Tent City

It was when Mars (anger, militancy) opposed Neptune (confusion, pretense)images-5 as it was turning direct, just before November’s Full Moon, that the tide began to turn.

After being caught with their pants down for a few weeks, the media seems to have found its voice as regards the Occupy movement. Editorials condemning the encampments are coming out thick and fast. Mayors who were on the fence are caving in to city councils suddenly all up in their tough-guy boots. Reporters are furrowing their brows with sympathy as they listen to shop owners complaining that the presence of protesters downtown is scaring customers away from their designer soaps.

An article on the front page of yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle seemed intended to psychologically prep the public for today’s eviction of the tent city. The photo they chose to accompany it featured a scruffy, barefoot camper looking down from his perch in a makeshift tree house, wearing a malevolent Charles Manson-like grin.

What rationale are our city fathers using to justify their shift to strong-arm tactics? It seems they are concerned about health hazards among the Occupiers. This was suggested not so much by empirical evidence, because there wasn’t any, but by troubling associations some folks at City Hall have with camping equipment.

Funny thing: during Tahrir Square, you didn’t hear many complaints about hygiene.

Another historical parallel we might draw is that of the tent city that sprang up in San Francisco after the quake of 1906. Back then, every park and public space was covered with survivors cooking stew over campfires in front of ragged lean-tos.

But unlike the Occupiers in Oakland last month and in New York this morning, the squatters in 1906 weren’t cited for violating zoning laws. They weren’t dragged out of their tents by police and beaten with batons. In fact, I imagine the officers did all they could to help them. After fires, floods and power outages, people tend to see past the rules. Zoning ordinances mean little in a crisis.

What is being overlooked by those who are protesting the Occupy protests is that what’s happening right now is a real-time, world-scale, bona fide crisis.

Unconsciously, of course, everybody knows this. The movement’s middle-class foes, clinging to the shreds of their American Dream, wish the protesters would just go away. But their discomfort comes from being reminded of the ugly truths to which the occupiers are calling attention. Those who have seen Walker Evans’ Depression-era photographs may look at the new tent cities and shudder, seeing the Hoovervilles of the 1930s. The parallel is valid.

With Pluto in Capricorn (financial infrastructures) being inflamed by Uranus in Aries (militant rebellion), demonstrations against economic injustice have sprung up from East London to Johannesburg, from Rio de Janeiro to New Zealand. Europe is an economic war zone. The governments of Italy, Ireland and Portugal have been toppled; in Greece there is rioting in the streets. In Somalia and other African states the bloodshed is fueled by mortal poverty. In India there are fifteen suicides every hour due to financial despair.

In the USA, unregulated tycoons and untaxed corporate billionaires stockpile ever greater stores of wealth while unemployment and homelessness soar. Young people stagger out of school under the weight of obscene amounts of debt from student loans, while their college administrators award themselves sky-high raises.

Here in liberal Northern California, elected officials affect a solemn sincerity when explaining their policies towards the Occupiers. The other day, before the cops routed the tents, the mayor’s spokes-flack seemed especially ambivalent in front of the cameras. The official eviction announcement was prefaced, as usual, with a statement about how much “we sympathize with them” (always them); and ended, as usual, with a stern reminder that they are breaking the law.

Elsewhere in the news we heard that Chevron’s third-quarter profits were more than double last year’s, and just shy of an all-time record for any quarter.

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6 comments
Azizi
Azizi

Jesssica, I'm glad to have found your site. I will bookmark it as I find your writing insightful & your commenters interesting. Regarding Jim Perilman's November 16th, 2011 at 11:11 PM comment that "The Occupy movement is as yet in its infancy", I agree and am concerned about how this baby movement grows up. I personally think that there's been too much focus on occupying space, and would like to see other non-violent strategies used such as mass boycotting of corporations as Perilman suggested in his comment. Furthermore, I'm concerned about OWS' use of mic check to interrupt other's speech or otherwise protest a politician, corporation, or celebrity (even if it's a celebrity like Glenn Beck, who I definitely don't agree with. I don't think that this is a way to win the hearts and minds of the other 99%. Perilman also suggested in his comment that people shouldn't send in their income tax returns (as a protest move). But I think that idea reflects a lack of understanding of how important receiving a lump sum of money (income tax check) is for many working poor or middle class people. I'm retired now but I remember how I used my income tax check to pay up on bills and maybe treat my children and myself to some "luxury" that we wanted -like a tv to replace the one that was ready to die any day. I believe that it behooves OWS activists/supporters who aren't poor or middle class to better understand the lives and motivations of people who have been poor and people who have been struggling for a long long time under adverse economic and political conditions-including police brutality and an unjust criminal justice system . Imo, this lack of understanding is why so many People of Color have concerns-like I do-with OWS movements. Hopefully, that's part of the lessons that OWS will learn as it-hopefully-has a healthy maturation.

