Recognizing Mercy in the Occupy Movement

October 25, 2011

By Sister Mary P.

I went to Occupy Providence because I am well aware of the costs we are paying to maintain our government and economic structure when it is clear that it doesn’t work for most people, animals or ecosystems on Earth.

In the name of economic growth we have systematically ripped minerals from the Earth, destroyed old growth forests, blown up mountains, endangered countless species, caused massive erosion, created dustbowls, dirtied air, fouled water, perpetuated wars, promoted materialistic values, ruined land and water in other countries for our material gain, called one another illegal and deeply indebted the poor.

A vibrant economy has become the ultimate priority, even while it teeters all over the world. It can be said that we have liquidated Earth for money.  A vibrant planet, concern for nature and all life, human and other than human, healthy food, peace, conscious social justice with deliberative action, renewable energy, true democracy, have all been on the back burner for a long time.  The Common Good has been sacrificed for corporate profit and it’s totally legal.

The Occupy Movement around the country is at least a call to wake up and shift direction while we still can, IF–and I’m not mincing any words here– we still can. There is so much dissatisfaction with the status quo that the continued call for “one demand” is hopelessly missing the point.  There are so many issues that one demand could not begin to even scratch the surface!  It is becoming clear to me that this millennial generation has already shifted in consciousness and it is our institutions that lag pitifully behind. The chaos and breakdown of our current economic system is driving a creativity of thought and allowing the emergence of something new.

I admire the wonderful process in which the Occupiers engage. I would call it direct democracy where everyone is represented and heard. It is complicated and slow; it is engaging and inches toward consensus.  It is not the usual way we are used to getting things done and mainstream media doesn’t get it at all! I am excited that they want to reinvent the economy and that the triple bottom line, people, planet and profit, is understood.

I am amazed that they seem to be willing to listen to everyone. There are no designated leaders, although natural leadership emerges for different tasks and it is a beauty to behold! They envision a world without borders. (Imagine!) They are dedicated to nonviolence and hold frequent trainings in the art. In Occupy Providence, even the homeless who generally occupy the park are in on the discussions, and share the food that sympathizers drop off. The Occupiers are both politically and socially astute.  They are inclusive. They are in rebellion at the state of the world that they and their children have inherited.

Several issues need significant analysis and can at least be challenged by examining our unconscious assumptions that produce unintended consequences, as is taught by the Awakening the Dreamer symposium.

What is success?  How did it get all wrapped up into our educational process? How come people who followed the rules and did all the requirements can’t get a job? How did we get into this consumption nightmare? What is the meaning of humanity? How did we ever buy this “separate from nature” thinking? How many more war casualties, oil spills , dead red winged blackbirds and dead fish will it take until we know? How many more natural disasters that are “one in a hundred/three hundred” year possibilities until we understand we’ve messed things up pretty badly? When will we “get it” that unsustainable can’t last forever? What is required of us now that we know we are terminating the last 65 million years of life development?

Perhaps we are ready, as Thomas Berry suggested, to “re-invent humanity at the species level” because the issues we are concerned with are way beyond the competence of our cultural traditions.  Humanity is at an impasse; at least the Occupiers know it.

It is clear to me that the Corporation now directs the electoral, legislative and judicial processes of the country.  I voted for Barack Obama for president because I hoped for “change” and I see now that he is helpless in the face of the system. In this moment when things are obviously falling apart economically, environmentally, socially and spiritually, this is surely an opportunity for us as Mercy to “unmask and address the underlying causes of our Critical Concerns and the interconnections among them.”

Surely when the richest country in the world which has 403 citizens who are billionaires also has homeless, jobless and hungry citizens, we need to reorganize the system.

The Sisters of Mercy made a declaration in June in which we said that we are led “to liberate and redistribute our human and financial resources” across our congregation of women religious and to “develop creative solutions to unmet needs acting in solidarity with impoverished people.”   I think it would be quite a laugh if we ignored what is happening all around the country, indeed around the world, while we tried to develop creative solutions to unmet needs by ourselves!

A new consciousness is arising about money and about the government and a new covenant is being forged among the people. Like a garden, the outcome, a new story for humanity, is yet to emerge, but the world as we have known it is not coming back.  Where would you expect Mercy to be? With whom shall we stand?

“We are scandalized by the increase in impoverishment of peoples, the pervasive denial of basic human rights, the degradation of Earth and increased violence and racism in all their forms,” we said in our declaration.

So are the Occupiers.

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  1. backtobasicsnow

    Mary,
    This is an excellent statement and analysis of the issues involved. It is also a great connect to the Sisters of Mercy declaration. Your statements about this new direct Democracy of the occupiers and the “triple bottom line – people, planet and profit,” along with the media “not getting it” is insightful. I would add that *most* people don’t get it either.

    One thing I would add, though, is this. Obama is part of the problem. He is part of the establishment that helped create the issues we contend with today, both in the Senate and during his term as President. One does not reach his level of politics without playing their game. He is owned just as the rest of them are owned, by corporate American — campaign rhetoric aside.

    If we truly want to “unmask and address the underlying causes of our Critical Concerns and the interconnections among them,” then we must recognize and identify them first. Obama’s rhetoric of “change” and “hope” sounded great, didn’t it? But, what change, what hope did we get? A false hope; no change.

