Friday, December 2, 2011

Reflections on the Occupy Movement: 1% Running Scared of Stubborn Hope

Zaid Jilani reports that a top advisor to the Republican party just told the Republican governors at their annual meeting that he's running scared of the Occupy movement.  It's having a perceptible effect on what people think of the capitalist economic structures that are the heart and soul of the Republican party.

And for Robert Jensen, the Occupy movement is a force to be contended with because it is feeding a "stubborn hope" that is exposing the inhuman, anti-democratic, and unsustainable nature of our current economic order. Jensen's conclusion is powerful:

In 1948, Camus urged people to "give up empty quarrels" and "pay attention to what unites rather that to what separates us" in the struggle to recover from the horrors of Europe's barbarism. I take from Camus a sense of how to live the tension between facing honestly the horror and yet remaining engaged. In that same talk, he spoke of "the forces of terror" (forces which exist on "our" side as much as on "theirs") and the "forces of dialogue" (which also exist everywhere in the world). Where do we place our hopes? 
"Between the forces of terror and the forces of dialogue, a great unequal battle has begun," he wrote. "I have nothing but reasonable illusions as to the outcome of that battle. But I believe it must be fought." 
The Occupy gatherings do not yet constitute a coherent movement with demands, but they are wellsprings of reasonable illusions. Rejecting the political babble around us in election campaigns and on mass media, these gatherings are an experiment in a different kind of public dialogue about our common life, one that can reject the forces of terror deployed by concentrated wealth and power. 
With that understanding, the central task is to keep the experiment going, to remember the latent power in people who do not accept the legitimacy of a system. Singer/songwriter John Gorka, writing about what appears to be impossible, offers the perfect reminder: 
"They think they can tame you, name you and frame you  
aim you where you don't belong. 
They know where you've been but not where you're going, 
that is the source of the songs."

The one thing oppressive regimes never want people to develop the capacity for is to imagine things differently than the dictatorial system commands. The death-knell of systems built on radical injustice begins to toll when an alternative imagination of society slowly starts to grow within large numbers of the citizens of that society.

The brightest hope many folks--notably artists and writers, but also many people of faith--seem to be holding out for the Occupy movement is that it will spark the widespread re-imagining of our society from more humane, more democratic, and more sustainable vantage points.  It's no wonder that political parties which have invested their future in suppressing such an imagination at all costs are terrified of this movement.

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