I have been thinking about and trying my best to observe this movement from my corner of the midwest. I have so far hesitated to say anything about it on this blog, for a few reasons. First, I suffer from what might be called "observer's guilt". I thought that since I am not actively participating in the movement, anything I say about it would be at best lacking in street cred and, at worst, hypocritical. I mean, if I really passionately believe in something, I should be in the trenches (or in this case, on the streets), and not just commenting on it from the relative safety of my home or office, shouldn't I?
Secondly, I did not get the sense that the occupy movement had any clear objectives as to what exactly it is that they want to achieve, beyond bringing about an end to the current system of wealth and capital distribution. And I had always been suspicious of mass movements without a clearly articulated set of objectives.
Thirdly, I hesitated to comment on what I saw as a sensitive and polarizing topic; I have recently become a little weary (and wary) of blog wars, preferring instead to blog only about things that pertain directly to Ashtanga yoga practice. Blog wars, in my opinion, serve little purpose other than to inflate a few egos and hurt a whole bunch of people's feelings. To what end?
But this last reason turns out to be quite unfounded. Over the past few weeks, I have observed that there have been relatively few posts about this movement in the yoga blogosphere. The few posts that did emerge (examples include posts by Roseanne at It's All Yoga Baby, Carol at Think Body Electric, and Yoga Dork) have received either scant comments, or downright snarky and dismissive comments which question what kind of a place yogis could possibly have in a socio-political movement like this.
Well, seriously, what kind of a place could yogis and "spiritual" people have in a movement like this? Here's one answer that Michael Stone offers in a guest post on IAYB:
"Žižek, the protestors [of Occupy Wall Street], the Buddha and Shitou share a common and easily forgotten truth: We cause suffering for ourselves and others when we lose our sense of connectedness. We are the 99 percent but we are dependent on the 1 percent that control forty percent of the wealth. Those statistics reflect grave imbalance in our society.
Of course people are taking to the streets. In the U.S. 44.6 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for over six months. Long-term unemployment at this level is unprecedented in the post second world war era, and it causes deep strife in communities, families and people’s health.
This movement is also showing the power of non-violence. Non-violence, a core precept in my own Buddhist practice, is not an ideology. It’s the power of facing what’s actually going on in each and every moment and responding as skillfully as possible. The depth of our awakening, our humanness, has everything to with how we care for others. Our sphere of awareness begins to include everything and everyone. The way we respond to our circumstances shows our commitment to non-harm...
If we can trust in the space where, on the one hand, we are fed up with economic instability and ecological degradation and, on the other, we value interconnectedness, we are doing the same thing collectively that the meditator does on his or her cushion. We are trusting that something loving and creative will emerge from this space that we create. It’s too early to say what that may be. It won’t just be a rehashing of an ideology from the past. These are new times and require a new imaginative response."
In short, if we believe that the sufferings of others are not unconnected with our own suffering, if we believe that true happiness and prosperity is not something that one can or should obtain at the cost of somebody else's preventable suffering, then we have a place in a movement like this. And the presence of such economic and spiritual imbalances is reason and objective enough for this movement.
As Stone points out, we may not know at this moment what exactly will emerge from this space of protest. But I think that there are certain pivotal points in one's own life where one just has a very powerful gut feeling that something has gone terribly wrong and needs to be changed, and that some powerful action needs to be taken to bring about that change, even if one does not know exactly how that change is going to happen, or what will emerge as a result of that change. I think the same thing applies to the life of a society, and on an even larger scale, the world. Seen in this light, it is no accident that there is this collective "gut feeling" that has moved so many people from all walks of life into the streets of the major cities of the world, carrying on the non-violent work begun by people like Martin Luther King Jr.: King, incidentally, was in the process of planning a march on Washington D.C. to demand more equitable working and living conditions when he was assassinated.
Perhaps some people are skeptical about the movement because of the involvement of high-profile celebrity yogis like Seane Corne. I do not know that much about Corne's work (although I have heard lots of good things about it). But I believe that the more the movement is able to bring in people of varying levels of socio-economic status and wealth, the better it will serve the movement. In fact, I will even go so far as to suggest that the power and credibility of the 99% will be furthered bolstered if it is able to get at least a few members of the 1% to join its ranks. Because, as naive as this might sound, I think that this is the best proof of the power of non-violent assimilation. Because I personally think that this is the best alternative to class warfare and the violence that inevitably accompanies such warfare.
Well, I need to be somewhere now. Maybe I'll write more later. So I'll have to leave you with the above thoughts, which are admittedly, rather hastily formulated. But at any rate, they are my honest thoughts. And that's perhaps what's most important, in the final analysis. I'll leave you with this final thought for now: As much as I still feel rather guilty about just writing and commenting about this movement from the relative comfort of my office, I figured that saying something here is better than not saying something (after all, didn't they say that the pen is mightier than the sword? ;-)). So here goes.