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Semiformalishmaybe

Protests, Days 2 and 3

Yesterday and today I spend a good amount of additional time at the Occupy Philly protests.

Last night, after hanging out with my cousin and then spending part of the afternoon at IndyHall, I decided to walk to 30th Street Station rather than get on the nearest subway, and when I saw the protests still going, I stuck around for awhile. I had a few good conversations with random people (at least once we got past the fairly irritating "I'm sure you know a lot more about $this than me" thing that seems to happen in every conversation ever and is not really something I need to hear). I've been fairly skeptical of the 「Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!」 chant, but I actually saw it in action last night; they had a "General Assembly" (GA) meeting where a bunch of people got together, with little organisation beyond a schedule and a megaphone. Different working committees (publicity, health, outreach, legal, etc) made reports to whomever decided to show up, and people made proposals for how to do business. I know it wasn't scripted; I suggested an amendment to one of the proposals (there were many amendments) and it was adopted (basically, requiring that any vendors that wanted to be approved by the movement to be announced whether they are approved or not). There was considerable commitment to doing things in as open a way as possible; when the legal committee requested the ability to coordinate with police and city hall, they were prohibited from making decisions that bind the movement as a whole or from speaking authoritatively for the general body of the protest with a flurry of amendments to the basic "we can talk to them" idea. It was interesting to see; not everyone agreed on everything, but many proposals had near-unanimous consent. After the GA meeting, I spoke with someone from the philosophy working group about a general philosophy gathering tomorrow where current world events would be dicussed; we had a long discussion about Qaddafi; he has a clean, near-pacifist position on the matter; I made the case for a Machiavelli (Discourses-Virtu) underpinning for political philosophy that has edge cases (like this) that permit asassination under limited contexts. We didn't agree in the end, but it was a fun and interesting discussion. I expect to attend the philosophy working group's general meeting tomorrow.

Today, I was on my way here (to Mugshots, which I see as Philadelphia's equivalent of the Beehive but with better food and more cleanliness but less indie) but decided to swing by the protest at the last minute, and long conversations kept me there for hours. First, I spoke with a german woman who had spent the last 10 years here, mostly about sociological trends in the United States. Later, after a few smaller conversations, I swung by the Ron Paul tent (on the very outskirts of the protest) and had a lengthy conversation with a left-libertarian really-really-christian conspiracy-theory dude, partly about religion, partly about government. His views kept surprising me; I wouldn't say I've never met anyone with that kind of perspective before, but it's been rare; he may be, as he put it, "for the idea of Ron Paul" (rather than necessarily actually for him specifically), but his views were closer to the christian anarchists I've known. I found myself arguing more the cause of modern states than I did anything else, although we also spent substantial time exploring where we found common cause.

Eventually I became too cold to keep talking (I hate this time of year; I really am only comfortable in late spring and summer), so I walked around a bit more, chatted with the local Communist group (they're Marxists, but don't seem to take a stance on the divide between the 3rd and 4th International; I was invited to their gatherings and might go) and then started the hike north here, but was stopped by a (girl? gal? woman? Not really sure what term I like for a female within the age range that I'd classify them as a peer; that age range being roughly 22-40) working for a human rights group; I expected that explaining that I don't have a job would be mostly the end of the conversation with some kind of a right-on-I-believe-in-your-cause thing, but we kept talking for a bit; she's involved with a shelter downtown in a bad neighbourhood, and she's also involved in advocacy against human trafficking. I might volunteer at the shelter while I'm still in the area.

Still not sure what I think of the weird hand language thing that's going on here. I am also a bit bothered by the the (mostly quiet) hostility to police some people (or at least some signs) show, but I think this is because I am not hostile to authority or police per se (and I also think of myself as upholding the torch of existing civilisation high, ensuring that any social change won't slide us backwards in the metrics I care about; I am not sure most people in these things appreciate how precious our societal accomplishments are and would preserve them while pressing forward, revolutionarily or incrementally).

The protest is turning out to be a pretty decent way to meet people and have interesting conversations.

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