Showing posts with label Occupy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Occupy. Show all posts

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Slow Activism

Speaking At Occupy Fort Lauderdale meeting

Ok, we get it; Pagan activists are always posting about the immediate need for change. We act as if when people don’t fully engage immediately the issues of the day will fade from the public view and nothing will be accomplished.

Individuals throughout the community are busy with their own lives and often can feel a little overloaded with community activism; couple this with those in the community that feel religion and politics should be kept separate and there is considerable ambiguity among the community about activism.

What many fail to realize is that these activist efforts, with their calls to action, are not really about immediate change: instead they are about slowly changing the national consciousness on important issues.

Over the years the corporate media has become very adept in discrediting social justice movements. Accusations used to defeat these movements have run the gambit from violence, UN American activities, foreign funding to deliberate attempts to paint movement leaders as thugs.

Activists often lament these efforts because they do exactly what they are intended to do, take the wind out of the sails of the various movements. Yet, when a historical perspective is taken, these movements have, with time, changed the national discourse and our collective character as a nation.

While the media painted the anti war movement of the sixties as naive and filled with stoned hippies the movement did influence the national dialogue to the point where the war in South East Asia was abandoned.

Just a few short years ago this writer stood as part of Occupy Faith’s effort in Oakland Ca. The movement, which confronted the 1% was widely attacked by the corporate media and painted as violent and UN sustainable. Yet, a few short years later, a major candidate for President of the United States is garnering incredible attention taking the very same positions as Occupy did.

Today we are collectively involved in another movement being painted by the media as violent. Black Lives Matter is on the same course to change the national consciousness on matters of race. Many will attempt to discredit the movement and take credit for its’ demise. Once again, however, there will be a ground swell of support for racial equality as the nation takes the time for the message to sink in.

Activism is a slow process nourished by the efforts of people engaged in passionate discourse.  The results of activism are slow to grow, yet, grow they will. Instead of keeping our activists at a distance due to their passion we should embrace them for being invested in long-term efforts that will surly grow and enrich our nations commitment to justice.

Activism is fast paced, passionate and demanding. Changes are slow coming and the result of periods of national contemplation. This is the grand dance of the activist, one in which our collective efforts shall carry the day long after our protests are barely a memory!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Occupy, Hope It Is Not Your Last

Birthdays are usually cause for festivity, smiles and hope for the future. As the Occupy movement faces it’s first birthday, however, there is much trepidation as to the future of the Occupy phenomenon that has so profoundly sculpted a new political landscape.

From its inception this unlikely amalgamation of disenfranchised Americans has manifested momentous changes in our understanding of democracy, protest and the role of economic violence in our nation.  Some Republicans now openly talk of holding the banking industry culpable for their actions in causing the most profound economic down turn in decades.

Americans across our nation lost their homes to unfathomable financial schemes that even economic experts find beyond comprehension.  In silent shame our country watched as millions lost their jobs, homes and ultimately hope for the future. Joined by many other disenfranchised groups Occupiers stood their ground, seizing high profile locations around the nation in the name of Occupy, refusing any longer to be ignored. 

With publicity the movement attracted many other groups who feel disenfranchised. Occupy to its credit established a consensus process of decision-making that strived to incorporate all voices. Suddenly, individuals who had been marginalized in public discourse for decades had an equal voice in the most exciting movement of their lifetime.  Included in this group were many Antiracists’ and individuals who would proclaim their willingness to engage in violence as a means to achieve the goals of the movement.  Experienced activists advocated peaceful action but were frustrated in their efforts to establish an ethic of non-violence within Occupy.

Middle class Americans began to realize that the movement that provided so much hope was morphing into something else entirely. It was this loss of mainstream Americans that so crippled Occupy.  Occupy could no longer marshal overwhelming support from the public.  Calls for action were met with the fear of violence. This was compounded by the disingenuous media coverage that focused on the actions of the few, instilling doubt in the minds of many Occupiers as to the ethical standards of the movement.

Today Occupy is a pail reflection of the movement that inspired so many.  The goals of the movement remain, but the ability to engage in meaningful action has been compromised by both the establishment and Occupy itself.  Now, Consumed by its own inability to not play into the hands of corporate America, Occupy exists as a reflection of what could have been.

Happy Birthday Occupy!  The pursuit of economic justice that inspired you remains a worthy goal.  Tactics that encourage violence and play into the hands of those oppressing our population are not.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More on Occupy Faith National Gathering

This conference featured many individuals that are on the forefront of progressive theological thought. It was a true blessing to be present.

