Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Playdate with Democracy: Parents for Occupy Wall Street

On Friday, October 21, 2011, a group calling themselves “Parents for Occupy Wall Street” planned  the world’s largest sleepover in Zuccotti Park at the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Kirby Desmarais, the organizer of Parents for Occupy Wall Street was younger than I expected her to be, not yet thirty. She’s a a young mother, too — her daughter is not yet three (and adorable). Kirby manages EverythingInddependent.com, a company she built herself, which helps independent artists and bands find success, “through management, placement, networking and analytics.”

Despite an already-busy life, full of work and family obligations, Kirby and her then husband Mark were able to organize PFOWS in about eight days — from passionate concept to successful execution (over 200 people stayed the night) — including a website, a banner and hot yellow t-shirts reading “Parent SECURITY”. Oh, and they also secured a CNN crew to embed themselves for the duration; beloved kid’s musician Dan Zanes and band to play for the crowd (“Pay Me my Money Down”, of course, among other favorites), and Dana and I to film the event, as well.

That’s right — just your typical law-less, job-less, communists-hippie types. Like those NYPost headlines warned you.

Kirby and her husband and daughter had visited Zuccotti a few times before and noticed many parents with kids doing the same. She got the idea to create a safe, designated place for families within the park, so parents could participate in the occupation and take care of their kids’ needs at the same time. She reached out to the organizers of OWS, aka the General Assembly, with her idea for a family sleep-in.
The GA welcomed Kirby’s idea and the group, and said they would designate an area on the Broadway side of Zuccotti park for the congregating parents. Kirby also spoke to the New York City police department to discuss safety issues, and together they helped her devise the security guidelines employed that night (all parents had to bring a child to be welcomed into the space, show photo ID, and sign in and out) as well as an exit strategy, should the need arise to leave the space quickly.

Kirby was expecting 200 parents to show. During the course of the evening, from 4pm when the first few parents and kids trickled in, to 10pm when I finally left, they would have to expand the roped-in space two times.

By the time the event ended Saturday morning, over 500 people had signed in at the checkpoint in Zuccotti Park.

* * * * * * *

Countries with Paid Parental Leave, left. On the right, countries with NO Paid Parental Leave; Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States.

Mommy, Why Do We Occupy?

Many people are waiting for the organizers of Occupy Wall Street (and by extension, Parents for OWS) to declare an official agenda, and publish a list of demands. But my experience at the park Friday night tells me that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

In my opinion, Occupy Wall Street’s first accomplishment was to bring international attention to the devastating effects of the criminal action(s) of the multi-national banks and financial institutions on American taxpayers — specifically the years of fraudulent lending that created the mortgage-apocalypse, the housing collapse and the 2008 recession — which has yet to be prosecuted (although the Federal Housing Finance Agency is now in the process of suing 17 of the financial institutions involved).

OWS’ next action, or actions, will be determined by the crowd.

The people organizing and participating in Occupy Wall Street are practicing (and expanding, daily) a horizontal, consensus-driven, living form of democracy. Here, the whole truly reflects the sum and the strength of the individual parts. Yes, there is a body driving the concept and execution of OWS — the General Assembly — but there is no one, elected, governor of the park directing it’s actions.

The head of this body keeps changing, depending upon the needs and desires of the group, at that moment. This structure may ensure it’s survival — if you chop off the “head” of OWS, another will grow in its place, immediately.

Members of various working committees — completely volunteer-powered — execute the tasks necessary to keep things flowing in Zuccotti; i.e., food service, sanitation, press and publicity and daily events, like hosting PFOWS.

Direct Actions, such as the march to Columbus Circle on Friday the 21st, to join Pete Seeger, is voted upon by everyone in the park, using the now infamous human megaphone method. (An incredible thing to witness).

What Do the Parents Want

Some of the values of PFOWS are reflected in the sign posted under their banner Friday night, pictured above. The broad mission they commit to is written on their website:

“With our children’s best interests in mind we join together peacefully to support the Occupy Wall Street movements across the US on our children’s behalf. We’re speaking for the 99% that can’t speak up for themselves. ”
and
“[We are] a collective community for Parents & Organizations in support of Occupy Wall Street. We choose to remain nonpartisan and offer a platform and forum for all to be heard in support of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Isn’t that the first job of any parent? To speak for those who cannot speak for themselves? To protect their children and teach their children to use non-violent means, to “use their words”, to express their demands and concerns?

