Monthly Archives: September 2013

Then and Now – Celebrations of Occupy Wall Street

When I think back to the 1st birthday celebration of Occupy Wall Street in New York City in 2012, I remember a volatile, angry, surging mass of energy that seemed at times unfocused and yet strong enough to carry us all along in a tidal wave of confrontation. Wherever we looked we saw a sea of blue uniformed police all in a determined stance, unwilling to see us as anything other than an angry mob that would no doubt need to be herded and penned in order to be controlled. It was my first experience seeing a full day’s supply of zip tie hand restraints hanging from every officer’s uniform. It was also my first experience being in a crowd that was at once being pushed ahead from behind and at the same time, being pushed back, not only physically but also with barking vocal commands by the police. Some people fell, some were grabbed and snatched out of the crowd by the police, and others looked for safe haven.

I also remember that day as the day I nearly lost my voice as a result of the utter anger, frustration and indignation that I verbally unleashed on the police. At one point when we were being told to move back when there was clearly no place to go and the angry face of a cop was headed right at me, I heard the words, “Don’t you dare touch me!” well up and out of my mouth. And then there were the times when, only feet away from a line of police, I did my best to lock eyes with one at a time to demand an answer to my loud and ferocious questions, “Are you proud of what you do? Is your family proud of what you do? Are your children proud of what you do?” Perhaps those actions on my part weren’t particularly brave or confrontational in the grand scheme of things but they went so far beyond anything I’d done before that I barely recognized the person pouring out of my very core.

What we seemed most to have in common with each other that day was an utter hatred for just about everything our government stands for, beginning with how wealth rules us all with a soulless hand down to a constant state of war and total neglect of the social, health and educational needs of our citizens. I felt like I was in a giant cauldron of discontent, all the ingredients stirred together.

This year, we returned and I expected to experience all of the same things. I was jolted by some very obvious (at least to my mind) differences and they were differences that I was very glad to see. When we arrived, rather than the swelled crowd that greeted us last year, there was a growing yet comparatively modest crowd in Zucotti Park. There was a sense of order, an agenda and schedule for the day with various issues being addressed at different times in different places to which we marched together. First, we specifically addressed the Trans Pacific Partnership that will spell disaster for us if joined in the secret fashion in which is being drafted and pushed through. Later in the day we gathered at the United Nations building to rally in support of the Robin Hood tax that would provide the much needed money needed for genuine health care. At that second rally and march, it was heartening to see the number of activists in the street rival the numbers of the previous year but our energies were directed at our causes much more so than at the police. The police seemed satisfied to use their authority to keep us on the sidewalks when necessary to keep traffic flowing than to grab and snatch as they did a year ago.

There are three moments of this year’s gathering that will stay with me. The first came at the first meeting in Zucotti Park, when we were waiting for the TPP march and rally to begin. We met a young man named Michael. Michael is vibrant, dedicated and inspiring. He was telling us of plans for coming events in the city. He described how rather than simply planning another march to voice grievances and protest particular targets, people were being asked to come together to work on specific solutions to their grievances in the hope that time in the street would take a positive direction toward real and specific change. I brought the idea home with me and will suggest at the next events that I have the privilege of helping to organize, that people have 2 sided signs, one side stating what needs to be changed and the other, something they are doing or plan to do to combat the issue.

The next moment came when Rebecca, an Occupy sister with whom I made the trip and who has been approaching “burn out” lately due to her immersion in the movement, was marching beside me, holding a sign high above her head and suddenly proclaimed that she was remembering why this was so important to her. There are no words to describe the look of joy on her face other than to say she looked as if she had finally returned “home” to a family and place that are precious to her. My response was an equally joyous shout of, “She’s back!”

The last moment of special note was when I mentioned to a fellow marcher that this year felt somehow different to me. She pressed me for an explanation of what that feeling was and I heard myself explain that this year I wasn’t afraid – not afraid of the police, not afraid of losing myself, simply not afraid. Perhaps it was naïve to feel that way but that doesn’t change the fact that fear was absent for me. Did last year’s experience change the police in some way? Have we, as activists, learned and grown since last year about focus and organization? I don’t have any answers to those questions but I celebrate my experience, realizing that it may have been very different for other people. I felt stronger, more grounded in what I was doing and infinitely more connected to the thousands of people around me. We were community. We were focused. We were organized. We will be back next year. Solidarity!

Stop stealing from your fellow pagans!

