In October's Newsletter:
Naomi's Speech at Occupy Wall Street: "The Most Important Thing in
the World Now" <#ows>
Naomi Debates the OWS Protests in the New York Times <#nyt>
Naomi and Bill McKibben at The Daily Beast :"Obama's Pipeline Mess"
Naomi's Nation Op-Ed on the London Riots: "Daylight Robbery, Meet
Nighttime Robbery" <#london>
Check Out Naomi's Recent Media Appearances to Discuss Occupy Wall
How You Can Donate to Occupy Wall Street <#support>
, October 6, 2011
I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on
Thursday, October 6. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned,
and everything I said had to be repeated by hundreds of people so
others could hear (a.k.a. "the human microphone"), what I actually
said at Liberty Plaza had to be very short. With that in mind, here
is the longer, uncut version of the speech.
I love you.
And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout "I
love you" back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human
microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you,
only way louder.
Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: "We found
each other." That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being
created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can�t
be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world
to find each other. We are so grateful.
If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a
crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to
know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish
list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social
security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last
constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is
happening the world over.
And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and
fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99
percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say "No.
We will not pay for your crisis."
That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to Greece and
France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile
where the crisis began.
"Why are they protesting?" ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile,
the rest of the world asks: "What took you so long?" "We�ve been
wondering when you were going to show up." And most of all:
Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the
so-called anti-globalization protests that came to world attention in
Seattle in 1999. That was the last time a global, youth-led,
decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am
proud to have been part of what we called "the movement of
But there are important differences too. For instance, we chose
summits as our targets: the World Trade Organization, the
International Monetary Fund, the G8. Summits are transient by their
nature, they only last a week. That made us transient too. We�d
appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. And in the frenzy of
hyper patriotism and militarism that followed the 9/11 attacks, it
was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.
Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And
you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only
when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact
of the information age that too many movements spring up like
beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It�s because they don�t have
roots. And they don�t have long term plans for how they are going to
sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.
Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these
principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures
and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead.
I have great faith that this will happen.
Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed
yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the
images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately.
And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the
story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality. Which
we saw more of just last night. Meanwhile, support for this movement
grows and grows. More wisdom.
But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were
taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom.
Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging. The media was
drunk on easy money. Back then it was all about start-ups, not shut
We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a
price. It was damaging to labor standards. It was damaging to
environmental standards. Corporations were becoming more powerful
than governments and that was damaging to our democracies. But to be
honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic
system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.
Ten years later, it seems as if there aren�t any more rich countries.
Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the
public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.
The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust
and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global
economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are
overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and
deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the
planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb
the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous
warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.
These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious,
that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in
1999, and to build the movement quickly.
We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act
as if there is no end to what is actually finitefossil fuels and the
atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there
are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountifulthe
financial resources to build the kind of society we need.
The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false
scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive
societywhile at the same time, respect the real limits to what the
earth can take.
What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline.
This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or
swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I�m not
talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich,
though that�s important.
I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our
society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and
it’s also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent
for being difficult.
That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are
feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information
freely and proving health care, meditation classes and empowerment
training. My favorite sign here says "I care about you." In a culture
that trains people to avoid each other�s gaze, to say, "Let them die,"
that is a deeply radical statement.
A few final thoughts. In this great struggle, here are some things
that don’t matter.
What we wear.
Whether we shake our fists or make peace signs.
Whether we can fit our dreams for a better world into a media
And here are a few things that do matter.
Our moral compass.
How we treat each other.
We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political
forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows
from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be
aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller
targetslike, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting.
After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.
Don�t give in to the temptation. I’m not saying don’t call each other
on shit. But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work
side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the
task before will demand nothing less.
Let�s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing
in the world. Because it is. It really is.
Note: Naomi’s speech also appeared in the Occupied Wall Street
The New York Times
, October 6, 2011
Naomi was asked by the New York Times to contribute to an edition of
"Room for Debate" about Occupy Wall Street: "The protesters are
getting more attention and expanding outside New York. What are they
doing right, and what are they missing?" Here is her response.
I can’t help but compare the Occupy Wall Street protests to the
movements that sprang up against corporate globalization at the end
of 1990s, most visibly at the World Trade Organization summit in
Seattle. Like today’s protests, those demonstrations were also marked
by innovative coalitions among students, trade unions and
Here are the things I think today’s activists are doing better than
we did back then. We chose summits as our targets: the W.T.O., the
International Monetary Fund, the G-8. Summits are transient by
nature, and that made us transient too. We�d appear, grab world
headlines, then disappear. After the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to
sweep us away completely, at least in North America.
Today�s protesters have chosen a fixed target: Wall Street, a symbol
of the corporate takeover of democracy. And they have put no end date
on their presence. This gives them time to put down roots, which is
going to make it a lot harder to sweep them away, even if they get
kicked out of one physical space.
