I’ve been using almost all my writing energy for months on other sites and Facebook. But yesterday I ran across something I want to share my (lengthy) thoughts on here – this UU minister’s thoughts on why he is not joining or even supporting the Occupy movement, entitled Occupation? I am not picking on Rev. Matt; I just happened to run across his post which is typical of some ideas I disagree with.
My first thoughts are on his objection to the word “occupy,” which he associates with “the language and symbolic practice of the violence and oppression that we oppose” and “the militaristic language and practice of occupation.” I think that today we more often think, not of occupied Europe or even the occupied West Bank, but of the occupation of Tiananmen Square by non-violent student demonstrators for democracy.
And the first definition of “occupy” in Merriam-Webster is “to engage the attention or energies of .”
The misunderstanding of the name leads to another misunderstanding – many people, like Rev. Matt, think the purpose of the movement is
To try to topple our own nation’s economic infrastructure through an admittedly anarchic strategy of occupation is to commit social and cultural suicide. It is knocking down our own house of cards rather than building it stronger. If these efforts are successful, we will all suffer.
What I see is not an “anarchist” strategy; anarchy, being “a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority” is much closer to libertarianism than to the democratic consensus process that is being used in the occupations. Likewise, it is the Tea Party, the right wing, and corporations who are calling for the defunding of government and lessening of its authority. The Occupy movement is calling for taking back our democratic government from rule by corporate interests.
Others have commented that the movement wants to tear down the system with nothing to replace it, which would indeed be anarchy. But you don’t have to be a tailor to see that the Emperor is naked, and pointing it out without being able to design and sew a suit of clothes is not to say that you want the Emperor to remain naked.
This post by Rich Yeselson, The four habits of highly successful social movements, points out that the movement needs sustained organization, people to “teach the less experienced and expand the circle of competent leadership”, doable solutions that will “have an organic connection to the pressing concerns of millions of people”, and people “explaining and defending the Wall Street demonstrators to curious Americans.”
Now that those in the streets have engaged the attention and energies of more and more people, those of us who have the skills and experience to help should do all of the above as we are able.
I think it is overly optimistic to think, as Rev. Matt says, that “Those of us with some leverage CAN make a rapid difference by rapidly changing our spending and voting habits with which we feed the system.” We need to do that, but it is not nearly enough. Many of us who were activist in the 1960s and 1970s have been trying to live lightly, sustainably, and lovingly our whole adult lives. It has made a difference, but not enough. I agree with what he says next, but it is not enough to “want” it – we need to help.
I want the “occupiers” to be successful in tearing down oppression. I just want them to be smart, careful, clever, and creatively subversive. Much like Jesus was. Jesus turned over the money changers’ tables too. But that was a small part of his revolution. His was a revolution of the mind, body, and spirit. I see people taking to the streets. I want to see people occupying hearts and minds with justice, equity, and compassion.
The now-nationwide demonstrations, with their long hours together and their General Assemblies (sound like town hall meetings to me) are opportunities not only to gain attention for the issues, but for the demonstrators to discuss and learn from each other. Those who can be there in person should be. But that can go on virtually, too. So, my contribution to the cause is to occupy my little area of the web on this blog and others, and on Facebook.
I think most people truly don’t know how much of the wealth this country has produced in the last 30 years has been diverted to the top 1% rather than being shared among everyone who made it possible. Clearly Americans don’t know that wealth is distributed less fairly than they think it is, and far less fairly than they think it should be.
from a study by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely
Other misconceptions come up continually, and I’ll be doing my bit to research, contradict, and educate.