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Occupying My Mind

December 27, 2011

Not long ago, right-wing political guru Frank Luntz told the Republican Governors Association he was scared of the Occupy movement because it is “having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.” As if that were a bad thing. People are finally starting to ask very basic questions, such as: what is an economy for? What good is an economy if it doesn’t serve people’s needs? Do people exist to serve the economy or does the economy exist to serve people?

Some times it seems that while the old “zombie lies” keep returning, many of the good old ideas, ideals, and insights seem to come back and be immediately relevant again. Like Frederick Douglass saying:

“Those who profess to favor freedom yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; the want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing with a demand. It never did and it never will.”

For those who insist the Occupy movement create a manifesto, a list of specific demands and proposed changes, there is now This Changes Everything, a slender v (96 pages) volume from the editors of Yes! magazine that includes “Principles of Solidarity” and “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City,” both by the OSW General Assembly, as well as essays by both other insiders and outsiders.

Reading John Lewis’s Walking With the Wind, a memoir of the movement , I noted his deep, ongoing  commitment to Dr. King’s Beloved Community and to nonviolence along with his simultaneous commitment to what he calls ‘aggressive nonviolence” and the need for disruption. Describing his role in the 1963 March on Washington, he writes:

“I didn’t want to be part of a parade. I wanted to see discipline and organization on this day, but I wanted it to have an air of militancy as well, even some disruption if necessary–disciplined disruption. I have never stopped believing in the power of creative disruption. I have always believed in aggressive nonviolence. I have always believed in putting some sting into it. I wanted this march to have some sting, and if the only place for that sting would be my speech,  then I needed to make sure my words were especially strong.”

(You may know that the speech he actually delivered that day had been watered-down at the last-minute at the insistence of everyone from Archbishop O’Boyle to the White House to Roy Wilkins).

Personally, while I hope the Occupy movement–and the new forms of protest that grow out of it– commit themselves to nonviolence, I hope all sympathizers of serious reform realize that some “aggressive nonviolence” and “creative disruption” will certainly be necessary.

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