Where will our occupying take us?

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Last Wednesday I gathered with a group of about 25 other people in one of those garage-tents at our local Occupy Site.The discussion was really, really good.  One of the reasons I was scared at first to get my hopes up about Occupy, is because I remember when the protests happened at Seattle, and at Quebec City, and I remember being hopeful and then disappointed. I found it really refreshing to hear Gary’s take on it, and how the movement for justice that started before basically got put on hold because of the “war on terror.” It is encouraging to think, maybe it is back, and maybe this time it can be here to stay. We can make changes.

All through this past month I’ve wondered about the appropriateness of different means of communication. If we put signs up, will that annoy people? If we put a handout sheet in mailboxes or car windsheilds, is that intruding into people’s privacy? Is it okay if such-and-such group knows that I’m really active in this? How much am I willing to express my feelings? The talk on Wednesday really helped me shift myself out of a certain rut. It helped point out that the “standards” of what is normal or not are arbitrary and we don’t have to accept them. We do not have to accept that communication should happen only through standard commercially mediated lines. Since then I’ve been thinking more and more that I really do need to stand for what I believe, everywhere and in my whole life. And if people don’t like it, that is their problem, because staying quiet isn’t being “neutral” it is accepting the norms of our capitalist society. So I dug an old pin I had picked up at a protest ten years ago out, and am going to try wearing it on my coat where-ever I go. It says “capitalism kills. In war with bombs. In peace with poverty.”

I need to get over the fear of criticizing capitalism. I’m scared the moment that word comes out of my mouth people will think I’m communist. I’m not sure I am but I am sure as hell against capitalism. I was talking to my dad today about the idea of being against capitalism but not necessarily against the free market. He asked me what I see as the difference, and I said right now what we have is not the free market. We have lots and lots of regulations that favor those with capital. That is capitalism, not the free market. Maybe a free market would be just as bad as capitalism, I don’t know. But I do know that what we have is not a free market, and the capitalists like it that way.

I’ve been thinking about the call out from Adbusters to “Occupy Christmas.” I’m not willing at this point to say to my family “No Gifts.” Gifts are still meaningful to us, partly because we do try to reduce our consumption and not buy ourselves lots during the year. I would prefer to have Christmas a special time when the kids get toys, but for them to be accustom to the idea that they don’t get (much) new stuff most of the rest of the year. To me, that’s a better deal than saying we won’t buy stuff for Christmas but we’ll continue to indulge our whims other times of the year. I will be make the effort to shop locally, even if ordering something online might be cheaper and easier. This morning I also decided we will not buy wrapping paper. We can use old newspaper or something. It is one less thing. It is a token thing, but it is also a way of acknowledging that we have choices in our everyday lives.

Then another direction I’ve been thinking about since Wednesday is the idea of class boundaries, and radical hospitality. Gary mentioned the origins of what time people can be in parks as having come out of pushes to marginalize and criminalize poverty. We would exclude the homeless even from park benches and the Occupy movement as a whole has been reaching out to the homeless and allowing them to participate. That whole thread of talk got me thinking about exclusion in general, and class boundaries, and social boundaries….  the Occupy group is helping to allow mixing of different people from different backgrounds, but I’m wondering if there are ways to push it even further.

One of the ideas on my mind is the idea of meeting in houses. In Montreal I was involved in the La Leche League, and besides our public meetings held at a public location we had regular member meetings at different people’s homes. One of the things I found neat about that was that people were willing to host meetings even in quite small houses. Outside of that one group, I’ve noticed a lot of reluctance to have things at homes and a lot of people feeling like their own home must not be clean enough, big enough, nice enough, etc. Is it okay to invite people for meetings in homes, or is that taboo because of our own comfort zones? In some ways having meetings in homes would be a powerful way of saying “I am okay with meeting in your home, whatever condition it is. An abundance or lack of material wealth does not make a difference. Your space is worth occupying.” There are practical problems with meeting in homes and maybe they would prevent us from doing it, but it was one direction I’ve been thinking about.

Someone posted a link to http://libcom.org/library/you-say-you-want-build-solidarity-network recently. It is a webpage on how to build a solidarity network. In some ways, I can’t help thinking it is about how to build a group of kind-hearted bullies. After all, the steps recommended sound to me like bullying. But on the other hand, why should we not take action against injustice? We have allowed injustice to become the norm. We have allowed it to seem polite.


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One Comment

  • Lindsay Ann Cox

    Thank you for your courage, Christy. It IS hard to decide in which contexts deeply held values and convictions should be expressed – word and deed. Knowing you, I’m sure your conversation at your local occupy camp was not just helpful to you, but inspiring for others too.

    I think Occupy Christmas looks like a really exciting and potentially meaningful idea! When you look at their site (http://occupychristmas.org), I think you’ll find that they are not as black and white as ‘no gift’s but, like you, suggest local and artisanal shopping, spending time with family, etc. Love that!

    As for radical hospitality, I recently wrote an article about this subject as it relates to alternative praxis of one’s faith in the public sphere. Check it out here: http://religionbeat.blogspot.com/2011/06/radical-hospitality-in-public-sphere-by.html
    Just some ideas!

    Lastly, my only issue with house meetings is that, after years of trying to discern boundaries re: congregants, I am very hesitant to let people (whom I might not know so well) into my house because my living space is, in itself, an expression of me (and my family) and I don’t think that’s info that should be accessible to non-friends. Does that sound horrible? Don’t get me wrong, I realize that the theology of (radical) hospitality of Abraham (let alone Jesus) would disagree with me… But I can’t help but think that it might be a frustrating case of the reality of praxis vs. the ideal of theology. Argh.

    Happy Advent to you and James and the kids!

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