Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Occupy Wall Street

with 6 comments

Occupy-Wall-Street-signs15I might regret this. But I think perhaps it’s time to bring my perspective to bear on the Occupy Wall Street Protests. I don’t know about you, But I’ve certainty been curious about who’s side I would end up on. What with my tendency to controversy and social change, while also championing rationality and Christian values.

At first blush I thought it wouldn’t amount to anything. When my friend Salim, the Jasmine Revolutionary said he heard protests were happening on wall street and there were accusations of police brutality, I was quick to explain to him that in this country “police brutality” usually means a cot accidently knocked a kid down and he skinned his knee. “It’s not like Bahrain” I said “Protestors will get arrested if they cross picket lines, but they will be written up and sent home, nobody’s going to be locked in a dungeon I assure you” I then added “Wait a sec What’s happening on Wall Street again?”

When I did more research I scoffed. “Protesting cooperate greed”??? how do you do that? Every protest I’ve ever been to has an awareness raising component, “This is going on, nobody knows about it and it needs to stop, so we’re going to make a big stink until somebody does something about it” So as an abortion protestor I held a sign that depicts what abortion actually consists of. For Invisible children we wrote letters and took a picture of the crowd to show the sheer numbers of people who were concerned about Child Soldiers in Uganda. But how do you raise awareness for corporate greed? Who in the world did not know, prior to the protest that corporations on Wall Street were greedy? Are you going to protest Gambling in Vegas next? Windiness in Chicago? Fundamentalism in Utah?

What’s the Best Case Scenario here?

Occupy-Wall-Street-signs02“Hey Mr. CFO, I made this sign that says you should stop being greedy”

”I should? Well dang, Okay! But what will I do with all this money?”

“Let’s give it to the homeless together”

“Great Idea! Last one there’s a sub-prime lending agreement!”

One news blog I read suggested that there are legitimate issues here and this is just an organization problem and the cream has yet to rise to the top. When it does,the blogger theorized that the protest would be more about taxation and lobbys than it will about “I hate rich people”

Another perspective is that this is the first true protest of the information age. No longer tied down by Bumper sticker slogans and androcentric leadership we can finally use free mass communication to allow people to communicate a truly complex and nuanced message in a  truly brilliant way.

Still others think the protests are a waste of time and they should all just go get a job because they don’t know what they’re even protesting.

blog_karen_brown_rally_to_restore_sanity1I’d like to offer a fourth perspective. There are legitimate issues here, the protests are a waste of time, and that’s truly brilliant!

See, It’s a front.

They say they are hanging out protesting corporate greed, but really they’re just hanging out, and if social change happens all the better.

The more I read about what’s going on the less I feel like this resembles the work I did with Invisible Children and the more it sounds like the week I spent camping out for Star Wars.

Sure, In theory I was reserving a seat, but in reality we had all purchased tickets on fandango, I was really just spending the week outside with other nerds under the auspices of wanting a “really good seat”. It was one of the best weeks of my life.

Occupy-Wall-Street-signs25Invisible Children was awesome too. I stayed up late talking to unique like-minded people and telling jokes while making the world a better place.

Am I the first one who’s noticed that rent in Lower Manhattan is $72 per square foot per month? People often commute for hours from 3 states to get to the City, these guys are camping there for free! That’s brilliant!

Meanwhile they have raised the level of public discourse in the country about an issue that nobody in their right mind would protest. You see they can do that, because they’re not in their right mind. they’re transient hippie whackjobs, and they’re changing the world.

pics-from-the-rally-to-restore-sanity-and-or-fear.5571947.87In Ancient Israel there was a massive temple court where people would mill about and talk to each other and debate the issues of the day. I’ve often lamented that no such place existed in America, but I think these guys are creating it. And how beautiful and ironic is it that they’re creating it at the great temple of America’s favorite God, the Almighty Dollar. I think it’s marvelous.

