Friday, November 25, 2011

Idea #11: Carry Peace In My Pocket

(Disclosure Statement: This may be more all about me than usual.)

I foolishly sign up for email updates from several blogs - oddly, most of them urge me to consume. I should probably unsubscribe (maybe next week's idea?).  I get all the TeamBuy and EthicalDeals and BuyMoreButFeelGoodCauseItWasADeal emails a girl could desire.

Another feed I get is from Simple Mom which is certainly less consumey, and often points me in directions I like to go.  I also like to smirk at my own inside joke to myself about being a simple mom - not 'simple', like simplicity, but 'simple', like dim.  I feel a bit not-so-bright most days and it's kind of nice to think there might be a whole website set up to support me.

There is a new theme happening for Christmas, and so right now every email update shows up on my phone with the subject "Plan Your Pe.." which I automatically fill in with "perfect Christmas."  And I am Every Time gratefully surprised to open it and read "Plan Your Peaceful Christmas".

Peaceful.  Oh, yes please.

Peaceful like the dis-encampment of Occupy Vancouver this week, when miraculously the tents were taken down and moved two or three times and then ultimately gone without any police officers having to dress up in riot gear. I'm not altogether clear on why this wasn't more newsworthy - this is astonishing to me and entirely unexpected.  I am deeply thankful that neither the law enforcement officers nor the occupiers were required to be physically harmed to bring an end to this part of the protest. That it has gone mostly un-noticed and un-said in the public discourse and media reporting perhaps tells us all we need to know.

I have to confess though, that peace is not my own personal go-to.  As evidenced by The Case Of The (It Turned Out Not So) Anonymous Commenter, my own heart goes first to verbal violence and anger-fuelled retorts. I took the edge off by using facebook to vent, but I know my own heart and know that peace was not reigning there.  And that was the most peaceful encounter I probably had that day - I was raging in most directions, especially at home.

The structures that wreck us are fuelled by discord and discontent. From the Too Big To Address Here military-industrial complex that diverts all our productivity to the pursuit of war-making to You Deserve A Break Today advertising that reminds us to spend our way out of stress and ill-will and unhappiness, our world requires our Not Peace to push us to consume.

If I pursue peace, I think maybe I undermine a structure that builds itself on our ill-will and anger, a structure that loves our divisions and separateness from one other, a structure that uses violence to maintain itself.

This week, I will try carrying peace in my pocket. I will watch for ways to invest in peace and starve violence.

Occupy Me.

IDEA #11 Response:
Do you see peace as a means of undermining All That Should Not Be? In what ways can you invest in peace?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Observation (iii)

One thing that may be true is that I'm a bit motivated in this whole Occupy Me mission by fear. Like straight up, they're coming for me terror. I'm afraid that one day the disenfranchised are going to quit being so nice about how deeply they've been screwed and do what millions have done before them and start a fight.  And since they really, truly won't have anything to lose, they're going to fight like crazy to the death.  And my friends, I am not a fighter.

A nice blog with friendly reminders to try screwing other people over less seems like a bit of an innoculation against it all, but the longer things go on, the less effective an innoculation it seems likely to be.  If it comes to the worst, I don't think any of those people are going to stop their pillaging to google who was thinking about doing something about it all.

A friend is a pastor in the great state of Oregon.  She posted on facebook tonight that the family staying in her church waiting for shelter space is headed by a mother working full-time at Walmart.

In a recent conversation with really thoughtful, peace-loving, justice-seeking friends, I found myself explaining that Walmart isn't just a kind of neutral not-so-great entity - they're Big Terrible Bad Guys Doing Evil.  And people I really like don't know.  Or sometimes know but need a cheap toaster, you know?

Oh, I know.

I know because I bought the kids jackets at Old Navy last week.

That's why they'll be coming for me.

