Although I haven't blogged about the Occupy Wall Street protests, I have been following the news - both the mass media (mostly owned by the "greedy corporations" - irony??) and the individual tidbits that people have posted on Facebook, blogs, podcasts, and YouTube. My favorite article, to date, is this one, about the bicycle generators they've acquired to replace the gas generators that were confiscated by the police.
What I see is this deepening rift between people who believe the protesters are all "welfare brats" and the people on the street who are railing against everything from student loans (largely their own) to global warming. The rift between these two factions is becoming very deep and very well defined. While it's always been there in the shadows, that *thing* that no one wants to talk about, it is, now, no longer merely a shadow, but has been pulled right out into the sun in all its horror and glory.
Maybe that's a good thing.
The problem is, at least initially, that there are protests, but there hasn't been much cohesiveness of purpose. We all know what the problems are (hiding in the shadows). We've known intuitively that "things" can't continue like they are, but most of us have been hardpressed to come up with solutions, and that's the only place I see where the OWS protesters will fall short, if the movement fails. It does little good to point out a problem without also providing a solution.
I wouldn't be talking about the protests today, either, if it hadn't been for an article in (of all places) the Wall Street Journal. According to the article, one of the issues facing protesters is the influx of homeless people who are drawn to the safety and comfort of the protester encampments.
What prompted me to discuss the protests was a quote at the end of the article by one of the homeless, who said, "It's nice for them to come out like this but they don't know what it's like. [They]'re out of [their] homes for a month. We're here all the time. Some people look at [us] and it's like 'eeew, stay away'. And what they don't know is that [they]'re just a paycheck away from this."
And, of course, that statement, for me, tied it all together. This man has hit the proverbial nail right on the head. We are all, all of us, just one paycheck away from living the life he has fallen into due to unemployment. We're all living in a corporate-run, money-centric world, and when the money stops rolling in and we no longer have any buying power, the world will have no use for us.
Is there anything more sad than our whole worth as living, breathing, thinking, spiritual entities being assigned a value based on some system of imagined wealth? If we don't have money, we are worthless.
When it all boils down, isn't that what the protesters are railing against? This supposition that they are worthless if they don't have jobs and money to spend? Aren't they just trying to get someone to see them, to acknowledge their value as something more than a wallet?
The theme of my blog and of my book is preparedness - more specifically, transitioning our lives so that when sh*t happens ... and it will ... we won't suffer as a result.
If we're not dependent for our very lives on having grid-provided electricity, when the power goes out, it won't hurt us.
If we're not dependent on the grocery stores for all of our food, when we have a short month and can't afford to buy groceries, we won't go to bed hungry.
If we're not dependent on that paycheck for every single thing we need, then it won't hurt us as much when the paycheck stops coming.
My family and I may never be completely self-sufficient or wholly independent, but that's not the point of what we're doing. The further we can remove ourselves from the money economy, the more we can do for ourselves, the less we will be negatively affected by what's happening in the money world.
I support and admire what the Occupy Wall Street protesters are trying to accomplish. My hope is that the underlying message - one that tells us not to rely on the "crooks" who are in control of our world economy - will be the one that is finally heard and heeded.
I'm reading The Education of Little Tree right now. The book is about a young boy who is raised by his Cherokee grandparents in the appalachian mountains after his parents die and the considerable lessons on self-reliance that he learns from them.
The story is set in the 1930s, and the grandfather has neither a job nor a pension nor cash savings, and there was no such thing as Social Security. They live in a little cabin on the side of a mountain and raise a corn crop, which they turn into whiskey. Once a month or so, they make eleven gallons of whiskey. They keep two gallons, and the other nine are sold at the local store for $2 a gallon. In 2011 dollars, that means that they subsist on $229.37 a month.
But here's the caveat: they own their property (no mortgage); they have no debt; they hunt, raise or forage about 90% of what they eat (they buy sugar and coffee at the store); the grandmother makes most of their clothes, including their footwear - mostly from the animal hides; they don't own a car; and they don't watch television. They read a lot - books borrowed from the library in the "settlement."
They are dependent on their community for "community", but for the most part, they are independent and can satisfy their needs themselves, but they live very simply and have very few needs.
And that's the point, right?
I support the OWS protesters, because they are correct in the belief that things can not continue, and something needs to be done. I say that we all have control - each of us as individuals - to make those changes happen, maybe not in exactly the way the OWS protesters envision.
I hope the lesson that we, ultimately, learn is that we can live quite comfortably and quite happily with a lot less than what we think we need, and most of those "needs" we can satisfy ourselves. I hope we learn that working together as a community takes some of the burden off of the individual to do it all.
Individual self-sufficiency supported by a strong community - that's where we need to be moving. I hope the OWS protesters will help us get there.