Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Questions for Occupy Wall street/ America

I want to begin to say that I defend the right of those who are assembling and expressing their desire for change and outrage.  Nothing of what follows should either be interpreted as siding with those who would wish to curtail this activity or deny the right of this form of expression.  Also, in general I am in agreement with the implicit criticism of the financial system and that much of its practices are unethical. I too am outraged at the disparity of wealth that exists.
That said I have some questions for those in this movement of protest.  I understand that there is reluctance or inability to speak for the movement so I ask this of those who are participating.  I gather that part of what is desired is conversation that leads to change, so I ask questions.

1) What else are you doing - have you been doing? Its an honest question.  Are you even in small ways disentangling yourselves from the system against which you are protesting?
2) Some seem to be asking for a voice in the system: Do you really want a voice in a system this broken?
3) Are you aware that there are people who have set up alternatives to the system against which you are protesting, giving up privileges and even a middle class lifestyle?  If you aren't aware of such people and communities I encourage you when you are done seek them out. Learn from them seek to create alternatives.
4)  Do you believe democratizing and reforming the financial system will eradicate the problems with the system? What if the problems are endemic to the system no matter how much we attempt to control the system?
5) Doesn't this crisis and the havoc it has wrecked upon the middle class and poor, show that greater access to the system is not in the best interests of the poor and middle class?  We need to examine that in part this crisis was created as loans were given in the name of expanding the "American Dream" to those who hand not had access to it before. A noble goal if Americanism is true and good.  Are you willing to question some of the fundamental stories, mythologies and fables Americans tell themselves about the world and our place in it?
6) Do you really want to have greater participation in a system of power and wealth based upon "making money"?
7) Are you aware of the degree to which you and all of us in the USA are beneficiaries (as well as victims) of this system?  I mean this seriously, some of us are more victims then beneficiaries others of us more entwined in the system and its benefits.  So you who are on the streets have you examined yourselves and your place in the system and your own culpability?
8) What if the creation and expansion of the American Middle classes even the raising up of the poor in the US was based upon injustice and oppression outside the US?
9) Do you believe you are paying prices for your food, your clothing, you technology, your luxuries that truly provides for a living and fair for those who produce it and deliver it to you?
10) to put it another way are you always looking for the least expensive product or service?  If so it is at least plausible that someone in the line of production and delivery has been exploited for your savings. Do you know for sure that those who provide you with your products and services (your internet connection and devices upon which you tweet this movement) are paid equitably?
11) Would you pay more and do with less to ensure that people could have a living by providing you with your goods and services.
12) are you willing to provide for yourself and your community?  Or How are you outsourcing your life in ways that are exploitative?  Are you willing to change and have less for a more equitable world?

It would be fair to ask me if I could answer these questions.  I will admit my own questions are challenges to me as well.  What I can say is that I have made choices that in part at least lessen my dependence and involvement upon the system.  But I ask these questions because I am acutely aware of the degree to which I at best can live only in resistance to what is.  I ask these questions painfully aware of my own complicity.  For instance I haven't bought a new computer in over ten years. But this means living off donated technology.  I benefit from someone elses participation in the system, I'm still in it.  There are people I know who are doing much more.  I'm no paragon of virtue here.  But I have found I can do with less, and I am seeking to create pockets of an alternate way of being in the midst of what is.  I struggle with the system in myself.  I have benefited from the system and its practices, I have depended upon the financiers of the world.  I have bought the lie that making a living and making money are synonymous.  I also have turned aside from this but it lurks , and like Trent Resnor at the end of the Head Like a Hole video, I (and I think we all are) entangled. And our entanglement is in at least a small part our own doing.  We all have worshiped at the altar of god money.

I will admit thought that these questions have a theological and spiritual basis.  I do not believe that our hope  comes from greater access to the halls the control the Moneyed wealth and Power of the world.  In fact I believe the hope for the transformation of the world has its origins in a Jewish peasant carpenter executed by the Roman Empire 2000 years ago.  While the movement that obscure peasant spawned caleld the Church and his Body in the world did confront and was embraced by the powerful and wealthy eventually, the hope doesn't reside there.  The hope doesn't even reside in obscurity and smallness, rather it resided in the reality that God entered the world as that obscure peasant, and conquered by being conquered by the powerful and moneyed of the world.  In living suffering and dieing as a human and an outcast God showed us that the halls of power and moneyed wealth are not aligned with the ultimate reality of the world. Rather, it always will lie elsewhere.   The halls of power and money will always attempt to coopt transformation and change for their benefit or create classes that benefit from a revolution more than others that is the logic of power and moneyed wealth. For more on the theology behind this go here