A friend whom I highly esteem has wondered aloud in the hallowed hallways of facebook, What in fact, is the point of Occupy Vancouver? Vexed by the ambiguity of their self-proclaimed purpose, is perhaps closer to what he said. He's a writer like that. Vocabulary aside (and accuracy, for that matter), his question did leave me wondering if I was actually clear on what those tenters downtown are saying and if I needed to perhaps be a bit clearer about my own reasons for participating as I am.
The Occupy Vancouver website contains the following:
We, the Ninety-Nine Percent, come together with our diverse experiences to transform the unequal, unfair, and growing disparity in the distribution of power and wealth in our city and around the globe. We challenge corporate greed, corruption, and the collusion between corporate power and government. We oppose systemic inequality, militarization, environmental destruction, and the erosion of civil liberties and human rights. We seek economic security, genuine equality, and the protection of the environment for all.
I'm not sure I would call this ambiguous.
But of course, they have yet to describe what specific ends they are pursuing. You know, using those SMART goals that were all the rage back in the early millennium. And I guess I can see how that is bothersome.
The difficulty is that specific goals and measurable outcomes are kind of what created the mess in the first place. Maybe it's time for a more hard-to-put-my-finger-on-it-but-damn-this-feels-different kind of change. Maybe it's time for all of us to decide that waiting to measure whether or not we're being Just Enough, or Equal Enough, or Integritied Enough (my apologies for the word-making-up, but some days the English language fails me) is in fact just a decision to change the paint on a crumbling building. Sure it looks a bit better, but ain't no paint gonna keep that thing standing next time it gets rocked, you know what I'm sayin'...?
And now, because the change can not be negotiated or bargained or bought, we of the Elevator Speech Generation are getting bored and want them to carry on to their next project. But instead, they say they will stay. They will endure cold and wet, the disdain of the many, the ire of the inconvenienced, the misunderstanding of the masses - they will endure all of that so that there remains a physical, hard-to-miss, traffic-wrecking reminder that The World Is Not How It Ought To Be.
I went searching for a quote of Martin Luther King Jr.'s that of course more poetically drew the point I am working at but found another that sent me reeling:
I am mostly certain that I am not a bad person. On my good days, I think I'm probably even good people. However, when I think that my silence might be added to the list of sins that must be repented for by The Saints... my heart weeps.
And so I'll blog on, and I'll put my lot with the dread-locked tenters and their grandmothering lawn-mates who are living together in solidarity with the Least, the Last and the Lost and inconveniencing us at every turn so that we can not say, "But no one told us." The deepest injustices may not be happening on my block, or even in this nation of ours, it's true. And yet we benefit and our lives are better because of evil done by others. If I collude with my silence, I am no better.
Better. It's an ambiguous goal. It lacks in specificity to be sure. I can't even say if it's attainable or realistic. But it's worthy, and thus I'm in its pursuit. I will make tiny changes and have great faith that even getting to A Little Bit Better will count as success.
The original quote I was seeking, I still think is worth including: “I said to my children, 'I'm going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don't ever want you to forget that there are millions of God's children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don't want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.”