The following post is a segment from a longer piece I wrote. The full version can be found here.
Sometimes I hesitate to tell people about the hard parts of Occupy Oakland. About the sexism and anti-semitism. The racism and cultural appropriation I have seen. The male domination. Or even how my phone got stolen there. Because I want this movement so badly. And I want everyone to want it. We are the 99% after all.
As is often the case, it seems like anyone will jump on a chance to discredit a movement. To me, there is something adultist about this. In my work with JYCA, we talk about “adultism” as the system of oppression that targets young folks. As young people we deeply believe in justice and activism, but as we grow older, we get the message not to be hopeful, and to belittle the hope of the new generation. So when we see a whole group of people rising up for a movement, I think that that part of us that got shot down is ready to do the same to others. We resist being hopeful. It feels scary to get excited only to be slammed again. But I actually think we’re strong enough to be hopeful. If things don’t go exactly as we want them to—it’s okay. We can cope with that. Why not get hopeful? Why not be that young person jumping up and down with excitement for justice?
So I think I can be honest. There are problems. It’s not perfect. The goals haven’t been figured out so precisely. Some people haven’t undergone all the JYCA trainings on oppression and liberation. What I keep telling people is: give us time. We’ve been living in an oppressive capitalist system our whole lives. The Occupy Together Movement has lasted just over a month. We’ve got a lot of layers of numbness, competition, greed and anger to work through to really get at our core visions and desires for human connection.
Judaism teaches us that it is possible to work in the present moment while envisioning an ideal future- the time of the Messiah. And there is a teaching that says Shabbat, the holiest holyday, is just a small taste of what the Messiah is like. It sustains us, so we can keep working for that vision of justice.
My dad always tells me about a time in the 70s when he attended a “celebration of the end of the Vietnam war” 5 years before the Vietnam war actually ended. It was a brilliant protest strategy considering how much activists can get bogged down with despair.
So I wonder- maybe that’s what we’re doing here at Occupy- celebrating an end to capitalism, a few years before it actually ends. Maybe we’re giving ourselves a taste of the Messiah, just to keep us working for justice. And we’ve just gotten started. Who knows how rich this could get?