No 314 Posted by fw, October 27, 2011
“So when people ask you your one demand say “Democracy.” And when they ask you why you’re here, say, “To be here”. And they’re not going to get that because they never get that. They think that democracy is a monument or an institution or a dead document, but it ain’t. Democracy is what people do. And so we’re here to do democracy, right? And we’re not going to leave until we’ve got it. And we’re going to leave and keep on doing it. Because this isn’t just an occupation, this is a decolonization. We’re here to take back everything they’ve taken from us. We’re here to get them out of our minds, out of our public spaces. We’re here to get our voice back, we’re here to get our homes back, we’re here to get our dignity back, and we’re not going to leave. I want that to happen. I want to one day be able to . . . say I like myself because I like my world. So let’s get started everyone.” —Ashley Sanders
Ashley Sanders is one busy young activist. (See the link to her bio at the end of this post). An eloquent and polished public speaker? Perhaps not. But who cares. She talks heartspeak, plain and simple. And Ashley’s personality and ample personal integrity spills out between each and every plainspoken sentence.
Here’s a video of Ashley’s talk to a recent gathering of the October2011 crowd in Washington DC. The passage that begins this post is, in fact, the conclusion to her talk. .
The clip was uploaded to You Tube by PeacefulUprising08 on Oct 9, 2011. It’s not the greatest video — the person with the camera was too far from the stage, capturing lots of intervening distracting action. My transcript follows.
Ashley Sanders speech – Occupy2011 main stage
And he said, because there’s no money in that. And I said, yeah you’re right. And I said, well what do you do? And he said, oh I don’t really know. And I said, why do you do it? He said, because it’s a good opportunity. And I said, an opportunity for what? And he said, you know, I don’t really know. And I said, okay. And he said, so uh. And I said, do you like your life? And he said, do people like their lives? And I said, sometimes. And he said, well, then, no not really. And he asked me if I liked my life. And I said, yeah, I like my life but I hate my world. And he said, what do you mean? And so I told him.
And what I told him about was my friend who has to accept an award soon for fighting climate change. And she told me she was nervous. And I said, why are you nervous? And she said because I’m supposed to look out on all these people and tell them something they want to hear. But all I want to say is this whole thing is fake. This pavement, this coal plant, this economy, this idea that we can hurt and harm for wealth and that we’ll still survive it – it’s all fake. And I said, so why don’t you say it? She said, because people don’t say that stuff in public.
So I’m here and I’m betting you all are here to say that in public. To say that this economy and this empire and the values that run it – it’s fake. It has nothing to do with reality. It’s not based on people, it’s not based on the land, it’s not based on our future – and so we’re done with that. We want something real, right? And so for a long, long, long time we’ve believed the rich and obeyed them when they told us that capitalism was efficient. We said, okay. When they said it would someday trickle down. We waited for the trickle down. When they told us we had to go to war to defend our resources, we said, but that sounds silly. And they said, don’t be silly. And so for a while we weren’t.
And now we’re sick and tired. We’re not thinking anymore about the rich and how to make them richer. We’re thinking about the poor and how to help them survive. And we’re thinking about the homeless and how to get them a home. Or we’re thinking about single moms and how to help them survive. Or we’re thinking about people who wake up every day to bombs. And we’re thinking maybe one day they wake up to a gorgeous silence. We’re thinking about my friend and what she said about this world being fake, and it’s scary. And it’s terrifying. And it makes us angry.
The good news is if you live in a fake world you can make it real. So we’re here to make it real, or to keep it real. And that’s good because when I look out at all of you I’m thinking to myself, this is the realest thing that I’ve seen in a really long time. And it feels really good in my body to see something real because it doesn’t happen a lot. And it reminds me that people used to exist In a time where we hadn’t invented things that made us afraid, that made us small. And it makes me think that no matter what they say when they tell us that we’re stupid, or we’re lazy, or to wait for the next election, or the next experts, or the next president, that that isn’t true.
We have everything that we need right here. And we can start right now. Nobody will come here to save us. And so we’re smart enough to do what we need to do. And together we’re brilliant. And if we’re brave enough and bold enough and beautiful enough we’ll make them remember that we don’t actually need them – they need us!
Their factories need workers. Their elections need voters. Their news needs believers. And we can say “No”. And we’re here to say “No”. We’re here because we’re not wrong, and we’re not bad and we’re not lazy. We are actually right. We’re in the majority and we are the 99%. Right here.
You’re here for yourself. And you’re also here for everyone who can’t be. You’re the grandma without a pension plan. You’re an Afghani wedding party. You’re a black man in an unjust prison. You represent all the people who can’t be here but who feel the same way you do. And so it’s time to take that seriously. So look around and believe that about yourself. And say out loud, “This world is messed up,” because it is. And we’re not allowed to say that in most places. But we’re here to say that today because we know it and because probably you’ve been holding that back for a long time. You’ve been saying what they wanted you to say. You pretended you were okay. You pretended you were going to make it. You can’t take it anymore. So here on this plaza, and as we go on the city, this is our time to say exactly who we are. So say whatever you mean. Say I’m angry. Say I’m sad. Say capitalism is not inevitable. Say that capitalism is weak. Say capitalism can be defeated. And just practice that. And let it feel good.
And then once you’ve said who you are you’ll have a hard time not being it. You’re going to go out and find yourself marching and drumming down K Street, whooping and hollering like the first human. And you’re going to find yourself <inaudible> the Capitol and sitting in at banks. And you’re going to be surprised because you’ll find that you’re doing everything that this corporate system is designed to tell you that you can’t do. And you’ll be surprised that you’ll like yourself better than you’ve ever liked yourself before.
So when people ask you your one demand say “democracy”. And when they ask you why you’re here say “To be here”. And they’re not going to get that because they never get that. They think that democracy is a monument or an institution or a dead document, but it ain’t. Democracy is what people do. And so we’re here to do democracy, right? And we’re not going to leave until we’ve got it. And we’re going to leave and keep on doing it. Because this isn’t just an occupation, this is a decolonization. We’re here to take back everything they’ve taken from us. We’re here to get them out of our minds, out of our public spaces. We’re here to get our voice back, we’re here to get our homes back, we’re here to get our dignity back, and we’re not going to leave. I want that to happen. I want to one day be able to sit on a plane and talk to a Wall Street banker and say I like myself because I like my world.
So let’s get started everyone.
Ashley Sanders’ bio: I am an activist fighting for democracy and an end to corporate rule. I first got involved in activism by organizing an alternative graduation when my college invited Dick Cheney to speak at our official ceremony, and haven’t looked back since. I worked as the youth spokesperson for Ralph Nader’s 2008 presidential campaign, organizing people to fight corporations in their communities. I have also organized extensively for Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, California, a collective committed to community sovereignty, bioregional democracy and alternatives to corporate control and capitalism. While there, I helped to launch the Campaign to Legalize Democracy/Move to Amend, a national grassroots campaign to amend the Constitution to abolish corporate constitutional rights and to organize local communities to declare independence from corporate rule. I’m now working to organize Salt Lake to support this national amendment and to wage a people’s battle against major corporate polluters. I also work on democratic community revitalization, feminist empowerment and political street theater, and am currently working on a play and book.