Will This Winter be the Occupy’s Valley Forge?

There has been a lot of talk about that Occupy is dying down now that the weather is turning and it isn’t fun anymore to bang drums in the middle 20 degree weather. Campuses in numerous cities are breaking up due to this or because of local government interaction. In places like LA and Philadelphia the tent cities are being broken by police while smaller sites, such as the one near where I live in Denton Tx, were for the most part abandoned voluntarily.  And while the camps continue to fade many will be thinking “So this is the end of Occupy?”

Not that a good job wouldn’t help…

I seriously doubt it. Many are indeed abandoning the tent cities erected over the past several months that have evolved into a type of forum for an endless open air debate on the nature of the government, economics and social reform. There was also a lot of weed.  The people however will carry the discussion home, influencing those who are close to them and pushing the conversations they had to the rest of us.

It is those who stay behind though. Those hard-core believers in the… something. If they survive this winter, these individuals will be the ones who make the news some three to four months from now.

What those who stay in the tents and endure are going to do for the movement will be very important for its future evolution. They will face cold and rain, snow and ice and intense feeling of “is it worth it?” “Why are we sitting out here in the cold with the entire nation thinking our movement is a joke?” And while they sit something else may happen.

They will talk. As they talk, those that are left, will be creating a conversation that will be different than what they have been saying before. This conversation will be different because it won’t be clouded by the flood of their current population. The flood of fair weather idealists, drugged out self-righteous know-it-alls and the remnant hippies reliving the 70’s that are the current populace of the camps will likely take their leave until the nice weather returns and protesting is a fun sport again. And those that are left will be consolidating the ideas that are left. Their muddled message about the greed of the 1% may finally evolve into something that people can deal with. Those people may together be able to realize some economic truths and realities and create a message that the majority of American people can understand and get behind.

While I don’t agree with the economic views of the Occupy movement and I feel that most of what I heard from them at this point is idealistic, some of it selfish and most of it lacking realism or a long term understanding of what their ideas will end up meaning for the country. I believe however, that some of those taking part in the Occupy protests are intelligent people. I think that if these people do stick it out they may come up with some good ideas, some real ideas and something that can actually create real discussion with the American public.

I compared this period that Occupy is about to go through as their Valley Forge.  No so much in selflessness and courage, nor also the desire to seek both personal and governmental independence, but in zealousness at least. What happened at Valley Forge was that a beaten and weakened Continental Army weathered the winter of 1777-1778. At that time they were a band of confused, unequipped, demoralized and lost group of individuals lacking a clear vision and direction for the future. During that winter they received leadership from our founding military fathers. When the winter was over what came out of the fort was a strong, disciplined Continental Army guided by a shared mission and vision and led by strong leaders. The comparison pretty much ends for me there, but for many Occupiers they see this as their Valley Forge moment. In many ways they may be right, if they can come out of this better then they went in.

Whether you agree with Occupy or think they are bunch silly misguided kids on a tantrum, if they can survive this winter what will come out next spring will be a galvanized group. Their ideas my be better or they may be worse, but what is certain is that those who survive it will be leaders of the new Occupy, whether they like it or not.

Will it? That ball is Occupy’s court now.

Occupy Forgets the Roots of American Wealth

This post was originally a reply to a friend and fellow blogger Tanner of The Opinionz Matter. He made a post Occupiers Ignoring The Founding Fathers.

While the above image is from the Constitution of the United States, I would like to cite a reference to another document of civic importance.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

He focused on the phrases “Pursuit of Happiness” and “Created Equal.”

He reasoned : “”My answers came relatively quickly. I think we can all agree that we should have the freedom to do what we want without lives, whether it involves us being happy or not. No government should prevent that. However, I firmly believe that this statement firmly defines the Founding Fathers’ vision for America; that people should have the right to pursue happiness, not the right to possess happiness in their lives.”

