Today I attended Occupy Houston for the second time. By the end of the day, I was the 12th angriest I have ever been.
Generally, I think the Occupy Wall Street protests are a good thing. Since the 2008 economic collapse, we have seen the perpetrators go unpunished, and policy dictated to help the top 1% over the 99%. Capitalism should work. It is not working. Politicians seem more concerned about yet-to-exist consequences from a national debt rather than already extant problems from unemployment and personal debt.
Occupy Wall Street best expresses these concerns in the We Are The 99 Percent tumblr. People are suffering during this downturn. People who worked hard, studied, and played by the rules are not getting ahead. We were sold a false set of goods, and people in power don’t seem to care.
Polls show that majority of Americans would like a raise in taxes for the rich. Politicians say not a single dollar in tax increases, no matter the done in exchange.
People want to express their frustration, and they are doing so at those who seem to benefit from national misery despite having caused it.
And personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing some changes to the capital gains tax, the estate tax, and post-Citizens United campaign financing.
So, I went to Market Square, where I often have lunch anyways, to chat.
The first day, I just walked up to introduce myself and see what they were doing.
The second day I joined. That second day can be defined by the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
The lunchtime crowd seemed to be mostly people who didn't have jobs, except the woman from NewsFix 39 who was interviewing some people I assume were leaders of sorts
When I first arrived, the group of about a dozen people was going over the underlying basis for operating the Occupy Wall Street protest, which is the Consensus System. Basically, everything has to be agreed to by a unanimous consensus. There is a flowchart to debate, and everyone gets to talk, and it is awfully inefficient. However, it does emphasize that everyone is part of the process and that we should only do what everyone can agree to. Ideally, this will focus the movement down to key issues: The 99% is struggling despite hard work. Help!
So they started a hypothetical, just to show how it goes. Some guy got up and half jokingly stated they should march in front of the police station. However, the nearby NewsFix camera freaked out the crowd, worried that their words would be twisted. So the NewsFix lady walked away, and I got up and proposed something more harmless and obviously (hopefully obviously, at least) a joke: The we adopt a Unicorn as our spirit animal.
We had pro arguments (Unicorns are graceful and powerful) and anti arguments (Unicorns are pretend and we are real), and then we had a fake vote. There were some votes against, and under actual practice, the supporters and opponents would go aside to negotiate a consensus, and then bring it back to a group vote.
Anyways, afterwards some guy gave a talk about problems of institutionalized racism, which was apparently in response to a meeting the night before when the New Black Panthers showed up, accused everyone of racism, and then left.
It was a bit silly, but it was nice to see people show up. And it was good.
Also, there is a video of it on NewsFix, with me in the background! Watch me eat a sandwich, adjust my hair, and be the only guy in a suit.
Alas. It quickly turned to bad.
A guy in orange was next on the list to talk. He brought up the idea of having an egg timer during peoples’ speeches so they don’t ramble. I left 45 minutes later and they were still arguing the matter.
There is a reason people use Robert’s Rules of Order instead of consensus.
But alas, as this all began I decided to put myself forward as the pseudo parliamentarian during this discussion. The position had an actual name, but I forget what it is called. All I know is that when I said:
“oh, so I’m basically parliamentarian,”
I got the response:
“What’s a parliamentarian?”
My sandwich for Christopher Warrington.
Alas, when do we get to protest in front of bank buildings?
I walked back through the park on the way to catch the 78 bus to a Planned Parenthood fundraiser at Poison Girl. Everything about this turned out to be awful.
Initially, I just stood around, listening to people. At first, they were talking about how they need to eliminate the Federal Reserve. I brought up how Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently stated that he can’t blame people involved with Occupy Wall Street for doing what they’re doing.
This got the general response of: Well, he’s just trying to distract us so we don’t blame him.
Seems to me like the Federal Reserve is the only powerful group actually trying to help the economy.
The discussion then moved on to how the government has FEMA camps and is probably ready to put us in them. The last time I heard this, it was a plot point in the X-Files movie.