Because despite all the writing and thinking and cash paying, I am ultimately Unchanged-Enough and most certainly the world around me is Not Changed. People will remain concerned about their own profit over that of their neighbours forever probably. And by people, of course I mean me.

The last month has had it's successes - paying cash feels right and good; we ended up buying tires from a local independent dealer down the street; I asked a client to pursue becoming a Living Wage employer; I voted and even sought out candidates' opinions on Living Wage policies.  Friends have made adjustments in their own lands and have even sometimes told me about them.  Certainly I've had a lot of conversations about the world as it is and how it might be, conversations I would not have otherwise had to be sure.

And yet.

And yet, it becomes clearer and clearer that the changes we make will not change much as long as these changes are the changes of the affluent.  Because poor people can't afford to live this way - we barely can and we're the not-so-poor. And rich people won't, or mostly don't. Because then they would be less rich.

Oh hell. 

I bet the world changers weren't depressives.  Maybe there will be new life for this tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Christmas

So in an odd paradox, Christmas is in one little holiday, exactly what the Occupy Movement is fighting and exactly what it is fighting for...  I know, I'm a bit confused too.

But in thinking about how to Occupy Christmas, I have been stuck at the part where Christmas actually is the celebration of Jesus coming to occupy us and bring the freedom, life and community that so many of us are craving.

And yet.

And yet. Christmas as it is celebrated in my neck of the woods is actually a celebration of consumption, acquisitiveness and Too Much.  I don't know a person who doesn't at least once in December lament the state of yuletide affairs.  Too Much food, Too Much stuff, Too Much family, Too Much need... it's just All Too Much.

I am not going to write anything new or life-changing about Christmas - we all know the parts where we're supposed to make it simpler, enjoy each other, give goats and chickens instead of trash, blah blah blah. If any of those things have made you like Christmas better, please share what and how in the comments.  Instead, let me revisit the first ten Occupy Me Ideas and see how they can be adapted for nativity purposes. Is this cheating? Oh well...  read on anyway!

IDEA # 1: Shop More Wisely
Well, this was smart huh? The picture that started it all is a good one: choose independent businesses for your holiday purchases.  Local food, local employees, local owners - all of it is better than sending your dollars to anonymous bad guys in a highrise somewhere. If you have a great vendor you'll be using this year, please post a link in the comments.  Personally, I'll be asking for the Seaflora Skin Care stuff made on Vancouver Island and sold at Dream Designs.  Local, local, good for me. Win, win, win.

IDEA #2: Need Less
Again, it's like it was made for Christmas! So obviously, I'll be asking for less and giving less.  Certainly, only giving what we can afford.  Expensive debt that jeopardizes our security and enriches the anonymous bad guys is a terrible gift for our children.  We'll keep paying cash for what we do buy to a) make sure we can afford it and b) make sure no small merchant is subsidizing our decision to lie about how much we have. How will you be needing less this year?

IDEA #3: Real Food
Oh, the food at Christmas.  We are really fortunate because everyone else cooks at Christmastime. And our key cookers in SJ's family are Real Food people.  In my family, we've become a lot more Real Foody since my dad moved to a gluten-free diet, although it's been real food most of my life the way it was for most kids born in the 70s.  That said, I may make up an extra-large batch of Resistance Granola for Christmas morning just as a reminder that that's smart. And maybe we'll work a bit harder at sourcing local-er meats and treats. Any corporate food you'll be giving up this year?

IDEA #4: Support a Living Wage
Yikes, this is going to be tricky.  Christmas is so retail-intensive and the retail sector is so notoriously poor at paying a living wage.  I think choosing independent businesses might help with this since if the business is staffed by family, at you know the profts are being kept at home, you know? I'm finding asking about this really tricky, but I should probably try harder now that we'll be doing so much spending. Anyone have any recommendations for They Pay Better vendors of things we might buy this Christmas?

