Thursday, October 13, 2011

Occupy your life

I’ve always felt that speaking up publicly when we have something to say is a moral obligation. If we know ways that our community or our society can be improved, we should advocate for those changes. Advocacy can take a lot of forms: talking with friends, writing letters to politicians or to newspapers, distributing literature, holding signs, going on marches, organizing strikes, working on election campaigns, etc. But it was not always clear to me why peaceful public demonstrations would have any positive effect on the decisions made by those in power. It may satisfy that moral obligation to speak up, but is it also a practical tool when it is unlikely to change a person’s position on an issue?

The answer lies in the fact that our position on an issue does not dictate our impact. In my experience, our impact is largely determined by our expressed level of passion and by our connections to others, and a peaceful public demonstration can affect both of those. People who participate in or watch or discuss Occupy Wall Street may discover that they are not alone, may connect to a like-minded community, may feel empowered to participate in ways they had not before, may feel emboldened to speak up in ways they had not before. Hearing others sing gives us the freedom to raise our own voice in song. It is too easy to despair over the discordant national chorus that the media loves to promote, and forget to sing ourselves. Occupy Wall Street will succeed in having a positive impact if it changes the balance of who decides to speak out, if it provides inspiration and courage to the disempowered and disenfranchised. Our nation is not a sprint, and our needs are neither short-term nor small. May the occupiers of 150 public spaces give us the strength to more fully occupy our own lives so we all do more than just take up space.

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