I’ve always been a firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, but every now and then a wielding of the sword goes a long way to let everyone know that you mean business. Especially when it comes to big business, because the 1% sees their overwhelmingly silenced majority leaders as having no business being in the conversation at all. But this is a reminder: the power rests in the hands and the minds and the actions and the ideas of no one else but the people. The aforementioned majority. The 99%. Do the math.
Then, make it real. Keeping it 100% real is San Francisco filmmaker David Martinez. He shares his thoughts on his short film above, and we dive into some heavily important shit, so be prepared for inspiration to strike. Then, strike while the fire is hot in every way imaginable. Another world is possible, and it is up to us to make it real. This is Autumn Sun by David Martinez…
Are you showing this film anywhere? Festivals? Theaters?
At the moment I am waiting to hear back from various festivals. It has played at a conference on social movements in Holland, at an Occupy Oakland anniversary here in the Bay, and a couple of small cinemas. 25 minute-long, unabashedly radical films are hard to ‘market’ 🙂 which is why I am reaching out to different publications to help publicize the film.
Why release the film now? What’s happening with Occupy and those involved now that a couple years’ve passed?
I am releasing the film now because I only recently finished making it. There are still groups called “Occupy” but the steam has left that particular formulation for the moment. However, as I try and point out in the film, the conditions that gave rise to Occupy haven’t gone anywhere, and so I expect new formulations will happen in response.
Why do you think Oakland became sort of the hotbed/epicenter for Occupy to thrive?
Left social movements in Oakland/The Bay Area remain some of the most alive, the least broken, if you will. Despite massive repression, people here still organize, and they sometimes get results. In fact I would even argue that San Francisco is the only city in the U.S. that has a city government that can be called a democracy. Maybe it’s something in the water here, but when folks in the Bay see a group of demonstrators, they tend to side with them until they find out more, which is one reason why something like Occupy took off here.
But remember, the recession out here is heavier than in other places, and you can feel it. We had just come out of a wave of very large actions against fee increases for public universities, and I think a lot of people were ready for something else. The Democrats had just, again, showed their true colors and folded over the whole “debt ceiling” thing, and people were pissed. Egypt was exploding, Wisconsin was as well, and we were ready to join in.
What do you think it will take for a change of the guard or for police and public servants to realize they’re in the same boat as those protesting? I mean, could you imagine if the citizens and the police force came together to fight the system?!? Why is that such a far-fetched idea?
I’m very skeptical about that possibility, at least in California, maybe in the whole country. Police/Law Enforcement (and military, actually) tend to live in the same neighborhoods/areas and unquestionably see themselves as a kind of “special” citizenry. Did you follow the case of Christopher Dorner, who attacked LAPD officers and in response the cops basically declared Martial Law in Southern California? It’s a very telling and chilling testimony to the power that police wield in the country. Imagine if the same man had begun attacking homeless people or janitors….would they have brought in helicopters, armored vehicles, etc? I doubt it. It has often been said that the OPD actually runs Oakland, given the power they have in the city.
My point is that when you have a group/class of people that identify heavily with the state, they can be very difficult to bring around to an anti-systemic movement.
The very way police view their job here is, as my friend Alex Vitale (an ACLU lawyer in NYC) put it is: “…the attitude of police about the public is routinely appalling. They really see the public as adversaries to be controlled, dominated, and more recently micromanaged in every interaction. Any attempt to resist this, no matter how just or non-threatening, must be dealt with through extreme measures.”
This was in response to the this:
I mean sure, if the people & the police joined forces that would be extremely powerful. I just can’t see it happening without very serious changes happening first, as you’re basically talking about a full-blown revolution. It reminds me of a conversation between K. Marx and someone else, the guy said to Marx, “You don’t need a revolution, everyone can just one day not go to their jobs, and do something else instead. And society would change overnight.” And Marx replied, “Yes but to get to that point you would have to be at a revolutionary moment, and getting there requires tremendous amounts of organization.”