IDEA #5: Do Work I Would Prefer To Pay For
There are several jobs I would like to outsource over the course of December.  We won't be outsourcing them because we can't afford to mostly.  But it will be nicer to pretend that it's because we're jumping into solidarity with the many who do work I would prefer not to do.  And maybe at some point it will stop being pretending and turn into a real kinship with those who do work that is difficult and boring and that pays poorly... I think that would be a real Christmas miracle.  You?

IDEA #6: Fix It
Two things came out of this for me: One, fix things that are broken obviously.  At Christmas this means maybe replacing burnt out light bulbs instead buying all new strings as I have generally preferred to do.  The other is to buy things that can be fixed as Ryan mentioned in the comments.  This means not buying garbage for people.  Which probably means buying less, because the can't-be-fixed stuff is so much less expensive and so to upgrade to fixable will probably cost more and since we're only buying what we can afford, well, we'll be buying less. Which is kind of a win, right?  Anyone see other ways Fix It ties into Christmas?

IDEA #7: It Is Better To Give And Receive
This one is so awesome for me. Huh. Anyway, so somehow at Christmas, receiving makes me feel terrible (do you even know me?!) and giving makes me feel angry (you don't even need this and I certainly can't afford to give it!!).  Awful, right? I'm a bit scroogey for a Jesusy-type gal.  But I want to live in the part where both the giving and the receiving are reminders of my I've Got Enoughness.  I think on the giving side, paying cash and buying what we can afford is going to go a long way, as is trying to pay closer attention to what is needed, even if what is needed is just something wrapped and given in love.   On the receiving side, I am going to watch for ways the gifts given reflect the giver's own Enoughness and I will also be clearer about our needs so that givers can maybe experience their own flood of affluence that comes when you are able to give what is needed.  I would love to hear other thoughts on this - am I the only scrooge at gift giving?

IDEA #8:  Rock The Vote
So not so Christmassy, but still, another reminder to my BC readers - GO VOTE on SATURDAY!

IDEA #9: Give To People, Not Causes
Oh boy, this is a bit of a tricky one at Christmas because of course, most of us are already giving to people and most of us feel that giving charitably is part of the celebration.  Certainly most charities count on our yule-inspired generosity to gird their efforts for the year.  So maybe this:  as we choose how to give this year, we will talk to our people to find out what causes warm them up and we may give to people by giving to their causes.  But we will also watch for people who need what we have to give, be it the extra seat at our table, an evening of anything-but-Christmas chat, or extra help getting their decorations up. What are your causes people? and what do you have to give that you're hoping someone will need?

IDEA #10:  Be A People Person
It will sure be tempting to avoid people - so often it's faster, and at this time of year, friendlier.  People are stressed and over-worked and over-demanded-of and just straight up unpleasant. Machines are not. But all the more reason to be the pleasant person who does not demand and who says "please" and "thank you" and remembers that I may be the difference between making their work meaningful and making it sh*tty. I will take advantage of having a lot of spending to vote with and will vote for people as often as I can.  What will you be voting for with your Christmas spending?

Oh my, that was a lot.  I should point out that this is clearly written by someone who celebrates Christmas. I am aware that many don't.  This is written unapologetically for those who do.  If you are one who doesn't, I am certain we would benefit from reading how you plan to occupy the month of December and all that it brings to you and your family. 

In the meantime, I am looking forward to entering into the Christmas season with a clearer hope for my family, and all the more aware of how deeply we need the Gift That Was Given to get there.  Advent will indeed be a Sweet Waiting for God With Us, the best occupation I know.

Occupy Me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Links To Good III

This is a link to an article that Mamabear did not send me. I was able to find it anyway, and thought this line was particularly awesome, when the author quotes Chesterton: There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.  

Oh, and the link is here: A Lifestyle of Enough, Relevant Magazine

This is a link Sarah posted on Facebook that I found really helpful: Rolling Stone Magazine Article.  And then Darren posted a great Following Up On That link: Occupy Winning.  Both articulate the heart-capturing parts of the Occupy Movement for me.