Judi Wood
Judi Wood

Excellent piece, insightfully written observations of our pols and great comments. Jessica,any thoughts on how this will morph now that evictions are happening everywhere or how long the momentum will last? The Sons of Liberty was founded in 1760 . Could OWS be our new S of L?

Joelle Brink
Joelle Brink

Having participated in '60s and '70s of the past century, I 'm getting a very "second time around" feeling from this set of transits. It's as though we're compelled to repeat a course we failed last time around. Rebecca Solnit makes the point in A Paradise Built in Hell that nothing terrifies the civic authorities more than successful anarchism, in the sense of people pitching in to perform for themselves the services that the government would normally perform in return for their taxes. In effect, the government suddenly finds itself unemployed, and perhaps even unnecessary. Woodstock was the great exception last time around because the site of the festival was inaccessible to the authorities apart from a few state police who quickly recognized that the those attending the festival were all pitching in to provide essential services and decided to assist them. The only "pigs" on Yazger's farm were in the barn. In New York, Bloomberg utterly botched his chance to be a good guy and instead set himself up as a living symbol of the forces the occupiers are protesting against. In my opinion he deserves a vote of thanks from the Occupy movement for his invaluable help in consolidating and strengthening their movement. Every revolution needs its Louis XVI, and Bloomberg stepped right into the role as if called by destiny..

alan blumenfeld
alan blumenfeld

The Occupy movement gives me optimism and hope for the first time in years. While the accomplishments of Obama, Pelosi and Congress should be remembered and understood, it has been a loooong time since they have stood up and supported middle class, working people. The poor have been abandoned entirely. No lobbyists I guess. So now we have these Occupys. All over the country and the world. Hopefully, the movement will grow and spread even more. It is a demand for an entire rethinking of how our financial and social system is structured. Hard to capture in a sound bite. Hopefully soon, the police and other unions will realize that the 99% is not 'them' it is US. It is all of us. It's a start. And, not to be too simplistic about this, but it is also essential, I think, to VOTE. The tea party elected 80 some members of Congress. Zealots all. MAYBE we could bring in some true progressive voices. Just saying. Jess, I LOVE your point of view and mostly how elegantly you express it. Thanks

Mo Davies
Mo Davies

Thank you very much, Jessica. I do enjoy your insightful comments and analysis. Even my husband - who rolls his eyes madly when I bang on about things astro - reads your material with great enjoyment and agrees.

Jim Perilman
Jim Perilman

The Occupy movement is as yet in its infancy. Like a newborn in a blanket (or a demonstrator in a park tent), we witness the first breaths of life. The infant soils its diaper and cries, both very healthy signs. I am here! We are here! The movement at this point is amorphous in its design and direction, but very significantly it is breathing on its own, in America, and everywhere in the world. God knows what will become of this "energy" in three or four years as the Pluto- Uranus square grinds against itself. Inevitably the Occupy movement must gain sophistication or be billy-clubbed to death. Of course people have a right to assemble and march peacefully, but this doesn't strike me as being nearly as skillful as masses of individuals vowing to boycott the world's most loathsome corporations, for example- Coca Cola, Pepsi, MacDonald's, the purveyors of trash food & drink, the sugar-salt-fat pushers who create addictions in children that leads to obesity and ultimately criminal health care expense. The foremost business of health care must be prevention of disease! Come April 15, it also might prove effective if millions of tax payers declined to mail in their tax returns. What are we doing with our troops all over the world? Do Americans ever wonder how we would feel if foreign troops occupied our country? Do Americans ever wonder what it would be like for foreign drone airplanes to be bombing us? We must try to see the world as other than lobbyists for the Defense Department and the dirt bag legislators they bribe. Hopefully the Occupy movement will turn inward in a mounting wave of awareness for accepting personal responsibility for change. And, so doing, bring out the best in all of us, for all of us. That's Occupation for Liberation! Jim Perilman