I found no one at this group advocating for the re-distribution of anyone’s wealth. What I found were thoughtful, educated, concerned parents joined together to protest an injustice, and to re-assert the democratic values this country was founded upon.

These parents believe that their children can build a life rich with reward and meaning — without diminishing the lives of others in the process.

How To Get to Zuccotti Park

#OCCUPYWALLSTREET (@OccupyWallStNYC)
2/11/12 2:15 PM
Nothing like a good chart to show #IncomeInequality we haven’t seen since the Great #Depression (from @JoshHarkinson) ow.ly/90Sbh
Mind-Blowing Charts From the Senate’s Income Inequality Hearing

How to Get to Zuccotti Park, In Five Easy Steps

Historical Background

Economists may hold different points of view as to the best economic system for a peaceful and productive society, but all are united in tracing the origins of our current economic woes to the period following the Great Depression.

After the crash the US government, facing enormous pressure from a jobless, hungry, and increasingly angry populace, was forced to act in order to prevent a full-scale revolution. Roosevelt stimulated the economy by creating jobs through the Works Progress Administration, as well as a safety net for the unemployed, which included unemployment insurance and social security.

At this time the government also introduced regulations and oversight agencies for the stock market and financial institutions. Needless to say, this was not received equally well among the corporate giants of the time. They pushed back then and keep pushing to this day, all in service to the holy bottom line.

Each item described below serves one, common goal: for corporations to maximize profit by any means necessary. But in chasing the bottom line, corporations have marched themselves right to Zuccotti Park. This is how they got there.

KEEP WAGES DOWN
Employee wages have not been increased, along with the cost of living, for four decades, declining steadily since the early 1970’s.  However, worker productivity has steadily increased — along with corporate profits.

The mission to keep wages low is partly seen in employers’ efforts to systematically and consistently fight to weaken and dismantle employee unions.

(Visual: flat wages chart from Richard Wolff’s lecture, Capitalism Hits the Fan.

PROMOTE UNSECURED DEBT
Lower wages inspire the consumer credit market. With lower wages, workers are perfectly positioned to use credit to replace income and lenders take full advantage of that fact.  Consumers go on a binge, borrowing much more than they can pay back, paying interest on their faux-income, and driving themselves deeper into debt.

SPECULATE WITH EMPLOYEE MONEY
Several things stem from the flattening of wages including the replacement of salary with benefits, such as employer pension and healthcare plans.

Employee pension fund money is used like cash by the employer, who use these funds to speculate in stocks, equities and currently, the commodities market, without express knowledge or consent from the employees contributing to the funds.

The 2008, near-collapse of the financial sector exposes these practices, as numerous employee-funded, employer-administrated pension funds are revealed to be entirely bankrupt.

http://www.aarp.org/work/retirement-planning/info-09-2011/ellen-schultz-interview-retirement-heist-author-speaks.4.html?plckOnPage=6

CHEAT, LIE & DEFRAUD THE PUBLIC
When legal ways to make money fail, or don’t work quickly enough, there is always outright criminal activity. Ample evidence shows how fraudulent practices created the housing bubble of the early 00’s—and ultimately, caused it to burst.

Appraisers were instructed to over-value homes by mortgage providers or be blacklisted from the industry; mortgage brokers were encouraged to change stated incomes on mortgage applications after customers signed off on them. And financial firms bundled bad mortgages with worse, testified to their credit-worthiness and sold them like candy.

(Reporting from L. Randall Wray: http://www.economonitor.com/lrwray/2012/03/09/the-financial-crisis-and-shreks-onion-of-fraud)

GET THE GOVERNMENT TO HELP YOU
The job of the government is to balance the needs of the many against the needs of the few. But powerful industry lobbyists, the lack of campaign finance reform, and corporate cronyism (Wall Street to K Street) abounds. It’s clear, through laws like Citizens United and in the deregulation or lack of regulation in every sector — environmental, energy, financial, pharmaceutical — that our government chooses the best interests of corporations over citizens, again and again.

A major source of inequality in the tax code comes from how it treats investment income. Capital gains is only get taxed at 15 percent, versus the maximum of 35% for salary and income for those earning _______.

