Friday, May 11, 2012

An Ocean of Promise

As toddlers, my daughters were absolutely sure a certain beach was where we saw "the ocean." Only there. No other place would do. For them, a summary of the five world seas was captured on that stretch of sand. I must admit that was my formula for Occupy Wall Street too. So when a curious friend was in town from North Carolina--besides our usual  Yankee game--he asked to join me at an OWS event. But after May Day where would we go? True, OWS bannered scattered events on its website but the real circus had left town.

It was then I’d heard of an "occupy-like" meeting called "Another City is possible; another world is possible.” It was a liberal hodge-podge ranging from various union support, to Grannies for Peace, to various parts of the Green movement. It would have to do for my rump “Occupy Tour.” For a brace of days “” planned to rail against the disabling budget austerities of the Bloomberg Administration with various actions, 

At the meeting I was in foreign-yet vaguely familiar territory as an organizer asked, “are you with the Occupiers?” The question startled me…what a novel experience to bring such a role from the streets to these seniors of social activism. I’m not alone in ignorance about the struggle for justice. Indeed, many chroniclers lament how naive OWS is about the history of protest. Chris Hedges regularly reminds Millennial-aged demonstrators of the legacy in which they walk; my wife Brook was surprised when teaching protest songs at an OWS meeting that no one knew the words to “We Shall Overcome!”
But there was a larger surprise in store. The mark of OWS had entered the cultural dialogue; its horizontality and rendering of people’s democracy had seeped even into this hall and it was the same message. There is strength in honesty, transparency and powerlessness. Though the personalities had changed Occupy folkways and styles embraced the meeting. Like Pentecost everyone—though diverse—heard the same, new tongue. It wasn’t perfect yet this “pan-language” had spread and become a necessity as a response to the mysterious, darker powers set to seize control of our lives. 

Occupy had de-cloaked this goblin for all to see. In his book, Engaging the Powers, Walter Wink recalls the biblical terms, “principalities and powers” and updates it as “System.” Any thing which hinders individual agency by rankings, hierarchies and secrecy qualifies as part of the “System.” The obvious miscreants are big banks as associated with the disaster of 2008 but the mark of this beast goes farther than that to media, government, and even to churches.

Watch Andy Smith’s ingenious spoof on a scene from the movie, “The Matrix.” Every time “Wall Street” is dubbed in…think, “System”, and a shudder of recognition will arrive and only limited by the limitless outrage we feel. We'll need an ocean of Occupy and all its friends to reclaim our lives.

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