November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Move to Amend/On Location, LA

 The Corporation’s New Clothes

LA resolution puts people first

By Eleanor Goldfield

Unlike most days when my lungs are filled with smog, and my east coast tongue twitches with curt, smart ass one-liners to spew at unsuspecting “dudes” and “dudettes,” today I am very proud to live in LA. December 6th 2011: Los Angeles becomes the first major US city to pass a resolution stripping corporations of their constitutional personhood rights. And, as a side note, it’s my 25th birthday. Not too shabby of a birthday gift. The vote was unanimous: 11-0. The line of supporters ran out the door and coiled around the block as if Splash Mountain had temporarily relocated to the statuesque old Hollywood glamour of LA City Hall.

Move to Amend, the organization that put forth the resolution, has gained significant ground in the past few months. The LA chapter co-chair, Mary-Beth Fielder (who was recently interviewed on KPFK as well as MSNBC discussing the resolution vote, as well as the foundations and goals of the group) spoke emotionally after the vote.

“This is an incredibly historic day. Los Angeles is the first major city in the United States to call for a Constitutional Amendment to clearly establish that only human beings are entitled to constitutional rights and that money is not the same as free speech…”

“This is putting us back in control,” she said on KPFK a few days earlier, “giving us the power to regulate corporations in the way we see fit.”

The idea of us, we, the people, being back in control is at the core of Move to Amend’s agenda. It is also, interestingly enough, what is behind the Occupy movement. That correlation is a major reason why Move to Amends numbers have grown from the teens to the hundreds recently. I say interestingly enough because one would think that with all the national and international attention this movement has garnered, they would be the ones using that press to infiltrate the legislative branch of government, pushing pens into politicians’ hands and demanding the rights and freedoms of people be held above the bottom line, above any query regarding pizza as a vegetable.

As you may have noticed, if you’ve followed the movement, there has been much talk but little change. The powers that be haven’t nervously acquiesced to anything. The power of the people has not risen in any form due to the tents or tenets of the Occupy camps. The good intentions of Occupiers have been tarnished by lack of organization and vague goals, something that has either pushed people away or brought people to groups such as Move to Amend. In a way Occupy has given the movements such as Move to Amend the fanfare and show they needed to grow – the same way one gains the attention of a 2-year-old with a flashy toy.

Now, the soggy, torn up grass of my local Occupy LA camp is not what one would term flashy. In its 50-some odd days, the camp can easily be compared to any tragic Hollywood starlet − starting off shiny and new, full of hope and promise. But without guidance, fading into a fleeting image adorning nostalgic coffee houses, whispering among the who’s whos until the name fades, the memory a soft impression on a bygone era.

The first march drew thousands, each subsequent march clawing at the 1,000 mark and dwindling from there. And those are the marches that came to fruition. Some nationally planned Occupy marches just didn’t happen due to lack of organization and planning. Now, with the Occupy movement at a crossroads of fight or flight, these outside movements are picking up steam and using that first flash of recognition to catapult into the political spotlight.

* * * 

On your typical November LA morning, the sun shining, a soft breeze and a comfortable temperature of 65/70, I made my third visit to the north side of the Occupy LA camp in less than a half hour. As I irritatingly turned the corner around a tent with a Ron Paul sign out front, I noticed a middle-aged man give a slight chuckle as he lit his cigarette.

“Looking for something?” he asked, shoving his hand back into his pocket and taking a deep puff.

“Well yeah. I’m trying to organize for my band to play and I keep getting bounced around like a damn pin ball. It’s ironically similar to a corporate call center.”

Move to Amend panel, Occupy LA

Move to Amend panel, Occupy LA

That produced a deep laugh. At the time, I didn’t find it funny at all. Trying to push back to solemnity I asked if he knew who I could talk to. He shrugged, sighed and scratched his unkempt beard. “I live here and still don’t know who’s in charge. Because no one is. Bitching about something isn’t the same as doing something about it. Right now we’re just bitching − in tents. I support coz I believe in the cause. But I don’t see it lasting much longer if we can’t get our act together.”

As I looked around, surveying a scene of mixed messages and little kinetic energy to speak of, I knew he was right. Not quite knowing how to respond, I returned his shrug and tried one last time to find the head of the arts committee who according to two people, but not the third, was also the head of the first aid tent. I left not too long after, seemingly with less information than I had come over with.

I live in downtown LA, about a 5-minute walk from the Occupy site, and of the dozen or so times that I went over there, I was, more often than not, disappointed when I left. Like the man I spoke to, I believe in this movement. I have based an entire band on it. I write, sing and work for the goal of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. But Occupy LA was not this movement.

Occupy LA was a collection of varied opinions, bound together by nothing more than geography and the manufactured feeling of community that a camping trip brings. It may sound harsh, but let’s be realistic. A leaderless movement has no future. The Occupy movement’s official stance on this states that they are a “not a leaderless movement, but a movement of leaders,” which to me sounds even worse. That’s like throwing a bunch of alpha males into a tent and seeing what they come up with. Probably not a clear cut plan of action…

A movement with no clear goals or plans for reaching those goals loses steam before the coals get hot. Bringing people together is a commendable feat. But once they’re there, what are you going to do with them? I first walked over, flag in hand, a journal full of ideas and plans, from events and shows to elections and business planning. At one of the GA’s someone suggested that our main focus be composting. Another time someone stopped me and asked if I would give my life for a communist nation. And still another time someone asked me if I’d like to fuck for peace. No joke.

Now, I’m not trying to come down too hard on these people. I thoroughly believe that people should believe whatever the hell they want to. And I commend the people in the Occupy movement who have worked hard, who have tried for change. But with that cluster fuck blueprint, significant political change is impossible. Not all these beliefs can live under the same movement. There is a communist movement. I’m sure there’s a fuck for peace movement somewhere, as well. But this movement, this idea based on our rights as US citizens, our freedoms and liberties, our future as a republic − this movement seeks to completely rework the corrupted and viciously powerful government corporation our nation has become. That’s one helluva tall order. And that order requires, no, it demands, fierce organization, determination and planning.

* * *

That said, the Occupy movement is invaluable. It may be about as organized as a mosh pit, but it has valuable attributes that can not be overlooked. Whether it means to or not, it makes use of the entertainment medium. Having been an activist for quite some time, my eureka moment came when I thought of adding my passion of music to my passion of political and social involvement.

Move to Amend isn’t trendy, it isn’t chic. It is what political movements should be: straightforward, determined and organized. However, that doesn’t always up your numbers. In all reality, people may say they give a damn, but until they’re either forced to or seduced, they don’t. Forced to is an awkward situation that either presents itself through a total national meltdown (not that I’m striking that from the list of possibilities) or literal force.

Neither one is something a peace loving movement should be aiming for. That leaves seduction. In the 1960s, it was literal seduction: Jim Morrison’s leather pants, Woodstock, mind opening drugs that just made you wanna dance and make out. But, be careful lest the seduction become more fascinating than the goal itself. The more solemn Civil Rights movement passed ground breaking legislation. The peace movement limped away from an arrogant government’s blood soaked retreat, embittered and hungover. But what if, looking at both strategies, we could intertwine the entertaining seduction of the peace movement with the solemn, heroic stand of the civil rights movement? If we let organizations like Move to Amend temper and focus the thrills and frills of the Occupy Movement…

Let’s learn from the past and avoid its mistakes. In the aftermath of the civil rights and peace movements, a visionary, one president and one presidential hopeful had been murdered. A war had been lost, embarrassingly so. The burnt draft cards and noble stands did not make up for the lack of diplomacy or intelligence in the halls of the mighty. The legislation of the civil rights movement was a shining positive. It came towards the end of an era, the end of a time when our country concerned itself with the rights and freedoms of its people. The haze of the late ’60s and early ’70s left the country with a sour taste in its mouth, and a depressive disdain not only for government but for popular culture. As if it were a last hurrah, the civil rights legislation signaled a move away from political and social involvement and towards apathy and distrust. Consider the timely beginnings of Neo-conservatism, free market experimentation and freedom crusades (i.e. South America in the early-mid 1970s).

Now, I don’t mean to write a lecture on the history of our fuck-ups. I’d merely like to point out that our history is the foundation for this movement. Our constitutional rights, our pitfalls and victories as citizens dictate the fight we are undertaking.

Todd Lockwood Photo

Keeping Fear Alive

There is a quote by Penn Warren, used by my father in one of his books, and used by my mother in a painting that still hangs in the living room – I can recall passing it many times as a child, and being drawn to the rough edges of the papyrus paper she used, the strong profile of my father paralleled to that of a Syrian king. I can recall dissecting the quote, filtering it through my mind each year, further wrapping its meaning with my own history, patiently pondering as if it were a philosophical treasure map: “If you could not accept the past and its burden, there was no future, for without one there can not be the other, and if you could accept the past, you might hope for the future, for only out of the past can you make the future.”

Out of our collective history, let us make a better future.

This isn’t about one war, or one right. This is about all our wars, and all our rights. This is about everything that trickles down from the corporate peaks of a stolen government. So let us use all of our talents. Let’s seduce those who see this fight either as a hippie commune party or a droll gathering of intellectuals.

I sing, I write, I speak. There are those who make people laugh (Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert), those who lecture, those who teach. Every American has some way of contributing, because every American’s future is tightly tied to the path of this movement. Every American has a different way of joining − a different way they can be seduced. I’ve had people come up to me after shows and say they are not political at all, but wow that’s fucked up about the corporations. I’ve had people come with me to marches because they thought I was good looking. They might leave with blue balls but I’m happy to say every one has left with more knowledge and a spark to dig deeper.

Not everyone is cut out to be the one at the front, carrying signs and shouting slogans. I’m not. But understand that the march isn’t what the movement is about. It’s merely a means.

Let’s make it clear. As with the civil rights movement, we need legislation. Marches and protests are great but they are not the be all, end all. Concerts and events are fantastic ways of spreading the word to people outside your circle, but they are not the point of the movement. We need to push for our rights, not as some ethereal trend but as a tangible, concrete demand. It needs to be written, and it needs to be remembered.

We too easily get caught up in the Woodstock-esque charm of a campground, and veer off the path to change. Stay with it. Don’t take any victory, any freedom or any right for granted. If we don’t care enough to take back our country, why should it be given to us? “A republic madam, if you can keep it,” was Ben Franklin’s famous response to a woman asking what form of government the Constitutional Convention had decided upon.

Right now, we’re not keeping it. We’ve lost it. We’re fighting to get it back.

* * *

The Occupy movement didn’t fight. They weren’t that movement. Now maybe they will be. The tents may have left to make way for the real occupation; the occupation that will not sit down, not disappear from the political stages of this nation until we, the people, have gained our rightful place as the deciding force behind the government of the United States.

LA City Council President

Eric Garcetti

Together with organizations such as Move to Amend, we will take our country back, our rights; with organization and the clear cut goal of amending the constitution to firmly place we, the people, as the sole beneficiaries of constitutional personhood rights. At the post-vote press conference on December 6th, Council President Eric Garcetti, who first introduced this amendment to LA City Council said, “Every struggle to amend the constitution began as just a group of regular Americans who wanted to end slavery, who thought women should vote, who believed that if you’re old enough to be drafted, you should be old enough to vote. These are how American amendments move forward from the grassroots when Americans say enough is enough. We’re very proud to come together and send a message but more than that, this becomes the official position of the City of Los Angeles, we will officially lobby for this. I also chair a group which oversees all the Democratic mayors and council members in the country and we’re going to share this with all our 3,000 members and we hope to see this start here in the west and sweep the nation until one day we do have a constitutional amendment which will return the power to the people.”

Yes. That is the hope. That is the inspiration. That is our duty as Americans. Occupy your place in this country. Occupy the story of your citizenship. This country was great because of the people who made it so. It falls because we allow it to. It can only be lifted by the people, we, the people.

Whatever your contribution will be, whatever seduces you to this movement, this is our time, this is our fight. This is now. This is us. We, the people. In liberty and justice we trust. Think. React. Do Something.

 

About the author:

Eleanor Goldfield is a singer, songwriter and political activist. She is the vocalist for Rooftop Revolutionaries, comprised of Brian Marshak/lead guitar; Karim Elghobasi/bass; Lamar Little/drums. An interview with Goldfield by Ragazine Politics Editor Jim Palombo appeared in the September-October issue of Ragazine (Vol. 7, No. 5). See/hear more at:

www.rooftoprevolutionaries.com, and http://rooftoprevolutionaries.blogspot.com/ .

Occupy Resources:

http://movetoamend.org