Ten years ago this month I found my Self at Occupy Wall Street. I was in my home city, experiencing one of the lowest and strangest moments of my life when “the protests” began. Characteristically, I resisted the whole enterprise for three solid weeks, for three solid reasons: 1) The idea of “occupy” turned me off completely; it felt militaristic, which rendered it uninteresting. 2) I was unwilling, as a new-consciousness person, to invest my time in anything related to “protest” because, enough already. 3) The 99-percent-vs-one-percent, the us-vs-them formulation, was anathema to my we-are-all-one, unity consciousness. (And what was with Anonymous and those masks anyway? I still don’t know.)
But one day the winds shifted, I made my way to Zuccotti Park — by then New York’s number one tourist destination — and began “40 Days at Occupy Wall Street.” My profoundly rich and consequential experience of that event, however, is not what I am thinking about today. Rather, ten years on, with the Great Resignation upon us, I’m eager to call attention to what looks like a pattern — or, more succinctly, a percolation — of the new consciousness into the American consciousness during the last decade.
Occupy Wall Street was, arguably, a reaction to the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. Very broadly speaking, protesters of all ages and races shifted the economic conversation of the day away from austerity by shining a spotlight on wealth and income inequality. That endures today along with a number of other progeny of the movement, which was going strong and growing globally when it was crushed after two months.
Occupy emerged in the midst of the Arab Spring, which had been ignited the year before and was still unfolding in a several countries. It was, in large part, “a young generation peacefully rising up against oppressive authoritarianism to secure a more democratic political system and a brighter economic future.” People were sick and tired of living in extreme poverty with no prospects of growing out of it while their political leaders ran roughshod over them with impunity. As one Egyptian participant later reflected: “There is a conscience in Egypt, and that conscience deserves a government that will respect it.”
In 2013, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement emerged “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” It was and is “a rallying cry for all Black lives striving for liberation.” BLM advocates for freedom, justice, and the de-normalization of racism in America and everywhere. It is about realizing equity and equality in our society.
Four years ago last week, the #MeToo movement burst onto the scene and exists today to help people who have experienced sexual abuse, assault, and trauma. I felt hugged just reading its website with words and ideas like “whole self,” “wrap-around interventions,” and “embrace survivors.” The movement rightly places its work in the larger contexts of public health and human rights yet what shines through to me anyway, wonderfully, is that it is fundamentally about healing. Healing sexual assault, abuse, and trauma means telling the truth. As such, the movement offers many ways to support survivors largely by cultivating survivor leaders who create and hold the space for people to express their truth as part of their healing.
…we know to keep going because what we are asking for — dignity, equality, equity, freedom, to be seen, to be heard, racial, economic, and environmental justice, fairness, balance, harmony, peace — are not only our rights, they are requirements and hallmarks of the new consciousness.
One and one-half years ago, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer sparked a months-long wave of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests across America, which had clearly established itself as a racial equality juggernaut. Our society saw huge spikes of support by non-Black allies who educated themselves about the experiences of Black Americans, who acknowledged the reality of systemic racism in our society, and who learned about anti-racism practices, procedures, and projects throughout the country. Those spikes have since receded. Up and down. Percolating.
And now there’s the covid-19 pandemic itself. It’s not a movement, obviously, but it has been a monumental disruptor of the status quo where, in what’s described as the Great Resignation, millions of people are literally saying no right now to work the way it has been. I agree with former U.S. Secretary of Labor and U.C. Berkeley economics professor Robert Reich’s take that what’s happening is a long-overdue, “unofficial general strike.” “[Employees] don’t want to return to backbreaking or boring, low wage, shit jobs,” he told TIME. “Workers are burned out. They’re fed up. They’re fried. In the wake of so much hardship, and illness and death during the past year, they’re not going to take it anymore.”
People who watched Occupy Wall Street on “the news” exclaimed willy-nilly and with derision that the two-month demonstration didn’t and wouldn’t amount to anything. Yet even as I experienced first-hand the (ironically) militaristic physical destruction of the demonstration in New York, I knew differently. I knew our experiences didn’t exist in a vacuum. I felt a connection to people who were nowhere near New York. I felt new energy arising, asserting, claiming. I knew it would go on and these movements are just some evidence of that because everybody wants the same things: to be seen, to be heard, to be treated with dignity, to be free. Now. We want equality and equity, balance and fairness, also known as healing. That’s all and that’s everything. And all that’s required to deliver it to all, by the way, is compassion.
Those of us who practice living consciously know that our growth and development does not unfold in a straight line. I have personally experienced such soaring highs that I thought my issues were behind me forever only to crash hard to the ground and face the realization that I was wrong only to find my Self soaring again, only to come crashing down again. I’m not alone. We know it’s part of the process and we know it doesn’t last forever.
Most importantly, we know to keep going because what we are asking for — dignity, equality, equity, freedom, to be seen, to be heard, racial, economic, and environmental justice, fairness, balance, harmony, peace — are not only our rights, they are requirements and hallmarks of the new consciousness.