How do you personally respond to outsiders who say to Occupiers, “This is America. Stop being lazy and get a job.” What do you say to those people?
The short answer to your question would be, “You obviously weren’t paying attention to what we were saying, especially what we were saying about the inherent unjustness of debt.”
Often social movements don’t “succeed” the way they intend to, but they still change the debate. A good example of this is the US anti-nuclear movement of the ’70s and ’80s, which never actually shut down or stopped a nuclear plant from being built. However, absolutely no new ones have been built in decades, and thanks to Fukushima they are being decommissioned. Did the movement succeed or fail?
One of the best aspects of the Occupy movement was that we changed the debate around various issues, which we are still seeing play out. And one debate I feel like we affected was around populism – we took it away from the right wing. The US right has, for decades, solemnly declared that they represent “real” Americans. Nixon coined the term “silent majority.” Later there was the “moral majority.” The idea was that yeah, all you freaks in California, New York, wherever, you can think what you want but “real” Americans, “regular” Americans don’t believe that stuff.
In countless online forums I watched right-wingers berate Occupiers on precisely those terms, saying things like, “How many tattoos do you have, freak?” or “I bet you live off of your parents or a trust fund” etc. etc. despite the fact that the people they were addressing would be saying things like: “I’m a veteran, single parent, and I’m $20,000 in debt from medical expenses.” In other words, the only thing the right could use to attack them with was cultural, to say, “Fuck you you’re some freak anyway.” Despite the fact that the majority of them were not.
“Get a job?” People were out there because they wanted jobs! Jobs, health care, debt relief – all this was addressed, over and over. People were saying, “I had a job, I got laid off.” Or: “I have a job, and still I am mired in debt while Wall Street gets bailed out.” Or, “I took out loans for school and now there are no jobs in my field.” Occupy showed you could protest about these things and still be a regular American…which is precisely why the right kept up with the same line, because they couldn’t actually answer us. This is arguably why the Republicans aren’t trying the economy argument anymore, because the debate has shifted to being about austerity, haves vs. have nots. And neither party likes that one.
The deeper point is that there is a deep demographic shift happening in the US, and “Joe Sixpack”, NASCAR Dad, Angry White Man – these guys aren’t the majority anymore, and they are freaking out. If you haven’t read Mike Davis’ piece, “The Last White Election” it is worth a read, it’s very good and crunches the numbers about the 2012 election.
Autumn Sun tells the story of Occupy Oakland, which was part of Occupy Wall Street, a movement that swept the nation in 2011 and 2012 responding to inequality, austerity, and undemocratic government in the United States. From New York City, where the movement began, to Missoula, Lexington, Austin, Philadelphia and more cities, Occupy activists set up tent cities in public spaces and organized the camps based on collective decision making.
Occupy Oakland was always a special case, however. The city’s deep history of radical politics and active social movements meant that Occupy Oakland would always demand more and compromise less, and this film documents the movement’s dynamic story, through all of the tear gas and laughter that was Occupy Oakland.
Music by Ava Mendoza, The Rube Waddell Band, and Luis Guerra.
David Martinez is a writer, filmmaker, teacher and political activist based in San Francisco. His work is about everything from animated bird corpses to Sudanese revolutionaries, but it usually involves radical politics and social movements. He has worked as a videographer in Indonesia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Darfur, and Iraq, where he filmed inside besieged Fallujah in 2004. His movies have screened everywhere from small community centers in the Midwest to film festivals in Europe. His writing has been published in The San Francisco Bay Guardian, Filmmaker Magazine, CounterPunch, CorpWatch, and Islam Online. He has worked in documentary production with Hector Galan and Billy Nessen, feature film production with directors Richard Linklater, John Sayles, and Jimmy Mendiola, and worked as an actor in the film Waking Life, directed by Linklater. Martinez holds an M.F.A. in Film and Video Production from the University of Texas at Austin. He has also been employed as a school teacher, social worker, bike
messenger, and taxi driver.