Within the last six weeks or so, a genie has been released across the planet. The unstoppered bottle began its journey during the Arab Spring but has finally found its greatest expression in the Occupy movements. In all cases, the protest of ordinary people has been met with unveiled violence from the system under which those people live. Such protests are nothing new. They’ve occurred throughout history and have always met the same response at the beginning. What is new is the globalisation of the protest.
For some individuals, what is occurring in their country is shocking. The Arab Spring, for example, could be applauded from a safe distance in the comfort of the belief that ‘we don’t do things like that’. The appalling violence and loss of life weren’t a part of our society – we were ‘civilised’. Now the unpleasant truth is making itself known. None of us are exempt. Where the Occupy movement differs from the full-blown Arab Spring is the commitment to non-violence. But we need to remember that this Western Autumn is at its budding stage – the flower has yet to bloom properly – and already protesters are experiencing violent responses. As a result, understandably, the thought of returning like with like is starting to appear in tweets and is, no doubt, being thought about and spoken of. It evokes the terrible danger of giving in to such temptations which would immediately deprive the movement of its greatest strength.
Also blossoming into awareness for the many involved, as the Occupy camps have flourished, are the wounded in life, heart and soul who have found their way to the protesters; the homeless, the mentally ill and, in my own case, the unwanted. These ‘veterans of exile’ already know the naked hatred of the system that is being photographed and filmed as the crackdown against the protest begins, but they faced the same individually and alone, ill-equipped to cope with such abuse. The tales they tell will be as shocking as the scenes from Occupy Wall Street or Oakland. If we haven’t experienced these things first hand, it is easy to imply that such reports are exaggerated or imaginary. You have my word that they are not – they are warnings of what the protesters are likely to face if they continue along their chosen path.
As a graduate of both the psychiatric and prison systems in the UK, I can vouch for these stories, because I have seen it with my own eyes. The difference between us is that, by the time I qualified as an exile, I was far more psychologically equipped to deal with it. I had a background that included political awareness, advocacy within the system as a trade union shop steward, psychotherapy as both client /practitioner and had found a spiritual practice that worked for me. Even then I made the mistake of, once, reverting to the system’s language of violence which is how I ended up in prison. The system will never forgive me because forgiveness is not in its nature but it has given me a knowledge that may be of use in this time of change.
The first aspect is for us to tell our own story and not rely on existing media. The Occupy movement is doing that very effectively. The peoples’ reporting forces the system’s media to acknowledge the truth of what we are saying. It’s photographed and video-streamed. This is vitally important because the initial response of the system’s representatives is to disparage and dismiss what the protester is saying. We are labelled crazy or insane.
The second aspect is to remain non-violent regardless of how much provocation the system produces. The provocation is an invitation to sink to their level and the moment this happens, all the lies told about us appear justified. This was the mistake I made before I got myself back on track. The temptation to answer like with like is enormous but the moment we give into it, we are lost. Believe me, I really do know.
The third aspect is to understand that the system will not back down. Its representatives are determined to win because the thought of losing is beyond bearing and they have no scruples about how they do it. Don’t expect a level playing-field. Don’t expect honour and don’t expect truth. These qualities belong to us and they empower us in the face of naked aggression. Our dignity and integrity shine brightly and throw a very clear light on the darkness of the system’s practices. Coupled with determined non-violence, we empower others by helping them to see clearly what they weren’t able to see before. This is how the movement grows. We are raising awareness by our deeds rather than our words.
The final aspect is the one that is the hardest. To overcome the darkness of the system, we must be willing to die. I am not the first person to say this. We will find it in the words of all the great leaders of social movements. It is likely that many have yet to reach this point but, if my experience is anything to go by, this will happen. There will come a point where integrity, knowledge and wisdom will become far more important than surrender to the forces of darkness for it would tarnish everything we have come to learn, love and value. Surrender simply becomes out of the question. As we invest in our personal fund of courage by facing the darkness, we slowly come realise that we would prefer to give our lives willingly standing for what we love. Sometimes we live and sometimes our bodies die but the Spirit of Love that we stand for lives on. Some call this realisation the Christ-consciousness.
With the initial draft of this, it was suggested that I was inviting people to become martyrs. This prompted me to go and look it up to find out what makes that word cause us to react negatively. What I found is that one definition suggests that martyrdom is a pretence – a power play in itself. Such behaviour completely undermines the authentic purpose of Occupy and its supporters. Nevertheless, we are already seeing people suffer – and this is what I am talking about. The 84 year-old woman pepper-sprayed in New York by the police is no martyr – she is a heroine. She was not cowed by what happened to her, she was energised! Martin Luther King Jnr was no martyr. Nor were Malcolm X, or Gandhi, or Karen Silkwood, or all the other men and women who have or are dying for what they believe in. We only have to look to the Egyptian people at the moment so see this old truth being proven again in the present. As their friends or family members die, it only strengthens their resolve to keep going. Not martyrs at all but true heroes and heroines.
For those of us who are living through such heroic confrontations, what follows is a freedom that cannot be explained in words. To have sourced our inner strength and courage to face Death and live – to have made a friend of Death – is the true liberation because we have faced our ultimate fear and we are finally and truly free. But… such power is terrifying to the darkness, and that is when they attempt to destroy us entirely. Don’t have to take my word for it. We need only look to the Middle East at the moment to confirm what I am saying. Nevertheless, such a lethal attempt upon our Spirit will fail because it is doomed to.
What we do, when we draw upon our Heroic strengths is evoke the power of Love – for only Love can do such a thing. If we look to our greatest Spiritual teachers of modern times, we find the abundant lessons of the power of Love. Some have died at the point of a gun to teach us this and we can still turn to them because their Spirit lives on even now. The sobering facts of their deaths demonstrate the truth that the final assault on the Spirit will fail and it is this outcome that is our destination. It has always been our destination and when we have completed our own Trail of Tears we will find a welcome.
I have seen tweets concerned that the Native Americans don’t seem to figure in the Occupy movement. My response is to point out that they have been Occupying for far longer than we have. They are our destination and will meet us when we arrive.
The Native American tribes speak of the emergence of a ‘Rainbow Nation’. When I look at the videos and photographs of the Occupy movement, I find myself thinking that this looks a lot like us. We really are the people we have been waiting for.
Something to add? Post it in the comments or tweet them to
#otmp:mediaC and they’ll be added to the page pending a vote.
Follow Wildey in Twitter Follow @OccupyIntNews
Follow OTMP from twitter: Follow @otmpeterloo