OCCUPY, from Page 5
must face it head-on and see its source within ourselves.
But there are some very harsh realities of the existing world that we failed to consider:
•We’re not just working with the homeless and unemployed population. We are working with some of the most violent, most dysfunctional, most mentally unstable population in the city.
We are working with those people who get kicked out of other shelters and other social-service agencies. Some of those people get kicked out of their programs as a direct consequence to a violent attack. And their next step is move to the Occupy camp.
•We are working with [fewer] resources than any of the social-service agencies in the city — resources in the sense of stability, training, emotional and psychological boundaries, accountability, personal protection.
•Social-service agencies all have rules, boundaries and social agreements that limit their populations to those who can step up to them. This is not a tool that they use for oppression; it is a survival mechanism.
Any healthy community includes rules, boundaries, social agreements and consequences for breaking those agreements. We want to create a new paradigm of community governance that focuses on healing and inclusion. But in the meantime, we must protect ourselves from the overwhelming needs of a population that is drowning.
Just as a drowning person will flail in desperation and pull an unskilled lifeguard down into death with them, this population of homeless is pulling Occupy down with them in a desperate and very human attempt to grasp onto any support they can find. OS is beginning to realize this and pull back from it. And to many, it feels like tragic betrayal and abandonment.
•Compassion includes boundaries and consequences. It is not compassionate or healing to enable violent and addictive behavior.
•We cannot serve all the needs all at once. As we continue to grow — continue working to build the new world we all envision — our work is to focus on affecting systemic change — holding politicians, leaders and corporate moguls accountable for the oppression of us all.
In the process, we want to model our future community, but that is a delicate balance. Occupy Seattle needs to preform the same self-care that all of our burnt-out organizers so desperately need — to find our emotion/ psychological center; to be grounded, focused and open to seeing the whole, big-picture vision of what we are moving toward; to understand the limits of our resources and understand exactly what role we intend to play.
So here is the heart of our identity crisis: Are we a social-service agency, or are we a global movement for systemic change and revolution?
I think we already know the answer. And we’re not really making a choice to take one and reject the other.
I am making observation: A global movement for systemic change and revolution has many faces. It exists everywhere and nowhere. It is an Internet meme. It is your neighborhood council. It is your direct-action network. It is a general strike. It is nonviolent guerilla warfare. It is an occupation of foreclosed homes. It is protesters in the middle of your city, every day, reminding you and the 1 percent that this…is not right.
It may also be a community of activists sleeping in tents, some of whom don’t have another home to go to. It could also be a new tent city or a new eco-village, built to model our positive vision, built to help serve those whom the system has abandoned.
And if some of us within the Occupy movement choose to pursue that project, let us choose it consciously, with open eyes and open hearts and with the support and knowledge of the social-service community that has come before us.
Let us make conscious choices about the work we take on and the paths we choose to walk.
GINGER MAC is a Green Lake resident.