Occupy: New Wine and Old Skins
There is a famous biblical parable where Jesus speaks of his new way of thinking as something that cannot be contained in the existing Jewish culture. The idea is that if you put new wine into a used skin, the skin will burst as the new wine ferments, having already been stretched once from its first use. It’s an apt metaphor for where we are with Occupy these days.
But first, a couple of curiosities. This movement/revolution was immediately announced as being ‘leaderless,’ a natural reaction to what political and financial ‘leaders’ have done to usurp citizen through the corruption of our legislatures and congress. But demonizing the word ‘leader’ as Occupy has done creates an awkward dynamic, as this movement is full of leaders. It’s akin to Ronald Reagan demonizing ‘government’ as being not the solution, but the problem itself, while common sense suggests government is not the problem—it’s required to manage civil society— but BAD government is the problem. Just so, leadership is not the problem, BAD leadership is.
And while hesitant to call ourselves leaders, we happily identify ourselves as ‘Occupiers’ despite the obviously loaded nature of that term. I doubt Palestinians have much love for the term Occupiers, and there are a host of other nations and peoples that have been occupied by the American Empire. Semantically, at least, we have issues. And not just with semantics. But, about new wine…
One of the great challenges in creating a new way of life for humanity is determining the ground rules, deciding on the new cultural operating system. The old system was nominally called ‘capitalism’ and ‘a representative democracy,’ but both have been corrupted by the effects of money, because in the old system, money equals power. The honest competition of capitalism has been usurped by corporatism, where a small handful of corporations control every sector of modern culture. At the same time, our government is now owned by multinational corporations and financial conglomerates. This is why we occupy.
And yet, undertaking something as massive as creating a whole new culture requires a hard look at the underlying operating system—in our case, the assumption that the power of money trumps every other consideration. Coupled with the idea that if some money is good, more is better [also called greed], we find ourselves in the pickle we face today.
But what other attitudes besides greed have led us to this dysfunctional system and broken planet? Aggression. Anger and fear. Elitism [on any number of levels]. Envy. Spite. Righteousness. We see these attitudes play out in any number of nefarious behaviors. The constancy of our war-making. The violence in our cities. The eroding of human rights. The destruction of our Earth. It’s a long list.
This simple truth is that if we maintain the above attitudes, the attitudes of the ego, we will fare no better regardless of what changes in the world we seek to create. Sooner or later the corruptive influence of these attitudes will again ruin us.
So it becomes clear that we want to create our new foundation with new attitudes. As these attitudes can be shared and used to work and play together, we find they are not just attitudes but principles—peace, love, equality, justice, solidarity, and a good handful of other terms can serve us [the five mentioned have all be adopted by Occupy Cincinnati].
These attitudes, or this system of ethics, creates a far different set of behaviors than those we know in the dominant culture. Getting along, building community, working toward a common goal, relishing our diversity—we are such an ugly place it’s even difficult to imagine what a whole world devoted to these principles would look like.
It is here that Occupy finds itself trying to put new wine in old skins. There is much fear and anger in Occupy, and yet these do not serve us if we intend a world of peace. There is much dissension based on various belief systems. And yet many of us do not risk challenging our personal assumptions on our view of the world. There is a distrust of nearly everything not named Occupy, much of it warranted, but a substantial amount that undermines our efforts.
The recent awful confrontations between Occupy and law enforcement, particularly with Oakland and the Oakland police, gives us a hint of where this effort might lead if we use the tactics of empire against empire. In this near police state, offering a reason, however flimsy, for media and government to use the term ‘terrorist’ seems unwise.
We must find the new skin for our new wine. We must ground ourselves in ethics, in a system of peace and love, to create a planet of peace and love. And to do so we need trust. Trust in the force of Life, as we are always in this living moment. Trust in ourselves to act responsibly and warmly. Trust in this wild process of living that we are all about.
But to engender trust we must have integrity. We require integrity first so that we are worthy of trust, but it is also needed to discern the trustworthiness of others.
From micro to macro, we can see how trust reshapes our decisions and actions. How many General Assembly projects and actions have been thwarted by a lack of integrity or lack of trust? How can we reach wise decisions on reconstituting our government if we lack integrity and trust? How can we replace the corrupt system of globalization built by and for the 1% without integrity and trust? Not very well.
And yet by using consensus, we Occupiers find a new way forward far superior to the pitfalls of simple voting. A 90% agreement on how to proceed is far more palatable than a 51% voting decision, especially in the U.S. today, where even the integrity of the voting process is suspect.
Now, let’s not forget the marvelous new digital tool we have to aid us in taking note of integrity. The Internet. With the vast array of information, media and history now available to us via the Web we can easily discern who and which organizations are to be trusted. Simply, it is those who exhibit integrity and a clear system of ethics. Once we begin this discernment process, we draw attention to and withdraw our support from those who continue to act in greed. In this alone, we take a great step forward.
We take another step forward as we align with and create organizations for political change. For so long as we have government, required for civil society, politics will be a lever for change. There is much discussion in Occupy about how we should engage with the political system, if at all. I suggest that the overriding consideration should be on where in government and the political process we can enable the principles of peace and love, for here we will find integrity and trust as well. Whether a unified third party emerges or a slate of candidates we choose to endorse, or whether we focus on certain politicians we seek to remove, we must engage politically if we seek cultural transformation.
So let us then lay down a marker, one that makes explicit our ethics, that says we operate from peace and love, with integrity and trust. Let us remind our friends in Oakland and elsewhere that the goal is peace and love in this living moment, along with creating a just and healthy economic and political system. In this way we do not create a host of policies which can be perverted by corporations to find some new loophole for exploitation. We need ethics, not 8,000 pages of tax code.
This is the way seen forward by World 5.0, the great idea of our time, well-suited to be the new wine skin for Occupy. It’s the idea that we intend a new cultural operating system based on ethics, and that, if we seek to be happy, we must master our intent to find our way to the inherent peace and love of this moment. From here we promote localism, healthy communities and ecosystems, end to war, and organizing to create political change. We are on the threshold of a quantum leap in human understanding, and as a result the creation of a new Earth.
The time is always now. The answer is always Love. Onward.