I have to tell you, I am more than a little excited by the display of grassroots protest and indignation that is currently sweeping the world. I am particularly enthused by the idea that maybe — just maybe — people in the U.S. are waking up from their pacified complacency, ready to do the work that is essential for a movement like this to stick.
But for all the buzz, the hype and the status updates that follow anything new and compelling, I can’t help but notice the trend in our hyper-stimulated culture toward initial interest, media attention and participation, followed by criticism and satire, followed by the resumption of daily life as usual. After all, we’ve all got jobs, kids, households and schedules to maintain. Who has time or resources to devote their lives to being radical?
Here’s where I think we’ve got it all wrong. I believe that it is within our jobs, the rearing of our children, the embrace of our home life and the prioritization of our schedules that real social change is born.
Sure, Wall Street and the financial players with the big bucks ought to be held responsible, and their hugely disproportionate influence assessed and leveled. Agreed, 100%.
However, there are profound reasons for the economic crises and injustice in our country that have just as much to do with our lust for “Easy Street” as the luster of Wall Street. As a general populous, we’ve bought-in to the consumeristic madness, the rampant materialism and the promise of a better life through the accumulation of wealth and non-essential goods. The big wigs on Wall Street? Loopholes or not, they’re just “winning” at the game that we’ve all been playing.
I want this movement to work. I want to see change so badly, I can almost taste it. But I’ve come to believe that waiting for someone else to fix the problems in my life is not only ineffective, but leaves me resentful and overwhelmed with powerlessness (complacency’s greatest ally).
In contemplating the best use of my time and energy toward the support of the Occupy movement, I have come up with a list of everyday measures that I believe not only complement, but give depth and holding power to any movement in the direction of a better tomorrow. This will not happen overnight, my friends. I just hope we’ve got the collective attention span to see it through.
Five Essential Elements of Lasting Social Change
- Take responsibility for your part. Blame is one of the fastest tracks to disempowerment. Even if I believe that Wall Street is at the heart of the problem, it is critical that I assess the ways that I may be contributing to its strength. We as consumers are just as guilty of poor prioritization and foresight as the conglomerates we have inadvertently created.
- Be true to yourself. Authentic people who follow their hearts and dreams are the ones best positioned to create healthy, thriving cultures – rich by non-monetary standards. If I am a natural born teacher but working as a CEO for the fat paycheck, I am not only shorting myself of the satisfaction of a purposeful existence, but society is shorted of a heart-driven, talented teacher. The coming generations will need as many such players as possible to turn this beast around.
- Invest in children and families. We are handing over quite a mess to our offspring. Between resource degradation, pollution, debt, and the undeniable unsustainability of the very infrastructure on which we depend, the LAST thing we need is to crank out an entire generation of stressed-out, highly consumptive and and desensitized kids who’ve never set foot on a farm or explored a stream for fear of getting their cell phones wet. For this reason (and so many more), the investment in building strong family ties, healthy homes and creative education for our kids is more critical than ever. Evaluate your spending and the ways it enslaves you. If you cut out non-essentials or lived in a smaller house, could you also trim your office hours and enjoy more time at home?
- Localize your life. The big dogs would like you to believe that you can continue your life as usual, as long as you buy organic milk and cereal in boxes that imply rainforest salvation upon purchase. Though some of these products are certainly better than their conventional counterparts, guess who owns the majority of the organic industry? Whenever possible, go with the local alternative. Bank with a local credit union. Live close to where you work and go to school. Support the local food movements in your area. Your friendly, neighborhood CSA is not making millions — they are trying to make a difference while feeding their kids, just like you.
- Work through your fears. Fear is a great motivator for protecting your family from wild, carnivorous beasts but completely counterproductive when it comes to living a creative, uninhibited life. It holds many people back from stepping out into the unknown and serves as an excuse for passivity. Fear tactics used by the media and advertisers put an unrealistic slant on things, keeping people spending and afraid of what they don’t understand. Assessing your fears, examining them for truth and letting them go opens you to positive emotions and a greater degree of understanding with which to be the change.
“The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything” ~ Albert Einstein