One of the most hotly discussed issues was violence at Occupy sites. The discussions covered both police violence and violence from protesters. As faith leaders many felt the discussion was important to have. Most striking about this process was the amount of deep thought and analysis that had gone into this subject. An interesting question that came up for example was. “If a lock is placed on the door of an illegally foreclosed home, is it violence to break that lock and move the family back in? These debates about the definition of violence went on for a long time.

My Thoughts on this issue

While the theoretical examples were well presented, our continual focus on a definition for violence made clear that there is a threat of over Intellectualization of the Occupy movement. In the mists of this debate what was lost was our obligation as people of faith to clearly state that ‘Violence against or the provocation of violence toward any human being is a violation of the principle that we are all part of the Divine’.  While I was glad that a discussion of violence happened, in the end I came away feeling we had abdicated our responsibility to make a unified statement to the Occupy movement on this issue.

One of the exciting things that came out of this conference is a plan for a “National month of Story telling.” For the month of May congregations around the country will be collecting video stories of those disenfranchised by our current economic system. There was agreement that, with all the messages in the media around election time, it is important that these stories get out and our populace becomes aware of just how much suffering there is in this country.

My Thoughts on this project

It is my hope that the Pagan community will participate in this process. This will not be a political effort, just a telling of stories. I think that Pagans of all political stripes, can support those who have lost their homes, jobs, and families in telling their stories as part of our national conversation about economic justice.

Over all the experience of attending this event was very positive.  Personally I had an intense awakening about my own privilege in the community. It became clear that just acknowledging my place of privilege and moving forward is no longer acceptable in my life. It is my intent to turn my privilege against its’ self, to spend more time engaging with and speaking out in support of those who have no such measure of privilege.

To those who support Occupy in our community,  Thank You! To those who do not; may your minds remain open to dialogue about the important issue of economic justice.

You are all part of the Blessed Community that I hold so dear!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Multiplicity of the Human Experience

As the Pagan blogisphere explodes with intense debate, as my Occupy brothers and sisters plan actions, as conservatives attack the rights of women, I am engulfed by waves of temptation to act in righteous indignation.

The urge is strong to weigh into the debate brought on by events at Panthea Con this year. Having been there should I, write a post, offer my services as a mediator or attempt to bring a sense of compassion to this debate? I sit and wonder at how when so many are speaking, none are listening. These are issues I have strong opinions on.

If I dive headlong into the fray will my effort make a difference or will I just add another voice to the deafening crowd. Ultimately, while making a few cautious comments, mostly I have chosen to listen. In my silence I can hear the very real pain of many of those involved. In choosing to not be overwhelmed and focused on just this issue I have maintained my ability to view this as part of a broader debate on human dignity. There is a sense of pride that my community is grappling with this issue possibly years before it comes to the forefront of the American experience.

Many I know in the Occupy Movement have called on me to devote all my efforts to this important social activity. My belief in this cause is strong and I have participated in a number of actions. Yet if I give in to the dichotomy of “us vs. them” the 99% vs. the 1%, I wonder if I will loose perspective? Will I step away from my Pagan beliefs, be awash in social activism, loose my ability to see the Divine in all of humanity, to appreciate that the people that make up the 1% have children, families, struggles and a place in our human community? So I act in support when there is something I can contribute returning afterwards to a place of quiet connection to the blessed community in peace.

It seems I can not log on to my computer without being confronted with another story of some extremist who wants to control the choices and bodies of women in the name of their particular brand of “crazy theology”. It is infuriating to witness the accomplishments of decades of progress in women’s rights be thrown under the bus in the name of the Divine. Each day it is tempting to start up my RV and drive to these individuals’ work places and lead the outpouring of disgust at their hate speech. Instead I give my dollars, write some letters and stand with my sisters in defiance of this most disturbing of trends. If I were to take every action I envision in response, my family, my community and personal ability to find grounding would be at risk.

In exchange for takings only measured actions I have maintained my ability to appreciate my daily life, the divinity manifested all around me. Today I am a Pagan activist who stands for inclusion and can appreciate a stand of trees for its diversity. Today I am an Occupy activist who is still able to see the divine manifested in a corporate executive holding the hand of their small child. Today I am a women’s rights activist who still takes time to enjoy the divinity in my wonderful partner, family and community..

By not engaging all my energy in any single issue I maintain my ability to participate in the multiplicity of the human experience.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Activist’s Exhaustion and the Wave of Negativity

There are so many issues in the world that can raise my ire. In just the last week we have been bombarded with:

• Numerous reports of the Komen vs. Planned Parenthood debacle

• A dishonorable effort to tarnish the Girl Scouts with demagoguery

• News that a small-minded news outlet, The Daily Mail, is now the most popular in the world

• The DC police eviction of Occupy protesters

• A Fundamentalist assault on science in primary education

Each of these stories scar my inner being with sadness, revulsion and an urge to “Do Something”, speak out, take corporeal action that will affect change.

