“We ARE the Message”

Dear Society to Which You, We, She and He All Belong:

So we rocked it, right?

Dang diggitty we did. And are. And will, still. The beat don’ stop until the break of dawn.

And it’s always dawn somewhere.

We know some people out there find us raggedy, unkempt, and perhaps congenitally disorganized. And by nature we surely are highly suspicious of organization. Chaos, we get; chaos we like. We understand that from the joyous, raucous frenzy of the subatomically chaotic flowers the life we all know.

Organization, however, we fear. Because we know—because we, like 99% of all of you, have in the hardest ways learned—that, all too often, what “organized,” practically speaking, translates into is, “Screw you, outsider.”

Next thing you know we’re all on the outside, and the only people on the inside—where, as it turns out, all the things like food and money are—are those who, in one way or another, have made organizing a primary purpose of their mean, exclusionary little lives.

So, yes, we tend to take a more organic approach to the whole idea of power hierarchies.

Speaking of which (and as you’re probably aware) city governments all over the country have now deployed against us their black-booted militia, rousting us, in the middle of the night, from the public spaces we have been both literally and figuratively occupying. It wasn’t hard for their baton-wielding machine to achieve its goal. We are, after all, a peaceful collective. We are to a marching armed battalion as a sand castle to the rising tide.

Now you see us.

Now you don’t.

And sure enough, darkness does cover all manner of sin.

They called garbage stuff that meant so much to us. They so casually hurled so much of our lives into dumpsters.

The media machine, in its constant need of a safe narrative hook, likes to talk about how OWS lacks a cohesive statement of purpose. So, before we disappear altogether (or, more exactly, before we morph into a new manifestation), let us say this:

You know, we know, why we’ve been here—and are here yet. And we know that most of you, in spirit if not in body, have been here right along with us, through the cold nights, the exhaustion, the inspiration, the stress and joy and laughter of it all.

You know the source of our anger. You know the locus of our fear.

You’ve watched your money disappear. You’ve seen your opportunities diminish. You know with what disregard you have been, or could be, pushed aside. Many of you have seen the open road of your life become a narrow, unnavigable little path into a darkness you don’t want to go.

You’ve held and watched your young children, and felt the furious terror of knowing that their future has been greedily, wantonly leveraged against them.

We’ve all done these things. To one degree or another, most all of us have experienced the great American dream becoming the disgraceful American nightmare.

We who Occupy don’t have a “clear message,” because we are the clear message. We’re the canary in the coal mine. We’re the first responders to the American economy blowing up, to the tragic break in the system. The only difference between us and those who haven’t physically joined us is that we live upstream, nearer to where the dam broke.

And now we’re swimming, treading water, trying to keep our possessions from floating away. Look at us out here—and so many of you, out there—so wet! So cold. So shivering.

And with winter now coming hard upon us all.

And look at those who purposefully and meticulously caused this terrible flood, so high up in their warm buildings, so confident the frigid waters they so blithely let loose will never reach them.

We fear that decency, for its own sake, no longer counts.

We fear that right no longer makes any might at all.

We fear that what matters most about the human heart and soul matters least to those who now control America.

They took what is ours—our homes, our money, our jobs, our future, our concerns, our right to control what happens to us—and turned it into fat, rich food—which they then ate.

Gobble, gobble, gobble.

Speaking of which: remember us this Thanksgiving. If only for a moment, please include us in your prayers about what you want, for what you hope, for what you’re glad you have. And if this year your Thanksgiving isn’t all you wish it to be, bear in mind that there’s always next year. Maybe next year things will be better for you.

And maybe they won’t be, of course.

Either way, it couldn’t hurt you to buy a tarp. Eight by ten is a good size: triple-stitched, water-proof, heavily gusseted at the corners. We recommend you get one with brass grommets spaced two feet apart on each side. That’s the kind of thing that can be of real importance when the hard rains come.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, or have overheard someone asking, what OWS is about. I usually just end up sputtering; to me, the cause, and the Cause, are so self-apparent that I can’t fathom someone not getting it. I know so many people who need to read this, and I’m grateful to you for having written it.

  • Vanda Law via Facebook

    This post is so expressive of what needs to be said about Occupy Wall Street for those who just don’t get it. Thank you for writing it.

  • mike moore

    beautifully said. I wonder if there is a Ghandi among us?

