Occupy Wall Street brings awareness and activism to the Bay Area.
On September 17th citizens from all over the world flocked to Zucotti Park in New York (formerly Liberty Plaza Park) in peaceful demonstration against America’s current economic and capitalistic policies which protesters say favor big-business and privatized corporations over the rights of middle and lower class citizens. The protests come at a time of political, social, and economic upheaval in the Middle-east and parts of Europe.
Although these demonstrations began on September 17th much of the coverage of this historic protest was limited to small and independent news organizations and it was not until nearly two weeks after the beginning of the movement that main stream media began to cover the story. Now, more than 70 cities have joined the movement, including San Francisco, San Jose, and L.A. being one of them.
Activism has long been a theme among the neo-pagan movement and as this movement expands pagans are beginning to see this as another cause that both represents pagan environmental concerns as well as the echo of economical sustainability issues among the lower and middle classes. Jenya T. Beachy, Santa Cruz teacher and community leader, has seen these concerns first hand;
“I have friends who are struggling at the poverty line. One of my dearest sisters has two kids and has been on public assistance for years, while holding a steady job (or two or three) all the time. She works in the ‘caring professions’, as a teacher and a skilled care-giver and yet, for at least 10 years she’s not been able to make ends meet. And she’s one of the lucky ones, who has friends and family who can help.”
She later goes on to say:
“I feel like this movement is significant to everything! From a spiritual perspective, it is a crashing open of doors which have kept people contained for years. The expansion that can result of this kind of liberation of energy is dramatic.”
Adbusters, the Canadian organization responsible for the start of the protests released a statement on their website containing thirteen demands of the movement, which they now are referring to as “The Sovereign People’s Movement.” Each demand directly challenges Congress and American economic leaders to free-up funding for universal health care, education, and environmental policy changes. Many pagans, including Bay Area author and counselor Crystal Blanton, feel these concerns mime those of many deeply rooted pagan spiritual beliefs:
“This movement is of great spiritual and social significance to Pagans. As a minority religion, we are a part of fighting for the rights of all minorities and movements that support equality. When a voice is denied to one it is denied to all and we should always feel an investment in the movement of any group that is pushing for the right to survival. Every movement that pushes for acknowledgement of the needs of their community is simultaneously fighting for the rights of Pagans and other minority voices. Pagans are a part of the 99% and this is something we cannot ignore.”
Sharon Knight, pagan musician and singer continues to say:
“These demands are definitely in keeping with pagan values as I understand them. We revere nature, so of course we want to protect the environment. We tend to be tribal in nature, which predisposes us to wanting to care for one another. Most of us have a “We’re in this together” mindset. Out of this mindset also comes the desire for everyone to pay their fair share. Ending the wars would make a lot more resources available for accomplishing these other things, not to mention a global “We’re in this together” mindset doesn’t lend itself well to killing each other. I’d say the average Bay Area citizen would feel about the same.”
As the movement continues to grow and raise awareness many pagans are taking to the street and are logging on-line to see how they can help. Jonathan Korman, local community leader, blogger, and member of Solar Cross and the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn has been to the San Francisco protest which is being held at 101 Mission Street.
“ I have contributed supplies to both Occupy Wall Street and Occupy San Francisco, and have visited Occupy San Francisco a few times now, though I did not participate in the 6 October march. I expect to continue to vigorously support both, and I hope to spend significantly more time participating in discussions among Occupy San Francisco participants in the weeks to come.”
Efforts have been made to both send food as well as clothing and other supplies to the occupations in each major city, to find out how you can help follow the link here.
As a result of the now ‘Sovereign People’s Movement’ pagans from all over have reached out by forming their own organization and aide efforts, as well as contacting long term independent political organizations. The Covenant of Columbia, a network of pagan spiritual practitioners have pledged to raise awareness of this issue and any issue related to the movement as well as send a united collection of prayers, energy, spell work, and healing to those in demonstration.
This movement promises to bring awareness to many underlying issues within our social and economical structures. The Bay Area in particular mirrors New York’s own class structure, a collection of rich, poor, immigrant, and migrant and the separation of the classes is seen in the streets of both cities.
“Living in San Francisco confronts one with juxtapositions of class in a way that one does not see as often in suburban America. In an ordinary day — or even an hour — walking around San Francisco one can rub shoulders with well-to-do professionals, hardworking poor immigrants, bohemians both rich and poor, dot-com millionaires, the impoverished underclass, service industry workers just scraping by, and even the stratospherically wealthy. For a while I was working in an office in the same building as Gump’s, a big store which sells beautiful, useless, inconceivably expensive tchotchkes to rich people, yet fifteen minutes’ walk could take me to the charity kitchen under Glide Memorial church in the Tenderloin. I suspect that a similar overlap between rich and poor in everyday life in New York City contributed to the Occupy Wall Street movement beginning there. “
While some politicians such as Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney declare the movement to be “Dangerous” and an act of “Class Warfare”, others like independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders say, “We desperately need a coming together of working people to stand up to Wall Street. We need to rebuild the middle-class in this country and you guys can’t have it all.” Reactions have been just as mixed here in California as the movement arrives and the state’s unemployment rate is at a dramatic 12%.
Korman goes on to say:
“To frame this in Pagan terms: Hermes stands on top of Grand Central Terminal in New York City, cresting a sculpture entitled “The Glory of Commerce;” directly at his back lies the New York Stock Exchange, an institution whose history and spirit descends directly from the agora the Greeks held as sacred to Hermes. I honor Hermes and make an offering to him every day. But a wise Pagan knows that the gods’ purposes differ from our own, and you do not want to live a life of All Hermes All The Time any more that you want to live in Morrigan World or Skaldi World or any god’s domain exclusively. The Pagan sensibility, rightly, sees exclusive devotion to one god as neither desirable nor even truly possible, seeking balance in evoking each god in its time and directed to its proper purpose. So too with market capitalism, a force I respect but wish we had better balanced with its more egalitarian cousins.”
For sure this all promises to be a long a bumpy road and as always PNC Bay Area is dedicated to keeping our community up to date on information as it arrives. Stay tuned as in the coming days we will be covering reactions from local activists from the 60′s and 70′s liberation movements as to how they feel this movement both correlates and deviates from political causes fought in the Bay Area during the height of the peace movement.
Devin Hunter reporting for PNC Bay Area