As a worker of magic I am tempted to use what few resources I have in “opposition” to these events. Yet there is a disturbing inner tug on my thought process that constantly reminds that to be in opposition is to give credence to these events, even empower them to envelope the world in ever-greater waves of negativity. There are times when all the negativity leaves me feeling chained to the world’s troubles, ever the witness to tragedy, ignorance and suffering.

Often I find myself needing to take a deep breath, step away, and ground myself in who I am and what I believe. In not immediately reacting, I can often find ways to affect change by focusing on the possible positive outcomes of these events. I can choose to be in support of solutions instead of in opposition to most of the events that tarnish humanity.

So today I have given money to Planned Parenthood in positive support of their efforts. This week I have purchased more Girl Scout cookies than I have in the last five years. I have refocused on obtaining news from reliable sources. I will continue my support for the Occupy movement not in opposition to the 1%, but in support of Freedom of Speech and positive change, I have joined the Clergy Letter Project where hundreds of clergy this week around the world will be focusing on how religion and science can be complementary.

These may seem inconsequential differences in my activism, for me however, they make a huge difference. In taking positive action I can avoid the exhaustion that inevitably follows “taking the bait” and being in opposition.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Occupy And The Tapestry of Social Justice.

Across America minority communities witness the Occupy movement's expressions that the political system is fundamentally flawed. While the Occupy protesters may seem few, on a national scale they are having a profound effect; creating the perception that the political system is beyond repair. While not protesting, millions of Americans have expressed their agreement with the goals and positions of this movement.

What does all this mean for the political landscape in this nation? First, participation in the political system is beginning to be seen as a statement of support for the corporate controlled political parties. Second, examination of this shift in opinion reveals a possible profound effect on voter turnout in the upcoming elections. Finally, for the first time since the 1960’s minority voices have the ability change the direction the country is headed.

With the marriage of corporate and political abuse becoming part of the internal belief system of Americans we will see increased attempts to act outside of the established systems of change. No longer will citizens believe that they can contact their “representatives” with issues, complaints, petitions etc. and expect any reaction other than a defense of the corporate controlled system. This shift in belief may well lead to more protests and civil disobedience and the development of new alliances among America's minority voices.

Even more profound may be the effects on established voting trends. While many of the Occupy protesters, such as myself, profess intent to vote in upcoming elections the simple fact is our message is having a ardent effect on the American psyche. If the system is irreparably broken what motivation is there for those who even nominally support Occupy to vote? This issue goes to something deeper than individuals expressed support for the voting system. If, as a group, Americans feel distrustful of the system there will be a major impact on voter turnout, likely effecting election results.

Finally, the resurgence of the belief that protesting and bringing forward minority opinion can affect the national debate will construct a new political landscape where alliances between minority groups are forged. 2012 may be the year when those seeking religious, cultural, sexual and gender-based equality unite with those seeking economic justice in the realization that these goals are all woven into a tapestry called Social Justice.

As an individual, I support both the Occupy movement and the belief that voter participation is important. Holding these two seemingly in conflict beliefs is challenging. The temptation is strong to engage in dialectical thinking and align with one or the other. To make that choice however would make me part of the problem. It is this kind of right vs. wrong, left vs. right, capitalist vs. socialist thinking that has brought this country to the brink of social turmoil. We need enter into an era of honest dialog with other citizens and leave the old “us vs.them paradigm” on the ash heap of failed political systems.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble

What would our country be like if the First Amendment read:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, except by large groups, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, except in cases of public sanitation, unauthorized camping or use of public parks, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances so long as these petitions come from lobbyists and not street gatherings.

Today we find ourselves at a crossroads of history; will governments around the country be allowed to diminish the Occupy Movement with the enforcement of health codes and park maintenance issues? Will the assault on the First Amendment set precedence for other changes in interpretation? Maybe, next we will witness changes in the first sentence of the amendment. It could read something like this:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, except where the religion is practiced on public lands.”

Images from across this country seem strangely familiar, harkening back to a time when Americans last took to the streets nationally. Sadly, these images also reflect the same response from authorities.

So which image is 1970 and which is 2011?

So why should the modern Pagan community take a stand in support of the protesters rights? Is it because we are unanimous in support of their cause? Not likely in our wildly diverse community. Yet we have an interest in standing in support of the Bill of Rights. If governments and corporations are allowed to subvert the rights of the people when they disagree with the message, we as Pagans can look forward to similar treatment in the future.

Whether you agree with the protesters or not, whether you are Republican, Democrat, Green or Libertarian what is unfolding on our streets is an assault on our rights and we need to take a stand. Write articles, call Congress, join the movement or call your mayor. Protest the evolution of restrictions on our right to protest.