Sunday, October 23, 2011

OCCUPY Wall Street & Everywhere Else

Being a supporter of anti-poverty initiatives, it is about time I said a few words about the OCCUPY movement which has been sweeping across North America.  OCCUPY Wall Street / Everywhere Else … is the gentler, younger cousin of economically sparked political protests which plagued Europe over the past year. The growing rift between rich and poor is not news, it has been going on for decades … but this isn’t the 1950s… communism was a monumental failure and we really have no interest in burning down parliament ala Guy Fox. We require 21st century solutions to 21st century problems. 
The OCCUPY movement is a touchstone for everything that is wrong with our society. There are more than a hundred ways in which western culture needs to change for the better; and all of them are represented at these protests. The reactions are as varied as the causes… but the overall criticism of OCCUPY is that it has no manifesto and no real leaders. I guess it is kind of like building a tent city under the tower of Babel, everyone seems to be talking a different language. I won’t be addressing individual issues in this blog, nor will I address the individual criticisms of the movement.
Today I want to talk about the core message of OCCUPY which to paraphrase the movie “Wall Street” is simply “Greed is NOT good”.  That statement applies to poor and rich alike….I’ve known both in my life and everyone is being squeezed by the greed of others (individuals, corporation or governments). Unlike love and other elements of the human spirit, which are infinite and self-perpetuating; the material world is limited. To change policy and practices we must change as individuals. We must change our personal priorities in the following ways:
          We must define ourselves by the good we do,

                                         not by the goods we own.
          We must choose enough over excess.
          We must value people over property.
          We must exercise compassion toward others,

                                        not control of others.
          We must above all “Do NO harm”.

The only real way to change our culture is by changing as individuals. Once we intrinsically value ourselves, we will only need things for their usefulness and only take what we will actually use from the material world. Abandoning excess is not communism; each person’s need will differ. My life of luxury would be a bare necessity to someone else. Some families’ need 2 even 3 cars, some need 150 square feet to live in, while another needs a five bedroom house. I am sad for people who define themselves (and others) by the label on their butt or the Lexis in their driveway… they have fallen for the great lie that money buys happiness. Money is a tool... nothing more. It is not the source of or an impediment to happiness, and GREED IS NOT GOOD. A few years ago I was having coffee with my friend Lonewolf, who champions against oppression, exploitation and all manner of atrocities committed by mankind. He said to me, “that greed is at the root of all of it”. So I asked the question… "would it not be better to fight GREED?” Aristotle told us that it is man’s nature to choose good over evil, (all things being equal)… if each of us aspires to be the best person we can be; then we will have good people making decisions and shaping policy.
So if we truly want to change our society (and I don’t care how rich a person is, we ALL want this over burdened system to change) first change yourself. Adopt the five principles listed above. then OCCUPY every corner of the world with the message that GREED IS NOT GOOD…. Excess and control (of others) should been seen for what it is, an over-compensation for self-loathing, insecurity and fear.
Love yourself …you deserve it.  Reach out to others with kindness and respect (if not love). Let’s consciously move society to reflect the very best of human nature. Have a joyous day my friends.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanks Giving

         As we all know Thanksgiving is a modern day version of the harvest festivals of olden days. A time when everyone from the surrounding countryside came together to thank the gods (eventually god) for a bountiful year. Sacrifices were made of produce and/or livestock, followed by feasting dancing and rejoicing. I guess if it was a bad crop-year people would just have to celebrate having survived the drought and/or locust. One could not forgo the ritual of thanks giving or the gods would not bless next year’s crops. And since the villagers had already stoned the person whom they believed offended the gods thus causing this year’s drought, there was a reasonable expectation next year would be better.
        Most families don’t have a “Walton’s Mountain” Thanksgiving…there is the stress of hosting, the need to put aside old hurts or just try to be civil with people we (wouldn’t cross the street to spit on but) happen to be related to. In my mother’s house such functions always ended with my aunt and my mother in a fight over who knows what.  Grandma always found something to criticize. Dad and my uncle would take a case of beer and hide in the backyard until it was time to eat. Nobody said grace and nobody was thankful. Such is no longer the case, for me at least, I don't always say grace but I am always thankful for my many blessings.
         I am grateful that in my little family, we all enjoy each other’s company. My kids are all smart and funny and when we all get together most or our time is spent in witty banter and joyous laughter. I am blessed with children I genuinely like…even if we weren’t related I would definitely want to be friends with them.
          I am grateful for the friends of my past who have stayed these many decades and remind me of the timelessness of love between friends. A bridge between then and now. I am grateful for new friends, the freshness of awakening to learning to know each other. Discovery of the strengths and weakness in each of us, complimenting and contrasting, brought to fullness over time.
         I am grateful for the freedom to live my life as I choose… in service to my street friends and with the support of my children. I am grateful to live in a country where we can speak out and fight openly for social justice, without fear of persecution. I am grateful for enough strength of mind, body and spirit to continue my work. Growing from the experience, knowing that challenges only bring us strength of will.
        I am grateful for my faith which grounds me through life’s ups and downs. I am also grateful to have found a church where I can connect and feel accepted. I am grateful to have found the beautiful little family whom I work for… I am grateful for my little apartment and my great neighbours… not so much for the bugs LOL.
        On a more basic level I am grateful for my amazing mind, which keeps me laughing at life, pondering perplexities, and singing to the ever present music rolling around in my head. I am grateful for the warmth of the sun, the smell of concrete after a rain, children laughing, and people who smile when I say, “how’s it goin” and rely, “any day above ground is a good day”.
         So for Thanksgiving 2011… I am making a resolution. Every day I will take a few minutes to be grateful for life and all that it brings … good and bad for this is what make me who I am. And with all honesty… I genuinely like me.  Have a joyous day my friends, Happy Thanks Giving.