Derrick Jenson and “Occupying The Machine”

I had the privilege on Saturday to hear Derrick Jenson speak to the Occupy Oakland camp about his development of a “Deep Green Resistance.”  He provided a number of healthy perspectives to the 75 or so people that gathered to hear him speak.

One of his early points was that the language of “occupying” is inherently violent and that it has its roots in the colonialist occupations that led to the ongoing genocides of indigenous peoples on this continent.  You see, the Indians or Native Americans or whatever you want to call them have been fighting against the “occupying” Europeans for 5oo years already.

So what if we start rebranding the occupy camps to something less inherently violent – like: De-Colonize.

Below is the full text of the literature that Derrick Jenson handed out.

Occupy The Machine.  Our bodies will be our demand.  An open letter to the occupy movement.  

The Occupy Movement is beautiful.  We support it and though we are small, we are participating all over the country.  We invite all occupiers to read, give feedback, and if you feel moved to do so to present this at a General Assembly or committee meeting near you.  We invite you to imagine, as many of you already probably have, if thousands of people occupied local refineries, roads, ports, oil and mining extraction sites, etc. – in other words, imagine if people occupied the locations where the 1% destroy the land and exploit humans, all for profit. 

Imagine their stock prices falling, their cash flow being interrupted, their ability to get loans and/or expand “production” – a euphemism for converting living beings into dead products – finished.

Imagine if we were able to stop them, stop the 1%.  Literally.  Not symbolically.  We think it can be done if we all do it together.  We think it can be done if we all figure out how to do it and if we are willing to make the necessary sacrifices, together.  

Here’s one way we could start: 

Though we are all part of the 99%, not all of us are impacted the same way.  First and foremost we recognize that non-indigenous people in the US are occupying stolen land in an ongoing genocide that has lasted for centuries.  

We affirm our responsibility to stand with indigenous communities who want support, to risk our lives and give everything we can to protect the land without which none of us have anything.

We also recognize and stand in solidarity with communities of people of coor who are also disproportionately impacted by environmental racism, capitalism, and a system of white supremacy.

We recognize that women combat a system of sexism and patriarchy, and we commit to supporting the struggle for gender equality, which is the basis of equality for all.  

Our focus will be to stand in solidarity with local indigenous communities, people of color communities, and women in struggle – ask if they would like support and what that support would look like, and share some version of this overall strategy.  

Then, based on this information and in collaboration with local communities if all agree, each Occupy General Assembly would decide what they want to target.  Or they would call on people to form local affinity groups and those groups would decide the local targets on which they would focus. 

Many local affinity groups could conceivably attempt to occupy multiple targets.  Strategically, however, it will likely be more successful if occupiers focus on one or two major targets – such as Tar Sands refineries, fracking, coal plants etc.  The idea is that if we can successfully shut down a few major targets all over the country, one or tow targets per region, people more broadly will see the power they all have and more targets can be taken on.  

To be clear, what we’re envisioning here would mean a massive escalation.  It would mean hundreds of thousands of people all over the country leaving behind school, jobs, family, and comfort to really go for it.  To not settle for less than victory.  To leave behind symbolic action for good.

One obstacle to making this happen, however, is that as soon as we announce where we would occupy, they would come and would likely remove us immediately, especially if we don’t have enough people there.  They won’t want the 1% to lose a damn penny.  So we don’t tell them where we’re going ahead of time.  But if we don’t say where we’re going ahead of time, then we can’t get people out by the thousands – and we’re gonna need thousands of people to make this work.  

So, here’s an idea:  We announce, big time, that some of us are planning on occupying the sites of direct exploitation and destruction.  And we say that we’ll need as many of the people who love the Occupy Movement and who are sick and tired of being sick and tired, to come out decisively and to not plan on going home for as long as it takes.

