Though police and municipal actions have busted up some Occupy encampments, and others have folded temporarily due to weather, the movement is alive and thriving in both the popular imagination and on the Internet. Occupy-related communiques are more than holding their own on social media sites, in blogs, and in spawning a huge outpouring of creativity in art, essays, memes, ideas and actions.
The first wave of Occupy is clearly established, and the second wave is beginning. But, like the ancient marital art of T’ai Chi, #Occupy may gain more through apparent retreat; to breathe in and to marinate for a while in order to allow for a second flowering in the spring, or whenever turns out to be most appropriate.
In the meantime, activists and sympathizers can treat the winter as a time of intentional hibernation, stepping away in order to strengthen a sense of purpose, and deepen commitment to the cause. What follows are ten ways that you can #OccupyWinter by gathering the calm force needed to work more deeply in your #Occutivities.
10. Renew yourself.
Activism is hard, whether as a foot soldier on the front lines, or as a writer, artist, or administrator supporting the cause. Take time to step away from it all, holding your intention to go back to your efforts, but only after nurturing other aspects of yourself first. In the Transition Town world this is called “heart and soul” work, and is often aided by folks who volunteer to help by offering eco-psychology in the form of massage, talking opportunities, a meal, dealing with the process of change or other renewing, enlivening, supportive activities that nurture activists. If someone is offering you this support, receive it gratefully, releasing into the loving intention offered. If you need to simply nourish yourself by temporarily (but wholly) turning off your sense of duty, do it. Devotion to a cause is noble; but having the energy to follow through is about pacing yourself. Renew, and then get back to work. Your work will be better for it.
9. Volunteer to help someone.
#Occupy is famous for having welcomed the mentally ill, the homeless, and others on the so-called “fringe.” This work has had a very selfless and even Christ-like aspect to many observers. Keep up that devotion by putting in volunteer hours at local shelters, food kitchens, libraries, clinics and other areas of need. Writers, bloggers, and artists can use this time to get out there for some front line work, or just make it a point to create works that point to the deeper aspects of our human connection as the #Occupiers seek to shift the paradigm.
8. Read a book.
Don’t make any false moves. Put your mouse down, get your hands in the air, and step away from your computer. Make it a point to read essays, books, or magazine articles from some of the vibrant thinkers today and throughout history whose works inspire contemplation about what it means to be human and to dwell in a society. Some of our contemporary faves are Naomi Wolf, Wendell Berry, Ralph Nader, Yes! Magazine, and Starhawk’s The Empowerment Manual. You may find great insights reading anyone from Plato to Jefferson to Goethe to Jung to Joel Salatin. Just read, trusting that whatever you’re drawn to is right for you.
7. Talk to an elder.
Those who have come before you have skills, insights, wisdom and experience that are the lifeblood of a culture. Sadly, too many of these folks are sidelined, warehoused, or culturally dismissed as irrelevant. Bridge that divide. Talk to your grandparents. Your aunts and uncles. Mom and dad. Your elderly neighbor. Ask what they did, how they made things, what life was like when it was less consumer driven, less frenetic, less entertainment-heavy. Listen to their thoughts, their memories. They’ve seen ten times the change in this lifetime than most of us have. Things are hard on them, too. Find out what they miss, what they’d bring back, what they know. Hear their views on society, government, culture. Listen. Don’t talk, don’t argue, just listen. And if you’re the elder, either do the sharing or flip the tables, and seek out young people to hear what they want. Bridge the divide.
6. Keep a consumer journal.
The #Occupy movement has done a lot of things right, but it hasn’t openly wedded itself to the need for sustainability as fully as it could. Too often when I saw pictures of occupiers, they had single-serving plastic-bottled sodas in hand, exactly the kind of product and packaging that keeps the whole nonsense paradigm going forward unabated. For true change to occur, those committed to Occupy in either the streets or their homes will have to take a much more conscious approach to their own consumerism. Writing down what you observe about your own habits — how many throw away cups, bottles, and utensils you use; how many gratuitous trips in your car you take; how many things you buy because they’re just there and they’re cute and why not — will help you see your own habits more objectively, which is the first step to transforming them.
