Being Breath

stories from the wilderness of everyday life

Why I Won't Be Joining The OWS Protests

I won't be joining our OWS protests any time soon.

It isn't because I disagree with the values or the motives.  It isn't because of the people or location (we have quite nice people and a perfect location here in Bloomington.)  It isn't because I'm too busy studying art techniques, sketching, or painting.  It isn't because of the kids or hubby's work schedule or any other time conflicts.

So why won't I?

I deeply believe it is never us versus them.

I believe it is always we.

I won't protest against myself.

 

I believe in personal responsibility

and that how we do one thing is how we do all things.

Until I can remain responsible and act with integrity in 

the most mundane of my actions,

I do not feel ready to blame another for their discrepancies.


 

(I'm having trouble typing from here because I can already sense the "yeah, but...."s from those active in the movement who might read this.  Please, stay with me - and stay with an open mind.  I don't disagree with you.)

 

I acknowledge that there are discrepancies between my beliefs and my actions.  I call myself vegetarian but knowingly still eat marshmallows.  (In case you are confused, read this.)  I advocate peace in all situations but still yell needlessly at my kids and purposefully go riiight at the speed limit if someone is tailgating me.  (I'm ashamed to admit.)  I wear leather though I would never kill an animal to get it, buy majority of our goods from Target and Kroger though I want to support local, small business, I eat non-organic, canned, and preserved foods though I know of and fear cancer-causing agents in them...

I could go on.

I know that I will never be "perfect" - that there is a good chance I will live the rest of my life with discrepancies between beliefs and actions.  I know that this OK!

But I cannot, at this point in my awareness, blame another for the choices they are making when I can't control my own.

Yes, there are choices being made by business CEO's that are far more greedy and far more harmful in their reach than my own.  Popping a marshmallow in my mouth won't cause an oil spill or support child labor or cause thousands to go without health care.  I strongly disagree with their choices and agree that something should be changed.

 

Again, though, knowing there is no "us and them", I acknowledge WE need to change.

So, knowing we need to change and quieting any beliefs I may have that I am more "right" than they are, I say "Ok.  Me First."

 

No matter how loudly I scream and stomp, the CEO is not going to feel that they deserve their salary any less.  The politician is not going to feel any less between a rock-and-a-hard-place as lobbyists work their magic to get him/her to accept the lobbyist's proposal...or threaten that he/she will lose their position.  The policeman is not going to feel any less inclined to protect themselves and the position for which they worked years to obtain.

Be honest: Would you?

Do you still drive a car?  Purchase plastic?  You are contributing to the oil industry and (albeit probably unconsciously) voting to increase off-shore drilling.  As long you demand the product, the companies will be justified in using means to get it.

Do you have dreams of success?  Starbucks started as one lonely little store.  A local business.  Many people supported it and it got bigger.  Now it is a huge, national chain.  As long as you want more, you are going to chase after it...just like other people in business do.

 

I'm not going to continue.  This isn't to make us feel bad, nor to say that we should all live some perfect life where dreams and beliefs and actions all align.

The point?

Personal responsibility.

Acknowledging there is no "them" means there is only us.  That means WE have to take control of our own actions and choices.  You.  I.

Just a guess, but I'd say probably 95% of OWS protesters have values and beliefs similar to the police they fight against, the politicians the demean, and the businesses they boycott.  It is easier to believe that there is someone evil force out there, some room full of overweight men all smoking there cigars and laughing wildly at the world falling apart around them.  It is easier to believe and blame "them".

However, the same greed we picture in "them", the same callousness, lies in bed with us at night as we work to buy more things, carelessly throw away tons of trash that we forget even exists.

Every little decision matters.  

My choice to eat marshmallows stems from the same cognitive dissonance (what I know versus what I do) as a big-business owner's decision to accept millions of dollars in salary while some of his employees go without health care.

The latter may seem to be more important, something worth protesting about.  But until we address the underlying cause, the one that happens only at the individual level, we will never be any better off.  One marshmallow truly will lead us right back to where we are now.

How we do one thing is how we do all things.

 

So what if OWS is about more than politics and business?

I've read many wonderful articles about the overall effect of OWS being more about raising awareness and consciousness than the issues that are being protested.

Yes, it might be about consciousness raising.  I hope it is.  But it seems to me it is always about raising someone else's consciousness.

Someone else is not aware of what they are doing.  Someone else is not aware of how their greed is affecting others.  Someone else doesn't see how messed up the / their system is.  Someone else doesn't seem to care enough to change their actions.

Someone else's actions are screwing everything up.

It might be easy to say, "yes, but I would never do something as bad as they are doing!"  To which I reply, first, never say never, and second, consider what you are doing that is causing harm (to yourself or another).  Until you can face and change your own harmful thoughts/behaviors, why do you expect someone else to change?

Again I go back to the issues of there being no "us and them" and of personal responsibility.  Until each person knows their own troubles and how they go about handling them, why spend valuable time judging and trying to change the actions of another?  

I know it is far more uncomfortable, but might time be better spent coming to terms with one's own life choices?

Just a thought to consider.

 

 

A wise woman once talked to me about there being two types of leaders.  One is the kind that leads by example - simply by living their life with integrity.

Rosa Parks was one of these types of leaders.  She wasn't setting out to end segregation.  She was simply tired and wanted to sit at the front of the bus.  She knew who she was, what she was doing, and was aware of the environment in which she was doing it.  In so acting (in alignment with her beliefs and actions), she affected change.

This is how I choose to lead...if I even acknowledge it as "leading".  

I work towards world peace by interacting more peacefully with my kids and not flipping off the driver who cut me off.

I work towards environmental protection by turning off the light instead of passing by it and spending a bit of extra time packing my daughter's lunch with containers that will return home instead of ending up in the earth.

I work towards health care by taking care of my own body and mind through activity and yoga, through encouraging my kids and husband to do the same, and being preventive instead of reactive.  (In so doing, I free up money that can be used for those who face health issues that are not because of choice - cancer, childhood issues, etc.)

I work towards business equality by purchasing from my local stores more often, restricting the impulse to buy-buy-buy over the holiday season, and not succumbing to greedy business methods in my own online practice (no matter how tempting it is to get more followers or money or attention).

 

It takes all kinds of actions to effect change.  The world as is, our political systems, the way our businesses are run...something feels wrong.  It certainly isn't sustainable.  So I am all for change.  And I am all for those who choose to take to the OWS camps to assist with this change.

I just ask everyone - that means YOU - to be AWARE.

Hold in your awareness that the group of faceless people you want to hate and blame are comprised of individuals who are just as afraid as you are, who are just as frustrated that "things" aren't working, who want security and happiness just as much as you do.

Hold in your awareness your own beliefs and actions.  Question yourself: Why are you believing what you do?  How does your own life support - or work against - those beliefs?  Instead of blaming someone else, how could you spend your time living so that every second of your waking life is spent in alignment with those beliefs?

Hold in your awareness the Whole.  Not the whole as you think it should look, but as it is.  Suffering and love, death and birth, hatred and peace.  Hold this in your awareness and then realize that every bit of that is within YOU as well.  Instead of fighting it on the outside, how can you address it on the inside...then live as a shining example?

 

Please, comment.  Let your story be heard.  Agree or disagree with me, but allow all of our awareness to be increased.

 

Namaste.