Monday, September 23, 2013

being the change you want to see in the world - Occupy two years out

The problem with being the change you want to see in the world is that you have to change, and that means you have to leave your comfort zone, and that means you are uncomfortable.

I remember when a neighbour in London told me she was getting a graduate degree in change management. I immediately went to the "this is bullshit" place in my mind (admittedly overdeveloped). It is the same place I go when people tell me they want to get an MBA. But really - eye roll - change management?

Things change. People deal with it. End of discussion. I wasn't quite that harsh, but nearly.

Years later, I am starting to see the point. I mean, I knew the who-moved-my-cheese point that change is scary. What I didn't think until recently is that change is something to be pondered, discussed, procedurally monitored and ethically considered. That's right, as always, I am back on the ethics - the moral foundation.

Because to navigate change, you need fidelity to a vision, a set of virtues and ideals. A blueprint, a guidebook. And this guidebook can't just be cold calculations, it has to be loved with hearts and minds. Justice. Liberty. Peace. Equality. The highest essence of humanity.

Much change we cope with is just consumerist bullshit of the highest order. Enforced obsolescence of technology, rebranding, repackaging, fashion - all change we spend our precious time responding to and for what? To serve a corporation's goal of increased shareholder return. That's all. As we worry about our skin care regime or our fall fashion "investments", a billion people live on less than $2 a say. A billion people go to bed hungry at night. Hundreds of millions of children have no schools.

But if you can get past that consumerist noise you are still in the middle of  vast change. To our climate, to the distribution of wealth, to the extent of our liberties and the efficacy of our government. And they are all getting much worse. All of those are much more important than what phone we have or whether we buy those ankle boots. But I think it is quite difficult to perceive those changes, because you do not continually have evidence before you. The oceans rising you may think about occasionally but the ankle boots you wear almost every day.

I would like to end with an exhortation to throw off your consumerist shackles and rise up! Normal people like us, we don't want war, we don't want carbon fuels to harm our environment, we don't want the government to turn fascist, we don't want money to control democracy. No one wants those things. So let's get some real change management, and turn these things around.

I would like to end with that exhortation, but I bought ankle boots today.

Some days I would defend myself.  My husband says that no one who campaigned against the 1% wanted so badly to be in it. [Fun fact: if you take the whole world as the 100%, you are in the wealthiest 1% if you make more than $38,000 a year (or the equivalent in another currency] [So under that standard I am in the 1%][I was hoping there would be move caviar.] The point is why can't I exhort people to throw off their consumerist shackles and also buy ankle boots? Why not?

Because then I am not being the change I want to see in the world.

You know in the early general assembly meetings at Occupy London, I did say in all seriousness that if any aspect of the movement endangered Champagne production I was out. I was only half kidding. When I showed up, I was kind of horrified at first by the anti-capitalist position. And I still think that capitalism should survive: revised, reigned in, trimmed of the baroque excesses of derivatives and structured financial products, made to serve humans more than shareholder return.  I like the competition of capitalism. I like the reward of (some) income inequality. I LIKE CHAMPAGNE.

Two years on from Occupy big anniversaries are in my heart. I still can't explain what it was like to watch the camera feed of the arrests on Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, 2011 without crying. What I am beginning to realize - just starting to see - is that Occupy was not a failure, it is not over, it was an irresistible force in the streets unlike anything I have known, it was humans gathered  to make a new guidebook:  not with cold calculations, but with loving hears and minds. Justice. Liberty. Peace. Equality. The highest essence of humanity.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Repellent News About Public Drunkenness

Today Northamptonshire Chief Police Constable Adrian Lee proposed that the management of public drunkenness in the UK be privatized.

Various police associations here have complained about having to deal with drunk people and now - like with the courts - privatization creeps in.

Please let me get this straight - you take a populace, put them under pressure just to earn enough to survive and then you take their chief cultural outlet for release of that pressure - cheap booze -- and you take its misuse as an opportunity for a private company to earn revenues. In fact, Lee called for it to be prohibitively expensive.

If this isn't a huge, steaming helping of blame the victim, then I don't know what is.

Since when are the police so overburdened with drunks that they can't handle the situation? Are you kidding? UK police report crime figures have vanished into nothingness (see recent Economist cover story).

The populace of so-called first world countries are little more to their leaders than sources of income. Not only taxes, but extreme fiscal penalties for drunkenness, or shareholder profit to G4S for every arrest in the privatized justice system, or Innocent smoothies or pieces of data.  Humans are treated resources for shareholder return.

Examples like this are extreme and this proposal - I hope - will not go through. But if you are searching for an understanding of the relationship of the state to the populace, this is a good example. You are an opportunity for shareholders to make money. That is all you are. Now get back to work and don't complain. And don't bother the police, they are very busy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

For Jose

I am an owl. People give me owls  - my mom gave me one when I graduated from law school and the mother of one of my clients gave me one when I won a case and by the third time I could not help but conclude it was a clue about who I am. I am an owl. (Winnie the Pooh reality: I live in a tree and always know the official spelling). I am gray glazed pottery in texture, people bring me glazed pottery and it sits on wood and that is me. I am a messy eater. No one needs a washing machine more than me. I cannot navigate a car journey, it all seems very mysterious and complicated. I recognize myself once a day when I exercise, run or yoga or whatever, my body and I work together and this is the arc of memory that makes a coherent self possible. Not the coworkers or zip codes, or boyfriends or accomplishments, not a reflection in the mirror. But the same person has been running, rowing, chasing a tennis ball, dancing, on the cross trainer, in a step class, in a spin class, at ballet, doing Jane Fonda's Aerobics tape, doing Greg Smithy's Buns of Steel, whatever  - just trying to bring body and mind together and forget the monologue.

For many years the dark monologue was mostly the coherent arc of my identity. The familiar strains of vicious attacks on the self. Always the idiot, always the shameful fool, too ugly, too needy, unbearable. And this self-laceration became comforting in its familiarity even as it tore me down. No compliment was true and every criticism that hurt a thousand times more in its truth. I was always just the worst. I was condemned to hell. I grew up in an Evangelical church and at a cellular and doctrinal level, that was true. I was and am always full of sin. Unworthy.

Now I am old and tired of the dark monologue. Now I am wise enough to sometimes remember its falsity and when I am feeling strong, I think I will vanquish it forever. The Evangelical virus still lives in my muscles, in my nightmares, in the unloveableness of me. I am learning to work around it but geez what a hassle. I hope some time to even hono(u)r the owl and the gray glazed poetry.   I hope to believe all the people who say that they love me. I hope to let myself be worthy of their love by not changing a single thing about the gray glazed poetry and the owl and the laundry. I hope you will too.