Today is the 4th anniversary of the Occupy DC encampment in McPherson Square.
It seems like a long time ago. We’re in a very different place today than we were in the fall of 2011. Our national discourse has been profoundly impacted by the movement that we took to the streets of New York, DC, and urban centers across the country.
And it’s not over yet. This whole situation is still coming to a head. It’s the power that we sensed in the streets. It’s the community that we were gathered into by a force greater than ourselves, a movement of solidarity beyond our own strength. This spark and imagination still waits to be born in us.
It will be born again. When we’re ready.
The Occupy movement was just a first step, an opening act, the Once Upon a Time of the epic tale of our life together. The movement on the streets in late 2011 was the foretaste of something so much greater. It was the life of beauty and power we discover when we stop trying to win the game of meritocracy. Competition is replaced by common unity – a shared passion for creation and creativity, love and compassion.
We’re not going to give up on this. As spoken word artist Jon Watts stated so eloquently in the midst of Occupy DC: We’re in this for the longest haul; our strength is our endurance.
I’m reminded of the words of Slavoj Žižek, who spoke to an assembly in lower Manhattan at the height of Occupy Wall Street:
I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like “Oh. we were young and it was beautiful.” Remember that our basic message is “We are allowed to think about alternatives.”
Sadly, Žižek’s worst predictions have come true. I look back at the photographs of Occupy Wall Street today, and my immediate reaction is precisely what he warned against: God, we were so young and beautiful. What an amazing moment in our lives, I think. Too bad it wasn’t sustainable.
The fact is, the Occupy movement wasn’t built to last. It was never meant to. Occupy was an uprising, a prophetic movement that by definition could only exist for a short time before we collapsed back into the more ordinary time and space of everyday life. Insurrection is not designed to be perpetual. It resolves. The arrows strikes its mark. Occupy wasn’t a way of life. It wasn’t forever. It was a vessel purposed to deliver a message, to topple the idols of American capitalism.
It succeeded. More than anyone imagined possible, Occupy was a success.
Now, Occupy is over. What comes next?
What is urgently needed now is not an attempt to recreate the thrills of that movement four years ago. Neither must we give ourselves over to the status quo, convinced that resistance is useless. We are condemned neither to fantastic escapism, nor to surrender to the dying order of Wall Street, K Street, and all the other streets that impoverish, militarize, and captivate us with their displays of superhuman wealth and power.
What is appropriate to this moment is endurance. Our invitation is to live in the same life and power that flowed through us during those passionate autumn days in 2011. It might not bring us into streets again (though it might). God only knows where this spirit will lead us. The critical thing is not to let go of the sense of joy, gratitude, and liberation that we discovered during the Occupy movement.
Our strength is our endurance. In love, hope, and awareness, we hold the power to shape our culture for the better. If we will hold on.
As we stay awake to the deep injustice and incredible potential of our society, we are invited to go so much further than we could have imagined four years ago. We’re invited to embrace new movements of the Spirit that have risen up since. Occupy Wall Street, meet #BlackLivesMatter. Will we embrace these new movements that are following up on the ground-breaking action of Occupy? Will we discover a more profound solidarity than ever before?
What I say to you, I say to all: Stay Awake.
The beginning is near.