There are Occupy Together protests going on everywhere. I cringe at the name because to me “occupy” suggests taking land that does not belong to one. Occupying is what Israel is doing to the West Bank. Occupying is what we in Canada are doing to the natives when we allow companies to pollute the waters and destroy the forests of their still contested traditional lands. Occupying is not a good thing. Occupying suggests we have no right, that we are on the immoral side of the issue.
The name “Occupy Wall Street” sounds a little better. I can see how it could symbolize taking back the power to control the financial world. Taking back the right to regulate financial markets. Occupying. Except they aren’t occupying the offices. They’re occupying the streets. We don’t belong in the streets! We shouldn’t be homeless, powerless in parks, permitted because we have no real power.
So obviously I didn’t choose the name for the protests. I don’t get to decide who had power and who doesn’t. When my children ask me for something I can’t do I say I’ll do it with my magic wand, and they say I have no magic wand. This is one of those “I have no magic wand” moments. I’ll have to look beyond the poor naming and the ironies of the protest.
I’ll try to express the hope that I have been tentatively allowing myself to feel. I am hopeful. I am hopeful that maybe, somehow, change will happen. Maybe the wealthy and powerful will throw us some bones or table scraps, and we’ll get a financial transaction tax or more bank regulations out of this. Maybe governments will be slower to bail out the big corporations and put a little bit more effort into helping the poor. Maybe… maybe… I try to be realistic because I want something to justify hope. I want to hope.
Maybe other things will happen. Maybe the people meeting up together will be inspired. Maybe they’ll work on developing alternatives. Alternative currencies, perhaps, to help people exchange resources and live easier lives. Maybe they’ll form networks and connections that will allow them to be more efficient lobbyists, or they will mobilize local political groups so that the better political parties have better chances in future elections. Maybe they will return home inspired to live more environmental, more justice oriented lives.
Maybe the 1% will give a little more power or compensations. Maybe the active portion of the 99% will take a little more power. But how do we move beyond that? How do we actually get power back to the people?
Maybe if the rules change enough, things will work out better. Maybe we can tweak democracy, make governments more proportional and cut back on corporate lobbying. Maybe those reforms would help bring power back to the 99% and at the same time make politics more interesting and relevant to those whom have given up in believing politicians could ever work for them.
Maybe we need to change the structure of corporations. Repeal corporate personhood in any place where that has been granted, and force corporations to serve more limited purposes. Alter the structure and laws so that CEOs of corporations are required to take environmental concerns into account not just profit levels. Ensure that punishments for environmental mishaps are severe and not just a “cost of doing business.” Use laws to help make doing unethical things unprofitable.
I will be waiting, watching hoping and doubting all at the same time but I will also be doing my best to help changes along. Today and tomorrow (and hopefully every day after) I’m going to reach out and do some stuff that scares me. I’m going to have hope in things that might leave me disappointed. I’m going to risk being embarrassed.
I am going to start using public transit.
I am going to expand my interactions in my local community.
I am going to write more letters to politicians and friends.
I am going to read up about community currencies and other ways of creating community.
But most importantly, I am going to hope. I am going to believe that change is possible. I am going to believe that it is coming. Or at least, I’m going to try to.