One of the most powerful slogans to come out of OWS is “You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.” I love this powerful conceptual meme (the phrase apparently comes from Victor Hugo).
It points, for one thing, to the fact that this movement is more than tenting in public parks—it’s about a conceptual shift in the underpinning ideas of our society—a shift that has caught on, and will survive the eviction of the physical encampments. But it does beg the question—what is this idea whose time has come? Answering this question goes some distance towards answering the common criticism of the Occupy Movement: “we don’t understand what you want!”
This is to some extent understandable, as the idea whose time has come is a very big idea, with many facets and consequences. This idea signifies such a fundamental shift in thinking that it is no wonder people might scratch their heads a bit. We have the meme. Let’s start the process of filling in its meaning. As we do so, we will find this idea keeps unfolding deeper and deeper layers.
The idea whose time has come is …
the idea that we can and should CARE for each other and the planet (I’m playing off something Vancouver occupier Tosh Hyodo has said); CARE is at the meeting place of LOVE and RESPONSIBILITY, and as a poet once said, responsibility is the exercise of our ability to respond; when we do so out of love, we are “caring” (as a verb: “to feel concern, be concerned; to take thought for, provide for, look after; to guard and preserve”)—what a different political and economic system it would be if we would truly work from and through this idea! Capitalism is built on self-interest, competition, and a seemingly “valueless” bottom line (profit and growth above all else)—the intersecting economic, ecological, and political crises now shaking capitalism have the same root: greed, the pathological idea of unlimited growth, and the tendency not to see someone else’s problem as our own—the idea whose time has come holds first and foremost that the days of apathy and not caring are over—
the idea that it is up to us to make the changes that need to be made (not some supposedly better informed “expert” or supposedly more qualified “leader”)—we can and must all stop now and figure this out together, pooling the common resource of our collective intelligence—and the idea whose time has come is that we can do this (the “Obama factor”—for all the disillusionment and failed promise of Obama’s presidency, his simple mantras—CHANGE—YES WE CAN—have resonated far beyond his ineffectual and in fact damaging administration)—
the idea that we must fundamentally change how and what we are doing—because the how and the what of the current system have led to a completely dysfunctional, unbalanced, and unsustainable relationship between the economic, environmental, and social spheres (see the diagram below)—this idea also includes the concept, very active in the movement today, that another world truly is possible (and so the idea that we must once again take up the project of utopia and activate our imaginations to envision and build that “other world”)—
the idea that we have a right to a future—that the current system is eroding and in fact robbing us of all our tomorrows in the name of excessive profits and unsustainable life-styles today—that we have to act now, with considerable urgency, to ensure that we have a viable, bearable, and equitable future for all human beings, and indeed a world of balance and health for the entire biosphere.
The idea whose time has come? What hurts you hurts me, and what heals you heals me. It’s time to let the healing begin.