Occupy Conundrum: Maybe it’s time to occupy kindness

Perhaps some of you are familiar with Blanche DuBois’ infamous words, “Whoever you are—I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Regardless of being a “fallen woman,” Blanche was also a lady and would be appalled by the apparent lack of kindness found during the holiday season. If you follow the news, then you may be familiar with the story of Walter Vance, the man who collapsed and lay dying at a West Virginia Target on Black Friday (http://gawker.com/5862831/black-friday-shoppers-step-over-man-who-lay-dying-on-the-floor). Here’s another, similar story, told to me by a loved one, which happened during holiday shopping a few years ago:

“Regarding the Man who lay dying while shoppers walked over him. I had an incident a few years ago at Target in Redding. I fell in front of the store and hurt my knee, tore my pants, etc. Men and women stepped over me and kept on walking. Finally a woman with two small children came over and helped me up. She said she could not believe the number of people who walked over me and ignored me. This is a scary world we live in.”

My response: “That’s horrific… It’s disturbing to me how little people care about others.”

To be honest, I don’t think the English language can adequately express my outrage of how, as members of humanity, we can overlook the suffering and needs of others. This explains why corporations, banks and politicians are motivated by greed and personal desire rather than concerning themselves with the community at large. If we, as part of the 99%, don’t care about and take care of, each other, why would the powers-that-be bother? As much as I’d like to hold our leaders to blame for this behavior, I can’t. We are all responsible for not caring about our fellow human. We have allowed ourselves to be convinced that we are individuals, not a whole, and that the power of the dollar will give us more than the power of community and love. If you have an interest in taking over the world, you do it by dividing and conquering, and in current times, through consumerism. I’d say the corporate plan has been effective.

We no longer live in communities, we live in houses where we don’t know the names of our next-door neighbors—and don’t care if they need an egg or a cup of sugar, or if they are being foreclosed. We don’t care about who falls in front of us—it’s not our responsibility to pick up anyone but ourselves. We don’t care about what is going on outside of our own four walls, just so long as we can surf the Internet, watch television, play the Wii. Keep in mind that each “we” is really just “me” with the first letter upside down. And what has this lack of kindness given us? Foreclosures. Homelessness. Poverty. Debt. Starvation. Unemployment. Bankruptcy (financial and moral). This is the world we’ve created for our children and ourselves. It’s ugly and people would rather avoid this mirror, so they don’t even try to look at themselves. However, as a species, we can’t afford to avoid the looking glass any longer.

The human race has survived for as long as it has because community is inherent to us. We have real-world friends and crave them on social media sites. We create groups with people we don’t know personally and think nothing of commenting on someone’s photo or status. The Occupy encampments, whether accidentally or intentionally, have created communities. The homeless flocked to these political shantytowns because they craved a home and they were welcomed. In the middle of major cities over the last three months, villages have been born, with libraries, medics, kitchens, sanitation, etcetera—everything a small town needs. The beauty of this creation is in its simplicity: people set up tents and were kind to each other. Sure, it took a little organization, too, but kinship was quickly formed. Perhaps this is what strikes fear in the hearts of the one percent: people will realize that they can create communities for themselves, and in doing so, they don’t need banks, corporations or politicians. I suspect that this, more than anything else, is the real danger of the Occupy Movement to the current paradigm. Otherwise, why would anyone worry about the encampments? Realistically, it would be less expensive to let them self-evict as winter progresses. Instead, officials want them removed not only from their sight, but also from the sight of everyone else. They want us to keep taking the blue pill. From what I can tell, though, it’s not working. Encampments move or reform. Or rather than setting up tents, people are setting up 24-hour watches, sometimes with shifts. Information about the Occupy Movement is being shared over the Internet; conference calls are being organized to keep this community progressing. And people are sharing what they have. Sometimes it’s food and blankets, often it’s a word of solidarity. Occasionally, one Occupy group will make a request for another group’s need. Often occupiers are doing more than taking down the blinders from people’s eyes—they are directly helping others. During Thanksgiving, many encampments cooked and served or delivered meals to others who would have otherwise done without (http://occupywallst.org/article/live-nyc-spontaneous-sit-down-liberty-square/).

Amazing what a little kindness towards others can accomplish in the blink of an eye. Even Blanche would be proud.

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