Paying Attention
Bill McDonald’s Website Newsletter
November 2011 - Volume 11, No. 11
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No More Status Quo. Occupy!

“No more status quo!” was the mantra of a client throughout a memorable therapy session a few weeks ago. She’d made a decision to stand up to her husband, an emotionally abusive man - an act she knew would probably lead to divorce. Of course she’s afraid. But fear is status quo. Boldness of heart is something else now. Something new emerging.

I recognized the language, from another place, and the mood. First we called it “The Arab Spring” when we saw it emerging over there. And then it’s here, and it’s called “Occupy” - initially Occupy Wall Street, or OWS. Now it seems to be spreading all over the world. Just look at the maps.

When “Occupy Wall Street” began, (technically on September 17 of this year), there was a largely unanswered question - what do you guys stand for?  In business culture, one needs a specific goal in order to be legitimate - but this is something else, this is not business. The answer itself was still being formulated - still emerging from deep within.

The people are marching, not for a specific idea, but more because they intuitively feel the need to march. And then the specific idea will emerge from the integrity of their marching. What we see and hear now may be only the beginning of an even larger “occupation.”

Listen to the words of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), foreknowing his own death:

Tyranny cuts off the singer's head
but the voice from the bottom of the well
returns to the secret springs of the earth
and rises out of nowhere
through the mouths of the people.     (translated by Alistair Reid)

We may read it, but a great percentage of South America didn’t just read it, they memorized it.  

And what they know is this: That which is good is often betrayed and corrupted. And it may seem to disappear. But it does not die, it just goes underground, as if following the secret waterways under the earth, only to arise again, away from the sources of oppression, but still where  “real people” live.  

Capitalism, has a built in vulnerability. Eventually the rich discover how to use it to their own advantage, allowing their own greed can go unchecked. Correspondingly, our Legislative halls lose their ability to govern the land once the legislators realize they can use their voice for their own arrogant promotion. Makes all the sense in the world to them. 

Yes, each of these become a tyranny that can betray and corrupt all it touches. But the good they were meant to serve doesn’t die, it goes underground, and then eventually re-emerges in the quiet corners of the land. The People again can have a voice. Wise governments have always known to trust the people (democracy). Wise economics knows to trust the people (the market). Just like wise religion knows to trust the Spirit of God to reside within the hearts of ordinary people. There’s a native optimism within the human spirit.  

“Occupy Wall Street” is not a political movement, it’s a People movement. That’s why it’s confusing and threatening to so many modern commentators. No more status quo! Powered by an optimism of cooperation and trust in subjective experience, we may not know where we’re going, but it’s important we start walking or marching or moving against or away from that which will no longer lead or feed us, but only wants to feed itself.  

They’re right. When the distribution of wealth becomes so extreme that 1% of the population has free reign to control the economy and government of the other 99%, something is truly “rotten in Denmark.” Even in the midst of a mid-term election, we know our sense of powerlessness and disgust. My one vote against thousands of dollars of purchased influence.

The demographic data about the “occupiers” is interesting. This is not a radical fringe, it’s “Middle America” - that which had almost disappeared. (When was the last time you even heard that term used?) Of course there are those who want to appropriate the movement for their own purposes, but that will always be true. But when a movements arises from within the wellsprings of human character and optimism, it’s much more difficult to co-opt. When did we last hear the term “power to the People”? But take a look.    

Around the Mediterranean last Spring, it was the People who rose up. Perhaps they were naive. Perhaps they were idealists, many of whom have already had to fall again. But Arab and Persian “People” have begun to march, to move. And status quo governments are collapsing. The north shore of the Mediterranean is now the place of economic collapse, and the people are marching there too. I wonder what will happen in Israel in the next few years - definitely an artificially shored up culture. 

There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.” 

Of course violence will be crouching close by. It always does. But the OWS marchers have been superior in their efforts to avoid it. Both sides struggle to avert it. We’re not a people to sanction violence for very long, especially on our own soil. We have learned that lesson deep in our souls.  

The People are back, and from their words a voice is beginning to emerge. It’s words are still various, often contradictory, and perhaps too shrill. But the tyranny of things (they call it the 1%) will have to falter in the face of populist anger (they call it the 99%).    

Pablo Neruda foresaw his death at the hands of those who hated him. But the people memorized all his words, even to this day carrying them close to their hearts. Perhaps it’s time for us to hold closer to the (nearly lost) community of the human heart.

The woman who claimed “No more status quo!” has a difficult struggle ahead of her, as will her children. But it is a battle to reclaim from within an awaked heart what is right. 

We also know that Winter is coming. What will that do to “occupy” energy?  In Winter, things can go back underground, into the dreamtime. I grew up around Midwestern farmers, I know Winters. They are not just a return to status quo,  but a time to consolidate and rest, while Nature does her fertile work underground.  And in the Spring, all around us....

The eternal forces of Nature, and the awakened hearts of the People, are moving once again.

Pay attention

Comments (4)

  • Jim described my thoughts very well, so I won’t repeat them. This was a very interesting read Bill! Keep up the good work, I always enjoy your newsletters :)
    With love,
    Colleen

    — Cj, 11/1/2011
  • Power to the people, right on!

    Bill, I think the last time we heard ‘power to the people’ was back in the 70s when John Lennon wrote the song. Back then, people walked the streets to protest the war, police brutality in places like Attica, unfair labor and more. As John said, “Say you want a revolution, We better get on right away, Well you get on your feet, And out on the street” and we are. Further on, he sang “A million workers working for nothing, You better give 'em what they really own”. I think that’s what it’s really about – Middle America became serfs to the legislature and it’s time to pay attention.

    — Amy, 11/1/2011
  • We all want validation. We will do whatever we have to do to get it. Should it mean walking in the streets, so be it!
    I do hope we won’t be the last few standing when they come to get the rest of us as was done in Germany before America stepped in and took a look. Can’t they see “all the people”? Why can’t we?

    — Carol, 11/3/2011
  • Stop! What's that sound?

    I hadn’t read Pablo Neruda’s words before, but it is amazing how prescient they are in re current “Occupy” events. Even more so, how the old Buffalo Springfield song you quote STILL has meaning. I have mentioned before that I appreciate how often you relate personal traits and experiences with current (often political) events, Bill. When watching talking heads on TV castigate the occupiers because they don’t understand them - 'What ARE their demands, anyway? Good for the woman who stood up to her abuser.

    — Jim, 11/1/2011

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Bill McDonald
Fenton, Michigan

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