We’d ask all those people to start preparing right away, have their stuff packed, tents, food, money, and a plan for how they can participate and be able to stay for as long as it takes (we’d encourage people to ask their community to support them so they could go for as long as it takes) so that as soon as the local Occupy groups would announce targets, perhaps through text messages and other means, those people would be ready to go to the targets at a moment’s notice.  This kind of tactic has been used successfully in the past to get lots of people to a location for a blockade while keeping the cops on the run and always one step behind.  If we can get enough people to the different locations before the state gets there, we have a chance at holding it until even more people can come.

If there are enough of us who are willing to make the necessary commitment and sacrifice, we believe we need nothing more than our bodies, community support, and the will to keep going to Occupy The Machine:  Stop the 1%, literally.

Here are some other points that could be helpful:  

1) Start Together – The key as we see it would be to start on the same day so that they’re overwhelmed with people going to different locations.  They may seem all-powerful sometimes, but they can’t be everywhere at once.

2) Sustained Blockades – This would mean doing what Occupy does so well, stay, day after day after day after day… as long as we can go.  For every person they drag away to jail, we must bring ten more to replace them every day.  We will cost them as much money as we can with our bodies and our determination.  Blockaders will blockade both inside and outside of targets when possible.  And they will blockade roads and ports to stop supply lines.

3) Demonstrators/Community Encampments – For those who cannot blockade, the role of the community will be crucial.  Demonstrators encamped on the target’s land or nearby will provide support to the blockaders and will be crucial to success.

4) Building Communities of Nonviolent Resistance – For those involved in this who lack a strong, unified community, we must very deliberately build the concrete infrastructure for a community of resistance to support these struggles.  This is already happening in many ways.  But a systematic approach to creating networks of people who are devoted to supporting occupiers could be the key to success.  This will mean legal defense funds and a network of lawyers who will work pro bono or for a reduced fee.  This will also mean arranging transition housing – places for people to stay after they are released if they are jailed for long periods of time.  It will mean relentless fundraising so that those who lose their jobs, take significant time off from work, or who go to prison for long periods will have funds to support themselves and provide for their families.  It will mean creating free medical care networks so that people in the movement will have access to health care.  It will mean creating food networks to provide food for those who are protesting day after day, and for families of those who are imprisoned or lose their jobs.  It will mean creating networks of childcare.  It will mean creating a transportation network, including carpools, donations of frequent flyer miles, movement cars and vans, caravans, and buses, to be available for the kind of sustained civil disobedience we will need.  And last and most important it will mean simple companionship – the incalculable gift of camaraderie and friendship, the healing nature of laughter and hugs, the deliberate creation of a network of communities of love spread far and wide – healers, body workers, artists, musicians, actors facilitators, counselors, those called by spirit, nonviolent communicators, restorative justice facilitators – all of us will be needed – to see us all through the hard times that will come if we do this kind of sustained direct action.

5) Jail Solidarity – rather than trying to construct civil disobedience actions so people spend the least amount of time in jail and cooperate with the police and court system to the full extent, we will follow the lead of those who have come before us.  Instead, those who can, will use jail solidarity as a tactic.  Jail solidarity means that those who get arrested will not bring identification with them, won’t give their name, and will not cooperate while in jail.  As more and more people are arrested, the jailers and those they protect will not know what to do.  At first they will threaten, try to divide, offer deals, or even beat people or put them in solitary confinement to break their wills.  But those who will get arrested will know this going in and will commit to maintaining their solidarity.  They can’t jail us all and if we don’t cooperate the system will not work, if there are thousands of us.  Their actions will further highlight the illegitimacy and cruelty of this system that lets the CEO of BP walk free but will jail and do worse to those who are only trying to protect life.  Jail solidarity combined with the more arrests, demonstrations, encampments, community involvement, and a network of communities of nonviolent resistance offering material support are unstoppable.

6) Escalation:  A Promise – Too often when we don’t succeed, we don’t escalate.  Too often when they escalate their attacks against the planet and all living beings, we don’t escalate.  (Have you noticed that ll of our victories are temporary and defensive, and all our losses permanent and offensive?)  No more.  If our actions do not succeed, we promise to escalate.  We will regroup, reorganize, and go for more than before, risking more and holding nothing back.  We promise they will lose more money and we will get stronger and fight harder.

