Peter Linebaugh addresses “the commons” at Occupy Ypsi teach-in

Our Occupy Ypsi teach-in on Saturday went really well. Hopefully, at some point in the near future, I’ll have an opportunity to go into everything that was covered. For the time being, though, I wanted to share this video of historian Peter Linebaugh addressing the group.

The following will hardly do Peter justice, but here are a few notes that I scribbled into my notebook as he was speaking. I would encourage you to watch the video yourself, and correct my notes where necessary.

• It all started on the 17th of September, 2011, when we, the people of the United States, first sought to occupy Wall Street… when we first sought to take back the place where the 1% divvy up the wealth created by the 99%… What they do on Wall Street is not investment. Investment is educating your children, and creating things with your labor. What those on Wall Street do could better be described as gambling and trickery.

• Wall Street marks the location of a wall that was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1607 to keep out Native Americans. Occupy Wall Street is seeking to end that enclosure, and restore the indigenous commons that once existed. Our task, as we struggle to “decolonize” Wall Street, is to reclaim these resources that mankind once owned in common. And that, according to Linebaugh, is why the police are exerting force, and shutting down our general assemblies. They don’t want for us to find our own solutions.

• Men and women, throughout history, have been able to work together to find solutions regarding the sharing of common resources. This, Linebaugh says, happened in the hobo camps during the Great Depression. We, according to Linebaugh, share a common memory of our commons that we can tap into. He says that our indigenous ancestors, and our slave ancestors are behind us, and that we should not do recreancy to them… that we should not betray them… that we should have the courage to imagine a better future.

• Linebaugh notes the corporate lies told recently to the people of Japan living in the vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant concerning the level of environmental contamination that they have been subjected to, and draws a parallel to the corporations of America that are not acting with the best interests of our citizens in mind. How can we bring these corporate thieves to justice, he asks. The answer, according to Linebaugh, is to broaden the constitution so that it it encompasses the commons. We need, in his words, a future where people have the expectation of warmth in winter.

• Our labor has been stolen. Our wealth has been taken. And this has left us with a society of “miserable-ism” that is “polluting the cosmos.”

As I mentioned above, I don’t do Linebaugh justice, but I thought that I’d share these brief, cryptic notes in hopes that they might encourage one or two of you to actually watch the video. If you do watch, please feel free to suggest edits and additions to my notes.

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  1. Edward
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    No thoughts at the moment, but I found this interesting. I especially liked his line about the truth not needing to be yelled.

  2. Eel
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Where are Tater and EOS on this? If they think that Obama is a Socialist, I can’t wait to hear what they make of Linebaugh and his suggestion that widows deserve a share of the firewood. I suspect that 14 minutes is a little too long for them, though. And it might have helped if he’d used a chalk board, like Glenn Beck.

  3. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink


  4. Ypsilanti Courier
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

  5. alan2102
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
    Weekend Edition January 8-10, 2010
    “All For One and One For All!”
    Some Principles of the Commons

  6. Posted June 13, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    A Juneteenth Message from the American Interior (with Peter Linebaugh):

6 Trackbacks

  1. […] library is a facet of the public commons that Mark mentioned awhile back in relation to an Occupy Ypsi gathering that took…. Mark linked the Wikipedia article on the concept of the public commons (an article that does not […]

  2. By Occupying the Commons in Ypsilanti this Sunday on March 7, 2012 at 11:15 am

    […] who are unaware of the concept of “the commons,” I’d encourage you to check out the video I shot earlier this summer of author Peter Linebaugh addressing an Occupy Ypsilanti genera…. It’s interesting stuff, and incredibly timely. This entry was posted in Politics, […]

  3. […] and doing a bit of bartering, has been able to publish a new Ypsi-themed work by famed historian Peter Linebaugh. The 75-page pamphlet, entitled “Ypsilanti Vampire May Day,” is the first thing to be […]

  4. […] Mark | May 9, 2012I believe I first met Lindsay Garinger a few days after Arlo was born, at an Occupy Ypsi teach-in. She was pregnant, and, if I’m not mistaken, she was knitting. I’d seen her around […]

  5. […] native species on Water Street, and transform a desolate, weed-filled wasteland into a thriving commons. Here are a few photos. It’s worth noting, I think, that these kids very much wanted to […]

  6. […] | May 4, 2013Last year, as you may recall, our friend Jeff Clark worked with noted labor historian Peter Linebaugh to produce an ambitious little book which touched on everything from the history of May Day and the […]

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