(Dec. 9, 2011) The Occupy Wall Street Movement needs concrete actions which ordinary citizens can take. Nonviolence is a basic commitment of OWS and an essential part of the change we want to see. OWS needs to add a clear denunciation of homicidal security to its clear denunciation of capitalistic greed. The embrace of nonviolent power and the abolition of war are next steps in the evolution of democracy which can give the world a sustainable future. This article introduces 1040forpeace.org, a clear and powerful citizen action toward being the change we want to see. Here is how it works:
Our amazing 99 percent movement is clear on what it wants Wall Street to do. But are we just as clear on what we will do? It is good to occupy Zuccotti park, but in the end that is not our bottom line. We want to change the system.
There are clear and demanding tasks for all citizens, rich and poor, white, black, brown and yellow to do, now. We can’t all do everything, but we can all do some thing, and here is one thing we can all do. Or at least all of us who pay taxes for war. Which seems to be most of us!
Author Tom Englehardt said Oct. 20: “Chris Hellman of the National Priorities Project did the math for TomDispatch and found—again, a conservative estimate—that American taxpayers are shelling out at least $1.2 trillion a year for the vast military, intelligence, and homeland security combine that operates in their name.”
All of this to keep you safe from the next underwear bomber.
Any movement for social change must renounce some things and embrace other things. Let’s be clear about two things which humanity in general and Americans in particular must renounce. In this we follow Jesus, who excoriated greed and renounced violence.
Let’s review the reasons capitalistic greed and homicidal security are wrong and failing. Then let’s envision things we must embrace and do to create a new system, coming to focus finally on one very critical and doable citizen action.
Renounce capitalistic greed
Until we as a society renounce selfish consumption we will have a Wall Street of greedy exploitation. Wall Street is possible because the public accepts the lie that everyone’s greed is all that is needed to assure a successful economic system.
Even though you’ve heard it before, it is true—we must, as a culture and a human family, renounce selfish consumption. Oversized houses, cars, meals, vacations and sports feed and sustain the worst of Wall Street like heat, water and wind sustain a hurricane. There is enough in the world for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.
Second, we must press the demand that Wall Street renounce ecological destruction. But ecological destruction follows selfish consumption like night follows day, so Wall Street is not going to stop ecological destruction until we stop selfish consumption. Humanity will continue on its spiral toward ecological doom until we learn (as some native cultures can teach us) that the true cost of what we consume is first a cost to the environment, and after that it has some kind of monetary cost.
Unbelievable CEO salaries are only the tip of the iceberg—a grim logical conclusion—of a mindset which justifies greed and ignores ecology.
Third, Wall Street must renounce strangulating interest rates and greedy speculation in derivatives. At issue is the observance of a simple truth: The fact that some is good (as in charging some interest) is no proof that more is better. And we can remind ourselves of the opposite truth: the fact that too much is evil is no proof that some is not good.
This is not rocket science. There is no perfect economic system, and the search for one is a waste of time. An economic system in this is like a human body: it works when necessary restraints are observed and it does not work when those restraints are not observed.
Renounce homicidal security
We’ve got to renounce not only capitalistic greed, but also homicidal security.
Homicidal security is the pursuit of personal or national security based on the preparation of and offensive use of overwhelming violence to kill and subdue other people. By no means have all cultures in history, or the present, assumed as universally and easily as Americans do that it is acceptable moral behavior to seek security by initiating violence against others. Indeed, international law has prohibited such conduct. To renounce homicidal security means several specific things.
It means to quit justifying war. Sadly enough, as one generally willing to be considered a follower of Jesus, I have to say that the putative followers of Jesus called Christians have led America in justifying war.
Two centuries ago in this nation many Christians busied themselves justifying slavery. Today their direct religious and intellectual heirs are justifying war. It is devoutly to be hoped, and I believe expected, that the time is coming when justifications of war will be as discredited as justifications of slavery. Until then individuals and movements for social change are charged with the task of being among the first to quit justifying war. Slavery was not dealt with by taming it or reducing its worst features. It is illusory to think that war will be dealt with by those approaches.
Second, to renounce homicidal security means to quit justifying bullying. Who is justifying bullying, you ask? Well, at the personal level, not many. But on the national and international level the justification of bullying is taken for granted—it is the foundation of a hundred “national security” and “national defense,” schemes parading themselves as the indispensable wisdom of expensive think-tanks and storehouses of sagacious “realpolitik.”
