How Occupy Wall Street could harmonize the best of the Left and Right
Right now, Occupy Wall Street leans to the left. I know it’s non-partisan and thinks both parties stink, that it’s trying to transcend all that nonsense and actually address the larger systemic issues – our overwhelming environmental and economic problems and the bankrupt cultural values that led to them. The system is broken. Period. And neither party is doing much about it.
But it still leans left. It sides with the labor unions and everyone around the world fighting bullshit austerity measures. It speaks about Solidarity – taking care of each other. One way we can do this is by having the government actually look after people. More social security. Take the lobbyists out of Washington, institute universal Clean Elections, and let politicians make decisions based on human rights alone and not on money. So Big Business gets smaller and Big Government probably gets a bit bigger. But Big Government cares for everyone, so it’s all right… Continue reading
I was at the Think OutWord event this last February which was called Emerging from the Fog. One evening during an open discussion in which about 80 people were participating a man spoke of the uprisings in Egypt and how it seemed to him Americans were in a position to realize that the comfortable image of the USA as a socially-advanced and healthy democratic people was being challenged. He trained one of our eyes on the ancient civilization of northern Africa and the other on the young USA, in the former tens ofthousands of people were standing up to injustice, in the latter despite much discontent, almost no one was protesting.
Not a year has passed and we see all over the USA, and indeed the greater world, protests appearing. And it is not strange that our hearts feel a waft of relief seeing that hope of a better life for human society is alive in the hearts of Americans. We feel this relief because we know that it is natural when meeting a difficulty in life to face it, to say
“We need to address this, we need to talk about this and find a way through together.”
And we have met difficulties.
Civil Rights, Cultural Freedoms
By Sarah Hearn
The recent passage of the Marriage Equality Act in New York State is an historic event. New York became the largest state to pass gender-neutral marriage legislation, giving the same rights and protections to same-sex couples as those offered to heterosexual couples at the state level, which cover issues as diverse as child custody and adoption, hospital visitations, bereavement leave, bankruptcy, domestic violence, and different types of insurance breaks. New York is of course also the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement: the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the founding of many of the first gay rights advocacy groups, and the first Gay Pride Parade 41 years ago this week.
The passage of this legislation is also a refreshing demonstration of an important distinction: the political realm should serve the needs of its citizens by providing protections and ensuring rights, while cultural pursuits – art, science, religion and much else – should be left free from the clutches of politics, and vice versa. Informed by the principle of separation of church and state, New York’s Marriage Equality Act makes same-sex couples eligible for civil marriage not religious marriage, so it in no way forces cultural or religious institutions to “provide accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” It’s not unlike the situation of Catholics who have divorced and then remarried. Because the Church doesn’t approve of divorce it doesn’t perform or recognize second marriages. However, in the case of the state, remarried couples can claim all the rights and protections that any other married couple would enjoy. In this way, government can uphold the principle of equality and the church can freely uphold its religious teachings and practices.
For the last 50 years, a certain attitude has developed among artists that one cannot speak of without referring to the market place where things are bought and sold. Creating art has taken on a new face. In the city of New York, prior to this change, creating art was looked on and experienced by many as something exceptional, even religious. The reverence and respect which was perceptible in relation to creating art did not simply fade away, it gradually came under attack. Artists and critics began to sense that the mystical cloud surrounding culture was a bubble which did not seem to have anything to do with the real world. If, however, one could create such a cloud of divinity around some object, one thing was for sure, you could sell it for a lot of money.
Read, for instance, the Painted Word by Tom Wolfe. In it, the motives of the artists were not necessarily being called into question but the real nature of their activity was. Their works did not seem to lead to a new and rejuvenated society, which is what the artists often saw as the power latent in art, but rather to bourgeois exhibits where large amounts of money were exchanged for paintings. The effect of this new culture was the indulgence of an economically-elite class who gave their money to those who could be seen as witch doctors who had enchanted an aura into an object they called art which was then worshiped in the great church of society on the altar of fame. All the panting and gasping about culture seemed like an emotional self-centeredness oblivious to the state of real people in real time and space. Some artists began to feel like their craft was a sword which could cut two ways. One obvious way was to create these bubbles of ‘divinity’. The second was to destroy these same bubbles, to use one’s craft to fight the tendency of creating these idols of society around which people ordered themselves into classes, a tendency inherent in capitalism. For instance Piero Manzoni canned his own feces and sold it as “Artist’s Shit” in 1961. With this, individuals active in creating culture began working against ‘culture’ in total consciousness. Why would one do that? Culture appeared to be a specter, an ineffective dream which hypnotized people and led them away from the demands of our earth and society, demands which grow more severe every day.
THE ROLE OF YOUNG ADULTS IN BUILDING A HEALTHY SOCIETY
I think it’s pretty clear that most “adults” have no idea what to do with “young adults.”After years of pushing us through school, we come out the other end and don’t really know much and aren’t very productive. It takes years for us to settle into jobs, to forget the anguish and idealism of our youth, and to raise families of our own. But those years are an awkward state of limbo – we bumble around and wander and can’t seem to find our place in society.
Problem is: we have no place in society. It can’t be given to us – we have to make it – but there’s no opportunity. We’re expected to climb the ladder like everyone else. Once we’ve reached the rarefied air of the upper echelons of power within an institution (once we’ve become adults) then we too can participate in decision-making… in the creative process. Problem is that once we’ve climbed that ladder, jumped through all those hoops, kissed all that ass, and acted as a cog in a machine for years on end, we have nothing really new to offer. Our true inspiration is gone. (Not that older people aren’t creative. All I’m saying is that once you’ve been in this world long enough, your creativity tends to be of this world – determined by what is, and less by what could be.)
There’s a creative source to every human being. We each bring new impulses, new gifts, new talents into the world that the world has never before seen. These of course need to be developed and honed, just as any rich natural resource must be taken up and crafted in order to have an “economic value” (in order to become food, shelter, clothing, or an iPod). But the resources are all there… we’re just waiting to be recognized. As the author Alain de Botton has stated: “We talk of waste all the time. Of course the one resource that we continue to waste in prodigious quantities is human life, our own and those of others. We certainly might hope that in the 21st century we’ll get cleverer at managing to extract from people those talents which they themselves are not aware of, and which we all struggle to get a grip on…” Human capital is our greatest waste, especially the never-before-seen splendors of the young.
Recently the documentary film “Waiting for ‘Superman’” was released. This film is about American public schools, which means it’s about children, parents, teachers, politics, and business. As you might imagine, the subject severely challenges the medium – the role of education in society is profound and defies being easily captured in a couple hours of film.
There are a number of inspiring teachers whose deep care for their students comes through in the film. Geoffrey Canada and Bill Strickland appear (the latter only briefly). The parents and grandparents who appear in the film are also dedicated to the well being of their children. The stories of most of the students are truly sad, as is the situation that our whole country finds itself in.
The film is a small part of a campaign called the “Waiting for ‘Superman‘” social action campaign. “The campaign seeks to build public awareness, ignite personal involvement, and inspire real social change.” So, besides showing the unfortunate condition that many public schools find themselves in, the film writers have tried to inspire people to actively change the schools in our country. The film definitely calls to adults all over our country to act.
The great question is: What action? If the sincere wish to be helpful was sufficient to actually create a better world, I think the world would be much better off than it is right now. Besides good wishes and genuinely positive intentions, we have to have solid and socially healthy ideas. Good wishes which become fuel for reform based on unhealthy social ideas will turn into a curse instead of a blessing. A good heart is not enough.