5. Familiarize yourself with your local politics.
The federal government is increasingly proving itself both beyond dysfunctional and highly impotent. Irrelevant even. Utterly incapable of doing the people’s business, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to the citizenry. While this is alarming and tragic on so many levels, and we need to pay attention to the candidates, who’s funding them, and their positions in election year 2012, we should also be engaged with what’s happening in our own neck of the woods, where we have a more realistic chance of affecting elections, policy, and practical action. At your city council or board of supervisors press for sustainability issues, community gardens in municipal spaces, energy plans and walkability. Promote schoolyard gardens, walking to school, local economy and local jobs. Get involved and make a difference where you can. If all politics is local, it’s time to really, really Go Local!
4. Give up five key things.
Protests, demonstrations, and activist research are all important. But to get to the plutocratic rulers of America, money talks. Giving up the following five things will help you help the environment, our energy supply, your own bottom line, and the balance of power in our country by asserting economic solidarity. It’s not for nothing that Adbusters was denied the ability to run unfomercials on NOT BUYING things over the Thanksgiving weekend. TV stations said that buying less is against the economic policy of the country. The big corporate media can prevent you from seeing Adbusters’ no-doubt unforgettable spoof ads, but the media can’t stop you from taking action anyway. To truly send a message to big consumer marketers, you should give up:
- All processed packaged foods. Go for bulk, produce, butcher cuts, and local dairy instead. Cook more, waste less.
- All single serving drinks in their own containers. Get a reusable bottle and a mess kit. Don’t waste.
- All disposable paper except toilet paper. No tissues, napkins, paper towel, diapers, wipes, paper plates, or plastic utensils. Use cloth and reusables instead.
- Any optional car trips. Save up errands to do in one run. Use public transportation, a bike, walking, or carpooling for non-essential trips.
- Any new clothes, shoes, toys, gadgets, books, electronics, and other consumer goods. Borrow, download, surf, or shop at thrift stores instead. Reject the “must have it” mentality.
3. Occupy Wall Street from your kitchen.
If you’re wondering how to eat without buying processed foods you’ll have to remember that throughout human history until the last century people have done just that. The fossil fuel age is the anomaly, not the norm. Start.with making Revolutionary Soup each night (or once a week, with plenty of leftovers.) Then have oatmeal for breakfast, and salad, soup, a sandwich, or a casserole for lunch. You can do it. Purchasing and eating “first source” food will really stick it to the man!
2. Hold conversation circles.
Invite folks over, or use public spaces, to promote the lost art of dialogue. Use tools such as only allowing the person to speak who is holding a certain object, or letting someone hold the floor for the duration of an egg timer. Draw topics from the hat, and affirm that all views are valid. Mix it up by role playing, game playing, or other challenges. Learn to both share, and to actively listen. Take on serious topics, challenging topics, and simply fun or frivolous topics. Mix it up. Just talk already!
Whether you’re strategizing for activist actions come springtime, or simply looking for constructive ways to change your own life so you can “walk the talk,” use this time to figure out what’s next and give yourself enough time to execute it. Set your sites on something, a worthy goal of some kind. Stay informed about what others are doing and avoid reinventing the wheel by borrowing the best ideas and adapting them to where you are, whether on the streets or on the Internet and social media sites. Build your energy and then…strike!
A season of quiet occupation
During the winter and the holidays there are ample opportunities to shift our minds, deepen our actions, reach out to others. Follow the ideas above, come up with ideas and actions of your own and be prepared for the next go round where citizen awakenings meet entrenched predicaments. Consider the benefits of working both within and outside of “the system.”
I hope you’ll share your ideas for how to #OccupyWinter in the comment field below. And if you have bigger thoughts, by all means, submit an essay to us at Transition Voice.
Stay warm, stay sharp, stay tuned in and remember, we are the 99% and we are #OccupyingTheNewParadigm. The game has changed. And the ball’s in our court.