Lets spare ourselves the indignant, righteous tirades against Thanksgiving as just another imperialist holiday that washes over the facts of genocide perpetuated against the indigenous populations of North America (there’s plenty of em out there if that’s what you’re looking to read about) (and I don’t mean to gloss-over the fact that, yes, the Native population of this land showed the Europeans how to survive in New England’s impossible climate only to be slaughtered and enslaved, I just mean to draw attention to the fact that there’s real purpose to the holidays, beyond the narrative that we’re taught).  There’s plenty to be legitimately thankful for right now; plenty of real change that, quite frankly, we may garner a little bit of hope from.  The least of which is that I’ll be spending today feasting with friends, instead of watching a slate of horrible football games with my unimaginably mundane family (Tennessee versus Detroit? Dallas versus Seattle? ugh).  Keeping with the premise that I touched-upon in a recent post, that change and empowerment (and ultimately revolution) come through mass, popular-based movements, lets consider some examples of just exactly how that’s working-out these days:

*In a surprising move, the Nassau County (NY) District Attorney’s office has decided to drop all charges against the Hempstead 15, a group of Iraq War veterans and activists arrested (and beaten by cops) outside the Democratic presidential debates earlier this fall at Hofstra University.  In addition, the DA has agreed to consolidate all of their court cases to one date, which will allow for a mass-showing of the defendants and their supporters as they gear-up to push their federal civil case on behalf of Nick Morgan, a member of the group who, as you may remember, was violently trampled by a police horse and left practically for dead by the cops who were present to silence the voices of war veterans during the electoral campaign.  A statement from the group reads in part (emphasis mine, to drive home the theme of this post):

This is a decisive victory for activists and veterans everywhere, and for the Constitution. The outcome of these criminal proceedings would not have been possible without you, our supporters and allies. It was the calls, the demonstrations, the petitions and the grass-roots exposure that made the difference. For an event which received no real attention from main-stream media outlets to have been captured and brought to so many around the country and the world by a few hardworking organizers and supporters signals an evolution in our power as a movement to inform and impact our system.

*Meanwhile, in Miami, folks in one working class neighborhood have decided to take their own steps towards solving the “housing crisis”.  From the New Times of Miami:

Two months ago, Cassy (not her real name) was homeless, out in the rain with her four kids. Now she has a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, sky-blue house on a tree-lined street in Miami’s Buena Vista neighborhood. She takes warm showers, cooks vegan dinners, and watches the news on a small, fuzzy TV screen. The only catch: The house isn’t hers. Cassy is a squatter and, at any moment, could be arrested for trespassing, even burglary.

Not everybody in Miami-Dade County is crying over this year’s 40,342 foreclosed properties. Cassy is part of a small, well-executed movement by activists at Take Back the Land to relocate homeless families into empty houses and abandoned government-owned buildings.

The 39-year-old Haitian mother recently lost her North Miami house after agreeing to a too-good-to-be-true mortgage loan. She lived in the much less spacious place for years before she was forced to leave. Ironically, the place where she now stays is owned by Lehman Brothers, a major player in the market for subprime mortgages — thought to be a catalyst for the housing crisis.

Cassy was guided to the home two weeks ago by Take Back the Land, a group with a long record of standing up for the poor and needling authorities who fail them. During the past year, the organization has risked significant legal trouble to aid several people such as Cassy in getting roofs over their heads. It hopes to do much more. “We could virtually empty the streets and shelters simply by filling the vacant houses,” director Max Rameau says. “Homes should go to people, not kept empty so banks can cash in.”

For those who’ve never heard of Take Back the Land before, they first gained national attention a couple of years ago when they asserted the “black community’s right to own land” in their own neighborhoods and erected Umoja Village, a shantytown on a vacant, government-owned lot in Miami.  Umoja Village was eventually burned down, and City employees have long been the top suspects of starting the blaze (no charges have been filed, obviously).  Take Back the Land is urging participants in its program- and other squatters throughout Miami who have likewise moved into abandoned, government and bank-owned houses, to “enter through the front door and to be honest — even to befriend neighbors and put utilities in their own names.”

Housing as a human right, not a mode of profit for a select few? Yes we can.

*Collective action that hits the institutions of power and greed right where it counts- the wallet- was further shown to be a force to be reckoned with a few days ago when 400,000 Chilean worker’s won a 10% wage increase after a four-day strike crippled the health care and education sectors, and put an all-out end to trash collection services throughout the country.  The wage increase passed the Chilean Senate unanimously, after a proposed 9.5% wage increase was called “not enough” to end the strike by union leaders.  Oh, those stupid, don’t know what’s good for them “average people”.

*If you think the dynamics of oppression, rebellion, and change are somehow detached from the consciousness of the people of China, then perhaps you haven’t been paying attention.  As the all-out systems failure of global capitalism continues, hundreds of thousands of factory workers and others have been laid off and displaced throughout the country, and despite the Chinese government’s best efforts to paint for the world a picture of absolute control (obedience and loyalty), that’s just not the case.  A series of labor strikes and uprisings have hit the authoritarian dictatorship (i.e., State-run capitalism or “communism” as it is called by our private-enterprise capitalist overlords here in the West) and they don’t look to abate anytime soon.  One of the hardest hit regions is around the industrial city of Dongguan, where at least 7,000 companies have either collapsed or moved to away.  And Libcom.org notes:

In October, 7,000 workers employed by the Smart Union factory in Dongguan – who manufacture toys for Mattel, Disney and Hasbro – struck and occupied the factory and surrounding roads after the non-payment of three months wages. The government was forced to step in and guarantee the workers the money in the face of the campaign.  A two day riot against evictions in Northwest China was put down using tear gas, as protesters resisting their eviction as part of a govenment land grab attacked police with axes, chains and, bizarrely, flowerpots.

Once again, the collective action of the people themselves– acting not based on an idea or theory, but in the service of their own livelihoods and conditions- proves to, hey!- effect change and bring about further hope for a better day.

I for one am incredibly thankful for such a world, and to see so many signs of a better day being created, in the here and now, out of the ashes of the old.  Cheers.

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