Monday, October 24, 2011

Another World Is Possible

I'm beginning to get my bearings here at Occupy Wall Street in Zuccoti Park. I came down yesterday after attending the Sunday service at Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan, a church that has a long history of involvement with social issues. They're the ones who created the golden calf modeled after the sculpture of the Wall Street bull. They bring it to demonstrations and carry it on a pedestal that says “false idol” and “greed.” United Methodist clergy gathered at the occupation to offer encouragement and support, followed by an Interfaith service that was projected out through the “peoples' mike.” That is, when one person spoke, those nearby shouted out the words so others could hear.

This supportive presence of people from different faith traditions highlights the hopefulness of what is happening here. But for me the hope runs deeper, as we come together in all our diversity and rise up to defeat and create alternatives to the present unjust and unsustainable global system. This movement is a movement of spirit, not just in this place but around the world, both bringing and embodying change in this time when change must come.

I connected with many people today. During the Interfaith service, I looked out over the crowd and saw Jason Rainey, past Executive Director of SYRCL (South Yuba River Citizens League) and current Executive Director of Rivers International ( He told me about the fate of rivers due to dam-building, not just by the World Bank, but by China and India, and about successful peoples' movements that have saved rivers from that fate. We walked together to 60 Wall Street, a huge space where people gather at all hours for working group meetings. I went to the gathering for facilitators, Jason to the one on structure.
The actual people who sleep in the park may be two hundred, but thousands of people come through each day. The park is actually quite organized. There's always a line for food, which is donated (or money for food is donated), cooked off site, then served to occupiers, homeless people, visitors—without distinction. The sanitation working group is always busy. The peoples' library, which gets donations of money and books from authors and publishers, is organized and working well. The outreach working group reports back about concerns of local businesses. There are stations for media,legal issues, scheduling, first aid, comfort, safe sleeping spaces, think tanks, etc. I understand that many of the original occupiers are so busy with “housekeeping” that they can't even make it to the General Assemblies.

Musical jam sessions just spring up. Yesterday I sang during a jam session with about ten musicians. Emma's Revolution was there. (Their name is based on Emma Goldman's line: “If I can't dance I don't want to be a part of your revolution.”) Their new song, “Occupy the USA,” can be downloaded for free at

Signs are everywhere. Most are relevant to the core concerns of the movement. A few are completely off topic or even offensive (to me). No one is policing content—the First Amendment is respected here—but there are lots of conversations going on.

War and its costs (human and economic) are highlighted by many. One man dressed in an orange jump suit, with a black hood over his head, stayed on his knees all day, demonstrating for prisoners in Guantanamo. I could only imagine how he felt. He certainly made the point.

There is a lot of consciousness raising about issues of oppression: racial, gender identity, etc. Whatever has been said about this movement being mostly white, it's not true. It's quite diverse, at least here, and the effort is being made to empower those who have traditionally been marginalized so that their voices can be heard, and to create an equitable and just model of leadership.

It's truly remarkable. “Autonomous individuals” drawn together through common concern are working cooperatively through a consensus process to make joint decisions for the general well-being and for social transformation. It is a form of “direct democracy” in which every voice can be heard. Clearly, the spirit is alive, gathering people together, breaking the spell of paralysis and despair. During the Interfaith service, the Unitarian Universalist minister closed with the words that have become a mantra for the global justice movement: “Another world is possible.” Three times she shouted it out and three times we shouted it back. Powerful. It reminded me of the words of Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is here. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Today I can hear her breathing.

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