follows, don't be surprised if the internet mysteriously ceases to function. All around the nation, "law enforcement" is getting increasingly militarized. The rights of due process, legal representation, and privacy are being revised and thus limited. And, if the government, as our Attorney General believes, has the right to kill Americans overseas just on the basis of suspicion, can we really be certain that we are all that safe in the US? A rural revolution is unlikely to succeed because it can be brutally suppressed without any media witnesses.
 

lee e. (114)
Friday May 2, 2014, 9:02 pm
We definitely do need a revolution, with the gap between rich and poor, and the climate change that is threatening our food and water all over the globe - the change we need doesn't belong to just this country any longer. The rich seem to be taking advantage of all - not just in this country, but their wealth is justifying their abuse of the entire world.
I fled "rural" to get to "urban" to be amongst those who accept the idiosyncratic of society, and never regretted my move, despite the fact that within this city we have the most heinous of elite Wall St. criminals and "ad street" cons, it is one place I've always felt "accepted" -I wish this guy well, although I'm not convinced that the rural will make a difference, especially knowing the "mind-set" of rural America!
 

pam w. (191)
Saturday May 3, 2014, 9:46 am
To gain political sovereignty we must win elections.”

+++++++++++++ Uh...yes! Now...how to accomplish that?
 

Lois Jordan (55)
Saturday May 3, 2014, 5:58 pm
Noted. Thanks, Kit. I'm still receiving weekly mailings from Occupy.com. And, I'm getting mailings from many of the grassroot offshoots that have sprung up from Occupy....so they are still around and very busy. I do wish this "new rural focus" well; we certainly need it to work.
 

Susan Allen (221)
Saturday May 3, 2014, 6:15 pm
I read this article with enthusiasm. I think rural America is right where a change needs to be made. I do agree it will be an uphill battle, but success could very well mean the difference between success or failure for the 99%; or should it ever come to revolution, without both rural America and urban America uniting together for the same common causes, there can be no win.

As Brian pointed out, we have no news media in this country. Rural America has no easy way to find out the truth of what's going on; but continually being fed lies, as if they were truths, is very easy. I mean, all they have to do is turn on the television or listen to talk radio.

I like that this movement is starting in a very small rural town, one of the poorest in the poorest county in the state, with a tiny population of 267. The movement must start that small. Mistakes will be made and lessons will be learned; there's no way around it. It is a good way to kickstart the movement. Rural people trust each other and many times it doesn't matter if they know one another or not. They just trust because they have similar backgrounds and similar wants and needs. It will take rural people joining the movement in order to spread the movement throughout rural America.

If a very small community like this can be shown how to take advantage of what they have rather than being taken advantage of by the 1%, then that is a big step in the direction of empowering the people. Because no one is going in occupying anything, there should be no confrontations or need for police. In fact, the more this movement can operate under the radar, the better. The last thing that is needed is for the "news pundits" from either side getting all involved; or think tanks from either side, ripping the movement apart.

Reading the article, I tended to think this is more of a way to introduce socialism to rural America with actions rather than words. After all, socialism is such a dirty word and most people don't truly understand the word at all. What they will know is that they have good food now, they are getting a fair price for goods, they are more in control of their lives, working together, rather than being controlled and being alone. If this works in Nehalem, then the next town(s) will be a bit larger and maybe more than one because that's the way a movement works. The movement must be grown from the ground up.

The 2016 election goal may not be realistic, but the leaders of this movement must think it is. No matter, goals must be set and adjusted as necessary. At least someone is doing something. And personally, I think working slowly and from the ground up in small town America is a must if it is to flourish and grow.

I don't think that Occupy is dead, because in order to effectively make a real change in America, we need both the urban and rural movements to unite in order to "bring it home" and make it all work. Occupy proved there is an urban impetus to change, but that's it. Rural America had no part in Occupy, nor did they really even understand it or understand what it could mean for them. We must figure out a way to unite the 99% because right now, the wealthy corptocracy, with the help of government and the media, have Americans at each others throats, very distrusting of one another and as far from working together as they can be. United, we win; divided, we fail.
 

Dandelion G. (381)
Saturday May 3, 2014, 7:31 pm
Wow, I started with the article, went to the live links within it, found myself all over the place. Forgot where I had started, then did life off of the internet and now am back again. My whole morning was from this story and extra links. lol

Fascinating journey, can't cover it all here, but thanks for the Walk Kit. In my mind Occupy will always be a good note in the history books. Up until then all I heard was We The People need to sacrifice more, after our wages were stagnated for years, pensions depleted, contracts broken, homes stolen, we were told we still need to sacrifice.......more. Believing that we all somehow did something wrong, it was our fault in having the pay check that allowed us to pay the bills, so maybe we should give up the night at the movies, or little Mary is just going to have to give up those dance lessons, Billy can't have the fishing pole this year. Cut back, we all need to sacrifice more. Seniors give up those social security checks so on and so forth.....sacrifice.

Even Ed was talking initially about sacrifice, the people standing out side, wanting to keep their collective bargaining rights but they were still ready to "sacrifice" more if they had to, but they want some say in how this was to be done. After Occupy the message began to turn, and the people realized by golly they had been sacrificing already but some were not sacrificing at all, in fact all their sacrifices went so that a few could all have more, and would keep taking more and never be satisfied with more.

As Dr. Cornel West states the first is social motion, which leads to social momentum, which will generate social Movements. I believe that Occupy was the a social motion, it was the beginning to start to move in a new direction we need to go, it was to reframe the conversation and start placing out the message which is now growing and more people are understanding all the time, the system is rigged and it's rigged against us, no amount of our sacrifice was to be enough, there needs to be a fundamental overhaul. So Occupy was not a failure it was a beginning.......

If anyone hasn't watched the video of the interview with Dr. Cornel West, most enlightening, it is at the link below. Thanks Kit for the article, sorry it took me so long to get back.....but as I said, I enjoyed the journey.
Dr Cornell West
 

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil (467)
Saturday May 3, 2014, 10:59 pm
Occupy is Dead; Occupy can NEVER die. Both those statements are true.
Occupy has morphed into MANY forms. What it has started, will NEVER die.
The form Occupy took, of "taking over" territory, was doomed of course. It was Street Theater, nothing more. Defending Property with Force, is a "Prime Directive" in our Society.
Besides that, consisting of untried inexperienced Young People largely, Occupy was EASILY INFILTRATED by Police Agents Provocateurs - not so much Spies and Informers - there wasn't anything much to hide - but, as stirrers-up-of-trouble, especially the Violent kind, which would make Occupy LOOK BAD to the public. These Agents Provocateurs were also EXPERTS in the Psychology of GETTING PEOPLE TO FIGHT AMONG THEMSELVES, which also helped break up Occupy, as much as the Police batons and pepper-spray did.

It sounds like the kind of thing going on in, and planned for Nehalem, is IMMUNE from this sort of very classic takeover of radical movements - a real grassroots thing, where people KNOW EACH OTHER face-to-face...
The Police wouldn't know how to "infiltrate" every small rural community, and start acting like jackasses, they'd be thrown out IMMEDIATELY, known for what they were...
 

Craig Pittman (45)
Monday May 5, 2014, 3:26 am
There is so much positive energy ready to be directed toward changing the way things are. Occupy was a beginning and continues but in a subtle way. Change will occur through people both rural and urban and has in fact already begun.
Thank you Kit.
 
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