I would reword the last statement to be “not the right [ to be given ] happiness in their lives. But reading this post and others from Tanner I believe he wouldn’t mind the edit.

John Locke

I believe that one can also derive the nature of what was intended in this statement by asking the founders where they got their ideas. I think that it is interesting to consider where Jefferson got many of his views. His work is based much off the work of political theorist John Locke. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Property.” Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right (meaning no one should be able to forcibly stop you from gaining property) and it is derived from labor (In other words, you have to earn it.) In addition, he believed property precedes government and government cannot “dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily.” Karl Marx later critiqued Locke’s theory of property in his own social theory.

This is what the pursuit looks like.

This became the basis for the phrase in the American Declaration of Independence: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. You can see how happiness is derived from property in Locke’s work, however Jefferson expounded upon the idea as meaning something other than specifically property. If it were, people would assume that the government has an obligation to fill the Right to Property. Instead, Jefferson chose key phrases like “pursuit,” meaning the right to gain without governmental obstruction and “happiness” meaning that which gives value to your life, be it property, fame, relationships or writing blogs.

Learn to Earn. This is not the pursuit of happiness, it’s the pursuit of someone else’s.

Occupy believes that equality is something that is concerned with wealth and that our equality in that respect should be guaranteed. This, as Tanner brought forward, is against the wishes of the founding fathers. Equality is not concerned with wealth. We are created equal, and equality is part of our nature as humans, not the works we do and not part of something that can be given to us by a governing body. Therefore, it seems apparent that the founding fathers did not believe it was their privilege or right to take property or to give it. This is contradictory to the idea of redistribution of wealth and forcible equality of wealth without labor to create that wealth.

We are born equal, we all agree. It took us a long time to understand this. We had to overcome racism, sexism and several other -isms to try to attain the level of equality we have today. I remember growing up when my mom said she thought she would never see a black president. I think that shows how far we have come, not that we are perfect yet, but we are reaching closer now than we have ever been toward equality among everyone. But that, as I said, is when we are created. That is why each of us have only one vote, one voice, equally. Where the equality should stop is the assumption that everyone should have the same property or happiness. This is what is meant to have the right to pursue, meaning it needs to be earned, it has to be worked for and it should never be given.


Is This the True Nature of Occupy?

Scene outside one Occupy casualty scene in Vancouver.

I am a student at the University of North Texas, the site where this week Darwin Cox, 23 was found dead in his Occupy Denton tent colony. The more I thought about it the angrier I became.

First I must say, although I disagree with much of their assumptions and their premise for this movement, I respect their right to meet and peacefully protest. They have the right to speak out against a system they believe isn’t working in their favor. This is guaranteed them in the constitution. I promise you, I fought for it. We as a democratic people must remember that everyone has the right to gather, organize and be heard.

What I saw this week on my native campus, however was deplorable. A young man died in one of those tents. Some would say this isn’t news, being that he isn’t even the first. As I write this he is the 8th death of  members taking part in Occupy protests. What happened in this case is that a man died and those citizen patriots, those virtuous idealist and martyrs of American justice, abandoned him. Saturday night police were directed to the occupy tents on the University of North Texas campus in Denton Texas. When they arrived on the scene the encampment was empty, the tents vacant save for the tent where Mr. Cox was found. This much is certain.

Building near Occupy Denton Camp

So my questions are “Where was everyone else?” “Where are these high minded idealists?”” Where are these people protesting that it is our responsibility to take care of one another?” “Where are the people who say that it is job of those in society to protect the weakest among them when one among lay dead in his tent?”

These ideals seemed to disappear the moment that reality hits. When a group of irresponsible delinquents preaching as if they understand moral virtue and societal goodness come together to result in a man’s death how do they deal with it? They all scurry away like roaches brought into the light.

Occupy Oakland member waves a defaced United States flag.

