Tag Archives: News

Occupy This Blog?!

Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Together! Occupy The Pasture! Occupy Religion! Occupy This Blog?!

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The slogan has become pervasive over the last two months, but what does it mean to “occupy” Wall Street? Or your town? Or something else, like food, the church or this blog? The relevant definition of the word means to “take control of (a place, esp. a country) by military conquest or settlement” and to “enter, take control of, and stay in (a building) illegally and often forcibly, esp. as a form of protest”. In the past decade the word “occupy” has most often been used to described the activities of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. As frequently happens with movements of resistance words are re-appropriated or co-opted to shed light on other meanings and strip them of their destructive power.

So, in the case of this movement the critics make it clear that occupying other countries is acceptable, but occupying your own country is unacceptable and unpatriotic. In another example, the U.S. government (sometimes reluctantly) supported the Arab Spring protest movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen, but has been uncomfortable with precisely these principles of participatory democracy and protest coming to its own cities. The converse is that the violence acted upon protesters in Arab countries was categorically denounced by the U.S., while similar violence in our own country (even against an Iraq War veteran) is excused, justified and ignored.

Yet, there is another layer to this talk of occupation. In reaction to this movement Native Americans reminded us that while we argue about the 99% and the 1%, they are the “un%”, unaccounted for and ignored. The movement in Albequerque declared theirs an (Un)Occupy movement, recognizing that the land from Wall Street to Oakland is already occupied by the descendants of colonizers and immigrants. While the movement has co-opted the idea of occupation to give power to the frustrations of the majority of Americans, it has not come to terms with the fundamental violence of the idea of occupation itself. I have previously written that in order to move forward we will eventually have to deal with the original sin of church and state.

I agree that this is an important critique of the Occupy movement and not to be dismissed. However, I also see a lot of hope in what this particular occupation has done. Instead of occupying a space with predetermined goals, demands and agenda, this movement has instead simply occupied a space in order to claim it somehow apart, holy even (which means set apart), from the dominant order of things. In the best article I’ve read yet on this movement Douglas Rushkoff said that the protestors are occupying spaces in order to “beta test for a new way of living”. He describes one of these experiments:

In just one example, Occupy’s General Assembly is a new, highly flexible approach to group discussion and consensus building. Unlike parliamentary rules that promote debate, difference and decision, the General Assembly forges consensus by “stacking” ideas and objections much in the fashion that computer programmers “stack” features…Elements in the stack are prioritized, and everyone gets a chance to speak. Even after votes, exceptions and objections are incorporated as amendments…They are not interested in debate (or what Enlightenment philosophers called “dialectic”) but consensus. They are working to upgrade that binary, winner-takes-all, 13th century political operating system. And like any software developer, they are learning to “release early and release often.”

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So, the intention of this occupation is not simply to take power or make demands the way that many revolutions and movements of the past have done. The intention is to carve out a space where we can experiment with new ways of living together based on certain principles and values, like participation, inclusion and consensus. This is akin to the Anabaptist vision for the vocation of the church (which admittedly takes many diverse and divergent forms from Old Colony Mennonites to the advocacy of Mennonite Central Committee) as a place where we attempt to embody and faithfully live out the reign of God as revealed in Jesus. This is what the church attempted in Acts 2 and often throughout its history by beta testing this other way of life that had radically transformed them personally and communally.

Like the above protest sign, the space occupied by this protest movement and perhaps by the church should be intentionally left blank. As the Body of Christ, this allows room for the Spirit to fill in those blanks. Certainly our theology should not be empty, available to be filled by any and every whim or idea, but in a concrete way Jesus’ life, death and resurrection creates space for a new way of living. As we attempt to hold this space and allow our principles and values to fill it in, we should be mindful of the caution our indigenous brothers and sisters shared to be radically inclusive. This means indigenous, Tea Party members, capitalists, anarchists, socialists, libertarians, unions, activists, environmentalists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Atheists, not to mention Republicans and Democrats participating and practicing consensus-building to fill in this sacred space with a new, better way to live together.

They Mine Because We Buy

21fd257a-d693-11df-98a9-00144feabdc0.jpgI was struck this morning that only days after the last Chilean miners were rescued, mining accidents happened in Ecuador and China killing 21 and trapping others. No one in the media seems to recognize our own connection and complicity in these disasters.

They mine because we buy.

Copper mines in Chile help make our air conditioners run.

Coal mines in China fuel the energy demands of their booming economy fueled primarily by the cheap we goods we continue to gobble up even in this down economy.

This gold mine in Ecuador is still mining for the precious metal which our economy is only tangentially based on anymore, a leftover from the sordid colonial history of Latin America.

An excellent article titled Capitalism didn’t save the miners points out that even though the drill bit that rescued them was crafted by All-American ingenuity and made in the USA, capitalism also created the very conditions that forces poor people to continue to pursue one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet.

Rather than continue just reporting these tragedies as tragic human disasters and ignore the reality that continues to make them happen, why don’t we take these disasters as a chance to question the prevailing assumptions and economic order that places these people in peril in Chile, Ecuador, China and Appalachia.

Photo from FT.com

Welcome to the Planet!

I’ve already spouted off about Earth Day before. So, you know how I feel. Here’s my rousing speech for the masses celebrating the planet we live on this Thursday. (Warning: Satire ahead! Please put your tongue in your cheek before reading.)

Hello everyone! Welcome to the third planet from the sun. Some of you have traveled a long way to be here for this celebration. I understand that Mercury was experiencing some especially hot weather and Venus just doesn’t have seasons the way we do here. Some of you may have come from Mars, but we’re not really sure if there’s life there yet. From what I can tell, it seems like a rough place to raise kids at least. So, welcome to the planet we like to call Earth.

From what I can gather, many of you don’t actually live here for most of the year. So, we are especially privileged to host you for Earth Day, where we remember and honor the planet that gives us cool stuff like iPods and the Nintendo Wii. We would be very bored without the ability to exploit the resources of Earth.

Some of you come from planets like the United States where there are abundant and infinite resources. I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you don’t live on this planet, because we couldn’t do it. It’s wonderful to have places with infinite resources to show us what is possible. Someday, perhaps, we will be able to leave Earth and move to this paradise, but for now we can dream.

Many of you create food out of thin air in your world. Your science makes it possible to create all that you need to live in the lab. At one point in history you were confined by the limitations of the Earth. Thanks to the exploitation of this world you are now able to live however you want where you live. The Earth has sacrificed to further the progress of our people. That is why we have this day to honor and remember what Earth has given in order to make us happy and rich.

We also remember all the dinosaurs and coal miners that have given their lives for a greater purpose. Their deaths were not in vain. Whether millions of years ago or this year, dinosaurs and coal miners alike have sacrificed their lives because they believed in something bigger than themselves. Their contribution to freeing the human race from the limitations of nature and this planet will always live on in our memory.

So, this Earth Day be sure to honor our planet and those who have come before us by flushing as often as possible. Leave the lights on! Go ahead, it’s what the dinosaurs wanted. Take a long trip with the family! Celebrate Earth Day in a way that reminds you that the other 364 days of the year you have freed yourself from this God-forsaken rock and achieved the purpose of the human race. Thank you and God bless the United States of our solar system.

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Ending Hunger in Texas

KWTX did a story last night on the Texas Hunger Initiative. They interviewed me about the farm’s connection to the initiative. I’m also hoping to work with the initiative after the farm so this is now part of my resume.

I’m pleased to say I didn’t sound dumb. Therefore I will happily share the video with you.