America is slowly waking up. If you use the war protests and civil rights marches of the 1960’s as a measurement of the last time it raised a unified voice against social crime, it has been asleep a long time. In an era of relative prosperity, it grew complacent. With basic needs well cared for, it concentrated more on its wants; and wants were furnished plentifully with advanced technology; microwaves, DVD players, video games, computers, and the Internet.
The Internet could be called the crowning achievement of the twentieth century. In the process of instant communications, it shaped the way people think. It brought closer, families separated by distance s. It opened up information networks into other countries, other cultures. It provided a space for general creativity, forums for discussion, interactive game playing, video and musical entertainment. In this arena of communal exchange, ideas were born. In the casual chats and game playing, friendships were forged. People slowly, gently became aware of how much we are all alike the world over.
It’s this awareness that has caused cities around the globe to strike up their own Occupation camps in response to the Wall Street demonstration. The resonating call to action has been so great, that one woman even set up an “Occupy the Tundra” just outside Bethal, Alaska. “I think,” said Diane McEachern, “that Wall Street symbolizes the way our entire economic system affects every part of the United States from a small tundra community to a thriving metropolis like New York,”
The Economic Fallacy of Project Occupy
If the economic system alone was the driving force behind the Occupy movement, it’s possible that a political faction; as has often happened in the past; could have used the sentiments behind the protests as a tool, promising reform in order to advance personal ambitions. But the movement has made it clear, it wants no politicians, no self-proclaimed leaders. And the movement is demanding far more than equitable income. It is demanding a change in the entire manner in which business is conducted, in accountability for its practices and for low-impact environmental development.
A recent announcement by the Occupy movement was that fifty-seven percent of the American population was in support of their protests. Occupy spokes people say they will not rest until they have the entire ninety-nine percent. Most of these fifty-seven percent have been at the effect of the bail-outs, the banking scams, insurance rackets, health coverage failures and can sympathize with the economic message. They are not prepared to look forward to a future without adequate health care, unwilling to grapple with a jobless market, reluctant to admit their mortgaged home will not sell for the money they invested into it and if they lose it, they’ve lost everything they’ve worked for. Are they prepared, however, to take on the evolving shape of the future presented by the Occupy movement?
Some of the Occupy supporters consist of the one percent, as so eagerly pointed out by the media who have boiled down the entire movement to a single issue; economics. The world’s wealth has been unfairly distributed for a very long time. In fact, unequal wealth is far more the norm than a common base income. Wars are fought constantly over this issue without a global sympathy response. It would, perhaps delight the media if the protests degenerated into a rabid, “eat the rich” philosophy, but the heart of the movement has transcended to something far greater than a vigilante group ready to chop off heads. It’s not just the economics nor the diminished degree of comfort as a result of the financial instability that triggers the bands of protesters. As far as the media is concerned, by all rights, Australia should be among the complacent. The economic recession has not hit Australia as hard as it has in other countries. The population isn’t suffering the way it is in nations that have gone bankrupt, yet Occupy protests sprang up in Melbourne and Sydney. And Australia, a democratic country, responded with violence.
Beyond the Brainwash of Status
We are at a very grave, yet very exciting crucible; a time of mass errors, major calamities; a time when we have pushed our technology, our civilization, our propensity for war to the very brink of extinction, yet a time when we can still achieve great wonders. It is this realization of the marvels we can yet accomplish that have kept the movement willfully leaderless. The formulas, the cook books have been thrown out the door. No more gimmicks. No more razzle-dazzle. No more brain wash. This means starting from the ground floor.
The ground floor can be a rather scary place to be for those who have hidden behind illusions their entire lives. One of the first things to go in a society that recognizes no leaders, only the collective voices of agreement, is the perception of a status that somehow gives your voice more influence, allows it to carry more weight. The ninety-nine percent is accustomed to a status structure, whether on a conscious or unconscious level. The deacon of a church has more status than a lay person. A high school educator has more status than a high school drop out mom. A medical doctor has more status than a personal care giver. They aren’t just recognized as authorities in their fields of expertise, they are recognized as the wisdom for guiding our lives. Even they, tucked away in the high security of their knowledgeable backgrounds, assumed and assuming to know what’s best, are being brainwashed.
Assumptions of knowledge based on very little research has hampered individual development and the adoption of progressive legislation. In a recent tragic incident in Ohio, a suicidal man released his menagerie into the local neighborhood, then proceeded to shoot himself. The immediate reaction was to hunt down the eighteen rare Bengal tigers, seventeen lions and eight bears and to kill them before they could cause harm. According to zoo authorities, killing the animals was more practical than tranquilizing them as it was turning dark at the time, and tranquilizing them could be more dangerous.
The resulting furor was not over the lack of attempt to save any of the large, predatory animals. It was because Ohio was one of seventeen states that still did not have laws against the importation of large, exotic animals. Not only does it have the most lax regulations concerning exotic pets, it has some of the country’s highest rates of injuries and deaths caused by them. Despite this open market of wild animal trafficking, there was absolutely no safety net in place for the recapturing and containment of escaped animals. There was no indication of concern for the well-being of the exotic animals. According to reports, many of the animals kept by Terry Thompson before his death had been given to him by people who had bought baby animals than no longer wanted them once they started to grow. His grounds were over-crowded, his property over taxed, his ability to care for the animals hampered by debts, yet there was no intervention, no animal rights groups offering to assist him, no presentment of a plan to better accommodate the animals with suitable habitats. Ohio had governed its wild animal population irresponsibly, and because of it, seventeen Bengal tigers – among the world’s mos endangered species – were slaughtered.