    A few short examples will suffice. There are many more. President Obama abandoned the most important part of his health care legislation at the first sign of struggle – the public option. This was his signature legislation, the one he spent his political economy on during his “honeymoon” phase. In doing so, he left the American people in the hands of the rapacious insurance companies who have driven up rates while receiving obscene profits for years. The public option was to be a competitive force against those now running up medical costs – the private insurers. Consequently, we are now stuck with private insurers who can run us to ruin financially. And how about his Race to the Top initiative for schools? This legislation which was “supposed” to fix the problems with the NCLB legislation of G.W. Bush, only made matters much worse. RttT forces schools to compete against each other for needed funds to run the schools, regardless of the economic ability to pay for their needs based on the economic needs of the cities and towns in which they reside. The legislation then promotes the illegal firing of teachers based on the test scores of their students — regardless of the socio/economic realities of those students and the political forces that keep them in their lot.

    Aren’t these many of the issues that the Occupiers and the Sisters of Mercy concerned about? Aren’t the economic injustices, the political favorings of the wealthy over the less fortunate and the deprived social lives of too many people of every age and race, not to mention their very lives threatened by lack of health care, those very things that we protest? Obama is part and parcel of them. He pushes forth harmful legislation and negates or fails to push forward with his bully pulpit or with his Democratic arm of the Congress and the American people, needed changes that would help millions of Americans whose lives are short changed.

    Identify and recognize the interconnectedness by unmasking and addressing the causes of our concerns. Only then will change occure. Obama is part of the problem. He is not the cure, rhetoric meant for the campain not withstanding.

    With love,
    Debbie


    1. Connect with Mercy Blog

      As women of hope we will continue to urge President Obama to do the right thing. He himself called on his supporters upon his election to make him accountable to do just that.

      The Sisters of Mercy will continue to urge him to push for comprehensive immigration reform, improved immigration detention policies and environmental polices. In fact, a few dozen Sisters, co-workers and college students from Georgian Court University will be pleading with him to reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline at an action at the White House this coming Sunday.


      1. backtobasicsnow

        Keep hoping; keep urging.
        And we will both keep praying.
        But it takes *much* more than that…

        This is “realpolitik,” Machiavellian style.
        It’s the way politics are played today.
        It’s dirty; it’s like watching sausage being made.
        (not a pretty sight)

        *We* can do more!
        We can recognize one more cause of the problem

        Because, until we do,
        we will *never* get past the problem.
        Think about it…..

        With respect and love,
        Debbie


  2. Mary Pendergast

    I do get it that Barach Obama has been a disappointment. THE KEYSTONE PIPELINE is a big chance to turn things around…we’ll see!


    1. backtobasicsnow

      Mary,
      It doesn’t change what has been done.
      I grant that the Pipeline is *a* good thing — *IF* it happens. That’s a big if…..

      Isn’t it funny how a two lettered word — if– is such a HUGE possibility!
      Could happen; could not happen.
      We don’t know until we know.
      Keystone pipeline notwithstanding. It’s only an “if” until it happens.
      And given his past performance…
      I don’t have much confidence.

      His “keystone” legislation, the universal health care bill,
      He gave up on the “universal” part of it
      at the first sight of arguement fromm the Republicans,
      which left us *all* at the “mercy” of the insurance companies.
      (pun intended)
      But we *know* full well what the mercy of those rapacious industries are!
      “Take more ’till we all bleed!” or die….
      That’s their “mercy.”

      Remember the old nursury school lesson that said, “don’t count your chickens until they hatch?” Well, that’s what I believe about President Obama’s promises now.

      I do not believe him at all anymore….
      And *I* have full reason not to.
      I lost my job because of him, remember?
      It was my UNION that saved my job as a highly qualified educator in a Providence — one who has been recommended for “teacher of the year,” and more working in an urban setting with all of the challenges and motivations that this setting involves.

      In SOLIDARITYand LOVE!!!
      Debbie


  3. anne connolly

    great contribution to mercy… connect with declaration from chapter, now reach out reach out reach out…………… anne connolly


  4. elsa

    Great testimony of the Mercy presence!
    Elsa


  5. Georgine Scarpino, RSM

    What are we as an Institute and Communities doing to transfer those funds that are available from the banks that helped bring down the economy to credit unions and other fiscal organizations?


    1. Connect with Mercy Blog

      Thank you for this comment. We will share your thoughts with our financial experts.


  6. backtobasicsnow

    Here’s some good news I just received in my email box!
    “Dear Deborah,

    Great news! The U.S. State Department just announced it will delay making a final decision on the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline. The Obama Administration will now conduct an entirely new environmental review of the project. We are confident that this time the Keystone XL pipeline will be rejected once the truth is made known about the ticking carbon time bomb that is the Alberta tar sands.

    The Keystone XL pipeline extension would subject many communities to the risk of oil spills of the kind we’ve recently seen in Montana and Michigan. The migratory pattern of birds will also be disrupted and acres of wetlands will be no more. The process of extracting oil from tar sands spews toxins into the air, contaminates ground water and destroys farmland. The refinement of these tar sands also produce up to twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as regular crude oil.

    We don’t need to import environmental disaster! It’s time we break the dependance on fossil fuels and turn to developing a sustainable form of energy for the future. Send a note of thanks to the White House and ask them to ultimately reject this pipeline.

    – The Earth Day Network Team

    P.S. – What’s Next: Earth Day 2012 is right around the corner. Join us as we mobilize the Earth!”

    Well, that’s one battle fought and won. But, the war is far from over. (Hate to use the war metaphor. However, it seems quite fitting in this case, doesn’t it?)

    Shalom, Salam, Peace!
    Debbie