Though America’s wealthy are supposed to pay a higher tax rate than the poor (what’s known as a “progressive tax code”), they now benefit from so many loopholes that the tax code has, in practice, become increasingly regressive

LIMIT WORKERS/ CONSUMERS/ CITIZENS ABILITY TO PROTEST
To protect these unjust corporate alliances from citizen discovery or protest, the US government increasingly limits freedom of speech, as seen in The Patriot Act, the NDAA and most recently HR347. Catastrophic natural events, foreign terrorism, all are exploited to maximize restricting discovery and discussion.

And corporate America does it’s part to keep people quiet by buying up mainstream media. Keeping us all dumb and divided.

“It’s a complex problem but it’s not complicated. At the end of the day, it’s very simple. The rules have been changed — or removed — to favor corporations, not people. Not me, not you, not us. The majority of people now work to create tremendous wealth for the few and do so at their own expense.

As parents we have a responsibility to look after our kids and their future. If we can’t stand up to the corporate criminals, and to what they’ve done to our public wealth, health and resources for ourselves — then we should do it for them.”

The enemy of private profit is public monies.
If we accept the above, we understand why investments in education, socialized medicine, environmental conservancy and energy efficiency will never be supported and/or intentionally sabotaged. Any means to increase consumer independence and autonomy means lower and less profits for corporations. Any program or initiative that completes with the stated goal of preserving corporate wealth will be attacked, and often defeated.

The flat wage mentioned is not the result of a gradual deflation, like air escaped from a child’s birthday balloon. A flat wage is the conscious act of (corporations?) employers to keep wages low in order to maximize profit.

In the least it is an act of contempt for ones employees; in the worst it could be construed as a deliberate economic slavery: to pay a wage that is regularly eclipsed by the cost of living is to condemn your workers as indentured servants. The flat wage is a boot heel, resting on the neck of American workers.

Is correcting wage inequity the function of our government? Or is it the duty of working people to take to the streets in protest?

On whose neck does the boot rest?

Multi-national billionaire corporations are using and producing toxic products on a daily basis and poisoning our air, water & soil, but it’s the consumer’s sole responsibility to duck these chemical poison arrows, and keep them from hitting our kids?? Madness.

This article in Forbes unrealistically suggests just that. I’m tired of the buck being passed to the consumer, the end user who cannot possibly have the full knowledge of the damage our cheap food or products create — knowledge that these manufacturers, and our governing regulatory entities possess.

Yes, in an immediate but limited way the buck can stop here, in our pantries; we can make changes in what we put in our mouths, on our bodies and in our homes — but without governmental oversight aligned with the welfare of it’s citizens rather than these corporations, dedicated to policing and stopping this catastrophic environmental homicide, these poisons will continue to enter us and we will continue to die slowly, and now more quickly, of our individual good intentions.

Occupy Wall Street was about protesting the greed and profit that drives this short-sighted sacking and pillaging of the earth that sustains us and the people who labor in service of that obscene profit.

The piper has still not been paid. The greed continues. Will #OWS have a resurgence? Or will there be no one left to protest when the earth swallows us whole and craps us out, like the inconsequential krill we are.

(http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2014/02/15/11-toxic-chemicals-afffecting-brain-development-in-children/ Article by Alice Walton in Forbes, which inspired this rant. It was based on In a study out 2/15/14 in The Lancet Neurology.

DVD Now Available For Pre-Order!

We are so excited to announce that the DVD of our film is now available for pre-order!

Parents of the Revolution won’t be released until May 15th but you can reserve your copy by going to the link below:




The DVD also includes Stereo and 5.1 surround, closed captioning and director’s commentary.

Soundtrack Song in the Spotlight: Whatcha Gonna Do (The Linda Green Song)

20130228_234158Adriel Borshansky wrote the amazing end credits song for my previous film and I was really excited to work with him again. At the time he was in between college and graduate school; and since his family lives in the same town as I do, we got to spend some time together.

On a lark, I passed Adriel a poem I had written that was an outgrowth of doing some research on the nefarious banking practices that ultimately led to the ’08 meltdown and then Occupy. I was particularly enraged by the foreclosures that were enacted by the big banks and the fraudulent practices behind this evil – particularly the ‘robosigning’ of foreclosure notices. One of the smoking guns that I found was how the name Linda Green was used over and over again on these forged documents.

