First, a video to get you in the spirit: “Mic Check, Tear Down That Wall“
Next, wise words from the folks at www.occupywallst.org: “Reflection is easy when the water is still, but it seems hard to be definitive about something as fluid and rapidly moving as the Occupy movement.”
Occupy Seattle is so different from Occupy Wall Street which has very little in common with my local Occupy San Francisco which in turn bears little resemblance to Occupy Oakland located just three train stops across the San Francisco Bay. What was true two weeks ago may not be true four weeks from now.
Yet something has rooted itself into the collective conscience of this country in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time and may be a true turning point.
When mainstream TV can poke fun at the idea of corporate personhood and people know what that means and when the “Field Report” on NPR (11/29) claims that when Californians were asked whether they agree or disagree with the underlying reason for the occupation a 58% majority say they agree with it then the turning point seems evident. 99% of us seem to understand that greed and corruption are destroying the public good and we must do something before our democracy, our planet and our future generations are destroyed.
I have been inspired and moved by the scope and breadth of the movement – it’s like a breath ignited the life of a newborn and she is now squalling her head off to be alive in this world…now.
I’ve also been uncomfortable in the setting, uncomfortable with the drugs and alcohol, with the messiness and confusion, tired when meetings last hours in the cold and when we use our precious time together to talk about dogs, food and hygiene rather than the larger problems at hand.
What is clear is that the space has built a sense of community that would be impossible without the ebb and flow of daily life. Living together, meeting each other in our best moments and our worst we have learned to care for each other. There is a profound acceptance of difference and empathy for individual needs that I have not seen in other movements. We are taking care of each other.
The guy who mumbles and shouts at his private demons is welcome at the meetings, is handed a broom when the sidewalk needs cleaning and helps to divide the food so that all can share. The intellectual is welcome to teach but has to keep his lectures to the point because the repetition of the human mic makes brevity the only possibility. Campers have the same voice as the folks who arrive for the General Assembly and then go home. Hierarchies are discouraged, even a hierarchy of sacrifice and everyone is invited to participate.
Though the media first tried to ignore and then ridicule the occupations, first by wondering who the leaders were, or trying to anoint particular people with that role, then proclaiming that there was no platform, no goals or demands and now fairly successfully painting the occupations as messy, unsanitary, dangerous and out of control, the ideas that have been planted and groomed in the past few months have taken root across communities globally. It is a message about democracy.
As the weather gets colder and the coordinated efforts to clear the occupations in cities and universities across the nation sweep along, the movement becomes less about holding public space and more about holding community – about recognizing the common desires of the 99% for fairness.
A vision has emerged from the occupations. From Michael Moore’s summary of a vision statement that came out of an Occupy Wall Street meeting on Nov 22. We Envision:
- a truly free, democratic, and just society;
- where we, the people, come together and solve our problems by consensus;
- where people are encouraged to take personal and collective responsibility and participate in decision making;
- where we learn to live in harmony and embrace principles of toleration and respect for diversity and the differing views of others;
- where we secure the civil and human rights of all from violation by tyrannical forces and unjust governments;
- where political and economic institutions work to benefit all, not just the privileged few;
- where we provide full and free education to everyone, not merely to get jobs but to grow and flourish as human beings;
- where we value human needs over monetary gain, to ensure decent standards of living without which effective democracy is impossible;
- where we work together to protect the global environment to ensure that future generations will have safe and clean air, water and food supplies, and will be able to enjoy the beauty and bounty of nature that past generations have enjoyed.”
Building community in occupied spaces and practicing the revolutionary act of sharing in front of the financial institutions that have created the profound inequalities in our country is only the beginning. It is what has breathed life into the movement. Upon this beautiful consensus we will now build the apparatus of change in all the different ways we know how. Where it will actually lead and whether or not we can hold onto the idea that we are all in this together only time and effort will tell.
This weekend I saw a quote on a t-shirt in Spanish:
“Son tantos los agravios, y es tan largo el camino que, mas vale que continuemos andando preguntando caminamos.”
Roughly translated as “The problems are so great and the journey is so long that is it is much better to ask questions while we walk!“