At the root of this I think is the nature of Occupy itself. Within this group is the beating heart of an anarchist movement where a leaderless mass together topples the “system”. You know what is an interesting aspect of leaders? They are the people who accept responsibility for their actions, in victory and in tragedy. What you have demonstrated here on the University of North Texas is simply gross negligence and a lack of basic human decency.

My viewpoints are harsh, but that is because I believe in higher principals. I served two tours in Iraq with the United States Marines. I may have hated the people I worked with day after day, but we learned early on that the most important human qualities are shown when supporting the fallen, the wounded and the weak. We learned that leaders do not just take credit for a win, but lead through adversity, and take responsibility when they fail. Let me try to control myself long enough not to get into the “Leave no man behind’ ethos.

Another scene from Occupy Oakland

For such an inherently hypocritical, insidious act to occur should tell the rest of us that no matter what Occupy protests, they are not ready to influence our way of life. They have shown a history of lacking a true respect for human life and well being while demanding to be shown the same. They are demanding to rewarded by society when they seek to add nothing to it. This is the true nature of occupy, a group of kids out to party, making demands and giving out speeches about human rights, but when adversity hits they have neither the intestinal fortitude nor virtue of spirit to what is truly right.

Memorial for Occupy Members

Rumors have been flying around the campus lately about the situation surround Cox’s death. Many refer to illicit drug use known go on in the camp. The weather here has just taken a turn so the boy may have frozen. There may be other factors. Each of these reasons has been linked to other deaths in the occupy movement and now even talks of sexual assaults. But at this time I don’t think it matters if Darwin Cox died from drug use, from exposure or violence. There were people at those tents who should have been capable of preventing his death. These same people cry out justice, yet they won’t take responsibility for their actions. They cry out against corruption yet they have shown no character with which to corrupt. They scream for equality yet they still live as one of theirs is dead. Whatever your views on the rationality of Occupy you should know this. The 1% did not kill Darwin Cox. A greedy government did not kill Darwin Cox and no “system of repression” is responsible either. Occupy killed Mr. Cox, or at least did nothing to stop it.

(Edited December 20, 2011) I have been asked to provide citing for my article.

Citings, Sources and Assumptions:

My first source is an official letter sent by the president of the University of North Texas immediately after news of Cox’s death. This was the first news I received of the incident. You can view a copy of the letter posted here. President’s Letter to UNT students.

As to the statements about drug use, you can find that on Occupy Denton’s blog posting they admit that the Cox has suffered from drug use and that it is likely the cause of his death. Occupy Denton site.

Other acts that have occurred in an around Occupy camps can be followed by clicking the links there. Sexual assaultViolence, Drug use

For those feeling the post to be to biased a news link has report where Occupy Denton’s official spokes person spokesman Garrett Graham is provided here. He also mentions that Occupy members were present, however other reports state that the camp was empty when police arrived.

News of Cox and other’s drug involvement and poor self-policing system at the camp is also reported here.

For those concerned about weather, here is information for the city of Dallas on that day. Remember that the death occurred at around 4:15 PM and while this day was cool, this was not weather that should be able to kill a 23 year old man.

My assumptions from this information are that the man died of drug use while on the encampment. I believe from information shown that other occupy members were present and knew of his and others drug use. What is certain is that while their spokesman said he was said that before his death he was “uncommunicative, lathargic and had a fever” which does not support other reports, some by Occupy, that his death was likely due to his drug use. What is also certain is that signs of the situation were seen by members who failed to seek help for Cox, the members fled the scene before police arrived and that illegal activity was happening at the camp, against both state and university rules, without being policed by the members of Occupy Denton.

This was why I wrote this post. It isn’t because I do not support protesting. If you read my comments at the bottom I make this very clear. I feel that when a moral populous stands up for perceived wrong doing of their governing body that that is a righteous and democratic act. I use the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 as an example of protesting done correctly by a moral group of citizens. What I saw and read about in Denton was not something that would have happened if the members of that group showed the moral excellence they demand in others.