City of Roses
|I consider myself neither passionate nor dismissive of these waves of protests. I'm feeling much the same way toward these protests as I was toward the Tea Party protests in their nascent stages. I'm encouraged by any sort of spontaneous effort driven by a group of thoughtful, passionate individuals embodying the Margaret Mead philosophy.......but all the same little I've seen inspires me to go out myself and jump in.........for reasons already echoed here, and for the following three insights:
Firstly, this week's release of Occupy Wall Street's "official first statement" sums up my skepticism of the movement having any legs in a nutshell. I feel it encapsulates my hunch of this "movement" lacking staying power. There's a central pitch surely, which goes as follows:
“We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.”
Fair enough. I can vouch for that. That said, the problem is, it is immediately followed by a laundry list of grievances..............which ultimately largely bury this important statement and it winds up not standing out explicitly. And don't get me wrong. It's important to illuminate, to put into perspective, how corporate influences have skewed the playing field for the rest of us who are trying to ensure we can still fulfill the fullest promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..........to which that prospect is growing dimmer by the day to many of us, and to our loved ones.
The problem is, the grievances consume virtually the entire remainder of the statement. Meaning virtually the entire body of the text concerns itself with protesting, and none regarding how Occupy Wall Street is going to emerge an organizing force, a conscious movement, with slews of constructive aims and ideas on how we return to a nation that is people-powered, justice-oriented, and egalitarian-minded.
The grievances also lack cohesion here; there's not enough connecting of the dots so it will paint a most stark, emotionally-affecting image to those who obviously are bearing the brunt of all these grievances, yet doesn't know how to navigate through the thick of it and can imagine what the alternatives are.
Secondly, the simple idea of "occupying" something comes across as somewhat off-putting and unsettling to me. I don't even know what the Portland contingent of the larger Occupy _______ "movement" is actually occupying, for one.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland is the focal point of the Occupy Portland chapter. Is that implying that Portland's city parks are representative of meritocracy gone amuck, above all else? As a symbolic sign of "solidarity" (whatever that means), it certainly can look exciting and inspiring.............but as a statement or collective intention, it just doesn't make sense to me. If anything, Tom McCall Waterfront Park represents so much that is special about Portland. We can do so much better about caring for the homeless and treating them with dignity here, but the park comes closer than most other parts of town in providing a preferred space for the homeless community here, for one. So to "occupy" this area, as opposed to..........say............the Wells Fargo headquarters downtown..........just sends out an uneasy mixed message, from my perspective.
I much highly prefer the term "convergence". It has a positive, organic gathering quality to it, a comely connotation. "Occupy" comes across as defensive, as though the world around you is a battlefield. A simple once-over of the etymology of "occupy" confirms this. It is derived from the Latin word "occupare".........meaning to: "take over, seize, possess, occupy,".........and is an assemblage of ob (meaning "over") and the intensive form of capere (meaning "to grasp, seize"). According to historical records, "occupy" was actually an euphemism to "have sexual intercourse with,"..............and it observed a period between the early sixteenth and late seventeenth centuries where it fell out of favor in result.
So what am I supposed to gather from the "Occupy ______" moniker other than that the uber-rich (or "1%") have hijacked the wealth of the other 99% of Americans and now it's time to take over, seize and possess ourselves, as long as I'm taking words too literally here? It makes me feel nervous and intimidated, more than anything, rather than engaged and inspired.
Finally..............it just stands to reason that we'll all be served better by focusing on asking for what we want, rather than what we don't. If I say I don't like something, like I did repeatedly during the greater part of the previous decade with regards to our foreign policy in particular..........that told you how I felt, but not what I want instead.
It just seems the "Occupy _______" protests are much more about railing against so many things (noting their "first official statement again) than about standing strongly for many things, or at least for something. I'm sorry, but "solidarity" is NOT a tangible thing. "Solidarity", if anything, is more than just an insubstantial buzzword.........it's usually just one of numerous forms cultural groupthink assumes in my view. I'll reiterate at this time that as much as I'm happy to see at least some degree of passion on the streets, outside of people's homes, with peaceful results thus far.............so much of this movement seems to be so anti-minded.
Mother Teresa said it so well: "I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there." There's still time for an effort of this sort to mature and begin reaching within and devoting its time and intention to what positive change it hopes to usher.........and should that time come, I'll open-mindedly consider the invitation.
In the meantime, though..........I just feel these protests, along with the later Tea Party protests, have incited a lot of self-censorship more than anything. Where it's gotten to the point where many were pining for a "revolution" for so long, then suddenly they see a protest that has managed to hold up for a longer period of time than usual, and they just leap right into it without putting some personal reflection, some introspection, behind doing so. I've been candid (politely so) about my criticisms of these protests on Facebook event listings.....................and the most common response I've received thus far (in a polite tone) is along the lines of: "Well, that's the purpose of this whole rally. We're coming together, uniting, talking about this, formulating what all we want and how to go about it. One step at a time right? We can't ask for what we want until we unite, gather, share ideas, and move from there! This is just the beginning! Revolution doesn't happen overnight, mind you!".
When I join any given protest or demonstration, I want to feel genuinely and emotionally engaged to it. I certainly felt just that way during my time visibly protesting the war in Iraq and denouncing assaults on various civil liberties. I certainly feel that way through my involvement in SlutWalk Portland and the Walk A Mile In Her Shoes events. I wasn't coaxed into either of those. I wasn't pressured into thinking if I didn't join them that that would somehow make me feel like less of a person, or insensitive to the concerns of others. I did so on my own volition.........because both causes feel true to my heart. Occupy _________, in contrast................I just don't feel this. The protests don't make me feel anything. They just leave me scratching my head and utter a sad, sympathetic sigh.
I came across rather blunt there, and I'll wrap up here by saying I'm certainly not putting anyone down when I express my honest thoughts and skepticism here about the broader effort and its crucial flaws from my perspective. Much like with the Tea Party protests, I think a strong majority of the sentiments permeating these ones are ones I can sympathize with and harbor pure intent. And so as critical as I am of Occupy _______ in its broader context, I'm not going to be dismissive of the sum of its parts either..........because I feel overshadowed by all the divisive "99% vs. 1%" and somewhat confrontational rhetoric...........I think we can all see parts of ourselves and our own worries, fears, anxieties and aspirations mirrored through their eyes collectively, much like with the Tea Party............and to put them down would prove a grave disservice for us all.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"