Public school teachers and administrators agonize and write articles on the problem of bullying, never once casting a glance toward the astonishingly militarized culture in which our youth live their lives. Has there ever been a more egregious case of expecting to reap what was not sown? Any outside observer would have to conclude that this is a pitiful, whining society—having the nerve to complain about bullying among its children, offspring of a bullying nation.
Third, the way to renounce homicidal security is to embrace security for all. There is no security for some at the price of insecurity for others. To think so is a sister to thinking that you can amputate your left hand and not affect your whole body. The human family is an organism with linkages as close and inviolable as those of the human body, and the health of every part depends on the health of the whole.
Security for all is possible, but of course not without effort, creativity and compromise. It is a question of giving up the failed ways of homicidal security and accepting the principles and practices which will nurture the security of all.
The largest single corruption of Wall Street is it’s profiting in the military industrial complex, about which General Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us generations ago.
We can trace this militarism back: Selfish consumption in America has depended historically on the war system to enforce the acquisition of the resources of others—i.e., of the world. Squirm, wiggle, deny, divert—this fact remains clear and its consequences have come home to roost. War enabled by homicidal production is the means of maintaining an unjust distribution of the world’s resources. This is wrong, and it is therefore unsustainable.
The managers of the war system do not, indeed, tell you that the central purpose of this military machine is to assure control over the flow of world resources and trade. Are they perhaps smart enough to know that the human conscience, the public conscience, would rebel against such a patent injustice? I think so.
What they tell you is that this war system gives you “security.” So here we have history’s most ambitious and diabolical protection racket. (As in the world of crime—you pay for protection from certain people or powers.) This very big protection racket must be addressed. So, let’s address it.
Embrace nonviolent power
The occupy Wall Street movement has had the wisdom to embrace nonviolent power. This is its amazing “secret weapon.” Not a whole lot has been made of this in media reports, and perhaps not explicitly in the general assemblies of the movement (although I’m sure that nonviolence is a very conscious and active principle of most of the movement’s participants). Nonviolent action is the foundation on which the security of all can be built.
Nonviolent power is understood and practiced by people who do some very specific things. First, they nurture friendship. The principle is simple—we are most secure among friends. So, while friendship is right and valued for its own sake, like other practices which are right in life, it brings a reward. That reward is security in the company of people who respect and value one another. This principle applies as surely to nations as it does to individuals. Witness the historic relationship between the United States and Canada.
Second, people of nonviolent power forgive mistakes and wrongs. The rightness and usefulness of this forgiveness is obvious to anyone who considers how they get along with themselves. We forgive our own mistakes and wrongs, understanding that our very life depends on getting second chances. It is the same in interpersonal and international relationships.
Bad leaders and propagandistic media can lead people away from their inner wisdom which affirms forgiveness and second chances, but there is no sound reason why people should not follow their instinct which says that forgiveness is necessary, possible and life-giving. Perhaps we should spend a little time imagining a world in which, for a single day, no one forgave themselves and a million little things in the people around them. Such a world, I promise, would fail miserably before noon on the first day of the experiment. Comedy shows have been built around individuals who are absolutely narcissistic and unforgiving, illustrating my point.
Third, people of nonviolent power love their enemies. This is admittedly a big jump. But what to do about enemies? It’s a big problem so it demands a big solution. We’ve tried annihilation—still are trying it. It hasn’t worked, isn’t working. We’ve tried isolation—build fences and walls. Keep us, the pure, good and holy inside, and them, the impure, evil and unholy, outside. Hasn’t worked, isn’t working. So let’s try reconciliation. Turn those enemies into friends—or at least family, so we don’t forget that even if we don’t like them all the time we can choose to love them.
We are, after all, just one human family. So we’re not just one big happy family. Is your family at home just one big happy family? We cannot build our security on the insecurity of the rest of the human family, and in particular, there is no reliable security based on the primitive and failed notion of homicidal security. Renounce it.
Fourth, people of nonviolent power can refuse war taxes—they can give $10.40 for peace. Here is a concrete nonviolent action. Move beyond vague ideas, abstract talk and airy idealism. Act now for peace, resist militarism, using nonviolent power for peace.
When April 15 comes and you face that 1040 Form from IRS, fill it out, tally the total owed, and subtract $10.40 for peace. Refuse to pay that amount. Make a clear, unequivocal, civilly disobedient statement of protest. Send that statement to congressperson, your peers, IRS, your relatives, your pastor or priest, your newspaper: make it clear to them that you are leaving the herd’s mad rush after homicidal security.
You could well justify doing more than $10.40 for peace. But how would you justify doing less? Discuss it with a friend. Then do it.