Something else they are doing right: they have committed themselves
to nonviolence and to being good neighbors to local businesses. That
means broken windows and street fights aren�t upstaging the message
in the media. And when police attack peaceful occupiers (and the
protesters catch it on camera), it generates tremendous sympathy for
A lot of people seem very agitated about the fact that this movement
doesn�t have a list of soundbite-ready demands and media-ready
spokespeople. Personally I�m delighted that Occupy Wall Street hasn�t
given in to the hectoring for a list of "demands." This is a young
movement still in the process of determining just how powerful it is,
and that power will determine what demands are possible. Small
movements have to settle for small reforms: big ones have the freedom
The Daily Beast
, October 8, 2011
There’s no denying that the Solyndra drama stinkswhen you have
executives taking the Fifth and a political appointee pushing for
loan restructuring while his wife works for the company�s law firm,
it’s pretty clear that it won�t end well. The fact that the company
made solar panels doesn�t make it any bettergreen cronyism is still
But there’s a far, far bigger Obama cronyism scandal breakingand in
this case, there’s still time for the president to step in and stop
The story started coming out a few weeks ago when Nebraska activists
preparing for State Department hearings on the Keystone XL pipeline
noticed something odd. The hearings were actually being run by a
private company called Cardno Entrixtheir name was even at the
bottom of the State Department official website. If you wanted to
send in public comments, you sent them to the company.
Upon further investigation, they learned two things: Cardno Entrix
had in fact been contracted to run the entire environmental-review
process for the pipeline. And if you go to the Cardno Entrix
corporate website, it lists one of their major clients as
TransCanada, the very company building the pipeline. That’ｓ almost
But The New York Times
took the story a step further yesterday. It turns out that
TransCanada actually recommended the firm to the State Department,
and that TransCanada had "managed the bidding process" that ended up
picking Entrix. As the Times put it, with considerable
understatement, the arrangement involved "flouting the intent of a
federal law meant to ensure an impartial environmental analysis of
major projects." They quoted a Tulane law professor who specializes
in environmental oversight who spoke in plainer language: Cardno
Entrix had a "financial interest in the outcome of the project. Their
primary loyalty is getting this project through, in the way the client
In other words: The pipeline company recommended the firm they wanted
to review them, a firm that listed the pipeline company as one of
their major clients. Perhapsjust perhapsthat explains why the
review found that Keystone XL would have "limited adverse
environmental impacts," a finding somewhat at odds with the
conclusion of 20 of the nation’s top scientists who wrote the
president this summer to say it would be an environmental disaster.
And perhaps it�s why the report notes only briefly in an addendum the
disastrous spill of tar sands oil in the Kalamazoo River last year35
miles of the river remains closed, and so far the taxpayers have
shelled out $500 million to help clean up. Is there any way (besides
reading the newspapers and talking to local officials) that Cardno
Entrix could possibly have known about the Kalamazoo spill? Well yes.
Cardno Entrixget ready for itwas in fact hired by that pipeline
company to assess the damage of that spill.
This is quite possibly the biggest potential scandal of the Obama
years. But there’s a danger that it will go ignored for three
First, it’s so incredibly blatant that it’s hard to believeneither
of us are naifs, but we are still astonished that they�d show their
industry bias this clearly. There were plenty of other signs, of
courseemails released last week, for instance, showed Department
officials cheerleading for the pipeline. But the Entrix connection is
truly mind-boggling. Iｔ’s the kind of thing Dick Cheney might have
done, on a particularly sloppy day.
Second, the Republicans that have done such a noisy job of drawing
attention to Solyndra will, we predict, studiously ignore the
Keystone scandal. Why? Because the project’s biggest backers include
the Chamber of Commerce and the Koch Brothers
. We’re guessing cronyism gets a pass when it’s on behalf of the oil
industryin slightly less obvious guises, the old boy network has
been steering subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry for decades.
Third, the officials in charge seem utterly unconcerned about the
conflicts of interest that have plagued this project from the start.
Hillary Clinton has stood by while her former deputy campaign manager
took a job as TransCanada’s chief lobbyist; stories late last week on
DeSmogBlog found several big-money bundlers from Hillary Clinton’s
presidential campaign working for lobbyists under contract to
And Obama? Obama’s said nothing about Keystone all year long. Not
when 1,253 people were arrested outside his door in late summer, the
biggest civil-disobedience protests in 30 years. Not when 10 of his
fellow Nobel Peace laureates wrote to tell him the pipeline was
immoral. Not now that this scandal is breaking, even though he
promised the "most transparent" administration ever.
We already knew that Keystone XL was filthy in environmental terms.
James Hansen, our foremost climatologist, said earlier this year that
if the Canadian tar sands are heavily tapped, it�s "essentially game
over for the climate."
But now it turns out to be just as filthy politically. Filthy on a
scale that demands real actionat the very least, Barack Obama must
demand a new, thoroughly independent, expert review of the project.
Better yet, he should use it as the perfect excuse to pull the plug
on the whole damn project.
Think about how lousy Obama looks in those pictures celebrating
Solynda’ｓ brand-new factory. Now imagine how much worse he will look
after Keystone XL spills for the first time, and the media remembers
that TransCanada got to pick a company it had in its back pocket to
conduct the environmental review.