Adriel took my poem and came back with this song. Our hope is that it will bring back some attention to the one of the nastier things several major banks are responsible for.

Check out the rest of the film’s soundtrack for either CD purchase or iTunes download by going here here.

FESTIVAL ANNOUNCEMENT: The Palm Beach International Film Festival!

pbiff 2014 laurelWe are proud to announce that “Parents of the Revolution” will be getting a dose of warmer weather next month. For you Floridians out there the screening will be on Saturday, April 5th, 3:45pm at the Muvico Parisian at CityPlace in West Palm Beach. Tickets will soon be available at the fest’s website. The film’s principal subject, Kirby Desmarais, will be present as well as myself and associate producer, Lisa Duggan for Q&A. Hope to see you there!

Why The ‘E’ Word Is A Good Idea

At a certain point in the editing of “Parents of the Revolution” I considered adding to the film’s beginning the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Death with the ‘anger’ stage being emphasized. In a big picture kind of way, I’ve always seen what happened in Zuccotti Park as the beginnings of populist anger against our ‘free’ market system and its impending doom.

I think that I chose not to ultimately include mention of these stages because at my core I’m a hopeful person who likes to see the good in people and I’m really praying that maybe something can be done before it’s too late.

I bring this up as we seem to be on the cusp of something larger than just global collapse. The word ‘Extinction’ seems to be bandied about more and more these days by some fairly rational people. Is it possible we have set into motion the destruction of the human race? It would seem so if you read this article (personal admission: this article kicked my butt) or what Al Gore put out in the NYTimes  recently about a new book about the ‘E’ word.

Maybe the ‘E’ word is what’s needed in today’s world to make us all wake up to the reality that we can’t continue trashing the planet in the manner that we’ve grown so blissfully accustomed.

We as human beings get so caught up in our creature comforts that most of us can’t see beyond them and will even go kicking and screaming to maintain them. It’s unfortunate and truly short sighted.

Somehow this makes me think of what happened to my old 4th grade teacher who my family and I still are in contact with. For years she smoked and couldn’t quit. This went on until one day she was informed by her doctor that if she had just one more cigarette, it would pop an irregular blood vessel that had formed in her head and she would die instantly.

She went cold turkey on smoking and is still happily alive today as a result.

So, in a twisted way I’m happy that big ‘E’ word is being mentioned more and more. Maybe, like my former teacher’s doctor, the message will sink in before it’s too late.

My Huffpo Piece About "The Wolf of Wall Street"

I just wrote an article for The Huffington Post about my feelings about “The Wolf of Wall Street” and am reprinting it here as well because a) it’s about the transmission of toxic societal values and b) Wall Street has so much to do with our film. Looking forward to hearing what you think as well.

Here’s the post…

Years from now, after the human race has been mostly wiped off the face of this planet, some surviving anthropologist may look to the film “The Wolf of Wall Street” for clues as to what happened to us.

This future anthropologist will likely have an ‘a-ha’ moment as the demise of western civilization becomes evidently clear from viewing this artifact.

Don’t get me wrong, as a filmmaker and a filmgoer I think Mr. Scorcese’s film is a masterpiece of cinema. The characters are rich (pun intended), the situations spontaneous and entertaining and its three hours running time moves like an MX Missile.

However, let’s be clear what this film really is: a glorification of the worst in us, an advertisement for Dionysian values, a cheerleader for our demise. It’s like watching a snuff film – but with you and I being the ones who are killed.

Harsh, huh? It’s only a movie, right? And the filmmakers and Leo keep telling us that it’s a cautionary tale of gross excess or a reflection of our own chiseled souls.  And they’re right to a point. Certainly, my ambivalence stems from the fact that good art makes us reflect on our own condition, as this film does magnificently when viewed by people of intelligence pokies online and thoughtfulness.

But then I think of the myriad of people who have been poorly educated and brought up by a cynical system that perpetuates the value of dollars over people and I worry about how this film will reverberate in their brains.

These people will not get the subtleties of this comic/horror masterpiece. They won’t get the forlorn conclusion that to live as Jordan Belfort did is to lead to personal and societal doom. No, they will want to be Jordan Belfort. To live as he did and even perhaps to desire his ultimate fate as psychologically that’s what they’ve been told they deserve anyway.

