This really isn’t a non-election story, just one from a practical, grass-roots, real life perspective, focused on people elections should be about.
One consistent response from Electeds and those they serve to a disaster is making use of it to further their own, oligarchic, privatizing agenda. Electeds and those for whom they work will, to varying extents, use disasters as means to their ends. Some good will “trickle down,” but those who invest the millions and billions which buy Electeds will always have a primary focus: “what’s in it for us.”
Often, the non-sexy stuff of relief aid is background noise, maybe a photo op. The few-days-after-the-disaster, beyond a quick story or two about “clean-up and relief” efforts, usually see a rapidly dwindling interest. Add to this a big or breaking story, like a close presidential election, and the victims of the disaster are even more quickly relegated to “old news.”
Occupy Sandy, a ‘People-Powered Relief’ Action
But as with other disasters, Superstorm Sandy resulted in people finding ways to help those in need. Here’s a bit about one of the organized efforts continuing, even on Election Eve, even when no media is around. From InterOccupy:
Occupy Sandy is a coordinated relief effort to help distribute resources & volunteers to help neighborhoods and people affected by Hurricane Sandy. We are a coalition of people & organizations who are dedicated to implementing aid and establishing hubs for neighborhood resource distribution. Members of this coalition are from Occupy Wall Street, 350.org, recovers.org and interoccupy.net.
This “people-powered-relief-effort” is
… for New York’s hardest hit neighborhoods. Beginning with the Lower East Side, Red Hook, Astoria and Staten Island, volunteer organizers are using the new site Recovers.org to connect offers of help with places of need.
For day to day details, by neighborhood, go here.
It’s not a-day-before-the-latest-most-important-election-of-a-lifetime big story, though it should be. At least that’s my perspective, if only for two factors: climate change and income inequality.
One of the best pieces I’ve read, including analysis and context, is from Sarah Jaffe at JacobinMagazine:
Occupy’s afterlife — a dispatch from New York’s dark zones
New York’s inequality is not a secret to anyone who walks its streets, let alone struggles to pay its rents. …
For those of us who’ve spent the last few years covering the struggles of everyday people against the financial and corporate giants who’ve consolidated wealth to unheard-of levels, this week has been an exercise in ‘Where the hell have you been?’ … .
The comparisons to Katrina have been everywhere, of course, but for me they hit home when, safe in my Crown Heights apartment that never even lost power, I saw friends and acquaintances who’d been involved with Occupy Wall Street tweeting their relief activities under the hashtag #OccupySandy. …
There’s a particular opportunity for mutual aid in the void in the aftermath of disaster, particularly in a neoliberal state whose safety net has been shredded, where the state simply isn’t there and people step up to take care of each other … . The idea of mutual aid was at the foundation of Occupy as much as the much-debated horizontalism and the opposition to the banks.
Jaffe includes her observations as she went into a Sandy disaster neighborhood.
Just after Thomas Frank declared Occupy dead … I walked into St. Jacobi Church in Sunset Park … and saw so many familiar faces from Zuccotti … doing hard, necessary, practical work to feed and clothe and support swathes of the city reeling from the Superstorm. The obituaries of Occupy had never seemed so completely wrong; not on May Day or September 17th when the streets again rang with protest. …
One Occupy / Occupy Sandy volunteer, Michael Premo, talked about lessons learned through Occupy, including “how to put these values into practice,” with the Occupy networks “scal(ing) up in … 24 hours.”
Reflecting on the political timing of Sandy, Jaffe writes:
For those of us who had power and Internet access … the political emails kept coming, … because Sandy had the temerity to hit the East Coast right before a bloated hellstorm of an election. …
I got at least one apology when I pointed out that perhaps what Staten Island needs at the moment is not Democratic doorknockers, but volunteers to help clear the wreckage and feed and clothe people who have just lost everything, but what seemed entirely lost is the long tradition of service provision as political organizing. …
Because political organizing and mutual aid go hand in hand, or they should. Because the early labor movement wasn’t just about organizing on the job but organizing in your neighborhood. Because the folks still trying to build an anticapitalist movement in this country know that you can’t organize with shell-shocked people until their basic needs have been met.
Of course, Common Ground was infiltrated, because solidarity is suspect; you can bet that if these pesky Occupy activists keep feeding and supporting and organizing in communities, someone will be out to break that up too.
The work, the “rhythm” of the Occupy Sandy efforts is different, Jaffe writes, the “sense of urgency more acute.” That work, though, was the same: “Meet people’s needs, help them solve their problems.”
Other articles and essays I’ve seen which help provide a good idea of what’s happening include:
By jackviews via Occupy Sandy, Observing Occupy Sandy Devastation and Relief Organizing and Is Occupy Wall Street Outperforming the Red Cross in Hurricane Relief?; from Lucas Kavner, at HuffPo, Occupy Sandy, Occupy Wall Street Offshoot, Amasses New York Volunteers; and Michelle Chen, at Common Dreams writes In Sandy’s Wake, New York’s Landscape of Inequity Revealed, including:
As Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, floodwaters have a way of exposing the race and class divisions that stratify our cities.
You know what? So do electoral politics. But since our political system is a disaster in itself, that’s not surprising.
(Occupy Sandy Relief photo via InterOccupy)