The Occupy movement, which gathered national attention last September, has dwindled in terms of outside rallies. But that doesn’t mean Occupy supporters aren't still making noise.
The excitement that began last September to organize has created a web of people who continue to tackle economic disparities in their own way. In San Francisco, residents gather Monday nights to brainstorm solutions to issues like healthcare, gentrification, and unemployment. The events are called Occupy forums.
Magick, an organizer for Occupy San Francisco, has a clear opinion on how capitalism can shape the identity of citizens in our society. "We are just this commodity. We’re supposed to work, we’re supposed to make money, and we’re supposed to buy things and we’re all disposable and our real nature doesn’t really matter," says Magick.
While Magick thinks that’s how things are, she doesn’t think that’s how it needs to be – and neither did about 80 people who joined her at the Women’s Building in San Francisco on a recent Monday night. At an Occupy Forum, they explored the topic of “work” and whether or not our jobs contribute something to society.
"Over the last ten or fifteen years you see people coming together in projects that take place outside of their paid jobs … They’re creating alternatives based on their full existence as human beings," says Critical Mass founder Chris Carlsson.
While Carlsson and other participants in the forum may feel dissatisfied with the concept of what constitutes “work” these days, that sentiment is not necessarily universal. A survey conducted in 2011 by the Nielsen Company shows 47 percent of employees in the U.S. are not satisfied with their work. Though that statistic is better than in recent years, in general, job satisfaction has been declining over the last quarter century, particularly among older generations.
For Carlsson, the Occupy movement has given voice to frustrated workers. "And that’s finally what most of us here are interested in is the best life that everybody can have altogether here on the planet with the least damage to the ecology and the most pleasure for all of us."
After Carlsson spoke, there were small group discussions. Magick facilitated a conversation of about ten people. She asked what kind of profession they would feel happy in if they weren’t bound by fears of not having healthcare or accumulating debt.
"We were really trying to see how we could model in public places a sense of commonality and common purposes in situations that did not have hierarchy, did not have money exchange and were ecologically sound, fun, creative so we thought of things like reuse and repair, so we’re not throwing things away."
Like Magick’s group, many suggested lending programs to address the issue of consumerism. Chris Carlsson shared other concrete examples: “I’ve seen it already with the bicycling culture with Critical Mass and DIY bike shops. The whole community gardening movement… All kinds of efforts that people have been making for quite a long time now over the last ten or fifteen years."
But if everyone had their dream profession, who would do the jobs people didn’t want to do? It’s a tough question, but as Magick pointed out, this was just the first occupy forum on the subject: “What I think was really great about tonight is that for the first time that I’ve been in a public discussion there was a sense that nobody was trying to win a point, or win over somebody, or lecture, or be in charge… I think that’s possible and not mutually exclusive. To me, that’s a brilliant step in the right direction."
With the Occupy movement dissipating over time, and protesters displaced repeatedly, this gathering gave a sense of place and community. Those who attended were hopeful about developing their own remedies rather than accepting the prescribed status quo.
The community discussions will continue Monday nights at 6 p.m. at the Women’s Building on 18th Street in San Francisco. For more information,visit occupyforumsf.org.