Please keep sending and posting your links to good stuff!  It's life-expanding to think in all these different directions.

Oh, and don't forget to vote!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Idea #10: Be A People Person!

So one thing that has happened is that now that I'm paying with cash all the time, I have to deal with people more often. To my surprise, this is a good thing.

I notice it most at the gas station.  Previously, fill-ups were a stop and go transaction between me and a largish-box with a credit card slot. Now I get to run inside, slide my Bill Reid statue (the Americans do have something on us with the nicknaming of currency, what with all those handsome Presidents) across the counter and actually say "Please" and "Thank you" to a real, live, human person.

This is nice, because hey, who doesn't like to have a quick, polite encounter with The Rest Of The World? God help them, they may be the only adult I speak to in a ten-hour span.

But it's also nice because choosing to interact with the person means choosing to vote for their job with my money.  I kind of like this math.

And now it has me noticing all the places where I can vote for people and their jobs:  tellers for banking; librarians for book checking-out; cashiers for groceries.  The one I noticed most recently that left me a bit flummoxed was parking:  the parking attendant at Lonsdale Quay has been replaced with a machine and there is no Choose-A-Person option nearby.  But generally, when I can, I'm choosing the person option and I think life is better for it.

I don't imagine it's altogether clear economically what is better though. If the parking guy has moved on to full employment manufacturing planet-friendly goods to be justly distributed across our land, then who am I to complain about walking to a machine to collect my free 2-hour parking ticket?  On the other hand, if that was his only or best option for work and now it has been eliminated for the long-term profitability of the parking corporation, then yuck.

What I mostly notice is that we are being asked to replace our interactions with low-level staff with interactions with machines for the profitability of owners and in turn (one imagines), higher wages for high- and mid-level management.  I guess those jobs are more desirable, but what happens when we have no work for the beginners? for the not-so-ambitious? for the Not-Management-Material-types?

When I vote with my money for those jobs, I also vote for those people and say that providing meaningful work (for surely there is some meaning in making sure I did in fact find everything I needed at the store today?) for everybody is worthwhile. 

So the next time you get to choose between (wo)man or machine, consider the message you're sending up the ladder with your choice:  the easiest way to redistribute wealth is through the employment of the many.

IDEA #10 Response: 
Where have you seen a change from people to machines? Where have you voted with your money for people over profit, even when it was less convenient?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Idea #9: Give to People, Not Causes

I'm a bit conflicted as I write this:  the Occupy Vancouver movement is unravelling a bit.  Sadly, a young woman died in her tent a few days ago.  Protesters bit police officers trying to assist firefighters in extinguishing a fire. Several showed up at a recent mayoral debate and threatened a riot.  In a church.  It's a bit... off-putting.

I suppose I'd prefer to be on the same team as the Winners! the Awesome Ones! the Successful Overcomers! Nope, just me and the losers.  Again.

I considered giving up the blog. I have conceded that it is unlikely that the ramblings and tiny changes of one suburban housewife are going to amount to much.  I have realized that my own commitment to my own change is not all that it ought to be.  I have faced the sad truth that my motivations are not all lovely and light and that I am most likely to adopt adaptations that save me money and/or improve my own sense of awesomeness.  I can't help but think Real Change had a better start than this.

And yet I persevere.  Though the Occupiers flounder, though my will is flawed, though my energy flags... still I want to want more of myself and my world, so I will do one more week.  One More Idea. And maybe next week, another.

This week's idea is inspired in part by the advent of Advent which of course is the advent of The Giving Season.  The time of year when we spend what we do not have to give what other do not need to celebrate what we do not remember.

That may be a bit cynical.

And maybe sometimes a bit true. We may be a tiny bit thoughtless when we give and maybe being a tiny bit more thoughtful will be another tiny step to a better world.

