Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gaian Conversations

Some inimitable conversations I've had at Occupy Portland:

On my second day in the camp, I talked with a dirt hippie. He had mud-splattered cheeks and short hair chopped unevenly like a shy child in a Hooverville. He wore a girl's dress as a shirt and looked like an eighteen-year-old version of the kid who runs for cover whenever the authorities arrive at the compound. He had a plan to create the ultimate propaganda poster—out of cardboard and magic marker—that would reveal the incestuous interlocking relations of all the major corporations. The plan was to encourage fellow travelers to rid themselves of any corporate influence by showing the maddening concatenations that rule over our lives. He then suggested that at the next General Assembly, we should find consensus to the following course of action: We should infiltrate the Air Force, steal a squadron of planes, and drop food bombs onto starving countries.

One woman of the Flower generation feared that a sign along the camp's perimeter urging the easing of marijuana laws might muddy Occupy Portland's message. Her concern was both understandable and legitimate. It was also undercut by the man in a pink leotard dancing to the Thompson Twins and Madonna blaring from the pink ghetto blaster he pushed in a shopping cart festooned by streamers and glitter. And by the Ron Paul posters. And by the endless proclamations to "End the Fed." And by the people's garden newly planted in Lownsdale Square. And by the ravers pulsating to Dub Step. And by the dead bald eagle, murdered by pollution and greed, hanging of a tree branch. And by the single "Grandmother Against Torture." And by my personal, unstated demand not to let them immanentize the Eschaton.

I met another man, Antonio from Engineering, who had a plan to harness the energy from the rainwater draining off the tarps and tents. The details were murky, but he believed with the proper application of techne and a bit of magic, raindrops could provide for the camp's electricity needs. He also planned to collect the runoff to provide graywater to ease the job of Sanitation. Both ideas blazed with a Gaian boldness and resonated with Ernst Callenbach's Ecotopia and the imaginative uses for sustainable organic plastics in a stable-state society.

These and other conversations sparkled with the sheen of an expanded field of legitimate debate. The 99% are a varied collective of dreamers.

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