We need not say more than this video has already said, but if you want more, from a seasoned activist, here you go:
Authentic activism = Active citizenship
Cecilia Rodriguez, an Energy of Mind counselor, writes the second in her series, “Ten Lessons for a Revolution” (Lesson 1, here). An activist and community organizer for most of her life, Cecilia has learned via experience how to play this role with humility and sincerity, while cultivating her sanity and health. She writes in support of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
LESSON 2– Become a Responsible Citizen
All of us have had moments or people in our lives that have been powerful teachers. As I watch youtube videos of impassioned speakers at the Occupy Wall Street protests, certain teaching moments come to mind.
1. July 1980- I was in the hospital after having had my second son, Lucio. I was watching Ronald Reagan speak to the Republican Convention. I was suddenly overcome by this profound sadness, and sense of dread. At a time when I was beginning to know the United States, I felt the country taking an extreme right turn, following the wake of multinational corporations that already had incredible power. I could not imagine an effective way to respond. But I knew had to begin thinking about changing everything I did.
2. Fall 2005- As a clinician at Casa del Sol in Oakland, Ca., I listened to a common story from Mexican immigrants. They mourned their villages. They mourned the fields they once worked, their parents, the fresh flowers and food they could pick in the morning, the ebullient village dances, the courtyard chickens, the village “crazy” person that everyone housed, fed and then led back home. “Extrano a mi patria,” I miss my nation, they would say. (My mother used to tell me that one of the rules of being a Mexican was always wishing everyone, strangers included, a “good morning.” It’s how we express our gratitude for having another day to live, she told me). In 2005, I asked myself, had the United States ever been a nation?
To belong to a nation means to belong to a lifestyle, a culture, a set of shared values, relationships. For a nation to “function” it also means the assumption of certain responsibilities. We cannot pass the buck for the day-to-day tasks of civic governance and community contributions. And we must feel and respond to the needs of our community as we do to those of our families.
3. Summer 1997 – I was in Spain traveling with two Zapatista delegates from Chiapas Mexico. During a conversation with Lilia, the Tzeltal woman delegate, I asked how she felt about her work. She took a long deep sigh and responded “ Happy. But it is hard work. I have to be responsible to all the families in my community. I have to account for all my actions or I will be voted out.”
So how do we define belonging to a “nation” called the United States? What are the responsibilities? Do we ever throw people out of office for being irresponsible? The truth is that most of us born in the 20th century have no experience with what it is to be in community, what it is to be a citizen who must fulfill a social responsibility to others beyond family and friends. The global political economy has slowly chipped away at anything that defines nationhood, and it has done so in every part of the world.
In the United States and most other modern 1st world nations we are adrift in cultures that promote disengagement from human life. We have come to believe that life is about working, then going home to prepare to work, then carving out two weeks in the year for a vacation and running around frantically in pursuit of “relaxation.”
We have come to believe that we can go out and participate in a charity, or in our job, or in a social movement and then go home and enclose ourselves in our “privacy” while “others” take care of things. We don’t quite know how we are taxed, how our taxes are utilized, how our water, garbage, and food are delivered, much less produced. We don’t know how our cars, refrigerators or toilets work, or how their “workings” affect the earth. We don’t have time, we say, for participating in the schools our kids attend, or in the neighborhoods that we live in. We let the FDA and the EPA and the DOL and the DOD, and the DOE make decisions for us.
We want “our representatives” to take care of “all that” for us so we can be free to—what? What would free us more than to have a society that is influenced and shaped directly by us?
As Americans we cannot put all the blame for the current crisis on others. If state, local and national budgets are a mess, it’s because we’ve been passive and ignorant for a long time on so many different levels. Self-righteousness is not authentic activism. A real leader takes responsibility – even for the mistakes of others. We all have to shoulder the responsibility. We’ve been so trapped in our tiny little niches of political correctness that we shudder at the thought of having a dialogue with someone who does not share our view 100%.
But today we can choose effective ways to support the Occupy Wall Street Movement and begin to carve out the face of a different nation. We can start by shutting down system on October 28th in solidarity with the Occupy movement. Perhaps we can then choose to spend our Christmas money differently and PURCHASE NOTHING from a mall or corporate entity this December.
Maybe all we can manage is to work to better our workplace, or our kids’ school, or a neighborhood community garden. Maybe we can get our political correctness under control (editor’s note: by “under control” we mean “get rid of!”) and run for public office. Who cares if we don’t get elected? We can use the platform to educate, to challenge the status quo, to tell the truth about the real state of our governments and public services, to push and pull at people to wake up and really see.
The fruit of investing individual time, energy and resources will be the future we will create. If corporate power has destroyed nations let’s fill the vacuum with a new one, one that protects and nurtures human beings and their health. Let’s re-incorporate our communities on the real “3 r’s” – the one’s that matter most – Respect, Resourcefulness and Responsibility. These “3 r’s” result in the fourth component that is necessary for human cultivation: Gratitude. When we are truly grateful for this precious human birth we will not hesitate to contribute to the welfare of us all.
Sounds simple, right? Where do we begin? We begin with what is within complete control of our free will—ourselves. But that is the subject of Lesson 3—Know Yourself.
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