Occupy Wall Street. #OWS. Just those three words (or letters) stirs an incredible amount of emotion in people these days. I recently shared a picture showing the contrasts (and similarities) of legal and illegal, mob and normal on my Facebook page.
As you all know, I’m one who likes to “stir the pot” and get a good discussion going. This one was no exception. In just two days, it generated almost 60 comments. When a post hits 50, I deem it “worthy” of a blog post here. So here I go.
The picture generating the discussion showed people camping in tents outside of a Best Buy (“legal”) and people camping in tents in an occupy area (“illegal”). Below those pictures were two more, one of occupy protesters holding signs (“mob”) and Black Friday people crowding a store (“normal”). I thought it was an interesting perspective. And that set off a whole range of responses. Responses ranging from emotional to thoughtful.
But I think it showed that we want simple answers to complex issues. And how once something becomes a part of our culture, we accept it as “normal” while vilifying anything that rubs against the grain. So Black Friday, a generally-accepted part of our culture, with it’s isolated incidents of pepper-spraying, robbing, fights and looting amidst the accepted culture of consumerism is deemed “legal” and “normal.” Yet OWS, with it’s isolated incidents of pepper-spraying, robbing, fights and looting, rubbing against the grain of our social mores, challenging our greed and consumerist mentality, is deemed “illegal” and a “mob.”
So we, on the one hand, make statements like “OWS hasn’t ever articulated what they’re against,” and on the other, “spending money on Black Friday helps our economy.” In doing so, we miss the point. As one of my friends so aptly said in one post, “I’m not for or against OWS, but I am for nuanced conversations that spur actual change in our political and economic systems. The REAL issues can not simply be dismissed.”
The point is we spend so much of our time dismissing others’ opinions, that we don’t listen. We don’t ever have a true conversation. We need those “nuanced conversations” that will actually bring about change. I think everyone would agree our system is screwed up. But few of us are willing to consider any kind of compromise on how to fix it. Most of us have an “it’s my way or the highway” attitude. Most of us get sucked into the popular media that conveys what we WANT to believe rather than taking the time to find out what is REALLY going on. We don’t do that, I think, because deep down, we’re afraid our current opinion might be wrong. And if we find out it is wrong, we are then faced with a decision: maintaining a flawed idea or concept regardless of the facts, or changing our opinion and admitting we were mistaken. None of us likes that. “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind’s made up” becomes our mantra.
Until we can listen to each other (really listen), we won’t accomplish anything. So now that I’ve laid the ground-work, I’ll outline some of my thoughts and ideas and opinions (and how this relates to living a simple, sustainable lifestyle) in: “#OWS, Part 2.”