  • Ben

    Thank you so much for this.

  • Jennifer Sandberg via Facebook

    Thank you.

  • Susan in NY

    Wow. That was really good, John. You nailed it.

  • Brian

    @Paul – there are many who don’t get this because they relish the outcome of the efforts of the 1%. There was a time – a millennia ago – when usuary (the lending of money for profit – was considered a sin in the early church. In time that changed.

    There was also a time when “greed” was considered one of the seven deadly sins. In the past 20 years that has changed. Not long ago I ran across an article in a “Conservative” version of Wikepedia that was seeking to provide a new translation of the Bible to support Capitalism! Wow.

    I think it is safe to say that there are people today who “don’t want to get it!”

  • Diana A.

    Willful sin. The Bible according to Ayn Rand. Scary.

  • Terri

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart…and from all of our hearts; those who get it, those who don’t yet; from those who are still enslaved, but most of all, from those of us who have been set free…

  • Mary Ellen

    So many of the megachurches with their richly appointed facilities don’t get this…which is why it is such a breath of fresh air when someone who professes to believe in Christ DOES…it helps those of us who are “on the edge” more than you will ever know to find this out and to realize that somewhere else in this world, somebody understands and you are not alone anymore….Peace to all of you…(me = on SSDI/Medicare, increasingly afraid that since I am only 50 and not 55 that they might try to take it from me…I am affected by cardiovascular and orthopedic aspects of Marfan’s Syndrome).

  • Skip Johnston

    It strikes me that the Tea Party was the last howl of a dieing era and OWS the opening howl of a new one.

  • Using the tenets of an atheist to bolster a particular (and rather un-Christian) view of Christianity *is* kinda piling irony on top of irony…

  • jordy

    dieing? lol

  • Andrew Raymond

    Nicely said, Skip.

  • Alison Defreitas via Facebook

    You nailed it, John Shore.

  • Christie L.

    Love and peace to you, Mary Ellen. Methinks that one day, hopefully soon, we will choose to take care of each other regardless of what the gov’t deems a disability or appropriate age of retirement or whatnot, so that even if your source of income and care should be taken from you, we, as a people, will step in to do what’s right.

  • Mary

    Perfectly & Eloquently said, Skip!!

  • Great write, wonderful words and thank you for sharing them with all of us.

  • Jeannie

    Very well said.

  • Unlike OWS, OccupyKC has not been arrested, yet, but in many other ways John Shore describes OKC too, especially in regard to the presence of chaos amongst us, not just because of Kansas City’s Homeless and our Street People, but specifically the negative effects of chaos so inherent to exploitation that most of us have habituated to them, so it becomes necessary for each and every American to ask themselves how s/he IS oppressed and has therefore also internalized habitual oppression of any/all others as a way of “life”. These are difficult questions for everyone, but most especially so for anyone who is actually occupying anywhere.

  • Kate

    I recommend to you all a blog by my good friend, Brendan. He has just written a wonderful article on ‘the cult of poverty’. I think he has nailed it, too…


  • LSS

    this post is interesting as art because it makes sense on an emotional level. a lot of the defenses of the Occupy are done with charts about how we have all been screwed over by the 1% (Mother Jones magazine is good at those) … but i think an emotional defense is also useful because sometimes you just know something makes sense on a gut level.

  • LSS

    (i think both kinds of Occupy support are useful, if that wasn’t clear)

  • Donald Rappe

    “Gobble, gobble, gobble.”

    Very well put, John.

  • Lee Marshall

    You really do get it, John. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were one of the people out there who had lost everything. The part about the open road of the American Dream really got to me. I’m still not emotionally sure what happened, but that road ahead really does look scary. Thank you.

  • Mindy

    Yet again, John, you get it. And you tell it like it is, in a way that, hopefully, even the most dense amongst us can understand. Thank you!

  • You don’t sound arrogant. Represent tomorrow at the meeting.

  • I WILL! I’ll be all, “I gotcher your occupation right here, padre.” (No, but thanks so much, Dwayne, for your always-ecouraging comments.)

  • Beth Hervey Alexander via Facebook

    Nice piece thanks for offering it up again. You won’t seem arrogant to offer it in a week or so. Lots of newcomers to the christian left.

  • Love it. You back out of self-serving statements so gracefully, John. {grin}