What do Derrick Jensen and George Washington Have in Common?

Derrick Jensen was speaking to the Occupy Oakland and San Francisco folks today, and I had hoped to catch the livestream, but ended up missing it.  I did find, however, a video from about a month ago, when Jensen spoke to Occupy DC via Skype.

True to form, Jensen told the crowd that when people ask him whether he’s calling for the overthrow of the U.S. Government, ie, real revolution, he answers that “this question comes far too late.

“For the government was long since overthrown.  And those who overthrew it are known as Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, Halliburton, Monsanto, ADM, WalMart, Massey, Goldman Sachs, Citibank.

“They are the real governors, and the United States Government is a wholly owned subsidiary brought to you by McDonalds, Pfizer and Lockheed Martin.

“So then you can ask, am I advocating the overthrow of the corporations?  Am I advocating the overthrow of the corporate state?

“To which I will say hell yes!”

For someone like me who came of age in the 1970s and 80s, it’s very hard to imagine a world without corporations.  How would we get our stuff?  What would I type on if there was no Apple?  How would we communicate without Google, Facebook or WordPress, not to mention Twitter?

And of course, how would any of these products see the light of day without the industrial supply lines that go from oil extraction to factory production to tanker ships to retail store?

Well, somehow for the vast majority of human history, your ancestors and mine managed to live and procreate and die just fine without any corporate help or interference.

I’m no Luddite: I love my computer, car, cell phone and dishwasher just as much as the next American.

But somewhere along the way to the bank, we ceded far too much power to these corporations. Derrick Jensen has it right when he says that “a government worth a good goddamn” should answer to human beings, not corporations.

And not just to human beings, but to all of the beings on our planet who are fading away day by day–at the rate of 200 extinctions a day, as Jensen never tires of reminding us.

Will we join the polar bears and the wolves and the rhinos in fading away quietly into the night when our time comes, as it surely will if we do nothing to stop the steamroll of oil-driven climate change?

Or will we stand up now and demand that our government obey its mandate to be of the people, by the people, and for the people, recognizing that what is good for the people is what is good for the earth as an ecological system?

Jensen closed his talk in DC on a positive and galvanizing note:

“When the government becomes destructive of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.  It is long past time we made full use of our rights.”

Just like our colonial-era forebears, we have the right to throw off the yoke of oppressive government to found a better system.

The Occupy movements are the advance guard of what needs to be a massive campaign of civil disobedience and relentless pressure on the government to listen to us, the people–not them, the corporations.

We celebrate those rabble-rousers, Washington and Jefferson, as national heroes.  Let’s get behind today’s rabble-rousers and turn the corner into a new era.  It can’t happen too soon.

Help Wanted: Obama the Community Organizer, Please Come Back!

Here’s another video of unwarranted police brutality against peaceful protesters, this time in Oakland CA, that’s sure to go viral on the Web today:

How do you think the NY Times is covering this story? Not surprisingly, the Times presents the story largely from the establishment point of view, focusing on how cities are “losing patience” with the Occupy movement, with “officials…grappling with growing concerns about crime, sanitation and homelessness at the encampments.”

Well yes, we do need to be worrying about “crime, sanitation and homelessness.”  But not especially at the Occupy encampments.

The Occupy Wall Street folks have shown themselves able to handle these issues very well themselves, without any help from city officials or police, and we can expect that their example will be followed by other protesters across the country.

However, there are other, far more serious instances of crime, sanitation and homelessness on which city officials should be focusing.

For instance, the criminal behavior of the major American banks, which, as Nick Kristof observed in his column yesterday on American crony capitalism, “privatize profits while socializing risk.”

Or the criminal behavior of the U.S. military establishment, which, in a heinous disregard for the health of U.S. Marines and their families, ignored the fact that the water at Camp Lejeune was highly unsanitary–in fact, totally toxic–for years, until the undeniable incidence of cancer and birth defects, including the biggest cluster of male breast cancer victims in the nation, forced officials there to acknowledge the problem.

Then there’s the issue of homelessness.  Not the kind represented by the tents and sleeping bags that have sprung up in cities and towns across the country in a deliberate effort to draw attention to soaring American inequality.

No, what officials should be concerned about is actual homelessness caused by record numbers of home foreclosures by the very banks that manufactured this crisis to begin with.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that President Obama has lately snapped out of the zombified sleepwalking he’s been stuck in for the past year or so.

The Occupy movement can and should claim the credit for waking him up and giving him the inspiration and courage to start fighting back again. These young people may be his salvation in the next election, too, if he can break the chains that have bound him to Wall Street and take up a more populist stance.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 there were 26.1 million Americans ages 18-23.  A good portion of those–say, 90% or so–have every right to be upset with the dismal state of the economy they’re about to enter as working adults.

Many of them have crushing student loans, and come from families that have been struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments in a flat-lining middle-class economic environment.

And seriously, do you know ANYONE who has not been touched by cancer at least indirectly, having to watch friends, neighbors and family members fight the good fight against this manufactured scourge?

Do you know anyone who doesn’t think we in the 99% need access to affordable health care, and better governmental protection from toxic chemicals in our food, water and air?

President Obama needs to get back to his community organizer roots, and come out as the man we thought we were electing, the defender of the 99%.

We need to hear from the youthful idealist Obama who worked so hard to improve conditions in Chicago’s ghettos.  I know he’s in there somewhere.

Maybe these young people in the nation’s streets, standing firm against the onslaught of the riot police, will rekindle the fire that’s been all but extinguished in the White House lately.

In this wet, gloomy autumn, there’s nothing we need more.

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