Anniversaries are like rest stops on life's journey. They create a moment in time that feels sheltered and safe, a place that is designed for quiet reflection and grounding. In this time-place we take stock of where we've been and how the past fits in with our plans for the future. In the past year of Occupy Everywhere all of us have cycled through many similar phases of progress, stagnation, questioning, brainstorming, reevaluating, renewal; on and forth and back again. It has been a year of experimentation and learning, all created by people who barely knew each other when this first came to be in the fall of 2011.
Contrary to what our critics would have you believe have accomplished more than a few things. We have established a presence in our communities and we have created new relationships and allies. We have brought issues of injustice and the need for change to a broader audience. We have sparked interest and involvement in people who previously felt powerless.
For my part, in my hometown, we have spent endless hours of planning in a tornado of brainstorm, circling madly around a center of Hope. When we have accomplished clear action it is often with the support and collaboration of another group or coalition and those bonds have strengthened the entire community. On the downside there have been times when committees, collaboration and alliance building has put us at risk of becoming as bureaucratic and political as the system that we are supposedly rebelling against.
There have been nothing but good intentions fueling this past year, but good intentions will only carry one so far; according to some they employ you as the road crew on the highway to hell.
Now when I hear people stating that echoing the cry that "Occupy is Dead", I disagree. I think that Occupy will continue in much the same formula that is has for the past year and that process includes continual evolution. Occupy is not dead, but as we move forward we take the actions of this past year and sift through the memories, the relationships we have formed, the conflicts and the moments of glory not all of us have shaken out the same results.
In all the retrospect and examination a few key gems come to light that prompt some of us to reexamine where it is we stand.
The election is probably the most obvious disruptive factor. Anyone who has been through more than a few campaign seasons was able to see that coming. Occupy, in original declaration of intent, pledged to steer clear of political involvement or endorsement. I guess the temptation was just too much for some and although most have managed to keep their political contributions separate from their involvement in Occupy there has been, inevitably, some bleed through. And like mismatched blood types there is some incompatibility.
Another subject that gets a little prickly is the level of involvement with other organizations and more importantly the kind of organizations with which we choose to align. There is hesitancy on one hand to collaborate with organizations that are entrenched in the current system and may receive funding from establishment sources. There are partners who would offer support and solidarity but will not fully agree with the principles of consensus decision making or with respect for diversity of tactics.
Finally there are some people who have either been at this activism stuff for many years or those who may not have been but have taken the time to learn from the past and their mentors. These people who are, frankly, weary of discussing the same cause and effect topics; we are the proverbial choir to which is preached. We are not abandoning education and public discussion, but we are ready to build upon the life choices we have made for years in an attempt to bring about real and tangible social and cultural change.For younger people Occupy has been a training ground of sorts, a place to get their feet wet and feel some empowerment, many for the first time in their lives. To us older folks it provided some focus and a reawakening of the spirit to move forward knowing that someone will follow. If other groups have formed, with varying levels of independence of or interaction with, the existing Occupy groups all the better. Those decisions are not a rejection of Occupy but an expansion and for some people they offer opportunities for participation on a deeper and more inclusive level. The beauty of diversity is in respect, not blind conformity. If we work in separate groups and continue to support and respect other we are are probably going to be more functional, more focused and therefore more successful in creating real and lasting change.
In order for us to allow the natural process of re-formation and branching out we must be self aware enough to recognize that we have for the most part, been raised in a culture that values competition above cooperation. No matter how passionately we feel about our cause, how much we truly believe in solidarity, we have a lifetime of learned behavior lurking within. It happens to the best of us. The key is honesty, with ourselves and others, to be able to face ourselves and admit when ego and competitiveness threatens to whisper the lie that 'we can do it better' or 'we thought of it first' or whatever nonsense it wants us to believe. It is after all that kind of thinking that is part of the mindset that got us into all this trouble to begin with. It is only by challenging that mind set that we can truly embrace our ideas and solutions and move forward to create a world that is more peaceful and sustainable.
Like all good recovery, it begins within.