One of the recent dust-ups which have come up the greater pagan community the last few weeks has been the issue of copyright. In this round the trouble has included people posting content which is not their own as if it were as well as Facebook groups with unauthorized pdf copies of books freely available for download. In case any of you may not be sure, these acts are not only unethical but illegal.

There are already plenty of posts online explaining the basics of copyright. My friend Jennett (a fellow librarian) has a post about copyright and pagans here and Fire Lyte has an excellent post here. Go read both of them after you finish here.

In my professional life, both copyright and ethics are interests. I’m a supporter of Creative Commons and other alternatives to current copyright because I think the laws have become draconian thanks to corporate influence. But it is still the law. For ethics, yes I do believe that information should be easily available, even freely available. And I also believe strongly that the people who CREATE the information, whether it be spell, book, poem, hymn, artwork, music, deserve fair compensation and credit for their work.

The purpose of copyright was originally meant to benefit the creator. To give them a period of time in which they had exclusive control of when/where/how the material was utilized. Yes this includes the choice to work with a publisher or agent to help disseminate their work. And after a certain period of time (current law: with written works copright extends to the life of the creator plus 70 years*) the work would fall into public domain and become freely accessible.

The other point is to give creators reason to continue creating. Contrary to some possible opinions, writing a book is not a spell which makes a boatload of money open up and shower upon them. Creation is work and they deserve compensation. Not some overly entitled, short-sighted people scanning in their works and just throwing it around like so much used tissue. I know a lot of authors who are Pagan, polytheist, or neither. They WORK. They write every day in order to be able to pay their bills, keep a roof and some food around, and perhaps maybe eke out more than a poverty level existence. You may not agree with what they make but you can make sure to give them the respect to earn a living.

Also, do you really think it’s wise to put up works illegally by people who have written material about how to properly curse and hex?

If you can’t afford books, fine. Go to the library. Borrow from your friends. Use a free ebook app and get legal material to read? (Hint: not only are there a lot of free books available regularly for the Kindle, but there are also those great public domain titles as well as academic institutions who have material freely available. Don’t believe me? Go look up the Oriental Institute and their publications.) And I will note this, if you can afford a smartphone and the monthly plan, I am sure you can find some room in your budget for a $15 text.

In short, stop stealing. Give credit where it is due. Ask permission. You are reading this on the internet right now. Most every author has some sort of Web presence. They might have material available or know where to get it below cost if it is really a matter of finances for you. Or search online for used copies. Which is, incidentally, acceptable under copyright. And if you messed up and did something stupid, admit to it. If you are hosting a web site or Facebook group filled with illegal pdfs, DELETE THEM. And don’t go whining when you get called out, or ban people right and left for pointing out the fact that you are breaking the law. Support your community.

We’re still a minority. We still have to fight for rights because of our religious and spiritual practices. Breaking the law does not do a thing to help us.

Now go back up to the top and read Jennet’s and Fire Lyte’s posts about copyright.

    Further copyright resources

The plagiarism explosion on the internet: how to protect your work
Free plagiarism content scanning tools
A tutorial for citing resources which is something you should recall from schooling
Copyright basics (the foundational resource librarians use when they have questions

*See what I mean about draconian?

Bibliography
Hoffman, Gregory McCord. The ethics of copyright: an informal chat. Texas Library Journal, Fall 2004. Accessed September 6 2013, from JSTOR.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose

This essay was originally posted on Ryan’s Desk. It is reposted with permission.

The pattern is almost identical: the drumbeat for war heralded by the denunciation of yet another mini-Hitler in the making with serious sober-sounding pronouncements issued by serious sober-looking people.  It’s Iraq all over again just change the names, remove the oil, add in a hulking Russian bear, and you’re set!  Every one of these serious sober people is, quite conspicuously, silent on how America’s last death and destruction-filled misadventure through the Middle East went implying by their lack of response that such comparisons would be preposterous!  Of course the Powers that Be who swore up and down on a stack of holy books that Iraq would have nuclear weapons in six months which turned out to be a weightless mirage couldn’t be wrong twice, could they?

