Monday, March 5, 2012


Hi, Occupy Long Beach,

Today's experience at the TED Conference at the Long Beach Convention Center was very demoralizing, for a variety of reasons.  There were two of us, Anita and myself.  The weather was intermittent rain plus cold wind.  We first set up at Ocean & Pine, down the block from the Terrace Theater.

We got a few signatures from passers-by.  It appears that Long Beach residents are probably interested in helping to qualify the Label GMOs Initiative for the November Ballot.  This is an idea that people are ready for, and we in Long Beach could do a lot to add energy to this initiative.

The big exception to the general passers-by were the actual TED attendees.  They were wearing big cards that permit them entrance into the conference.  They had no interest in talking to us, refusing to slow their pace or make eye contact.  One person we talked to (who signed the petition) was a worker at the convention center.  He described the TED attendees as a very arrogant group.

Later, I walked over to the Terrace Theater.  They had gates and "guards" in place to deny entrance to non-TED folks.  These guards were young men wearing Terrace Theater blazers.  (My guess is that they are minimum-wage immigrant workers.)  One of these guys described TED as a "millionaires convention".

If ever there was a 1% gathering in Long Beach, this might be it.  Given that TED charges the attendees $7500 to be at the conference, and that the Terrace Theater has a large seating capacity, it stands to reason that the revenue that TED makes from a single conference is in the millions of dollars.  Surely, the City of Long Beach is taking some chunk of that change, which is why TED returns to the LB Convention Center year after year.

My opinion:  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a bunch of millionaires having their own conference.  These people are successful at the "game" that engages them and have no desire to stop being successful.

What I find troubling is the exclusivity of TED and its chosen attendance.  (Note: you have to apply to attend TED and be invited to attend.  Then you get to pay your $7500.)  Like many human beings, these people feel most comfortable belonging to communities that they judge to be like themselves.

Being able to attend TED does not make one a member of the upper 1% that Occupy has distinguished from the 99%.  Rather, I look at these people as an extreme example of people who won't accept the concerns of the Occupy movement because they envision Occupiers as poor, homeless and marginalized members of a society that is designed to give every citizen a fair shake.  They do not believe that such a system fails its citizens.  The disadvantaged have only themselves to blame.

TED attendees may be among the last group that Occupy reaches.  But they serve as an educational example.

In order to grow Occupy our task may amount to showing that you don't have to be marginalized, poor, homeless or a victim of financial fraud to be part of the 99%.  You merely have to recognize that the words "all men are created equal" was an ideal of the Founders of the United States that has become twisted by equating the human stature of a person as being measured in monetary terms.

When we stop trying to quantify a person's worth, then Occupy will have served the purpose that galvanized its eruption onto the American landscape.

Thank you,

-- Bob Fiske

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