Transcript: Thom Hartmann: Who are the leavers & the takers? 23 November '11
That very first Thanksgiving was made possible thanks to the Native Americans.
And while it might have been an out of the ordinary feast and community gathering for the pilgrims - it was just another potlatch for Native Americans.
That's because the idea of coming together - the idea of community - and sharing - is a staple of Native American culture - in fact, it's a staple of most older cultures everywhere in the world.
Cultures where there are no rich - there are no poor - there are no prisons - and there is no denial of healthcare - and there is no waste.
Unfortunately - in the years since that very first Thanksgiving - that very same Native American culture that helped keep early European settlers alive - has been largely killed off - by genocidal war and diseases like influenza - or just pushed farther and farther back into isolated and often God-forsaken plots of land that we call Indian reservations.
But that basis of potlatch cultures - what are sometimes called hospitality cultures, or older cultures, or Daniel Quinn calls "the leavers" - is still around, albeit mostly in remote tribal areas.
It's core concept is that you gain the most prestige by giving the most away - potlatches were, in part, gatherings where one tribe or clan or family would try to outdo the others by putting on the biggest feast and giving away the most goodies.
You were the most well thought-of person in the community when you served it the most.
And those who try to lock up their food or their wealth in potlatch cultures are considered mentally ill - and either people feel sorry for them, or they shun them, or they banish them from the community.
Most Americans know nothing about Native American culture - except for that one vestigial day of the year - when we come together to celebrate Thanksgiving.
The other 364 days though...it's back to business as usual...trying to get rich.
But today - on the eve of THIS Thanksgiving - there's a new culture taking hold in America that is reminiscent of the Native American culture that brought us the first Thanksgiving.
And that is...the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Thanksgiving is about community - and there is no other movement in America today that embodies this principle more than Occupy Wall Street.
For the last two months - "occupations" have sprung up all around the nation - occupations of people who are looking after each other - who feed each other - who are healing each other - who are teaching each other - and who never demanded anything in exchange for it.
These are true communities - which is why they so baffle Libertarians and Republicans.
And as Native Americans learned so long ago - and our young people are now re-learning today - these sort of potlatch or cooperator communities are a threat to established culture - a Reaganomics culture of hierarchy, of competition, of material worth, and of war.
That's why one-by-one - police are trying to destroy each occupation - in the same way that nearly every Native American community was burned to the ground over 200 years, actually over about 400 years.
But - as the patriots have chanted while they've been beaten, pepper-sprayed, or marched handcuffed into police buses - you can't evict an idea.
And the idea of Occupy Wall Street is very much with us today - and it will be tomorrow - when all Americans come together - create community and follow the principles of the movement whether they know it or not over the Thanksgiving table.
And that doesn't just mean having community with your family and loved ones.
Occupy Wall Street isn't exclusive to just friends and people who know each other.
It's a movement that looks out for strangers - for anyone who's in need.
Somewhere near you there is a homeless shelter - or a battered women's shelter - or a free medical clinic...some place filled with people who don't have access to the support of a community.
Somewhere near you, people need help.
So stop by with a turkey - or a tofurkey - and a plate of stuffing and green beans.
Stop by your local "occupation" - see what's going on - see how you can help.
Or simply log-on to an organization's website and see how you can contribute - either financially or with your time and sweat - to their efforts in your community.
That's what Thanksgiving - with its roots in potlatch culture - is all about.
So let's give thanks for the Occupy Wall Street movement today - as it is our best hope for returning to the principles that made the very first Thanksgiving possible - and the best hope for making sure that future Thanksgivings take place in a more perfect union.
And let's all give thanks - that, despite the horrors of police brutality and pepper spray and sound cannons, we live in a country that has undergone fundamental change in the past thanks to movements like Occupy Wall Street - and hopefully will again in the future.
That's The Big Picture.