David DeGraw: The Nowman Interview – Part Two


Re-posted from http://occupylosangeles.org, authored by Dan Nowman Niswander,
originally published on: 13 February 2012
Submitted by nowman on Mon, 02/13/2012 – 1:11am

February marks the anniversaries of two key developments in  the 99% and Occupy Movements: the publishing of a report entitled The Economic Elite Vs. the People of the United States of America which signaled the beginning of the 99% Movement in 2010, and in 2011, the first mention of an ‘Occupation of Wall Street’ in another report posted on AmpedStatus.com.

 In part two of the interview, one of the original organizers from Occupy Wall Street, David DeGraw talks about horizontal decision-making, perceptions of the movement regarding how to deal with the economic problems, co-option concerns, and shares some reflective final thoughts.  In part one of the interview which can also be found on the nowman blog page, David discusses money out of politics, Interoccupy, Occupy 2.0, dealing with the ego, and more.

Dan Nowman: How can you maintain horizontal decision-making and actually get things done? You mentioned on the website (AmpedStatus.com) that when you came to the conclusion of focusing on money out of politics there were a thousand different directions that you could have gone in and the same thing could be said about the process of getting anything done. How do you maintain in your mind or with a core group of people, a horizontal sort of way of making decisions and getting things done?

David DeGraw:  Obviously it’s a process and no one person or one group speaks for the entire movement. It’s a process of direct democracy with the general assemblies, but ultimately this movement was built on the decentralized model. Basically, in the run up to this we kept saying that anything that you can do in a non-violent manner to rebel against economic tyranny or financial oppression is welcome.  Everyone has their own skills and their own passion about what they want to do, so step up, be a leader and do it.  Pick an issue whether it’s foreclosures, getting money out of politics, or breaking up the banks. Pick whatever issue you want, step up into the movement and you will find thousands of other people who want to focus on that particular issue. Start working with those people to do something in a constructive non-violent manner to push the issue. My answer is… whatever you are most passionate about, reach out to people in the movement, find people who feel the same way, start moving on it, and make things happen. That is what decentralized rebellion is all about.

Dan Nowman:  There seems to be some middle of the road politics right now, some mixed messages like some want to praise the movement, but at the same time they’re not really committed to it. Or you’ll hear for instance there is agreement on peaceful non-violent action, but some will say we need reform of the system and some will say we need radical change. What are your thoughts on that?

David DeGraw: It really depends on how you define all of those terms. I talk to some people who say that reforming the system is a waste of time, but their definition of reforming the system is a lot different from other people. There are so many different opinions.  I don’t really have any particular ideology that I subscribe to. I don’t have any perfect end game. I don’t know what the answer for the future is. That is for all of us to decide. I just looked at all of the issues from my personal perspective, the first step to either reforming the system or creating an all out revolution that is successful is getting money out of politics. By focusing on that you open up the door to whatever needs to evolve out of the mess that we’re in right now, in my opinion. I don’t have all of the answers.  Nobody does.

Dan Nowman:  What’s the best way for occupy to support the labor unions at this point? What do you think about that? Do you have any thoughts on that at all?

David DeGraw:  It’s a complicated question.  When it comes to unions and it comes to working with the Democratic Party, and I know that unions are not specifically just the Democratic Party, I do worry about issues of co-option. I see unions of course as an ally. It’s workers fighting for their rights and that is the 99%. Really it’s the one tenth of one percent I see as driving all of this greed and corruption. The movement has to be inclusive and that means working with the unions, working with a lot of different groups. How exactly do we do it, I don’t really know.  It’s for people who care about those issues.

Dan Nowman:  I feel that we are all here together and it is about the unity of justice, but there is much concern about co-option in the movement which I believe is very healthy. I don’t think anybody wants to be co-opted on a personal basis, let alone as part of a whole. That would even apply to the development of the media in the movement.

David DeGraw:  Ultimately going back to the decentralized nature. There’s occupied everything, there’s 99% everything.  Overall we have to let people do what they’re going to do.  It becomes a question when somebody profits off of what they are doing. What are they doing with the profits, are they helping the movement with those profits or are they just doing it for their own personal gain? There is a little bit of such revolution in media, too. The amount of newspapers and websites, the flyers, the videos, this has really opened up all of the creative potential of the Internet and the media in general. People are doing their thing and they should do it as long as they try to put the integrity of the movement first. That’s just my opinion on all of this.

Dan Nowman: You must have been overwhelmed as you started meeting so many people especially since last September. How would you describe this experience and what you’ve learned from it so far?

David DeGraw: The amazing thing about this movement is that we have gone from going five miles an hour to like a hundred and fifty miles an hour.  In the last four months I’ve met more people than I have in my entire life. I’ve been organizing for over a decade now. The past four months are like living on the edge of a firehose, these amazing people coming from all directions. I try to work with as many people as possible. It’s so overwhelming. I always say I’m in a rowboat in the middle of a tsumani, trying to stay afloat as the tidal wave comes.

The political and economic system is totally ***ked up, it’s broken, and anyone who is politically aware at all knows that it is rigged and its’ broken and anyone who cares about the future wants to get involved in this movement to help fix the mess we’re in.  Those people come from all different walks of life. Some of them are multi-millionaires and some of them are Tea Party members, some of them are part of the Democratic Party, some of them are part of the Republican Party. Some of them are corporate CEOs and it is so difficult trying to figure out. You meet a person and you get to know them on a personal level and you see that it seems like they’re trying to fix things and you want to be supportive of that, but at the same time you’re going to have people in the movement who are going to say you’re selling out, or why are you talking to that person? It’s a constant struggle and a constant battle to try and deal with everyone’s perceptions. At the end of the day, one thing that I’ve learned kind of the hard way is that, you just have to keep your head down and keep your own personal integrity, be truthful, be straight up with people, and if you’re honest in what you’re doing you’ll at least keep moving forward in a way that is always productive and constructive and not bogging down in all the bull***t.

Dan Nowman: At times there does have to be a spokesperson and a spokes council as you’ve made reference to (on AmpedStatus.com). The message is always more important than the messenger. We must maintain the integrity of what that means!  Thank you so much!

David DeGraw: Thanks a lot and keep up the fight!

Note: David’s book The Economic Elite Vs. the People of the United States of America is currently available online and a re-release will be issued soon. 

In addition, please share this article and quote it as you wish, but always remember to maintain the integrity of the movement in what you do.  The most important part of that integrity, in my view, is to acknowledge our fellow human beings and all life on our wonderful Earth planet equally because we’re all here together NOW!

Love and Peace,

Dan Nowman Niswander

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