Just like in the scene in the film where Belfort’s company was swamped by inspired, wet-eared, young (mostly) men who had read the Forbes article that damned Belfort, so too will more young people watch this film and be craving to drink from Belfort’s Dionysian well. The ‘Wolf’ will be awoken in these people and the toxic, vampire machine that is Wall Street will be given yet another much needed injection of new, disposable blood to satisfy its greed-addled arm.

A few years ago I remember speaking to a vet from the first gulf war. He told me that when he wasn’t in action, he and the other soldiers would watch war movie marathons:

“It didn’t matter,” he told me, ”whether we were watching a gung-ho John Wayne war film or an anti-war film like “The Deerhunter” or  “Born on the Fourth of July.” We didn’t get the subtle messages, only the rat-a-tat action that would get us pumped.”

The filmmakers behind the remake of “Scarface” were horrified when Al Pacino’s character, Tony Montana started being printed on T-shirts worn by gang members in LA and New York and real life gangsters began emulating the lifestyle. That film was intended as a cautionary tale as was Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street,” but unfortunately, by nature of the needs of cinema to make subject matter as exciting as possible, any moral message in the end is pulverized by the likes of charismatic characters like Gordon Gekko, Tony Montana and now Jordan Belfort.

The moral message at the end of “The Wolf of Wall Street” is flimsy at best. Spoiler alert beware, forget about the fact that Belfort loses his wife, his fortune and goes to jail for a brief stint at a tennis club/ low security prison. No, the film’s final message is in the credits in which we see that this film is based on Jordan Belfort’s sensational book: if you shit on people, break the law and ultimately rape the American Dream – but do it with sufficient panache and sensation – then the likes of a filmmaker like Martin Scorcese might very well be interested in making a movie about your utterly useless, scum-sucking life.

In “The Wolf of Wall Street”, greed is no longer just good. It’s phantasmagoric. So move aside, Gordon Gekko. You and your antiquated movie are no longer needed. Now we have Jordan Belfort for Wall Street’s new recruitment poster.

POTR – RELEASE DATE ANNOUNCED!!

We are so excited to announce that Parents of the Revolution will be released for community screenings starting May 15th, 2014! Online streaming and individual DVD sales of the film will occur at a later date.

Between now and then we’ll be sharing all sorts of special videos, music from the soundtrack, interviews with the film’s subjects and much, more more!

We’ll also be talking about social justice and civil disobedience on our twitter feed on most Tuesdays through Thursdays. So, join us for the conversation and stay tuned for more exciting news from Parents of the Revolution!

Welcome to the Revolution!

Dana and Charlie at the park.Yesterday, my ten-year-old son, Charlie, shared how someone had posted a message on his Minecraft game that used some “bad words.” I immediately grew concerned but Charlie just reassured me with this statement:

“Don’t worry, dad, just because I read or hear those words doesn’t mean that I’m going to repeat them.”

I told my wife later on about this and we both smiled at each other, feeling that we had done something right in bringing our eldest son up. At the end of the day we as parents can only encourage our kids to do what we feel is right and to try to teach them by example about the values we believe are important.

Since becoming a father, most of the documentary film work I gravitate towards seems to be about the transmission of values between parents and their kids. For me, to really change the world, we must start at home. So much of our belief system stems from how we were brought up, for better or worse. With my previous film, The Evolution of Dad, I explored the significance of having dads engaged with their kid’s lives as well as how detrimental it is when children grow up with that role missing.

Parents of the Revolution goes one step further in terms of exploring how we pass on values as they relate to civic duty. Through the stories of the families that I profiled, the primary question raised is: are we bring up our kids as complacent, compliant and complaining individuals who think that our only responsibility as citizens are paying taxes, voting and being good consumers – or should we be teaching our kids to be more active participants in our democracy, to think for themselves and to speak out when there is injustice?

With this new film my hope is to begin a larger conversation about how we are bringing up our kids in terms of giving them a democratic voice. The way I see it, a country is only as strong as its citizenry and that’s got to start with how we raise our sons and daughters.

As for this blog, it will not only feature my own personal thoughts but also essays and insights from a variety of sources from some of the amazing people who have worked on the film to the parents I profiled to some relevant experts. I also look forward to hearing your voice in this conversation as well. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Sincerely,

Dana H. Glazer, Producer – Director