Michael Moore revs up Occupy TC
These are excerpts from a talk Michael Moore gave to Occupy Traverse City at the group's Dec. 22 general assembly meeting held in the basement of Horizon Books on Front Street. The speech was transcribed and abridged by Patrick Sullivan.
I asked to be placed on the agenda, first of all, because I live here, but I’ve been gone for a few months so I have missed being here during this incredible time. So I apologize for that, and for my joke at the State Theater a few weeks ago that we should all be doing more here. I hope everybody took it with my usual sarcastic humor. ...
But I have been very active since the first week down in Zuccotti Park, Liberty Square, with the Occupy Wall Street movement, and have attended many of the general assemblies and working group committee meetings. ...
I just thought I’d tell you a little bit about what I’ve seen around the country and then give you a report from New York and then maybe make a couple quick suggestions.
First of all ... what you’re doing here tonight is literally happening in hundreds of Traverse Citys around this country. ... I’ve been one of the few people that have had the privilege over three months to physically see it and participate in the general assemblies and the demonstrations and all that, so I’m just here to share what I’ve seen.
We’re a part of one of the most incredible social movements I have seen in my lifetime. Maybe the most incredible, for this reason: This movement is only three months old and it already has the support of the majority of the American public. ...
‘GET THROUGH THE WINTER’
This is a movement for economic justice and the fact that – those of you who are old enough in here, I’m not pointing at anyone in particular – but you know that in the first three months of the civil rights movement, or the feminist movement, or the anti-war movement in Vietnam, we didn’t have the majority of the American public with us in principle on that. That took years, decades, before the majority registered their support.
The majority are already with us and that, for a slacker like me, means the big part of the work is cut out, because we don’t have to convince people that the rich should be paying more taxes, or that there should be an investigation of what happened in ’08 and people put in jail, or that Glass-Steagall should be reinstated, or that we should get money out of politics, or corporations are not people or, you know. The people are already with us on this, we don’t have to hold teach-ins.
This has got me so encouraged and hopeful, because, in a way, the big part of the work has been done. Now the other half has to happen, where this movement has to grow, and has to get through the winter, and things have to happen, so that the momentum is not lost. That’s really, really critical.
‘WE WILL LOCK ARMS’
OK, so winter is here. So number one, what they’re encouraging all of you to do, and all the other Occupies, is what you’re already doing with foreclosures. We need to take part of this indoors, during the winter, and there’s some important things we can do indoors, and one is to stop foreclosures.
We want a moratorium on foreclosures right now and the group here, those who want to participate in direct action, need to form a task force, a strike force, if you will, where we put it out through the media here, to the Grand Traverse area. If you get an eviction notice from the bank, call us, and we will stand there, we will stand there and we will lock arms, and we will nonviolently do our best to not let them into your home.
That’s number one. Number two, you encourage people: ... If you get an eviction notice, do not leave, do not leave, they cannot evict you because Bank of America doesn’t have that mortgage. Years ago, they chopped it up as they chopped every mortgage up into a hundred and a thousand pieces, bundled them, and sold them off, and they’re in China, and they’re in Russia, and they’re in Switzerland, and all anybody in Traverse City has to do is walk into that courtroom, even without a lawyer, and say, ‘Your honor, I would like Bank of America to produce my mortgage.’ They can’t. It doesn’t exist. And it has totally gummed up the works, in many, many cities. ...
DEMANDS TO SHERIFFS
The political group, those people who are here because you think electoral politics is what we should be focusing on, ... there needs to be a demand made of the sheriff, of Grand Traverse County, of Kalkaska County, of Antrim County, that he stop foreclosures this winter. A moratorium over the next four or five months. The sheriff in Detroit did it a couple of years ago, the sheriff in Flint did it, the sheriff in Chicago did it. ...You need a political movement here to demand that the sheriff not throw people out of their homes during the winter.
That’s one way that you can take this indoors. You can take it indoors at the college. The whole student loan issue is a growing issue, and you need to occupy Northwest(ern) Michigan College. You need to have demonstrations outside the student loan office.
I would definitely make sure you have a college component of this here and really focus on the fact that people of (college) age are going to be in hock for the next 20 to 30 years, and you’ll never really be able to move, or get the job you want to get, or live the life you want to live, because you’re going to have that boot on your neck of having to pay of something that if you lived in any other democracy, it would have been free, or nearly free. ...
‘WE ARE THE 99 PERCENT’
Most people can’t pitch a tent or do civil disobedience. So one thing that we’re trying to do now across the country is, there are these yard signs, like campaign yard signs, that say, “We Are The 99 Percent.”
And the idea is to get this in as many yards and as many neighborhoods across the entire country and this is really starting to grow now. Maybe you’ve seen pictures on the Internet. It’s really cool. You just drive down street after street and it just says “We Are the 99 Percent,” “We Are the 99 Percent,” “We Are the 99 Percent.”
That’s such a simple, easy thing to get going here in Traverse City, even in the snow, to have this, and it broadens the group out in a really profound way.
Which brings me to the next point that they bring up, which is that some of the groups that we’ve witnessed across the country that are not doing as well, falling apart, getting into their own craziness, drama, it’s because so many people, on the, let’s call it the liberal-progressive left end of the political spectrum, have for years struggled with so many issues.
There are people here tonight that are hugely concerned about the environment. That’s their issue. Not that they don’t care about issues. Or they want these wars ended. Or, go down the whole list of things.
