As 2011 draws to a close and we all reflect on the year past and look forward to what lies ahead, the idea of “resolutions” becomes prominent in our minds for a short time. Some of the most common things people often resolve to do when the new year comes is to shed a few pounds, take some more time for ourselves, or make an effort to give back to our community in some way. As participants in the Occupy movement right here in Redwood City, we want to urge our friends and neighbors to consider the following resolutions as ways to foster your personal well-being, your community’s well-being, and by extension the well-being of our nation and the planet.
Occupy Redwood City meets every Friday at 5pm on Courthouse Square.
1. Resolve to Move Your Money
At Occupy Redwood City we urge you, our friends and neighbors in the city and up and down the Peninsula, to move your money out of the big banks. While the 99% continues to suffer under an economic system that rewards the corporations and the one percent, big banks have saved themselves from economic ruin on the backs of taxpayers and their money. Consider voting with your dollars and supporting your local credit union or independent community bank instead. Besides educational materials that detail the crimes of each of the big banks and how they have failed the 99%:
(THE CRIMES OF CITIGROUP)
(THE CRIMES OF JP MORGAN CHASE)
(THE CRIMES OF WELLS FARGO)
(WHAT WE WANT FROM BANKS)
…Occupy Redwood City also has tips and resources to help you to move your money, as do sites like New Bottom Line. There is no more effective way for us to reclaim our economy than to take our money away out of the hands of the 1% who are actively working to destroy it.
2. Resolve to Shop Locally
Vote with your dollars by supporting locally owned businesses in your area. The next time you are searching for a place to eat or to buy a gift for a friend, considering what is already available in your community before immediately jumping into the car or on the train to the nearest mall or warehouse store. Small, independent family-owned businesses are the backbone of the American economy and in times of national economic hardship, it’s these businesses that hurt the most.
And while you’re shopping locally, why not ask the folks running that business whether or not their business banks locally? Get a conversation going with them! When we say the 99% should move their money, we’re thinking of small business owners too.
3. Resolve to Connect with Your Neighbors
In this day and age where we have become increasingly insular and disconnected from each other, it increasingly takes nerve to become involved with your neighbors, even just to walk up and knock on their door. However, we should all do it: it’s the one of the most effective ways to begin a public discussion, a much-needed conversation within our community that fosters the natural forms of connection and consensus-building essential to the town hall-style democracy regularly on display at local Occupy movements all across our nation and the globe.
Have a chat with someone you see often, but have never spoken with. Take a plate of cookies over to your neighbors and strike up a conversation. General assemblies of the type that Occupy groups regularly have are merely an extension of the town hall, the community meeting, and the lively conversation we want to have with our neighbors next door or across the street.
4. Resolve to Ride Your Bike More
Besides being a low-cost means of carbon-free transportation, bicycling is great exercise, decreases the likelihood of heart disease and diabetes, and is just plain fun. The more people bike the more likely local governments will be committed to maintaining better infrastructures for those who do. If you can’t bike, remember to watch for cyclists and motorcycles if you’re driving. The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition provides bike maps on their website. Hard copies of bike maps for the Peninsula are available for a dollar each at the City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) office on the fifth floor of the 555 building at the San Mateo County government center in Redwood City.
5. Resolve to Help Your Schools Fight Budget Cuts
Educators, school programs, and schools themselves should be the last thing to be put on the chopping block when our economy is in a crisis. Our most vulnerable students – English learners, students with special needs,minority students, and those who are classified as at-risk – are being hurt the most. Class sizes are rising, arts and physical education are being cut, and other vital programs are being slashed. At the same time, the teacher pay scale more or less stays the same while the cost of living continues to skyrocket: as far back as over a decade ago, hard-working teachers in San Mateo County were being priced out of housing on the Peninsula due to rising costs associated with the dot-com boom, and it has not gotten any better since then for them or the rest of the 99%.
Schools are funded both federally and by local property taxes, and yet corporate interests continue to ensure that lawmakers actively harm our most vulnerable students and schools by passing legislation like No Child Left Behind. These one percenters also spend much of their time and energy ensuring that schools spend millions on standardized testing that serve no purpose other than to neuter curricula, foster uncreative cookie-cutter educators, and to shift our funds away from the students who need a good education the most.
6. Resolve to Share Your Skills
Do you like to sew? To mend fences? Want to offer your weekday afternoons to those in need of a ride to the doctor’s office or a pharmacy? Step outside the box and away from the “business as usual” economy by participating with programs like ones offered by the Bay Area Community Exchange. There you can learn how you can be of service to those in your community while earning “Time Dollars” to spend on massage, meals, plumbing services, or help in the garden. Local groups are forming in Redwood City and Palo Alto.
