Thursday, November 24, 2011

Structures of Oppression Are Falling

I wake up most mornings with a smile on my face, giving thanks. It is often not a specific statement of "Thank you God for..." or "I am thankful for..." It's rather a feeling of quiet joy. Not a big rush. Not exultation. But quiet, subdued.

I have learned not to push my feelings around, or try to overly manage them. But I do ask "Why am I happy today? What is the source of this quiet joy I feel?" My answer will often depend on what I am gazing at. We have a lovely backyard, that is now going through its normal rituals of fall colors, in preparation for winter. There's an oak leaf hydrangea just out the living room window, with its leaves turned wine-colored red for its late fall display. And there's a lovely fruit tree, still all aglow and dressed in yellow. I will notice these, perhaps, and say to myself, "Ah, that's why I am happy. Because I am alive and can see and be together with this lovely tree."

But there is something else, a consistent thread that fills my heart with joy. I think the oppressive structures around the world are falling. Humanity is on the move to greater dignity, fairness and respect. The Arab Spring. The possible breakup of the Eurozone. Occupy Wall Street. The Ohio referendum overturning Governor Kasich's anti-collective bargaining law. The effort just underway in Wisconsin to recall Governor Walker.

The insistence on equity, mutual respect, a level playing field, a chance for a good life - this energy is showing up collectively in different forms and in different places. Many will question my assembling a very disparate group and placing them under one metaphoric umbrella. But look through each area: isn't this about individuals, groups and countries standing up for themselves and insisting on being treated fairly?

This may be hard to see in Europe right now; but the reason the Eurozone will surely fail in its present form is that it represents one group of nations dictating to another. The Eurozone is an oppressive structure and for that reason, among others, it will not endure.

What about Occupy Wall Street? At heart, this is a movement springing out of a deep sense that America's economic and political game has become rigged, that the well to do get the economic breaks, and that our Democracy is no longer democratic. Everyone in the movement knows that true democracy is possible, where all people are respected and all voices are heard. They know an important truth, that if they ever are going to birth this "open space democratic system" into the world, they need to know, in their bones, how it works and what it feels like. That is why they are not so focused on specific demands of the larger system.

The emergence of Occupy gives me faith that our oppressive political and economic structure will be changed, transformed. And I understand that this change may come at great cost, that a good part of our financial system must be brought to its knees, must face destruction before transformation will be possible. This happened in the 1930s'. It has not yet happened with our current crisis. But I think it will. If not all at once, in good part. This is not utopian; it is another step in our country's growth to a more perfect union.

The Arab Spring? An obvious upwelling of the human spirit in many parts of the Middle East, where all this seemed, until recently, unlikely, if not impossible. Listen to me. Give me a voice. I want to be a part of the political conversation. Autocrats and oppressive economic elites cannot design the system to favor only their own interests. Not any more.

Will all of this come to a predictably happy outcome? Surely not. The forces of oppression are hugely powerful, and elites do not give up power or let go of the structures used for control, easily. What has happened that sources the transformation is that everyday folks now know that the dominance of the oppressing elite is not inevitable. It is not written in the stars. It is not destiny, or because God wills it. The situation can be changed. The oppressive structure can be overturned.

Will we get some Islamist states out of the Arab Spring? Will countries that leave the Euro face huge economic problems? Will there be some violence and dereliction in the Occupy movement? Yes to all these questions.

And Spirit is moving. And that gives me joy.

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