The fact is the situation on the ground is Syria is anything but clear-cut.  On one side of many you have Basher Assad, a Ba’ath Party strongman whose been ruthlessly butchering the Syrian people who rose up in revolt in 2011.  On another, and not THE other as the media tries to claim, are the Free Syrian Army, a group of alleged moderates whose alleged popular mandate and alleged secularism makes them the allegedly legitimate party that would be totally cool if they came into power, honest!  That is until you look a little closer and notice their hands aren’t entirely clean either.  And finally, at least as far as the groups deemed important enough to be mentioned goes anyway, you have the Jihadi faction with al-Nusra as the most prominent example.  There’s also probably at least half a dozen other smaller groups who enjoy support from one foreign power or the other, angry or opportunistic Syrians using the opportunity to settle some scores, tribal factions, local defense groups trying to keep everyone else from killing their family and neighbors, and let’s not forget the ordinary people whose most likely aspiration at this point is to be somewhere that is not exploding.

Now why exactly is there a sudden rush to intervene now, when things are at probably their worst, rather than earlier around the same time the US toppled the Libyan government?  The reason that’s been given is an alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad government against Syrian civilians.  Already we have the United States and France lining up arguing emphatically and unequivocally they have PROOF Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.

Hopefully that proof didn’t come from the same people who said they could prove Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, especially considering the UN investigators are saying it’s going to be weeks before they have a conclusive answer.  Regardless the United States, even moreso than Iraq, would be going at it with very few allies to speak.  In spite of the public talk of dangerous dictators on a rampage international support is not forthcoming.  Even nearby Arab leaders, some of whom have condemned Assad’s actions, are calling for a UN mandate for any intervention.  Even the American public is opposed with only 19% supporting intervention and a whopping 56% opposed to intervention in Syria.  And yet in spite of this Obama is going full-bore for military intervention.  Yesterday a Senate panel voted to approve intervention in Syria paving the way for the full Senate to vote on the matter.

In the voices calling for intervention many are making a lot of hay of needing to support the FSA, nevermind that the FSA is probably not what they say or think it is.  They raise the ugly specter of the Jihadi faction taking over and the dangers it would pose to global stability.  Yet nowhere do they address a much more pertinent question: why is the Jihadi faction the one taking charge?  Oh wait it’s because they’re the most battle-hardened, experienced fighters the rebels have.  And why is that?  Because many of them got the best military training in the world fighting the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan!

Considering America’s recent track record with interventions, from the over 100,000 civilians killed in Iraq and millions driven from their homes to the chaos and violence which has engulfed Libya since American intervention, maybe we should consider another approach.  The Syrian people haven’t asked for the United States to come in and bail them out.  Given the recent track record of saving the village by blasting it to pieces it’s understandable why.  The American people don’t want their soldiers going into harm’s way to bail out a loose alliance whose behavior is nearly as reprehensible as their enemies.

But most important question is what gives the United States government the right to intervene?  How is it, other than overwhelming military might, that it is America’s responsibility to police the world?  Considering how incredibly sloppy the Pentagon’s track record has been in these so-called “police actions” one would think based solely on performance alone the badge should have been revoked a long time ago.  It’s not as if our human rights record is so stellar, considering half the world’s prisoners are Americans or the unprecedented pervasiveness of PRISM, that we can claim a special right to use force against others.

Ultimately the United States has no special right, duty, or justification to intervene in Syria beyond those of cold-blooded, cold-hearted imperial politics.  These wars of empire and influence have consumed some of the best our society can offer, wasted valuable resources and opportunities, and are only adding to the problem.  What the people of the United States do have a right, and duty, to do is act.  We must not stand by while bought and paid for politicians with bloody minds and bloodless hearts render more destruction.  This must happen in spite of the fact that it is doubtful the powers that be will heed us or pay any mind to the will of the masses.

That is not the point.

The point is to remind the high and mighty, the meek and mild, and all in between that power comes from the people and the people together are a power that cannot be denied.

Hypocrites, Culture of Waste and the Environment

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–By Shauna Aura Knight

Months ago I wrote here on Pagan Activist, calling out Pagans who used styrofoam and plastic cups during ritual. I also frequently post environmental sustainability topics on my Facebook wall. A lot of people use ad hominem attacks against me in those instances, ie, “How can you talk, you drive a car.” “You can’t say that, your laptop has plastic in it,” etc.

One person even said that, because I use toilet paper, I should not tell people that they should reduce their use of paper products.

Ad hominem is a  logical fallacy, meaning, it attacks the person, rather than their argument. And, though my own use of resources does not invalidate my call for us Pagans to live more sustainably, I think it’s also worth being transparent about my own use of environmental resources, as well as explore some ways we can continue to reduce our use. This includes where I have worked to reduce my environmental footprint, and where I could do better.

If we call ourselves Earth-centered, how do we do that without being hypocrites?

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