Recognizing Mercy in the Occupy Movement
By Sister Mary P.
I went to Occupy Providence because I am well aware of the costs we are paying to maintain our government and economic structure when it is clear that it doesn’t work for most people, animals or ecosystems on Earth.
In the name of economic growth we have systematically ripped minerals from the Earth, destroyed old growth forests, blown up mountains, endangered countless species, caused massive erosion, created dustbowls, dirtied air, fouled water, perpetuated wars, promoted materialistic values, ruined land and water in other countries for our material gain, called one another illegal and deeply indebted the poor.
A vibrant economy has become the ultimate priority, even while it teeters all over the world. It can be said that we have liquidated Earth for money. A vibrant planet, concern for nature and all life, human and other than human, healthy food, peace, conscious social justice with deliberative action, renewable energy, true democracy, have all been on the back burner for a long time. The Common Good has been sacrificed for corporate profit and it’s totally legal.
The Occupy Movement around the country is at least a call to wake up and shift direction while we still can, IF–and I’m not mincing any words here– we still can. There is so much dissatisfaction with the status quo that the continued call for “one demand” is hopelessly missing the point. There are so many issues that one demand could not begin to even scratch the surface! It is becoming clear to me that this millennial generation has already shifted in consciousness and it is our institutions that lag pitifully behind. The chaos and breakdown of our current economic system is driving a creativity of thought and allowing the emergence of something new.
I admire the wonderful process in which the Occupiers engage. I would call it direct democracy where everyone is represented and heard. It is complicated and slow; it is engaging and inches toward consensus. It is not the usual way we are used to getting things done and mainstream media doesn’t get it at all! I am excited that they want to reinvent the economy and that the triple bottom line, people, planet and profit, is understood.
I am amazed that they seem to be willing to listen to everyone. There are no designated leaders, although natural leadership emerges for different tasks and it is a beauty to behold! They envision a world without borders. (Imagine!) They are dedicated to nonviolence and hold frequent trainings in the art. In Occupy Providence, even the homeless who generally occupy the park are in on the discussions, and share the food that sympathizers drop off. The Occupiers are both politically and socially astute. They are inclusive. They are in rebellion at the state of the world that they and their children have inherited.
Several issues need significant analysis and can at least be challenged by examining our unconscious assumptions that produce unintended consequences, as is taught by the Awakening the Dreamer symposium.
What is success? How did it get all wrapped up into our educational process? How come people who followed the rules and did all the requirements can’t get a job? How did we get into this consumption nightmare? What is the meaning of humanity? How did we ever buy this “separate from nature” thinking? How many more war casualties, oil spills , dead red winged blackbirds and dead fish will it take until we know? How many more natural disasters that are “one in a hundred/three hundred” year possibilities until we understand we’ve messed things up pretty badly? When will we “get it” that unsustainable can’t last forever? What is required of us now that we know we are terminating the last 65 million years of life development?
Perhaps we are ready, as Thomas Berry suggested, to “re-invent humanity at the species level” because the issues we are concerned with are way beyond the competence of our cultural traditions. Humanity is at an impasse; at least the Occupiers know it.
It is clear to me that the Corporation now directs the electoral, legislative and judicial processes of the country. I voted for Barack Obama for president because I hoped for “change” and I see now that he is helpless in the face of the system. In this moment when things are obviously falling apart economically, environmentally, socially and spiritually, this is surely an opportunity for us as Mercy to “unmask and address the underlying causes of our Critical Concerns and the interconnections among them.”
Surely when the richest country in the world which has 403 citizens who are billionaires also has homeless, jobless and hungry citizens, we need to reorganize the system.
The Sisters of Mercy made a declaration in June in which we said that we are led “to liberate and redistribute our human and financial resources” across our congregation of women religious and to “develop creative solutions to unmet needs acting in solidarity with impoverished people.” I think it would be quite a laugh if we ignored what is happening all around the country, indeed around the world, while we tried to develop creative solutions to unmet needs by ourselves!
A new consciousness is arising about money and about the government and a new covenant is being forged among the people. Like a garden, the outcome, a new story for humanity, is yet to emerge, but the world as we have known it is not coming back. Where would you expect Mercy to be? With whom shall we stand?
“We are scandalized by the increase in impoverishment of peoples, the pervasive denial of basic human rights, the degradation of Earth and increased violence and racism in all their forms,” we said in our declaration.
So are the Occupiers.