The Occupy Oakland Journal I Should Have Kept

My story must begin as a recollection for, alas, the journal that I should have kept was put off in favor of a more abstract theorizing and general over-lay of this burgeoning movement that I flung myself into (not to mention the endless organizatizing consuming my time). This theoretical angle will inevitably come across this story due to the style I have developed or the training I have received. The truth of this story will be obscured (here it comes) since stories deal in illusion and the imperfections of a completed tale are granted access for the sake of a more tight structure. With thanks to the forgetfulness that promotes the possibility of writing (a sincere thanks) among other things, such a truth cannot be found; I will work on an honesty to my experiences during the occupation so as not to betray my intellectual conscience and not betray you (the reader). This conscience running zig-zags throughout my writing is also largely responsible for bringing me out here to Oakland and resists the perceived injustices spreading in my world.
Coming from a “privileged” background with my middle-class money and an education I now deem very good can seem almost like an impediment when camping for days on end with friends, brothers and sisters I never met before last month. The subject of this background has only comes up voluntarily though, as I see fit for the conversation. The principles of acceptance, equality, and radical inclusiveness here play to my advantage and not just those groups deemed “marginalized.” People will tell their stories with little incentive and others will listen to those stories – little more gives us such pleasure. The amount of inspiring conversations, arguments, and flash meetings I’ve had are without a doubt the most highly concentrated into a place and time than any other – and with more or less total strangers turned into fast friends. The tent cities of Oscar Grant Plaza, Snow Park, squats at foreclosed houses and the nooks and cuts of Oakland are the sites of blossoming communities full of incredibly diverse people who in spite of it share a common sense of discontent with the powers that be, or business as usual, or the system, or whatever. Today I feel as though I was preparing my whole life for this moment to speak and collaborate with others through my studies in critical philosophy – a tradition attached to a strong demand for reinterpretation while resisting doctrine, something all occupiers I believe share. How can I elaborate on a tradition that resists the passed down tradition from above and seeks its own emergence? I can tell you my story – a strory constantly taking new shapes and hopefully growing stronger.
Reading the new stories that found their way to the front pages of the San Francisco Chronicle, a budding curiosity and anticipation of the Occupy Wall Street Movevment articles crept into my early morning rise before work. The first reports began in the very formative days since the mainstream media loves to jump in on any scandalous story for its readers then base opinions on – their foul gift: here’s our story, yea or nay? Being one of the lucky ones I continued working at my summer job during the college years at UC Santa Cruz for another 2 1/2 years without paying rent at the house I grew up in to build a sizable nest to pay off my student debt. Easing into the habit of work was smooth because I felt lucky to get a paycheck and starting off the day early gave me very productive. That first hour of the day functioned as a transition from vivid dreams of lush landscapes and perilous adventures to the humdrum of repetitwork wage labor; all facilitated by the mainstream press. After witnessing first hand events surrounding occupy Oakland – the police raids, the sustained community of activists and homeless – and leaping into the fray myself, I can say that between what goes on at the ground level and what large media outlets portray lies a vast canyon: on one side we argue about how to effectively maintain a protest to change a society 70% of the public agrees to be corrupt and on the other side they argue about the validity of occupiers as a whole based on a a few rough patches of in-fighting and some health issues. The camping issues demand attention but should not detract from the overall message of the occupation or the actions from which have spawned; these objections can be ironed-out by the occupiers themselves in communication with city official without demanding shutdown of the communities as a whole. Since becoming an activist camper (a title I’ve finally embraced), reclaiming public space I’ve extended my reach into multiple sources of news reporting to incorporate more view-points than the largest, most accessible ones. Many short replies to editorials in the SF Chronicle have questioned it’s integrity on this issue prompting my decision to find other talented journalists besides these corporate “experts.”
Living comfortably in my house I had always considered where next to go and stake my own claim in the world. Studying the ancient philosophers of Greece, enlightenment thinkers of Europe, the founding fathers of America, and all manners of theory is never merely a solitary activity for personal enrichment, but a training ground for the challenges faced by tyranny, oppression, and deceit. By learning about the the dilemmas and dialogues of ages long past we can become aware of the forces at work within our society and ourselves, for in my studies I’ve found so much blatant resonance to connect together. Each war, each class struggle, each rebellion, each viril philosophical drama retain their uniqueness while adding to the reserve from which we can articulate the imperative to act right now. Without restating the 11th thesis I can express the activity inherent in all abstract theorizing – the contentious urgency and the intense rhetorical persuasion calling for a decision.
After much contemplation I finally decided that this was a decision. Nothing (and I mean nothing) could assure me that this was the right thing to do. And in that moment of groundless awe I was convinced – I need to reclaim public space and do what can to resist large private corporations using monetary power to control public goods and the means to access them: a new battle to add to the list of the universal war of oppressor vs. oppressed. Trusting my studies means being ruthlessly critical. In spite of such a contradiction – receiving something that demands so much of me – I accept.
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