Downtown Austin, October 22, 2011.
“I wanted to go, but I finally got a job. Haven’t had one in almost two years.” (rolling his own cigarette.. yes it was only tobacco).
“I DO have a job! I am a CPA and I work here in downtown Austin. I not only know that people are exploited, but I see HOW it’s done!” (organizer from microphone).
“We are family here… come on in close and sit down. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, non-violent movement.”
“She no longer speaks for us so when you contact us your emails will not be forwarded to her. She did not represent the interests of our group but we hope that she can back to the group which empowered her.”
We went to Austin to celebrate a birthday with some local entertainment. As we looked for parking, we drove by the protesters. We knew we had to go check it out. After weeks of watching people make fun of and criticize them on facebook, I figured I should hear things from their point of view. News stories that take the most offensive characters they can find, and give them a voice, does not represent a movement. The Tea Party protestors had some “glorious” representatives as well. So I wanted to see for myself.
I don’t know what the Occupy movement looks like in other cities or countries, but in Austin, it’s diverse; hippies with dreds, old men in tacky shorts, moms with kids, blacks and whites, veterans, professionals, and homeless people.
My own apathy has recently been challenged when I began to study the food industry and the corporations that control it, from their seeds to your table. Yes, they own the seeds and will sue you if you decided to plant the seeds that grew from the one they sold you.
I used to think politicians were the problem, but I realized it was men with money who controlled the politicians that were the bigger problem. And even bigger than that is the American consumer who props them up with their spending dollars because we want the most bang for our buck, even if it’s going to kill us. (Guilty!)
Greed is the bottom line for the corporate world, not the well being of any human being. This is injustice, no matter how you slice it, no matter who is holding the sign. Not that holding signs will change much or keep you from being exploited by someone else with a different brand of greed. But to be awake and realize there is a problem? Not a bad thing. Occupiers know there is a problem, and most of them seem to know more about it than the average American.
No need to fear a protest movement of any kind at the moment because Americans are, for the most part, still comfortable enough not to care. As one line in a song by Mumford and Sons says… “If I had an enemy bigger than my apathy I could have won.” My apathy has been cured, but my cynicism is alive and well.
We lost interest in trying to listen because of the endless discussion about how to have a meeting, and all the various speakers who needed to input on different aspects of organization, and who was in charge of what, at what time, and blah blah blah… It was an Entmoot in the making and we didn’t have time. We are typical humans, and humans are hasty. I was hoping to hear a concise declaration of the cause, but it became evident that maybe there isn’t one.
Nonetheless, in spite of the feeling that this was an attempt to revive the 60s without much success, and the lack of credibility in general, they are not completely wrong. In fact much of what they want, God wants, if you read His prophets. Jesus hated greed that exploited people too. He made a whip and cleaned house. I believe King Jesus is also interested in justice and advocating for those who are helpless and overpowered. Aren’t we all helpless and overpowered without Him? Do we have His worldview or does our social/political bias define Him?
As we were leaving, a group of 1%ers (the Occupy movement says they are the 99% who are at the mercy of the 1% who control everything) who had lasted about 15 minutes with their prep school jackets and counter-protest signs, also left the scene. We didn’t get to hear their perspective but they did love having their picture taken as they piled in the back of a Dodge pickup and yelled, “Like us on facebook!”
On another street we met a severely disabled man who had been robbed by someone pretending to put money into his pouch. Is the real villain Wall Street, the Oval Office, or the man (or woman) in the mirror?