Brita Rose at Common Dreams reports on the community response to Hurricane Sandy.
Light After the Storm – Local Churches Partner with Occupy Sandy in Grass Roots Relief Efforts
by Brita Rose
It was a beautiful sight — throngs of volunteers lining up outside a local church on Sunday, Day Five of the local recovery initiative spearheaded by Occupy Sandy. The number of willing helpers had tripled over the last three days alone, a response as dizzying as it was encouraging for the coordinators at the relief hub in St. Jacobi Lutheran Church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, New York.
Occupy Sandy is an offshoot of the Occupy Movement, which, until now was by some pundits given up for dead. In collaboration with Occupy Sunset Park, 350.org, recovers.org and interoccupy.net, it emerged to meet the essential needs of storm victims while larger charities were already turning away willing volunteers, just a few days after the storm. It began organizing local relief efforts so that supplies could be immediately sent to the most devastated areas — beginning with Red Hook and The Rockaways. To their own surprise the Occupy activists found themselves doing so with an efficiency and speed that was sometimes outpacing government relief organizations. While the latter focused on essential infrastructure — pumping out subway stations and restoring transportation and power — independent groups were able to reach isolated areas by building community solidarity and mutual aid on the local level. Both entities were needed, as was becoming ever more apparent.
I was stuck waiting in my car yesterday evening so I improved my mind by listening to live coverage of the Republican National Convention.
There were politicians talking about how their parents, their grandparents, their families started small businesses. We love small businesses no matter what party we vote for. The big businesses and multi corporations that both parties answer to for the big bucks were staying discretely in the background. That’s always the way. McDonalds hides behind the Mom and Pop diner and Walmart wipes out the corner store. Good luck, small businesses, you are minnows in the shark pool.
Anyway, I am sick of this phrase, ‘Job Creators’. If you are religious, there is only one Creator, and His name is not Donald Trump. If you are scientific you know that Einstein said you can’t make something from nothing. Since when have some of our population assumed Godlike powers? This couldn’t be Evolution, could it? Wouldn’t that be problematic with the base?
With all this self-congratulation about being the party of Job Creators, the politicians I heard seldom used the word ‘work’. Perhaps because ‘workers’ has a slightly discomforting sound, as if perhaps the workers might start organizing. It’s better to focus on the Job Creators, who bestow employment on the deserving if we just give them enough tax breaks and deregulation.
I think we are all, Republicans and Democrats, looking in the wrong direction. A job is a task. You can get a job digging holes and filling them in, but that would not be meaningful or dignified work. Anyone with their eyes open knows that there is abundant opportunity for work that needs doing. Construction and rehabilitation of our cities, roads and bridges, creative problem solving, service work for our growing elderly population to name a few obvious crying needs. There are qualified people ready to do this work.
We still use construction almost 80 years old from the WPA. I wish the Obama Administration had called it that. ‘Stimulus’ doesn’t have the historical connection that would have made it clear how we got the job done in the Great Depression.
Beyond that, we are in a new millenium. No one has to spend forty years kicking a foot press in a stifling mill. It’s all automated. The human being, who is capable of so much more than being used as industrial machinery could make her contribution though meaningful work, or be discarded and despised for her unemployment.
It’s been said that ‘workfare’ only makes sense when the government is committed to 100% employment. You don’t shove someone out of the plane without a parachute. There are not enough jobs. There is more than enough work. To balance the real needs and resources will require both private and public institutions in coordination, with some commitment to the good of our country.
There was a phrase I first heard at Occupy Providence, ‘solidarity economy’. An economy that takes into account mutual aid and the public good, independence and free enterprise, equal representation for all regardless of social class. If we get too fixated on ‘jobs’ we are not aiming high enough. If we don’t recognize that we all built it, we are deluding ourselves.
It’s like a game of mis-direction. No matter which side is talking, don’t watch their mouths, watch their hands.
Tom Sgouros has an analysis of job destruction in North Kingstown at Rhode Island’s Future.