By Steve Bass
NOT MY TRIBE - 11/26/2011 11:52PM MDT
After last week, it seemed this entry would be a pep talk for disheartened Colorado Springs Occupiers. Instead it seems it will need to be my own mind meandering around in an attempt to make sense of the new dynamic rising from the ashes of the original manifestation we had going here, which has surely been destroyed. It feels something like a kids cabin make of Lincoln Logs or something after he knocks it over to build something else.
It’s been over a week since the City shut our permit down and confiscated our ramshackle, wind-ragged tents down at Acacia Park. After a few days of curious and somewhat disconcerting quiet, Occupiers in Colorado Springs are reconnected, reinvigorated, and in many cases really pissed off. Yesterday a contingency of us made our way to the old Venetucci Farm south of CSprings to harass Colorado’s Gov. Hickenlooper at the groundbreaking ceremony for a solar garden project of the city’s publicly owned utilities company. About 20 Occupiers of Colorado Springs mic-checked the governor and briefly disrupted the speechifying before a group that was made largely of Occupy’s natural allies, raising the ire of some attendees, but most assuredly reminding Hickenlooper that he won’t be allowed to ignore the movement simply by leaving Denver.
Some Occupiers present , including i, were ambivalent about our project. Hickenlooper is something of a liberal darling, having supported projects like the SunShare solar garden in the past, and the crowd at the event was populated by many of Colorado Springs’s “liberal” elite. The business of interrupting at these proceedings is a little sticky, and may have cost some in support for Occupy among this crowd. On the other hand, some of the issues addressed by Occupy were aptly illustrated within the very brief span of our attendance. Jerry Forte, who wrangles close to $300,000 a year for himself without considering bonuses as CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities, spent a few smooth-talking minutes going on about how cool the city’s utility non-profit is, noting the great advance the two or three dozen solar panels undergoing installation at Venetucci Farm toward his goal of deriving 20% of city power from renewable resources by 2020 represents. Gee whiz! At today’s use rates, by 2020, the world’s inhabitants, especially in the U.S., will be stabbing one another over firewood if we can survive the toxic byproducts of the petroleum industry, or the potentially nuclear wars we are preparing for our next trick in the Middle East. Hmm–wonder what gas prices will look like if the Levant and its environs are sealed under a “sea of glass.”
Forte also sits on the board at the local branch of the United Way, where Bob Holmes’s Homeward Pikes Peak brought in around $650,000 last year, and still can’t figure out how to house or manage the low-ball ,(and variable), estimate of around 1,100 homeless residents in Colorado Springs. Hickenlooper, a million dollar winner in the American sweepstakes who loves to project an aw-shucks, up-by-the-bootstrap, populist kind of image came to his ability to start restaurant empires via the petroleum industry. He presides over a state that panders shamelessly to the U.S. military and its attendant industrial complex, both of which entities these days seem to be no more than acquisition arms of the energy and financial elite about which you may have heard Occupiers railing in recent months. Mike Hannigan of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation was there, and i’m sure he was butt-hurt by the Occupiers implication by their mere presence that his organization might be elitist or something. The CC student i spoke with on the way off the farm grounds was perplexed and hurt herself, expressing solidarity with Occupy, but begging that we not “do it again, ” referring to our admittedly rather obnoxious interruption. She will likely go on from CC to join the cultured pseudo-liberal aristocracy of our guilt-laden Western catechism spinning its wheels till the Apocalypse. Hannigan manages some $50m in assets, and to be sure the foundation does some good work, but all the back-slapping and genteel coffee-sipping over a couple of ultimately meaningless solar panels sure feels a lot like John Rockefeller’s habit of passing out dimes to street urchins late in his life.
I am not accusing Hannigan, Forte, or others of comparability with Rockefeller, who made his initial fortune by arson and murder. Consider this, though. No one seems interested in whether the numbers in the mix add up to anything substantive or not. None of the serious players mentioned above have ever questioned the 1,000% spread between some of the salaries involved at CS Utilities, and when and if they do it’s generally to argue that we have to pay such ridiculous amounts to attract the “best and the brightest,” even though recent history shows plainly enough that it’s painfully obvious huge salaries hardly translate into top performance. No one scratches his head over the disconnect between the high-minded goal of CS Utilities for 20% renewable energy within minutes of the utter collapse of projected petroleum reserves. And aren’t we Americans, including especially those of us with the clout big money wields, responsible for our own politics? Are we really a bastion of freedom and intelligent, realistically utilitarian process or is all that rhetoric just a roll of dimes to cover up our guilt every time we go down to Wal-Mart to perpetuate our slave economy, without which we have never lived? What’s the disparity between Forte’s salary and the annual income of the guy that made his spiffy shoes?
Occupiers love solar projects. But nothing’s ever about just one thing, and it seems to me it’s about as rarely mostly about the thing at the top of the presentation program. We Occupiers are often accused of stupidly purveying no solid agenda. it may be apparent that at least my Occupy agenda is complicated. The above connects Big Oil, Third World labor, charitable impulse, income disparity, under-girding Western guilt, competitive job markets, and spiritual malaise, among other things, including much that remains implied. Many Occupiers i have met personally are still perturbed at the scanty portion of the American Pie they find available on their own plate. We’ve brought this whole scenario upon ourselves, though, and the current program will remain fully unsustainable whether the polite society of charity in the Pikes Peak region dismisses us over our antics or not. That’s why Occupy in general will be not so easily dislodged from its place in history.
The bitch about saying all this is i really, really like most of the people i recognized at Venetucci Farms yesterday. I like Americans in general–but man, we’ve got problems, just like the homeless guys Bob Holmes and his philosophical brethren like to try to control all the time. When i talk to those guys in line at the soup kitchen, i tell them, “Man, ya really ought to leave that dope alone a little.” They know me, and they know i love them. Really. I do–and really, they know it. They know they’re fucked up, too. Sometimes i’ll tell the most torn down that they need to leave the dope alone completely, before it kills them. That’s what i’m saying about our society here in Colorado Springs, in Colorado, the U.S.A., and the whole world. I really don’t have a beef with the bankers, politicians, and half-assed, dime-roll charities of the world, or the foolish scrabblers grasping at the American Nightmare. They’re working a system designed by haphazard evolutionary processes to favor ruthless competition. But i am saying that we need to get serious about fixing all these interwoven problems that stem from deep down in human souls, because we’re running out of time. If we lose, and everything goes to Hell in a handbasket, if none of us learn a genuinely cooperative technique for living together with ourselves, and with the Earth before she rejects us, we Occupiers will be able to tell our kids we fought the deadly processes that brought us down with everything at our disposal. Even if it’s with our dying breaths. What will those of us that insist on competing our species to death be telling theirs?
Occupy is not going away, here in Colorado Springs, or anywhere else. We’re planning more and escalating prodding at the fat, lazy system and its symbiotic remorae. We hope the World listens closely to what we’re saying and its members genuinely look inward to find that bit of truth that remains, concealed behind layers of self-deception and avarice. Because, sure, we’re pissed off about injustice–who wouldn’t be? But we also really like humans, and other living things, and we don’t want to see them all go away.