Here’ｓ the little bit of contingent good news: The crime is still in
progress. It's as if TransCanada has robbed the bank, but the getaway
car is stuck in traffic. Obama can still make the arrest. If he
doesn't, we'll know an awful lot about him. Maybe more than we really
, August 16, 2011
I keep hearing comparisons between the London riots and riots in
other European citieswindow smashing in Athens or car bonfires in
Paris. And there are parallels, to be sure: a spark set by police
violence, a generation that feels forgotten.
But those events were marked by mass destruction; the looting was
minor. There have, however, been other mass lootings in recent years,
and perhaps we should talk about them too. There was Baghdad in the
aftermath of the US invasiona frenzy of arson and looting that
emptied libraries and museums. The factories got hit too. In 2004 I
visited one that used to make refrigerators. Its workers had stripped
it of everything valuable, then torched it so thoroughly that the
warehouse was a sculpture of buckled sheet metal.
Back then the people on cable news thought looting was highly
political. They said this is what happens when a regime has no
legitimacy in the eyes of the people. After watching for so long as
Saddam and his sons helped themselves to whatever and whomever they
wanted, many regular Iraqis felt they had earned the right to take a
few things for themselves. But London isn�t Baghdad, and British
Prime Minister David Cameron is hardly Saddam, so surely there is
nothing to learn there.
How about a democratic example then? Argentina, circa 2001. The
economy was in freefall and thousands of people living in rough
neighborhoods (which had been thriving manufacturing zones before the
neoliberal era) stormed foreign-owned superstores. They came out
pushing shopping carts overflowing with the goods they could no
longer affordclothes, electronics, meat. The government called a
"state of siege" to restore order; the people didn't like that and
overthrew the government.
Argentina's mass looting was called El Saqueothe sacking. That was
politically significant because it was the very same word used to
describe what that country's elites had done by selling off the
country's national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatization deals,
hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people
with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the
saqueo of the shopping centers would not have happened without the
bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the
ones in charge.
But England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or
so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage
of a situation to take what isn't theirs. And British society,
Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behavior.
This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts
never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by
the emergency G-8 and G-20 meetings, when the leaders decided,
collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of
this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from
happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective
countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do
this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing
libraries, upping tuitions, rolling back union contracts, creating
rush privatizations of public assets and decreasing pensionsmix the
cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about
the need to give up these "entitlements"? The bankers and hedge-fund
managers, of course.
This is the global Saqueo, a time of great taking. Fueled by a
pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done
with the lights left on, as if there was nothing at all to hide.
There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street
Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94 percent of millionaires
were afraid of "violence in the streets." This, it turns out, was a
Of course London's riots weren't a political protest. But the people
committing nighttime robbery sure as hell know that their elites have
been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious.
The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts.
But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being
cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape
routes previously offereda union job, a good affordable
educationbeing rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are
saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much
like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly
David Cameron's response to the riots is to make this locking-out
literal: evictions from public housing, threats to cut off
communication tools and outrageous jail terms (five months to a woman
for receiving a stolen pair of shorts). The message is once again
being sent: disappear, and do it quietly.
At last year's G-20 "austerity summit" in Toronto, the protests
turned into riots and multiple cop cars burned. It was nothing by
London 2011 standards, but it was still shocking to us Canadians. The
big controversy then was that the government had spent $675 million on
summit "security" (yet they still couldn't seem to put out those
fires). At the time, many of us pointed out that the pricey new
arsenal that the police had acquiredwater cannons, sound cannons,
tear gas and rubber bulletswasn't just meant for the protesters in
the streets. Its long-term use would be to discipline the poor, who
in the new era of austerity would have dangerously little to lose.
This is what David Cameron got wrong: you can't cut police budgets at
the same time as you cut everything else. Because when you rob people
of what little they have, in order to protect the interests of those
who have more than anyone deserves, you should expect
resistancewhether organized protests or spontaneous looting.
And that's not politics. It's physics.
with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!
, and she discussed the significance and potential of the growing
movement on Rachel Maddow with guest host Ezra Klein
, as well as on MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes
. (On Part 2
of her Up with Chris Hayes appearance, Naomi and her fellow
panelists also pondered the legacy of Steve Jobs, recalling some of
the themes of No Logo, as well as the Solyndra "scandal" and recent
developments in the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.) Naomi
also discussed Occupy Wall Street with Citizen Radio and the Majority
Report's Sam Seder, which you can listen to here
, and in a "Great Minds" interview on The Big Picture with Thom
Hartmann (you can watch Part 1 here
and Part 2 here <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhQTsBb-Fws>
Click here for more information about all of these options
. Of course, you can also donate yourself by coming to Liberty Plaza
and joining the movement -- click here to find a carpool to the
-- or by learning more about the Occupy Wall Street-inspired actions
happening all across the United States
, in Canada <http://www.facebook.com/OccupyToronto>
, and worldwide.
To subscribe to this newsletter, visit
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