Compassion Is Our New Currency

Published on TomDispatch, by Rebecca Solnit, December 22, 2011. (See also: on ZNet; and OWS on YouTube’s autoplay).

… The breadth of this movement is one thing, its depth another. It has rejected not just the particulars of our economic system, but the whole set of moral and emotional assumptions on which it’s based. Take the pair shown in a photograph from Occupy Austin in Texas.  The amiable-looking elderly woman is holding a sign whose computer-printed words say, “Money has stolen our vote.” The older man next to her with the baseball cap is holding a sign handwritten on cardboard that states, “We are our brothers’ keeper.”  

The photo of the two of them offers just a peek into a single moment in the remarkable period we’re living through and the astonishing movement that’s drawn in… well, if not 99% of us, then a striking enough percentage: everyone from teen pop superstar Miley Cyrus with her Occupy-homage video to Alaska Yup’ik elder Esther Green ice-fishing and holding a sign that says “Yirqa Kuik” in big letters, with the translation – “occupy the river” – in little ones below.

The woman with the stolen-votes sign is referring to them. Her companion is talking about us, all of us, and our fundamental principles. His sign comes straight out of Genesis, a denial of what that competitive entrepreneur Cain said to God after foreclosing on his brother Abel’s life. He was not, he claimed, his brother’s keeper; we are not, he insisted, beholden to each other, but separate, isolated, each of us for ourselves.

Think of Cain as the first Social Darwinist and this Occupier in Austin as his opposite, claiming, no, our operating system should be love; we are all connected; we must take care of each other. And this movement, he’s saying, is about what the Argentinian uprising that began a decade ago, on December 19, 2001, called politica afectiva, the politics of affection.

If it’s a movement about love, it’s also about the money they so unjustly took, and continue to take, from us — and about the fact that, right now, money and love are at war with each other. After all, in the American heartland, people are beginning to be imprisoned for debt, while the Occupy movement is arguing for debt forgiveness, renegotiation, and debt jubilees … //

… Nothing has been more moving to me than this desire, realized imperfectly but repeatedly, to connect across differences, to be a community, to make a better world, to embrace each other. This desire is what lies behind those messy camps, those raucous demonstrations, those cardboard signs and long conversations. Young activists have spoken to me about the extraordinary richness of their experiences at Occupy, and they call it love.

In the spirit of calling things by their true names, let me summon up the description that Ella Baker and Martin Luther King used for the great communities of activists who stood up for civil rights half a century ago: the beloved community. Many who were active then never forgot the deep bonds and deep meaning they found in that struggle. We — and the word “we” encompasses more of us than ever before — have found those things, too, and this year we have come close to something unprecedented, a beloved community that circles the globe. (full long text).

(Rebecca Solnit – on wikipedia – a TomDispatch regular, continues occupying the public library, the sidewalks, her deepest hopes, and the armchair in which she writes, supports 350.org, and joins Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland in their general assemblies and actions).

Links:

Keiser Report: Corporations Fear OWS (E210): Every week Max Keiser looks at all the scandal behind the financial news headlines. This week, Max Keiser and co-host, Stacy Herbert, discuss the Good, The Bad and the Schwing Schwing of making companies scared by putting risk back onto their balance sheet. They also discuss clients getting smoked through massive ploys in the commodity markets. In the second half of the show, Max Keiser interviews Mike Maloney of GoldSilver.com about the latest in the precious metals market and about a $15 trillion Dow … ;

Rebecca Solnit: Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, Hope and Turmoil in 2011, March 20, 2011.

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