This is our chance.  We can use our energy and love to stop the 1% who are literally killing us, stealing from us, and destroying the only home we have.  Our bodies will be our demands.  And with our bodies, we will stop the 1% together, permanently.

These are just thoughts.  Not a plan.  But we hope it’s the start of a conversation about how we can do some version of this.  The 1% don’t really own or control anything.  They do what they do because they have guns and we allow them to.  But that can all change.

Jenson has been an inspiration figure and I believe that his values are in tune with mine.  I would love to see a version of Occupy The Machine be successful.

8 comments on “Derrick Jenson and “Occupying The Machine”

  1. Unless you can show me that all the new low cost digital communication devices exclude indigenous people, people of color, and women, I feel this person’s perspective is actually more ripifying than coalescing.

    Nowadays anybody can try anything that they want because the cost to communicate has reached such inexpensive territory.

    To keep slamming white folks now that everybody can communicate equally and fairly is outdated to me, and I would ask this, would a truly tyrannical group of people allow for communication devices to get to the people they are oppressing?

    Ironically, the people who have lost the greatest amount of wealth in the past five years is main street “whitey”, now you want to advocate piling on even more. Thanks pal.

    • One more thing. White guilt, along with a heaping amount of fraud, helped get Barack Obama past a much better candidate, Hillary Clinton, back in 2008. We are now reaping the tragic result of that mistake.

    • Do you really think white people are being “slammed?” I think white people (particularly younger white people) need to be reminded of the need for equality.

      • White guilt helped elect Barack Obama. How’s that working out?

      • If Hillary would have been the candidate – and won – would you say that patriarchy got her elected?

        I don’t know about white guilt anymore. I believe love should be colorblind, and that includes loving myself.

        Regardless of whether I do still have any white guilt left – it certainly didn’t contribute to me electing him since I didn’t vote…

      • Your question gets into many complicated issues. The biggest ones in my opinion being why women stopped Hillary Clinton from winning the democratic nomination.

        From Oprah Winfrey, to Arianna Huffington, to Nancy Pelosi, to Maria Shriver, to the smitten younger women who got involved with Obama’s campaign for the social aspect, like bonding with others and feeling like they were part of a “movement” when really they were cowtowing to the young men of the Obama movement.

        Obama has proven to only care about what he can hand feed to the populace so he can take full credit, the very depiction of baron munchausen’s disease by proxy.

        Obama has also managed to take the male viewpoint on certain issues while completely ignoring the female one. Take for instance, BeerGate. The only people that acted responsibly regarding beergate were the two women who monitored the apparent break in of a home, and reported the situation in a fair and responsible manner to the police.

        The women weren’t invited to the white house, the two men who were accused of behaving badly were instead invited.

        it’s amazing Hillary Clinton still got 50% of the popular vote in 2008 with all the women plotting against her, and that it would have been higher if Michigan and Florida’s votes had counted.

      • I share your frustration (or even disdain) with Obama so far. He’s been more than just disappointing – to the point that my last “hope” about him is that he doesn’t declare martial law on the occupy movement and force it to evolve violently. I think we’re all better than that.

        But I guess to get back to your original quarrel with Derrick Jenson – I think he’s taken his white guilt to a pretty painful place and he now would like to enlighten us with that suffering that he experienced. His ideals of “ending civilization” are extremely radical, but I think that it’s going to take some pretty radical thinking to help us shift into a sustainable civilization. It won’t be easy, but I still believe that most people want to do the right thing to our planet.

      • That are certain things about the past that fascinate me. People who are really really angry about the past may have never asked themselves, would they prefer to have never existed in exchange for a fairer past.

        Because the moments in time that get condemned could have been changed, virtually none of us from the present would exist, we would all be different people. Who among the complainers about the past would be willing to disappear and have never existed in exchange for a fairer past.

        And, people who are that angry about make me wonder, if the past had been reversed, would whitey have ever been as equal as other races should view themselves today?
        I kind of lean towards, nope, but I’m only leaning that way.

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