Occupy This

It’s been a rough few weeks but as they say, the sun is beginning to shine from behind the cloud. It serves as a reminder to me of the power of choice in life. We may not have control over some things that happen to us, but we do have control over our response to them. It is something called “coping skills.” How you choose to cope will define how you heal.

And I have pulled in many of my “tentacles,” for health reasons. I have been spread very thin and it just combined to make things even more difficult. The result of putting aside some of my efforts is that I am able to focus on some things that are much larger and more important in the immediate present.

Can you tell where I am going with all this?

I have spent the morning catching up with the news, specifically about the Occupy Wall Street movement. We have our own small version here; I have had quite a few people stop and tell me stories about it that were none too kind. But the focus is not on the bitching, the tattle tailing, or the excuse mongering to avoid facing what the protests represent. The focus is on, or should be on, the issue of what the protests represent.

I read the major news reports on the protest. I went and read a ton of the forum discussions on the actual protest site. I zoomed around and read blog posts from people for and against. Then I took a walk.

Much has been made of the fact that the mainstream media has not been covering the protests to the extent that the participants felt they deserved. Even more has been made about the fact that when they are covered, the media tends to only show the worst of the bunch – the so-called trust-fund babies who come across as entitled and out of touch with reality. Locally, much has been made of the sheer cost and quality of the camping equipment of the protestors and their demands to have the homeless removed from the park they are occupying, a park the homeless have used for decades as their home away from home. But it still doesn’t make the news.

If you do a little searching on the web, you will begin to notice a small and unusual thing. Across the world, there are small, similar protests that are receiving news coverage – prominent news coverage. The coverage gives passing mention to the fact that the protests are inspired by Occupy Wall Street and instead, focus on the demands of their protestors and the response of the government. In Chile, for example, the student protests are demanding free education for all (through the university level) and the government is balking and offering concessions on loan rates instead. This ongoing dialogue is…how do they say it? Newsworthy. The students are gaining more and more support because they have settled on a single demand. The demand for accessible education is the beginning of all change. An educated populace thinks and has tools to critically evaluate policy and make changes.

On the Occupy web site, the forum echoes that need for definition. One person complained that the protestors of the Arab spring were not covered by a media that read a list of 20 ambiguous demands with each broadcast, but by a media that repeated their two concise demands with every mention. A slew of people agreed with this person. I have read the list of OWS demands and it reads like something created by someone who is deeply apathetic, a charge the protestors level on the American populace but that they exemplify.

Apathy is defined as absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement; a lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting.

The ultimate political expression of apathy is the creation of policies that have no clear purpose or definition. It is only through clearly defined goals or purpose that motivation can be brought to bear on the implementation (or protest) of the policy.

To rail against corporate greed sounds fine until you begin to ask what that greed is composed of, once you begin to ask you realize that my version of what is corporate greed may be very different from yours. Is it the presence of excess profit? Or is it in how that excess profit is used? Is it a tax issue or is it in how the tax is used? To what extent should monetary success be penalized in order to ensure fairness? And what then, does fairness look like? And if you penalize monetary success, who would want to create the success that could fund the fairness?

Do you see the problem? Like the Tea Party (which more and more people are identifying as identical to the Wall Street Protestors), the protest is against things of such ambiguity that instead of gaining momentum through arousing passion – we disappear into the nit-picking of meaning.

In Bristol, England, the protestors are unhappy that the local council will not provide them with running water, trash and postal service. The council pointed out to the protestors that they are occupying the square and that occupation is not something that community taxes should be funding. The protestors came back that they were doing something for the community. Something.

In Chile, the Red Camila is demanding a strictly not-for-profit education system that is free for everyone. Chile, by the way, has the most privatized education system in the world. Next door, in Columbia, students are protesting and waving Chilean flags in support of their neighbor’s demands. The government is in mediated talks with the protestors but there is no resolution in sight.

While the anarchistic design of the Wall Street protest is a fun thing, it is self-defeating. Without a willingness to overcome their own apathy and pick something to believe in and stand by, the protests will be little more than an annoyance. Revolution occurs because the protest is centered on a set belief that those protesting are willing to die for, end of story. That is not a metaphorical statement but a truism. The depth of your conviction will determine the results you receive because the depth of your conviction will determine your ability to make choices in coping with what opposes you. It is your ability to choose how you cope that determines how you heal.

c.2011 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.

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About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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