I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Social movements are like family fights

Watching Occupy Wall Street prompts reflection and discussion:

1. What are the protestors actually protesting? ("Not sure." "Unemployment." "The rich.")

2. Are they right? ("Not sure." "Disrespectful." "Just like Woodstock.")

3. Is anybody beefing up their numbers to score political or marketing points? ("Definitely.")

Reflecting on this movement - what it is, what it means to the people who have joined it - suddenly I remembered something that happened when I was a kid.

We had moved to an area way too religious for my mom and me to bear. It was stifling.

Tensions bubbled up.

I guess we talked about them. Or maybe we didn't. But we seemed to keep on going and going with nothing resolved.

Till one night, as Yom Kippur ended, the tension exploded.

My dad came home from synagogue.

He said to my mom, "Where's the wine?" For havdala. We were supposed to observe the Jewish ceremony.

In that moment my mom had had enough.

"You want the havdala wine?" my mother said to my dad. "THERE's the havdala wine."

And she, short and packed full of a rage she could not express in logic, she took an enormous bottle of Kedem grape juice (we called that "wine") and SLAMMED it onto the dining room table.

Which was covered in a sheet of glass.

Which shattered into a thousand pieces.

The four of us stood in front of the scene. Shocked. Quieted. And we moved away very soon after that.

The fight was quick and took only about 5 minutes. But it destroyed what was left of our little social order. And I will never forget the sound of that shattering glass. Because it signaled very clearly that the way things were, wasn't working. And that something had to change.

Social movements are really nothing more than family fights.

They result when the members of the family, who will under normal circumstances try to get along and not change a thing, find themselves unable to tolerate the status quo any longer.

In the case of Occupy Wall Street, that day has come.

What the particulars of the anger are, probably do come down to sheer survival. To the sense that regular people can no longer find success in the system. And there are other things too. Probably, and I am not a scholar of this movement, the fact that regular people also don't understand the way the system works anymore in the first place.

When you think about it, what the Occupy Wall Street protesters are protesting, is the fact that they themselves are occupied by forces they no longer understand and agree to.

And that is why I think we are on the verge of very major and very meaningful social change. I hope that it brings us to a better place in the end.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck.