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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 11.3.11




Pre-Occupied

The ethics of slavery continue today

Occupying my mind, rising like Tenochtitlan, Cahokia or Cheops, is what used to pass for economic justice before there was an America. Suffusing the atmosphere like smog, infusing the water like aspartame, putting a price tag on water falling from the sky, all the products just doing business as usual in the land of the free built on the ethics of slavery. That is, profit at any cost even if that means screwing someone and selling your family. What was once done to us because of race, is now being done to you for the money. If everybody is being treated like “niggers” have been treated, how do you achieve justice?

I took in Occupy Eugene with the kids. The granddaughter’s first demo, we made funny faces at each other while her mom and dad spit rhymes via the people’s microphone. Little Zeely is named for the earliest African ancestor on grandpa’s side, and like her namesake is a fiend for literacy, even at 17 months. Grandpa is a fiend for historic irony. 

Here is a leaderless movement without specific demands, camping for economic justice, using a decision model born from people who lived together for tens of millennia under economic justice. They voluntarily move their tent city to a park (protecting economic interests) — a park where American citizens were once forced to live, because while they had money, their “excellent suntans” barred them, like their ancestral “kinsmen” were barred from coming to Oregon for the same reason. A county commissioner named Christian ordered the Ferry Street community (aka Tent City) bulldozed, without making any provision to allow American citizens the right to live where they could afford to, let alone choose to. Occupy Irony.

At one time, the ecology was the same as the economy, wisdom and culture were currency, and the currency was seashells patterned in a story of how to be in a working relationship with all your relations: visible, invisible, past, present and future generations. This wisdom informed all decisions, not just next quarter’s profits. It was dishonorable to have poor people, it meant you weren’t taking care of the most vulnerable. Elders were preserved like libraries, not warehoused. Warriors contributed to building peace in the society. 

My Occupy demands are for economic justice and national security, starting with citizens: Everybody housed, clothed, fed, educated to the level needed to do excellent self-care, useful work including potent healing of others, and to avoid becoming trapped by the unethical actions of corporations. Citizenship is for anyone who makes a demonstrable positive contribution, even if you weren’t born here, and not just whites only, or people that whites like. If corporate citizens cause the injury, disability, or death of human beings, they suffer the same legal consequences that human beings experience, including the death penalty. If Wall Street had gotten funny with Mafia money, do you think they’d get bonuses comprised of 30 pieces of silver or 9mm lead? 

Occupy demands, being mindful of past solutions, should look neither right, nor left, but forward!

Mark Harris is an instructor and substance abuse prevention coordinator at LCC.