Specifically this:  In earlier comments, Darren posited that giving to some of his preferred causes was a more effective vehicle for change than tenting in the rain.  I wondered in turn if perhaps working to eliminate the need for those worthy causes might not be a better investment of my own time.

If I think this is true, then I must wonder about whether or not how I give might be promoting or hindering change.  In discussing with some friends, this emerged:  if my "cause" is hunger and I can give to $25, do I do more to end hunger by giving (for example) to UGM to feed several a Thanksgiving dinner or by giving to one person in line there to buy their own food?

I could probably argue either.  But I know the part where when I give to a cause, a percentage goes to the people who serve (rightly, as well it ought) but when I give to a person, all of it goes to their need.  Am I willing to forego the tax receipt and the anonymous distance of giving to a cause in order to make what I think may be a more meaningful, lasting difference by giving to a person?  And isn't that kind of the crux: that I would have to know who needed what I have to give? And that by getting to know some people, I might better know what would truly make a difference? Instead of what I think should make a difference?

So this is not being very clear.  I think what I want to think about is if I am serious about redistributing wealth, and particularly my own, then do I want to send it to institutions or to people?  I'm not altogether sure.  But there is something appealing about arranging cleaning services for a mother enduring chemotherapy (a project friends took on last year) instead of giving money to The Big Cancer Agency; to collecting groceries for a local family experiencing loss instead of dropping a few old cans of expired beans in the food bank bin; to giving cash to that guy with the sign instead of charging a donation to The People Who Help, even if he uses it in some way I don't approve of - God knows I hardly approve of all the ways I spend the money I keep to myself.

I don't know exactly how this works, but there is something to knowing people in need that inspires a generosity that can change things.  Giving to an institution means that I never have to know about real need, never have to face the other side of my affluence, the cost of my comfort.  Giving to people means that I have to listen a little more closely, think a lot more thoughtfully, live a little more generously.

I wonder if we'll try this one.

Occupy Me.

IDEA #9 Response:
Do you see any benefit to giving to people instead of to causes? Have you given in a way that changed you? Do you have any ideas about how to give in a way that makes a tiny change?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Idea #8: Rock The Vote

Okay, this is going to be short and sweet.

We are just over two weeks away from municipal elections in my fair town. We are just over one year away from a presidential election in the United States.  In between, there will probably be local and provincial and state elections all over these great lands.  Sadly, most of the time, in most of those places, most people Will. Not. Vote.

They should.

So for Idea #8, I'm suggesting this:  Provincemates, Plan Your Vote.

Find out who's running.
Read a newspaper that tells you who they are.
Better yet, go to an all-candidates meeting and ask them who they are.
On November 19th, phone a friend and arrange a coffee date for AFTER YOU VOTE.

And right this second? right now? Pass this on.

Local government has more to say about our day-to-day experience than any other level of government. How long it takes for the fire department to arrive, whether or not we drink clean water, whether our schools are well-managed and maintained, whether or not our roads get cleared and salted and repaired, whether or not there are bike lanes and sidewalks and wheelchair access and libraries and art and sports and recreation and places for children to play...  all of that and more is decided by our local government.

If we don't vote, if we don't use the opportunities we're given to say We Give A Flying F*ck about how our very own neighbourhoods are shaped, well, that just makes all the rest of this silly. In 2008, not even 18% of my neighbours voted in our local election (check your municipality here).  Really? Not even 2 of 5 people could do it? Sigh.

To be honest, I'm struggling to tie this directly to the Occupy Me gig.  I could stretch and try to make it sound more righteous or game-changing than it probably really is.  I won't.  Just please believe me - people have died fighting for my right as a woman to vote.  People have died believing your right to vote was worth their lives.  I know. It floors me too.

So please plan your vote.  Please plan to vote. And please pass it on.

(This was neither short, nor sweet.  Pass it on anyway. And vote.)

Who are you voting for and how did you decide they'd get your vote? Any other ideas for improving voter turnout this year?