A few thoughts about the Occupy Movement:
First, I am overjoyed that this movement has been overwhelmingly nonviolent in its methods and intent. This in itself is huge. Through many of the demonstrations already staged, the effectiveness of nonviolent strategies has been reinforced to participants and observers. In cases where nonviolent discipline has held most strongly, as in the case of the UC Davis students, the movement has gained its greatest support.
I am very impressed with the breadth of creativity in tactics and expression. I love all the kinds of art forms that participants have been using. I was an occupier on the first day and took part in a street theatre action, and it felt right to be using the creative arts right from the beginning.
The emphasis on democratic, truly grassroots process bodes well. Always, the methods are embedded in the ends achieved. It's wonderful to see groups of people sitting together, doing the hard, hard work of consensus building. I have some experience with this from taking part in Quaker business meetings, and I appreciate both the rewards and the challenges of the consensus process.
I am concerned that targeting the "1%" as culprits in our economic stuggles may lead to certain people being labeled enemies. To me, the enemy is not certain people, but rather systemic problems in US society and culture. Militarism is a culprit, for example, but that doesn't mean soldiers are enemies. In fact, like city police, military personnel are caught in the problems of the system in many ways, just as civilians are. If we can focus on reducing the resources put into maintaining a huge military structure, then that is addressing the problem. Focusing on the wealthy or the police doesn't get to the heart of the matter, even though the confrontations have been educational.
This is where I think the nonviolent methods used by occupiers have been teaching us well. We can see so clearly that, as the UC Davis students said, words are greater than weapons. We have the tools of nonviolence to protect ourselves and to make change.
So, to me, this is where the Occupy movement may lead. As Occupy and the hundreds of thousands of nonviolent demonstrators across the Middle East have been proving, people power really can trump military power. Military might is an obstacle to democratic reform, not a champion of it. If people all over the world decide it, we can divest from the weapons trade, a dead-end business. We do not need huge military forces to "protect" us. We can draw them down and invest instead in businesses that create rather than destroy. I am convinced that our economy will prosper if we do that.
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