‘MOVE YOUR MONEY’
It’s so important that you keep the focus on economic justice, on Occupy Wall Street, and to see the problems flow from the fact that the one percent control our Congress with their campaign contributions. And all these laws and everything we have to deal with comes from fact that they have been able to abscond, abscond, with literally trillions of dollars of what is really our money, our society’s money.
Right now they’re sitting on trillions in their bank accounts. ...
So it’s very important as you work in the group here, and I don’t think this is really a problem that we have in Traverse City, but everyone’s here for their own reason, make the tent as big as possible. Everybody doesn’t have to belong to the church of the left to be here and if you mean that it’s a movement of the 99 percent, then mean it. And really make some room for people that don’t necessarily share mine or yours or whoever’s political views. ...
I think you did the ‘Move Your Money Day’ here, right? To move your money into credit unions or to local banks ... Members Credit Union here in Traverse City, all you’ve got to do is be a resident of Antrim, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau County, and that’s it, you don’t have to be a member of the teachers’ union or anything else.
Get people to move their checking account. Cut up the credit card. If you have to have a credit card, get it through them. And any loan, the credit union is not going to treat you like the bank. If you do have a problem, they will work with you, that’s the idea of the credit union. ...
YOUTH ARE ‘HEART AND SOUL’
And be sure to be kind to everyone. That’s really important. To some of you, especially from the ’60s generation, the process that these kids have started with this movement, the reason they’ve been so successful, the reason why we could not have done this in three months, is in part because we raised them to be better people.
We know this if we have kids, right?
They’re not racist, are they? And they’re not homophobes, are they? No. No. OK, so two points for us on that. But ... we of this generation, we hoped to have given them a better world, and we didn’t really do that. And now they will be the first generation in the history of this country that will have it harder than their parent’s generation. It’s always gone the other way. And the fact that they’re not more angry at us, in the way that we were angry when we were younger, is to their credit.
But we need to ... listen to them and allow them to be the heart and soul of this movement. And while the process may seem a little messy or frustrating, part of this movement is about just the process: that we learn to structure ourselves differently and treat ourselves differently, and work with each other differently, and not have a leader. This is like one of the genius parts of this movement is that there is no leader, so the banks and Fox News have nobody to wrap their hands around. They can’t put their hands around anyone’s neck, because there’s ten million necks. There’s ten million leaders and there’s ten million spokespeople. ...
‘THEY WANTED MORE’
That’s why they can’t stop this movement, because there are so many millions of stories, and when I got asked, ‘Who started this Occupy Wall Street? Who organized this?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you who organized it, Goldman Sachs organized it! Bank of America organized it! BP organized it! The Supreme Court organized it! And I don’t want to say that I’m grateful to them, but it’s amazing that they just went too far.
They could have just been a little bit greedy. And we’ve always lived with rich people, and we’ve always kind of seen their greedy ways, but everybody had a job and everybody could send their kids to college and if you got sick you could see a doctor, so OK, they live on the Peninsula or Torch Lake, well, you know.
Well, it wasn’t enough for them, was it? No. They wanted more. They thought, ‘Geez, look at all these middle class people, they’ve got all these mortgages, what can we do? How can we get this?’ Right? This was their big scheme of the early ’90s and the early 2000s, was to figure out how to ruin the housing market and if you haven’t lost your home, to put you home underwater, so that you’ll never get what you’re still paying for.
So, they need to be punished for this crime. This movement needs to push for this. And I encourage you to act with a sense of urgency – do not get caught up in the weeds. When you have meetings, when you do your things, don’t get stuck in the details. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. You’ll learn from the mistake; it’ll be better next time.
But the important thing in this winter is to keep this thing moving. Keep it moving. Keep it moving.
‘SOMETHING WILL COME OUT OF MICHIGAN’
And I get asked all the time, What’s going on in Michigan? Because everybody asks about Michigan, and the reason they ask is because they know, while they’re going through this recession, we’re in a depression. They know we’ve been in a onestate depression for well over a decade and they care about us.
And they’re hoping that the seed of this will really spring. Something will come out of Michigan that we don’t even know about now. Because we have it worse than anyone else.
And I’ll just close by saying that a week from this Saturday will be the 75th anniversary of the Flint Sit-Down Strike. So we were in this pickle once before. And our parents and grandparents and greatgrandparents did something about it. What did they do? They occupied the factories. They occupied the factories and they wouldn’t leave until they had a contract. Until they were paid 50 cents or a dollar a day. I mean, they wanted some basic sense of economic justice. They didn’t want what the rich man had. They just wanted a piece of that pie. And we started it here, in Michigan.
There was no middle class before the Flint Sit-Down Strike. There were the owners, the wealthy people, and everybody else, that just busted their ass for a living. And their kids did not go to college. And you did not go on vacation.
Our grandparents had none of that. I was just saying, my friends here were talking about their mothers. Their mothers. Their mothers, that’s how short a period this time is. Their mothers couldn’t vote. Their mothers were born before women could vote. Their mothers were born as secondclass citizens of this country. That’s just how short a time that women have had the vote. But that’s an incredible example of what a movement can do.
And things do get better. And there’s so much hope and optimism now. And I am just personally, to see this crowd here tonight, just extremely thrilled and happy to be part of this and I want to be a part of this and will be a part of this and do whatever I can to help out, starting by getting you some of those yard signs.