Monday, November 21, 2011

On Thursday (and Friday) in class we discussed this article, about putting a tax on junkfood and using that money to subsidize healthier foods. Tied up in this equation are the current government subsidies for corn, which explains why it's cheaper to buy a Dr. Pepper than it is to buy a pepper. That there's a much higher demand for corn syrup than fresh vegetables, and that's why obesity, and the healthcare costs that come with it are such a problem in this country. Because it's more profitable for big food companies to feed us junk. Anyway, we read it in the context of the Proposal Argument (the third essay that students are required to write for the rhetoric class) because it's such an elegant solution to many problems all at once. A solution than not only makes people healthier, happier and takes the money out of the hands of the powers that be, but also pays for itself and generates additional revenue. The question we discussed in class was not the question of do you all think this is a good idea (which, lefty Bay Area us all, there wasn't much "The government can't tell me what to eat!" represented in the room), but the question of if this is such a good idea, why doesn't it happen?

Stephen, the ESL supporter in my Thursday class, brought up the tobacco companies, how it took twenty years for the facts of the relationship between smoking and cancer to gather enough political will to actually lead to legislation. That it takes a long time for a new idea to rise out of these facts and into our our collective imaginations. The parallels for the Occupy movement are obvious, and in this context of long term change, the come down that the Oakland Occupy movement has experienced (or maybe that's just me) does not necessarily mean the end of anything.

In that light, there was a march this Saturday in Oakland that felt redundant and purposeless. It was mostly younger people, not a particularly diverse crowd. We marched through downtown and around the north side of the lake and then stopped in front of the Grand Lake movie theater. There was a truck with a lot of speakers that played dance music that we walked behind for most of the route. It was kind of fun, but it didn't have a whole lot to do with, say, taking money out of politics or putting money back into schools. It seemed like a street party with a vaguely political theme. Later, after we left, some of the occupiers moved to a vacant lot to reoccupy it. Which was cleared by police the next day. The Snow Park encampment, the one just down the street, was cleared this morning. Compared to the Oakland General Strike, which had a real sense of purpose and a real turnout, it was kind of depressing.

Which I think is an unfashionable tack to take but oh well. So be it. Occupy continues. The events at UC Davis were serious, as were the events in Berkeley last week. This Davis video is remarkable for a number of reasons, one of them only happens if you keep watching: how the human microphone actually seems to make the police officers leave. About seven minutes in. Keep watching. And really, if you're interested in all of this, you don't have to camp or scream at police officers to show support, but simply, talk about it. Ask your friends and your family, what do you think?