This form of bartering is not new and those of us who have lived or are living in poverty understand the idea of “time exchange” very well, but with our nation currently in the grip of a prolonged economic crisis many formerly middle-class Americans are starting to appreciate these alternate systems of commerce for what they are: a model of how regular exchange and connection with your friends and neighbors can make you feel more whole, keep your hard-earned money out of the hands of big business and the one percent, and keep you afloat during hard times.
7. Resolve to Waste Less
Before you buy something that comes in a lot of packaging, considering opting for a similar item with less packaging instead. Resist that cheap, junk model that will be in the trash in three months and save up for things that last. Or if you aren’t in a position to save up for the expensive model, ask yourself how much you really need that item and perhaps you will end up not buying that item at all. Look into your local used or secondhand stores for items before buying new.
Again, these are not abstract suggestions to those who are poor and struggling: these are facts of life. Nevertheless it important for us all to embrace these ideas as ways to break free of the culture fostered by the one percent and the corporations who have brought our economy to near-ruin. Read blogs like My Plastic Free Life for some really detailed accounts on how to reduce waste.
8. Resolve to Connect with Nature
Whether it’s by visiting one of the Peninsula’s many beautiful public parks or open space reserves, buying food grown only within a 100-mile radius for a week as part of the Local Food Challenge, or reading a book to your children about the lives of elephant seals at Año Nuevo, make some effort to connect with nature. A stronger sense of connection with Mother Earth and a deeper understanding her ways creates a better understanding within ourselves for our lives and for the activism we wish to take part in. It brings deep wisdom and informs our work to respect and protect the Earth.
If you don’t have the money or time to get your family to a park, remember that even vacant lots are an option. Small, green patches of open space are just as helpful for a child’s development as any public park, and will effectively foster a connection to nature for a person of any age. At a time when “Nature Deficit Disorder” is an issue many parents and children’s advocates are beginning to treat as a real problem for many children these days, a deeper connection to our environment has never been more vital.
9. Resolve to Become More Informed
Become as informed as you can about local and world issues, or pick a couple news issues that you’re interested in and learn about them in greater detail. Do research into your sources of news and try to find out who their corporate funders are and how the interests of these one percenters often influence the media discussion around war, the economy, and the environment. If you’ve always wanted to become involved with your community but weren’t sure how to give back, a deeper understanding of the issues and of the media that contextualizes them for public consumption will give you a better idea of how and where you can start to make a difference. An informed public is a dangerous public in the eyes of the one percent, because an informed public is a public that will demand change.
10. Resolve to Save Our Resources
Respected environmental scientist Amory Lovins has convincingly made the case that dollar for dollar, money spent on energy and resource efficiency is by far the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions and our footprint on the planet. Why not implement this idea at home? Think about all the little suggestions that were taught to us as children, either in school or by our loved ones, and put them into use: turn off the lights when you leave a room, take shorter showers, and dry clothes on a line outside in good weather. Get your house audited for energy usage and perhaps save yourself a lot of money as well as energy. Turn off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth. Unplug appliances and turn off power strips as they can still drain power when not in use. Try Meatless Mondays; according to the United Nations, meat production produces more greenhouse gases than transportation.
11. Resolve to Hold Your Local Politicians Accountable
As voter turnout in races for local offices show, a woefully low percentage of people care about who occupies local government offices like county assessor or city council member. But it is important to remember that in a few years an assessor might run for the Board of Supervisors, and in a decade or two she may be a prominent Supervisor who is trying to get elected to Congress. You may not care about school board elections. but a member of the school board might be on the city council within a decade of being elected to the board, and he might eventually become a state senator or move up even higher.
It is vital to vote in local elections as they decide what future Congressional and gubernatorial elections will look like, and the low turnout and low voter pool means that one person’s vote has a far greater proportional impact on the election’s outcome than it does in Congressional, statewide, and presidential races. And yet in spite of this many local officials do their work in virtual darkness and with a total lack of accountability to the 99% because there generally isn’t enough good, consistent reportage on local government affairs to really engage and interest the 99% in these matters, aside perhaps from blogs run by engaged local citizens and web-based local media outlets (thanks to the Redwood City Patch for posting our 12 Resolutions, by the way!). Decisions made by local government bodies may be on a smaller scale compared to what we see in Congress, but they are still vitally important to the health of local communities and by extension the Bay Area and the entire nation.
Until the public shows more interest in the decisions being made in their name and demands that their media sources provide better coverage of local government and the officials we elect, it will be difficult to create long-term change in our government.
12. Resolve to Occupy!
Learn what local Occupy groups are doing in your neighborhood. Talk to your friends, family and neighbors and ask them what they think of the movements springing up in cities and communities all across the nation and the world. Start discussions: Occupying isn’t just about people camping out in tents in a public space, but about bringing people together to talk about issues that are important to them and to learn how we can support one another. Occupy is also a great place to meet your neighbors! Occupy Redwood City meets every Fridays at 5 PM at Courthouse Square.