The fact that Wall Street and other corporate executives are not only allowed but helped in gaining so much from the general public while they generally thumb their nose at the general public is not the problem, though it is symptomatic of a serious problem. The fact that more and more people continue to lose so much ground is not the problem, though it is symptomatic of a serious problem. The fact that our elected officials (the representatives of the people of society) are not just emissaries but employees of those contributing vast amounts of money to their livelihood is not the problem, though it is symptomatic of a serious problem. I could go on almost endlessly, but the point is that these are just effects of our problem.
They are symptoms of an enacted belief by the majority of society, which has become institutionalized in society’s systems, that self-interest (which includes special interest) is paramount and correspondingly success in life is measured by the size of one’s material gain. That is to say, they are symptoms of a wrongly purposed economic system becoming infused into every aspect of life in society, most notably government, education and of course the conduct of business.
In regards to the system of government, when wealth becomes so concentrated and elected officials become so money dependent then the conduct of government unavoidably moves increasingly in favor of the wealthy. In effect, the very wealthy become the overlords of society.
Today we are clearly operating according to a set of beliefs that are antithetical to the advancement of democracy and the development of people. The fact that we have elections—that we are allowed to vote—though necessary it is not sufficient to ensure democracy is operative and thus ensure freedom from oppression. Voting when you have little choice does not equate to participation in choosing who will represent you.
Occupy Wall Street could provide the finger-snap that will awaken people in society from their hypnotic sleepwalk through life.
Oh you say people are awake, they aren’t sleepwalking. Really! As noted by Charles Blow, “most Americans now say that the fact that some people in the U.S. are rich and others are poor does not represent a problem but is an acceptable part of our economic system.” This is a manifestation of the unquestioned belief that material self-interest is paramount.
How often do people think the same thoughts in the same way they’ve always thought about them? How often do they listen (without judgment) and seek to understand? How often have they actually explored perspectives that are not consistent with their view of how things are without filtering that of the other through the beliefs they hold so dear? Thinking is not merely a rearrangement of thoughts!
How often do you actually critically think about your thinking? How often do you explore and challenge the beliefs and assumptions that are the foundation of your beliefs, thoughts and actions? How often have you actually improved the way you think and what you think about?
Those protesting the injustice and unfairness of the way things are in society are providing a wake-up call to everyone—just as the Vietnam and civil rights protesters did before them. The Occupy Wall Street protest must keep the focus on changing the system and not follow the suggestion of what many pundits and news anchors offer, fixing on ‘a simple demand’ and/or forming or becoming aligned with a political party. Either one of these would limit the scope, make for colonization of the message and turn the conversation more divisive.
The way things are is the result of a system of orientation that has ordered life in (our) industrialized society for quite sometime. Thus its underlying assumptions and beliefs are hidden well below the surface of everyday experience. Since these have reached their extreme and have become massively destructive, they need to be brought to the surface for conscious exploration by an awakened critically thinking mind. To detach our self from our thoughts, which as Mahatma Gandhi said “is the prerequisite for effective involvement.” Gandhi noted that attachment to our opinions often distorts our thinking—it keeps us from engaging the power of critical thinking.
This is not a left-right issue or a political party issue but a very human issue! We must break away from the habit of thinking in either/or terms—such thinking leads to fear and diminishes understanding. It is time that we wake up to the fact that we are all the same: human beings seeking to live a fulfilling and meaningful human life. It is not the time—and it is not clear when it ever is—to recoil against ideas intended to help everyone. We are so deeply connected that when others are unjustly treated we all suffer. Yet because of an attachment to individualism as our guide we are unable to understand our interdependence and connectedness. We must cease believing that it is all about me having mine so to hell with we.
What is a sure fire way to keep things as they are? Continue to reinforce the primacy of the individual over the collective—keep people thinking in either/or terms. Incite people to fear the bogyman by creating stories about those who aren’t members of their group. This keeps people fearful and reactive thus stopping them from thinking and actively listening (without distortion and judgment) to the ideas of others. So the focus of attention turns toward demonizing others and most importantly away from collaborating with others toward fundamental system change. Yes this is all part of keeping people from coming together to solve the problem thus ensuring things continue as they are.
It is time to let go of the thought that you are of this party or that and to embrace the fact that you are at base a human being and to acknowledge that each and every ‘I ‘ needs a vibrant ‘we’.
What we need is to develop as a society of people toward becoming a human-centered society—a viable society. This requires a viable citizenry, which can’t be realized as long as the system fundamentally remains as it is.