I decided a long, long time ago to stop blogging as a means of self discovery and self-exorcism. It’s handy, and it’s interesting, but it’s altogether too dangerous and personal. And if you know me I am not all about laying my feelings out there. Too often the tool you hand someone is then fashioned into a knife to stab you in the back, or worse, front. So it’s been a while since I really blogged much that wasn’t about the arts, writing, movies, or some other awesome nerdery.
I am breaking that, I dunno if it’s a rule so much as a personal guideline, and I am breaking it because I feel compelled to say something, if even for myself.
Since the first days of Occupy Wall Street I have watched with equal shares of confusion and pride. Confusion as to the ultimate goals and pride that my generation finally got up and did something. For too long my generation has complained and cried over a world it chose not to shape and now suddenly we are shaping it, we are imposing our will on it and that’s a good thing. Why is it a good thing? Because each generation needs to own its age. Each generation needs to take ownership of their time on earth because if you don’t someone else will leave their footprints over yours and negate the things you may have done. Wanted to do. This movement is important because it is the first time in a very, very long time when the youth have stood up for something meaningful.
Ah, but what DOES it mean?
That’s a big question and issue and one that isn’t being handled well on the side of the Occupiers or those opposed to them.
To me it seems silly to think that what began on Wall Street is now the same thing that we have in Flint or any other place because each place and each region is different. Overall it’s a stand against corporate greed and oppression, but beneath that I think things get more personal. Beneath the overall desires you get the personal stories of loss, of hardship, of anger and frustration. Beneath the surface you get to the reasons that brought everyone together and that is because someone had to stand up to a world that is asking more and more and more from workers and offering much less. We are in an era where we are told to be happy to even have a job, a dangerous thing because it allows faceless corporations run by boards to decide the course of American and world economy. How scary.
It has been a huge lesson for America as this movement has grown and pushed forward from not just days but into weeks. We have learned that we are neither used to, or ready for this sort of movement. We downright hate it because we feel like it shames us as a nation when people protest. So easily we forget the things that our nation was built on. We forget the lessons we teach in history classes of how the only way minorities and women got their voices heard was to stop allowing the status quo. How dare we get mad and outraged that people would take to the streets to peacefully protest a world they no longer agree with. My god, why have we not done this more? Why? Because the status quo hates these things. And I don’t mean the faceless corporate suits, or some other symbol, I mean that we, the general public, hates it. We hate it because we don’t like the thought that America is not only THE world power but is a sort of global Shangri La where everyone wants to be. We want to believe that we are so great that that is why people hate our nation and not because sometimes we forcibly impose our will, and worse, our culture, onto nations that don’t want it. All people may be created equal but every nation is not, and every nation is not and cannot be run as America is run. People get mad because they are shamed by the protestors and feel as if they are shaming America when, truly, they are a perfect example of WHY America is so great – they are peacefully protesting in order to get their message out. That they are there, that they ARE occupying areas does not make them and their cause right, not at all, but it makes them our torch bearers and the keepers of a flame that was lit when we first became a nation of our own.
We are learning that often we don’t like the very things that make us free, preferring to say – If you don’t like it here then leave – and not willing to stand up for those whose opinions we don’t agree with.
We are also learning that our cities are not equipped for these sorts of things. We are used to violent protests and violent occupations as seen through the prism of the television news but we are not used to it here, on our soil. And not being used to it is why we are getting police abuses of power, city mayors and councils who choose the fist to the open hand, because we don’t know how else to act. So many people don’t know what to think or how to act toward these occupiers that they become seen as pests, as nuisances, and as such they need to be dealt with that way but too many times now we have seen the people in power with their hands balled into fists, not seeing that it serves only to strengthen a cause they are striving to end.
And what do I feel about the cause?
I feel this is an important era in American history. I won’t say that the occupiers are changing the world, this nation, or even their cities, but they are reminding us what it means to be American. They are reminding us what it means to stand up for your rights. They are reminding us that our freedoms come at a cost. And finally they are reminding us that change can still happen without a gun.
What I would offer is that I think it’s time for the occupiers to look past the protests to the world beyond, a world that is truly right in front of them. I offer that these people, these brave, passionate souls begin finding ways to make their own businesses, their own corporations, their own culture to rival what is out there. I say to take that passion and invest it not into a system they no longer believe in but into building a new system. Here if Flint the movement is made up of lots of artists, and to them I say create. Create the art to change the world, the music to shape and inspire it. I say use what you have, what you can do, and the movement that has been built and use that to shape America and the world from the trenches. Take your army to the streets and change the cities. Clean them up. Take your message away from the camps and to the churches, the city council meetings, and more than anything else make it actions and not words. Occupy through change, social change, city change, culture change, change that can happen with every good act and deed you do.
If you no longer believe in a system then you neither fight it nor join it, you re-shape it.
What worries me right now is the anger and frustration coming from the movement. They have been at this for not weeks but into a month and change and they are tired, they are stressed, and they are scared for their brethren out there and what happens to them as the boot of the system comes down to stamp they and what they are doing out. I worry because the positive energy, the passion is darkening, is bittering. And I suppose why wouldn’t it? They went from sideshow, to nuisance, to traitors in a matter of weeks. An intentionally leaderless cause has become fodder for any pundit with a mic to showcase things that may never have been the initial intention of the movement. I truly hope that the hard winter months don’t further embitter these brave souls because I would hate to see what they are doing and what they have done become something negative and violent.I hate that for so many of these pundits and politicians this is still a game. This is still a matter of impudent children and little else and it is this shortsightedness that guides the violent hands we are seeing so often as a reaction to this movement.
I admire these people and while I do not agree with everything they are saying, everything they are doing, and everyone involved, I admire their courage in doing this and I remind them that they are the soldiers of a nation in a war that will not be won with guns and bombs. They are the front line against a mean future where no one stands up for anything. This goes beyond the corporate to something so much larger, and I am proud that my generation has stood up. And finally I offer that while not all of us believe in everything you are doing, and while not all of us are standing with you shoulder to shoulder that we are with you, and we are proud of all of you.
This is not the time to give in, but it is the time to redefine and to start looking at what the legacy of this movement will be, and that truly will be the hard work ahead of all of you but it’s work I look forward to seeing. So much passion, so much energy, so much talent and skill and courage should not be wasted. I hope it isn’t.