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Posts Tagged ‘Occupy Wall Street’

I had the pleasure of seeing Michel Onfray speak last night in Montreal, a philosopher that I admire greatly. He is the first voice that I have heard in a long time, besides Chris Hedges, that speaks to me directly and holds an understanding of the world very similar to mine. It is always great to hear oneself in the words of someone much more eloquent, but it is also such a special moment when we read someone who understands our idols like us. One thing that I admire most of Onfray is his mission to make philosophy accessible to everyone, much like Camus who believed that we should ensure that philosophy does not only stay in the hands of the professionals, when this is the norm we are faced with philosophers who write for philosophers only and what is the point of that? Michel Onfray, to continue with this personal mission, founded the tuition-free Université Populaire at Caen where he and several colleagues teach philosophy and other subjects. The Université Populaire, which is open to all who cannot access the state university system, and on principle does not accept any money from the State – Onfray uses the profits from his books to help finance it – has had enormous success. This concept and specific inception is based on Onfray’s book La Communauté Philosophique: Manifeste pour l’Université Populaire (2004).

I find this concept to be exciting and necessary, especially in these – Occupy Wall Street, Maple Springs – reactionary times, the popular university in an incredible tool to be able to offer an education by the people for the people. I used to feel uncomfortable with the elitism that permeated my Master’s philosophy classes, the notion that specialized language – which alienates anyone that has no working knowledge of the material – somehow gave it validity and helped to reinforce the academic ivory towers. Camus was of the same opinion if you ask me, that is why he said repeatedly that he was not a philosopher, if we use a Hegel or Sartre as an example, writing texts that are extremely complexes and lost in specialized vocabularies, then yes I agree that he was most definitely not a philosopher. Also, this type of philosopher would say that it is a completely cerebral activity; one of writing books that no one really understands except for the small circle of contemporaries. Camus, on the other hand, lived his philosophy. He believed like Nietzsche that he had to say Yes to life and wrestle with these ideas every day in all situations and expressing in diverse mediums – novels, essay, plays, articles – and with a language that tried to include everyone in the debate. Always focusing on the human – whether it be the human sentiments felt during the Algerian war for independence or any other situation where one had to look at the world with honest eyes – was always a priority for Camus.

If we are to continue these micro revolutions (Maple Spring, the Occupy movement), we must assure that philosophy and other revolutionary ideas be brought to the general public and out of the hands of the professionals. Caen was the first popular university, there are already other copies that have sprung up in France in Lyon, Narbonne, Arras, and other cities, and I was pleased to find out that there is also one in Montreal. This movement must not lose momentum, and it can bring a milieu where people can gather and contribute in the development of radical ideas and theories. With these “institutions” we can work to rehabilitate materialist and sensualist thinking and use it to re-examine our relationship to the world. Approaching philosophy as a reflection of each individual’s personal experience, inquiring into the capabilities of the body and its senses and encourage society to celebrate them through music, painting, and cuisine.

I am calling for a postanarchism, I advocate an anarchism in line with Orwell, Simone Weil, Jean Grenier, Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari; a Nietzschean revolt in order to put an end to the “One” truth, revealed, and to put in evidence the diversity of truths, to help make disappear ascetic Christian ideas and to help arise new possibilities of existence. This is a call to everyone, people sick of living in this unjust world. Michel Onfray is accused of not being 100% objective in his works, when he despise someone he really tears them a new one (i.e. – Freud, Sartre), and when he admires someone he will paint a generous picture of them as people and their philosophies (i.e. – Camus, Nietzsche). I am of the same school, it is hard for me to believe and fight for the vision of someone that did not live by their philosophy. The more that I look into the life of Camus, the more I see a generous, humble, and moral man; and that is how we can start this Nietzschean revolution!

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The Occupy Wall Street movement has been spreading like wildfire for a little over a month now, people are hearing about the 99% rising up and demanding that the widening gap that is growing between the haves and the have-nots becomes smaller. The Occupy movement describes itself as:

Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

This #ows movement empowers real people to create real change from the bottom up. We want to see a general assembly in every backyard, on every street corner because we don’t need Wall Street and we don’t need politicians to build a better society.

It has become the 1% and the 99%, these numbers have been burned into most news coverage of this new movement and rightfully so, but I have always believed that I was part of a different statistic. Noah Levine in his book The Heart of the Revolution describes a definition of another 1%, people who follow the teachings of the Buddha and the Dharma are ones that go against the stream and are a part of a very select group of people. I find it interesting that he used this kind of language and imagery before this movement arose, and in many ways I find it very fitting to be using it at this point in time in history. So my question is, what is a Buddhist to do with a movement like this one? I believe in this cause and find that it is really great to see its success since its inception in September, I am also happy that it has been mostly peaceful as movement, so what can a socially engaged Buddhist like myself bring to this movement? I actually found a great article at the Buddhist Peacemakers Institute website about occupying the present moment.

  1. Interconnection.  We are moved by the interconnectedness expressed in this movement.  Occupy Wall Street is not about one environmental situation or one war, but rather about all of the systems which create suffering for all beings, and which are all related to each other.  Our spiritual practice is not just for our individual enlightenment, but to end suffering for all beings, so we are moved to address this system.
  2. Ending suffering means changing the conditions of inequality. The influence of money, corporations, and banks in our U.S. political system blocks all of the human and environmental goals that BPF works towards.  Numerous Buddhist texts point out that if an individual lives in poverty it is not due to karma as a form of personal punishment, but rather that poverty exists within a web of collective causes and conditions. The Buddha also noted that the way to build a peaceful society is to ensure equitable distribution of resources.  Many U.S. Buddhists believe in the importance of cultivating a limitless heart that embraces the goal of a society in which everyone has their basic needs met, plus education, a living wage, and the opportunity to care for their families and to develop spiritually.
  3. The means are the ends.  We are moved by and in agreement with the nonviolent tactics of the movement.  We believe in the power of compassionate presence, of bearing witness, and of nonviolent strategies toward spiritual awakening and liberation. The people on the streets in New York, and around the country and world, are in the process of being the change they wish to see, to use Gandhi’s phrase.
  4. We participate in solidarity with the 100%—with all beings.  While we want to change the situation of disparity in world, we don’t want to exile the 1% from our hearts.  Furthermore, we are aware that lumping people together, whether into the 99% or the 100%, can invisibilize people’s experiences, especially those of people of color, and the many others who bear the heaviest burdens of inequality in the U.S. and in the world.  While we are all interconnected, we are not all the same.  With this recognition of diversity, we stand in solidarity with the 100%.

This is what I find sticks with me the most out of this statement, standing in solidarity with the 100% and not exiling anyone. I mean, in a way, this is why the 99% are so upset right now, they feel pushed aside and ignored, so it is not much better if we push the 1% to the side and ignore them. It is not the people who are the problem but the system that exists in the world, this is what we must change. We are all interconnected and we must work together (everyone) if we want to change things for the best. We want to end the suffering of every being, not just a select group. Let’s continue speaking out against injustice, but lets not forget to bring compassion and wisdom to the movement. Organise a meditation flashmob at one of the occupy protests in your town and show people that this revolution will remain peaceful and compassionate, let’s not forget that this revolution must also happen within us! Be the change that you want to see in the world!

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