Gathering occupies place in mind, heart
I usually like to focus on Chautauqua County in this column, but I was reminiscing on some major moments in my life that happened in Buffalo. It really made me feel more connected to our brothers and sisters nearby.
You gotta love Buffalo, the food, the creative community of Allentown, it’s still an asylum to refugees, they’ve got the famous Broadway Market – a heritage landmark – and the music stations disc jockeys are self-deprecatingly humorous and you do get a sense that it lives up to its title of “the city of good neighbors.”
But I never went to Buffalo much, just on special trips or work orientations. I would clench the wheel with both hands, clench my buttcheeks, overwhelmed and tense about the traffic, the round a bout, the one-ways, the do not enters, the unattended and costly parking lots, occasional stretch of severe looking poverty, the fast-approaching exit ramps, etc.
For me it was like being a hillbilly dropped into a Mardis Gras parade. I needed my smelling salts, I was getting the vapors.
But anyway, during the Occupy movement emerging in Buffalo, my sister agreed to go with me to the meetings that were taking place in the park in front of city hall. There weren’t a lot people there compared to the size of the city, but there was more people there than I had ever seen voluntarily gathered to work together, who didn’t even know each other. Citizens.
I was very moved by seeing citizens come together and listen to each other, patiently and with rules, hand signals to keep communication managed. There were people younger than me, in their early college years, there were people my age, my parents age and some senior citizens. There were people of diverse races and some people who were homeless and became interested in the movement, and there were some that were local professionals like lawyers and therapists and an anthropologist who was traveling through and heard about the group on a flyer outside a pharmacy. There were college professors and people who had always done community volunteer work, and people like me who just showed up and were quiet.
The occupation of the park served its purpose: to call together the citizens who are ready to pitch in to the health of our nation, and let them shake hands, become friends, and then take that bond, and create lasting relationships so that they can work together, without being in the park arguing with the authorities about the right to ‘camp.’
I only witnessed the group from attending a few meetings when I could, and talking with the group online. Some I remained online friends with. In that process I believe I saw all of us involved become changed in whatever way we needed to help us sort out the individual niche that we could fill to be useful to our communities.
For some people they’ll fight for the mountains, others will fight for public commons (non privatized/non-commercial public spaces). Some fight for the water to protect it from chemical spills and pipelines. All are changing the way they buy food, the way they limit exposure to mainstream media propaganda, the way they eat healthy food and try to learn skills, the hard ways of doing things that people are supposed to know.
It takes a rag tag group of people who were so harmed by our crises, that they were willing to gather in public to do something, and by doing something. I watched them become stronger more productive people. The passion just grows.
And hey, whether it’s the movement of the 99 Percent, or if it’s people marching to prevent more gun laws, or about the anti-small-farmer attitude of the government, you can break up their protest, but you can’t stop the ideas from spreading. As each citizen wakes up from their haze, they can’t go back to sleep. They grieve the loss of comfort in previous ignorance, but eventually must take responsibility, and when you do that feels so good that you become an inspiration for others and that is how citizens recentralize their own power to effect change in this corrupted gangster pyramid scheme.
In those spaces you can create little cracks in the agenda of technofying everything and paving over the last wilds. And you can be a refuge, you can be a voice of reason, just in the example you lead in your life, and daring to do the hard work instead of settling for what is slopped into our feed troughs. You can homeschool your kids, you can grow your own food, or you can know your own farmer, and plan your food for the year ahead of time, and run your needs with businesslike acumen, understanding the concept of investment and waste.
You have to provide and store the harvest, you’d have to anticipate the challenges of the seasons.
For me the knowledge of our demented food system made me aware of just how much misery was in every bite. From the animals confined unnaturally, to the people working in those places in haz-mat suits to the people downwind who smell the stench from some of those facilities, to the farmers doing it the right way who get beaten out of business by the cowardly and the just- plain-foolish politicians. The workers in the factory, stamping lids onto cans, hour after hour, to the truck drivers seeing stagnating wages and rising gas prices, to the toll booth workers being kept in permanent part-time status so as to deny them benefits, choking on the carbon monoxide of congested exit ramps. The store clerks shelving it at 3 a.m. with a heap of debt and few prospects and type 2 diabetes.
Food grown in a long chain of misery tastes degrading to eat. I couldn’t stand the taste of sadness and disrespect in the food anymore, and I knew that I was going to have to overcome all my instincts of laziness, to live up to my ethics.
The effort continues!
Lindsay Morrison is a Forestville resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org