Why Occupy?

Why should “Occupy” be a movement with any integrity? Whatever answers I’ve heard, and mostly I’ve heard complaints, the question irritates me. I’ll bet it irritates others, too. While writing a short essay, “Out of the High Sierra,” I hadn’t meant to address this issue.


Coming down Feather River Canyon from the high Sierra, from altitude and clean air and lodge pole pines and cliff swallows and lupine, we’re aware of entering mercantile space. We were in pristine Darwinian and geological environs at a brief confluence of eons, in stark contrast to the few signs and cars along the road. The cars speak money and class and style, or lack of them. These eddies become a flood as we enter the Sacramento Valley.

Billboards and the radio and businesses clamor for attention, and at a fruit stand people’s dress and conversation display their positions. It’s all about money and “all” means all. There’s little else. And we haven’t yet entered the city. “By the abundance of your commerce you have become violent” (Ezekiel 28:16). Our car is tracked and billboards flicker and personal defenses of wit and cynicism keep me somewhat grounded. These mental gymnastics, though, suck immense energy. And they are scaffolding that surrounds and, oddly, protects greed. Greed enters our lives at every level, from food to posture to thought. It operates in the unconscious, mostly beyond our control.

What’s desperately needed is a counterbalance. Like sacred space. A ubiquitous belief in sacred space of some sort, one that we devote half our thoughts and energy and money to, would half solve the problem. Total destruction might be more apt. Could the violence of commerce at every level provoke superior violence at every level? The problem is more nearly universal than has been stated. Anywhere. Noticing a tiny corner is a crucial first step to understanding.

We’re pummeled by storms of images. And these images bind like proteins to sites in our minds, sticking like tiny, powerful leeches. Somewhere behind those leeches is our unacknowledged, pure, beautiful human nature.


We have no idea how to solve the problem. And it’s getting worse. Business and a few rich people are in control and emerging technologies will give them increasing power. They’re taking over more and more psychic and physical space.

You could say it’s exploitation, yes. But, more catastrophically, it’s invasion. What might you think as you read this? The author’s promoting hopelessness? Bogarting a position? This would be my thought, to suspect the author’s motive. To suspect it’s something invasive. Both my suspicion and that motive are commercial thinking.

My intention is description. What I appeal to is your power of observation. Who are we? Nothing on the drive into civilization relates to our nature. Nothing. Only to our susceptibility to competition and greed and our wish to rise.

The empty road shrinks and vanishes in the rearview mirror. We move into busy activity and our nature is like that road behind us, like the blank universe behind my cynicism. Have we ever occupied our own nature? Maybe in fragments. Maybe not at all. Maybe we’ve always, throughout history, lived in the service of something. Money, the class above us, the church, the goddess, the pagans, the weather.

Occupy gains integrity from this double meaning. We need to occupy this vaguely intuited space. The space of our own sense of awe, our own wish to belong, our own hearts, our own souls, our own health.

Let’s occupy ourselves.


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