If you’re looking for a way to ruin your Thanksgiving weekend, cause tension among your peers, and simultaneously raise the blood pressure of everyone around you within ear shot, all you have to do is say this simple incantation:
Occupy Wall Street
You felt a shiver, didn’t you? It seems that any talk of the OWS Movement gets so heated that I’m starting to believe that every time it’s mentioned either an angel loses its wings or God kills a baby kitten.
But I’m going to talk about it anyway.
Seldom do I find things that give me such an array of mixed emotions. When I read anything about OWS, I feel repulsed, curious, entertained, annoyed, and (hate me if you must) inspired. OWS intrigues me because no one really knows what it’s all about. Every news commentary on either side of the political spectrum has an opinion about as accurate as a drunk and blind archer. Heck, the people actually protesting don’t really have much of a clue. It’s like a Seinfeld episode – it’s a show about nothing.
And that’s what makes OWS so important.
The best way to describe the OWS is to first say what it’s not. The reason why OWS is confusing and often times hypocritical is because it is viewed in very black and white terms. But it can’t be viewed this way. OWS is really not about the poor vs. the rich, the liberal vs. the conservative, capitalism vs. socialism, or the hippies vs. citizens who shower daily. It’s unfortunate that we tend to put things in one of two camps: right or wrong. You just can’t with this one. Love them or hate them, this protest is and will be completely lost on those who think that objectively.
OWS also really has nothing to do with politics or government or even big businesses – at least not directly. OWS is about this discontent that people can’t shake. We all see it in the corner of the room. It’s like an elephant but it’s a different type of animal altogether. It’s a species that most of us haven’t been able to define because the language of our society doesn’t allow for the words to classify it. And we all feel it – both the 99% and the 1%.
The OWS protest is just a manifestation of this discontent.
We all have these vital needs that cause absolute discontent if they’re not met. We all need to feel connected to our community. We all need to have really deep relationships that go beyond Facebook. We all need to have purpose and contribute with our talents and gifts. We all need to feel like we’re understood.
Here’s a big one: We all need to…be needy on others. Believe it or not, dependency is a virtue. We are wired to want and need and long to rely on others. And we all were also all designed to want and need and long to meet other’s needs. This transaction is the very definition of love.
But we’ve created a society where these things are marginalized and undervalued. We have defined success as being independent and to be in a position where every want can be purchased. The winner of the rat race is someone that can just pay for everything they need without relying on human connection and the gifts and contributions of those they love.
This is where I tend to disagree with many of the protesters. Capitalism really isn’t to blame. Capitalism and consumerism are just the symptoms; it’s us who are the problems. Capitalism has done a world of good in productivity and advancement. But it’s you and me that have allowed it to become our master. We are the ones who have believed our own lies. We have duped ourselves into thinking that social status is determined by all the stuff we have. We’ve convinced ourselves that money really does buy happiness, that we neeeeeed the new iPad 46; that “if only I can get (insert something purchasable here) then life will be better”. The ironic thing is, all these consumables aren’t a bad thing. The blame lies in us for allowing them to become the measure of our quality of life.
This discontent is something that cannot and will not be solved in any change of government or socioeconomic method. Socialism is not the answer. Trickledown economics is not the answer. This discontent will not change with Obama or Romney or Pelosi or Bush or even Reagan coming back from the dead.
The change begins with you. The change begins with me.
Sure there are some serious objective problems that need to be fixed with our government and economy. Yes, we should seriously figure out what to do with taxes and corporations and CEOs who lay off 50 workers and then give themselves another million dollars on their Christmas bonus. But the real change will come when one day we can say, “We are the 99% who CHOOSE to be defined by the talents and resources we contribute and the love we give to all around us. We CHOOSE to not let ourselves be enslaved to things that are bigger, better and more shiny. We are not forced, but CHOOSE to live within our means and redistribute our own personal wealth, out of love, to those who need it. We CHOOSE to view each human as a soul that has invaluable worth and thereby worthy of love and connection. We CHOOSE to live by the maxim that doesn’t say that more for you is less for me, but says that more for you is more for me.”
This is what OWS is about. If it’s not, then that’s what it should be about. Changing Wall Street might help with the symptom, but not with the root of the problem. The real change starts when we decide to rebel against ourselves. The real revolution begins when we decide to bring back our humanity and start meeting our needs of dependency, community, purpose and love.
Viva la revolution.