And it just kept going.
I tried to start a conversation with the orange shirted egg timer guy. Apparently, he thinks that the Occupy movement will somehow overthrow the government. I don’t know how the 12 people standing in the park will attract enough people to overthrow the government, and I don’t think he does either. As the conversation continued, it seemed like he knew very little.
He first proposed that we replace current government with a way that randomized citizens would check people in power. I asked what would prevent people from organizing among themselves and forming parties, becoming the same sort of corrupt structure he opposes now.
“You can’t have corruption in chaos.”
I proposed, rather, instant runoff voting and policy that would reduce money in political campaigns, and greater barriers between the public and private sector.
He did not know what instant runoff voting was, so I got to rant about that for a while.
Still, he continued to assert that the problem was that our current government was created in 1776, before the Internet.
Ignoring just what the Internet has to do with anything, I corrected him:
“You mean 1787. The Constitution wasn’t ratified until 1787.”
He at first talked about how he didn’t remember his civics class, and then also complained as to why schools teach US history at the end of high school, when they should teach it first. I stated that I thought it was because the curriculum began at the beginning, with ancient civilizations, and then built up to the modern day. Then it got weird.
“Yeah, but they don’t cover all the ancient civilizations. What about Atlantis.”
“Haha, oh I don’t think that is real.”
“Yes it is.”
All downhill from there.
“Like, you can’t prove it. You can’t prove that dinosaurs don’t exist.”
Be still my beating heart that dinosaurs somehow are still alive, but alas, no.
“We, I can prove that below a certain level of geological strata there is a large collection of dinosaur fossils, and then after a strata line indicating high levels of material indicative of comets or asteroids, there are no more dinosaur fossils.”
“Yeah, but what if they live underground?”
Then, I got to hear him actually, honestly, try to argue Hollow Earth Theory.
Now, I posited that if the earth were hollow, then where would the magnetic field that protects us from radiation come from? (though honestly I should have just gone with the gravity argument)
His answer: “We’re not alone in the universe.”
He then instructed me to watch a video from a tethered satellite experiment from STS-75.
“What do you see?”
Uh, lights. Probably space dust?
“Space dust? Yeah, what else is up there, space geese?”
Apparently the correct answer was aliens.
Remembering my training, I resorted to my iPhone to see what the answer actually was. Admittedly, the video does look cool and crazy. And wikipedia does a good job explaining why:
“A tether is not a spherical object, and has significant extent. This means that as an extended object, it is not directly modelable as a point source, and this means that the center of mass and center of gravity are not usually colocated. Thus the inverse square law does not apply except at large distances, to the overall behaviour of a tether. Hence the orbits are not completely Keplerian, and in some cases they are actually chaotic. With bolus designs, rotation of the cable interacting with the non linear gravity fields found in elliptical orbits can cause exchange of orbital angular momentum and rotation angular momentum. This can make prediction and modelling extremely complex.”
And if you listen to the astronauts talking, the particles are debris from the break in the tether.
Anyways, at this point, I yelled at him that he was crazy and he was going to lose a lot of people he would want on his side and then I stormed off to wait for the 78 bus that was 30 minutes late I hate you Metro Houston.
In conclusion, Occupy Houston is currently filled with crazy people who want to End the Fed, think that the earth is possibly hollow and filled with dinosaurs, think specs of light is proof of aliens, and think that we should and will overthrow the government, but not via elections.
And think that the constitution was written in 1776.
Which is why you should go to Occupy Houston.
There are legitimate issues facing the nation. There are problems with the social contract. It is supposed to be that if you work hard, play by the rules, and get a good education, you will get ahead. Now, you just get a lot of debt. But rather than focus on the problems facing the 99%, government seems focused on the issues facing the top 1%.
It is time to get some attention. It is time to hold banks responsible for the problems they have caused. It is time for sane people to say that something is wrong.
So please, don’t let me be the only one at the next meeting who actually wants to change policy.