“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rabbi Michael Lerner on OWS

A message I received today. 

The Message and Strategy that is Needed by Occupy Wall Street
by Rabbi Michael Lerner 

On October 15th, Occupy Wall Street will demonstrate in concert over 951 cities in 82 countries and counting as people around the globe protest in an international day of solidarity against the greed and corruption of the 1%.

Occupy Wall Street is a people powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations on the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, Greece, Italy and the UK, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people who are writing the rules of the global economy and are imposing an agenda of neoliberalism and economic inequality.

I'm particularly proud that young Jews have created Sukkot, the temporary huts that Jews are supposed to live in for 7 days (the holiday started Wednesday night) in order to detach from the material security provided by our homes, to re-identify ourselves as a people that has mostly been homeless for most of our history, and to remind ourselves that all the accomplishments of material security are meaningless unless shared with everyone else. So on this Shabbat of Sukkot Jews around the world read King Solomon's biblical Book of Ecclesiastes with its message that all the striving for power and wealth is pointless, that we are here for a very short while, and that all we can do while here is to maximize love and generosity (ok, that last part was more Lerner than King Solomon, but I'm hoping he would agree). Tikkunista Jews are challenging the establishment Jews, some of whom run the very institutions that all of us supporting Occupy Wall Street hope to see replaced by a more just order.

The media, trying to discredit us, says we don't know what we are for, only what we are against. So I believe there is much to be gained were we to embrace the following 20 second sound byte for "what we are for."

We want to replace a society based on selfishness and materialism with a society based on caring for each other and caring for the planet. We want a new bottom line so that institutions, corporations, government policies, and even personal behavior is judged rational or productive or efficient not only by how much money or power gets generated, but also by how much love and kindness, generosity and caring, environmental and ethical behavior, and how much we are able to respond to the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement the grandeur and mystery of all Being. To take the first steps, we want to eliminate ban all money from elections except that supplied by government on an equal basis to all major candidates, require free and equal time for the candidates and prohibit buying other time or space, and require corporations to get a new corporate charter once every five years which they can only get if they can prove a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens. We call this the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution (ESRA). We want to replace the mistaken notion that homeland security can be achieve through a strategy of world domination by our corporations suppoted by the US military and intelligence services with a strategy of generosity and caring for others in the world that will start by launching a Global Marshall Plan that dedicates 1-2% of our GMP ever year for the next twenty to once and for all eliminate global poverty homelessnes, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care--knowing that this, not an expanded military, is what will give us security. And we want a NEW New Deal that provides a job for everyone who wants to work, jobs that rebuild our environment and our infrastructre, and jobs that allow us to take better care of educating our youth and caring for the aged. That's what we are for! And you can read more about them at www.spiritualprogressives.org

Ok, it was two minutes instead of 20 seconds, but we deserve that amount of time night after night on national media, and lots more space on print media.

Strategy? Two key directions. For direct action, we need to begin non-violent sit-ins aimed at disrupting the normal operations of those corporations that have acted illegally and immorally, but gotten away with it because their friends control the Democratic Party as well as the Repbulican. We can't just occupy parks, we need to escalate our activity in a totally non-violent way. For a longer term strategy, we need to run a candidate or a series of candidates (different ones in different states) to challenge Obama in the Democratic presidential primaries, else the power-brokers will continue to ignore the progressive sentiments of the American majority, telling themselves that since we have no electoral alternative, we'll always be there for the Democratic power brokers no mater how badly they ignore the needs of the 99%.  And we can use that kind of campaign to do in the Democatic Party what the Tea Party did inside of the Republican Party: push for a worldview that is coherent and clear, and policies that embody that worldview even if those policies can't yet get majority support.

The big problem facing us is how to take the millions of Americans who are ready to in this new direction to work together coherently. Yet we can rejoice the first step has been taken: Americans coming out of the closet of despair and calling for a world of justice, peace and caring for each other and for the planet.

--Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine and Chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Author of the NY Times best seller The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right (Harper, 2006), his next book forthcoming in November is Embracing Israel/Palestine: A strategy for Middle East Peace.  RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org

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