Oct 18th saw the passing of the one month mark of the Occupy Wall St. movement. 30 days, 82 countries, 1500 cities and thousands upon thousands of people have made one thing abundantly clear: at the very least, people are not satisfied with the status quo. Prior to offering a biblical critique it is always good (I would say essential) to make good astute cultural observations. Only after the observations are made will we endeavor to bring implications to the church.
Some of the observations noted will be simply from what can be assessed through the media and social networking while other observations will be first hand (my wife and I went to NYC this past weekend to celebrate our anniversary and thought it would be worth taking some time to see what was going on in Lower Manhattan).
Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom stated it best in their wonderful text The Starfish and the Spider: there is power in a leaderless organization. When a movement has no real centralized leadership it can be very difficult to contain. The intelligence is not centralized, each group within the movement has the capacity to function on its own to move the initiative forward. All that is needed is a fundamental commitment to a shared ideology. One result is quite impressive: that is, that the movement becomes difficult to stop. For if there was a centralized leadership, then if the leadership was contained and controlled the movement would weaken. It is a fascinating thing to observe.
2. Great diversity can find unity around a cause that is big enough
Now Robert Frost’s pony may have thought it queer to stop without a farmhouse near, but I think it is strange to see what has caused such a diverse group of people to find unity. Ultimately what is observed here is an issue of identity. People will be unified with those whom they have identified with. Whatever their transcendent identity is will be the place where they find the greatest unity. An example from Occupy Wall Street would be the primary phrase “we are the 99 %” this phrase has become the rallying point for the movement. This simple idea (which is intentionally ambiguous) has unified an incredibly diverse group of people around a primary cause, which is simply to voice discontentment over feeling oppressed by the greed and corruption of the 1%.
3. There are lots of things to be disgruntled about
Here is a very short finding of what the some of the 99 % have identified as the problem:
– The court system
– Political system
– Lack of jobs
– Student debt
– Genetically Altered Food
– Nuclear Power
– Rights for the homosexual community
– Bringing soldiers home from the various wars
– Financial reform
– The power of big business
– Healthcare reform
– Education reform
These are all things that were stated by people protesting in Liberty Square. On Saturday, October 22. I also have a few observations of some things that also could be a problem for some of the 99%.
– Drug use could be a problem for some of them
– Selfishness could be a problem for some of them (some are more committed to themselves or to their own appearance than they are committed to getting a job or finding meaningful work, they only want to do things on their own terms).
– Hedonism could be a problem for some (it is quite apparent that some of the 99% are just participating because it is a good excuse to party & be irresponsible ignoring any meaningful cause and just there for a good time).
4. People are putting their hope in all sorts of things
With such a wide range of problems identified it should not be a surprise to note that people also have a wide range of where they are putting their hope. For everyone of them, hope lies with a resolution to the problem they have identified with. So what unifies this group is that they are all hopeful. The final question I have for now is where are they placing their hope and will that satisfy