In the meantime, Occupy protesters in Cincinnati were beaten and arrested. Ohio has demonstrated the same easy-chair forcefulness with its demonstrators as it had with its wild animals.
Ohio like so many other areas, is caught up in a twentieth century hierarchy of status without personal responsibility, authority without true expertise and an unwillingness to meet opposition without violent response. Ohio; like so much of America… So damned afraid of disturbing its illusion of neat, orderly, lawful lives, it willingly shreds its guaranteed freedoms for a false sense of security, is more than cuckolded. It is a spineless mass of quivering jelly, frightened of its own shadow. It will do anything; anything at all it takes to feel comfortable and protected. And the senseless arm chair politics of suppression and violence continues in Chicago, Atlanta and Oakland.
Occupying the Environment
On the ground floor, there are no more easy chair solutions, no more sacrifices of valuable resources for complacency. Many of the Occupiers are currently living in tents. As winter moves in, they will be exposed to the whimsies of their climate, without thermostats to keep the temperature comfortably warm, without solid walls to brace against the wind, without stout doors to keep out the rain and snow. Their exposure is a prelude to what the fifty-seven percent who agree with the Occupy statement should begin preparing for. With peak oil production nudging the price per barrel into a relentless, upward spiral with no end in sight, and very little investment in alternative energy methods, a large percentage of the population will no longer be able to afford adequate utility coverage by next spring. Already, the experts on energy utilization, who once advised Americans to turn their thermostats to sixty five degrees fahrenheit, now insist we can live comfortably at a cool sixty if we just put on sweaters. We are told once more to sacrifice because energy is dwindling, yet the cranking of machinery and the splintering of frakking is still heard in the distance. They wish us to sacrifice for them, at their convenience, and as we cautiously moderate our fuel consumption, the energy companies continue raising the rates so your savings will bot show on your monthly bills.
We must sacrifice, but from the ground floor, the sacrifice will be to choose a natural existence over the synthetic one that has poisoned our air, our water, our foods and our minds. We live in an artificial world. We have artificial flavors, artificial ears, artificial limbs, artificial entertainment, artificial intelligence. We use synthetic drugs to calm us, make us happy, give us energy, regulate our diet. We speak of human nature as though it was a puzzle to be solved, something apart and strange to us because we don’t feel naturally human.
Every day we are told how to feel, what to desire, who to accept and not to accept. We pick and choose through our words so as not to sound discriminatory, yet celebrate like ogres over the deaths of questionable characters like Saddam Hussein, Obama Bin Ladin, and Moammar Gadhafi. How would America feel if Hillary Clinton, Henry Kissinger, or George W. Bush, accused of the same war crimes, were hunted down in the same manner? We stare with fascination at headless corpses, victims of Zeta gang wars, but how much more emotionally hyped would we be if the victims had all been blonde?
On the ground floor, this artificial awareness ceases to exist. There is no idle time for casual television viewing and computerized games where energy use becomes a precious commodity and Internet access is spent keeping messages of hope alive between the myriad Occupy camps. The banners, the slogans, the media propaganda are gone. There is no right wing crucifying or left wing feigned liberality. There is no status, no color, no religion, only individual merit.
In order to realize the goals of the Occupy movement, there must be a concentrated effort on part of the fifty-seven percent support to demonstrate their unity. The needs of the Occupy camps are many; toiletries, extra warm blankets and clothing, canvas tents, which are more durable and retain more heat on winter evenings, batteries, generators, medical kits, food and human powered vehicles, such as bicycles and skate boards.
The transition to clean energy will be difficult. The oil companies show no inclination for relinquishing their hold as the number one energy producers. Individual conversion efforts with solar panels, wind power and hydro-electric are expensive. In order to force the hand of major utility companies, we may not only have to turn our thermostats down to sixty during the winter months, but turn the electricity off for awhile. Sometimes, a direct hit at the pocketbooks is the only way to get a message through to corporations. Are we prepared for that sacrifice?
The Occupy movement wants the corporations to take responsibility for their man made disasters. Every year, law suits are filed in the courts against major oil, mineral and industrial companies for their damages, and the corporations fight back, wasting countless taxpayers’ dollars used for State representation and plaintiff fees, the award money dwindling with each court battle and never paid by the culprits. In the meantime, these damages continue to effect our water, our air, our health. We will have to repair the damages ourselves, and as we do, seize back the land and the water that had been so carelessly wasted.
There is one good thing about the ground floor, though. Exposed to the elements, you begin to understand the elements. Left stripped of all pretenses, you begin to discover self-worth. Isolated from the constant chatter of media promotions, you embrace the humanity in being human. Are the sacrifices worth it? Ask the demonstrators at Wall Street who were thrilled to say a few members of the police force had crossed over into their lines. Ask Pete Seeger, who, at age ninety-two, came out to join the protesters. Ask the Occupy Houston members, whose enthusiasm and commitment echo back to a more spirited time in Heartland America. Ask the Occupiers anywhere who are braving the cold, police brutality and mass arrests to usher in the new era.
The Occupy movement can and must belong to all of us; the ninety-nine percent and even those among the one percent who desire change. It is an appeal to take back our world and make it healthy again. It is an urgent plea to put down our arms, our hostilities, our prejudices and treat each other respectfully. It is an acknowledgment that it’s time to change our technology from one of wanton use of our resources to constructive measures for sustainable growth and harmony with our natural environment. Individually, one by one, we can make the changes necessary. It begins with occupying your minds.