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.




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