I hope the protest continues indefinitely. I hope one starts in every city in America, and the civil leaders adjust to having people camping in their parks discussing whatever is on their mind 24/7/365. I hope I can go there and talk to everyone about Jesus and what his sign would say and what they all think of him versus the organized church community.

I hope we start talking about things as a people from now on. and don’t just limit stuff to what’s easy to talk about, or what fits on a sign or what problems are “solvable” I hope our prophets stop following procedure, and start crying out in the wilderness again because I hunger and thirst for justice and I hold to the audacious hope of satisfaction.

…also I would really like to hang out with these guys, but I have a job and it’s getting kinda cold out.


Written by RyanGaffney

October 21, 2011 at 4:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. This is why you ought to be enrolled at Union. You know, the greatest seminary in the history of the universe!


    October 25, 2011 at 5:12 pm

  2. And since you asked:

    A) I’m horrified that you’ve actually protested abortion. And not simply because I’m “pro-choice.” (A horrible term, btw, that needs to be removed from our vocabulary. It assumes a dichotomy which may not necessarily exist and boils an extraordinarily complex issue down to a simple notion of right and wrong in all circumstanes. Just because I believe a woman has a right to adequate medical care, including abortive services when necessary, somehow becomes equated with “I think it’s okay to kill babies.” I’m actually highly in favor of life. I believe abortion should be a last resort, never a first choice; but I do believe it should always be a choice).

    Was this while standing outside of an abortion clinic? Have you ever had a conversation with a woman who was pregnant, desperately wanted her child, but experienced a miscarriage quite late in the pregnancy, did not go into labor, and had to have the fetus removed? Which is done at abortion clinics, because most hospitals do not perform even therapeutic abortions. Because I’ve known a few. And protesters only make the experience worse.

    B) “I’d like to offer a fourth perspective. There are legitimate issues here, the protests are a waste of time, and that’s truly brilliant!”

    I actually strongly disagree with the second of these statements. Because I know several people who have been participating in this protest in New York City, where it all started. And I know that their stance is deeply rooted in their faith. I believe that anytime anyone stands up and calls out injustice and demands an accounting is absolutely NOT a waste of time. Even if it seems to make no difference at the present or any point in the future, I believe that we are all inherently linked in a grand, cosmic. I believe that the actions of one affect all. I believe that the health and well-being of the whole is intimately dependent on the health and well-being of every individual. I believe that in choosing to stand on the side of the oppressed and to speak out against the oppressor, something happens that is significant and beautiful and important.

    I also believe that those protesting the corporate greed in America need to realize that while they may be in the lower 99% of Americans in terms of capital, by living in the United States, they are certainly in the top 2% of the world in terms of capital and that carries significant ramifications as well. I wonder how many of them use their limited resources to support missional work in other areas of the world. I believe there is a significant lack of balancer in the United States, and between the United States and the rest of the world.

    C) “I hope we start talking about things as a people from now on. and don’t just limit stuff to what’s easy to talk about, or what fits on a sign or what problems are “solvable” I hope our prophets stop following procedure, and start crying out in the wilderness again because I hunger and thirst for justice and I hold to the audacious hope of satisfaction.”

    I think this is the most significant and worthwhile sentence in your entire blog post. I also think that in regards to what people talk about, and the mind-numbing agenda of the media, you might enjoy reading Chris Hedges’s Empire of Illusion. Totally worthwhile.


    October 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm

  3. Yeah I wouldn’t protest again. But that’s a piece of my history. I did it twice, once at a clinic singing Christmas carols, and again at Man’s Chinese Theatre. The second time was actually worse, at that one we had the gruesome aborted fetus signs. my friend Micheal came with a counter-protest sign with a picture of open heart surgery.

    As to the waste of time… I think in the scheme of the blog you picked up on the fact that i don’t mean waste of time in the sense of “something that shouldn’t be done” but rather in the sense of “something that is not methodically linked to a result” there is no end game here. there are no demands, there are few proposed improvements. the %1 should not have %40 of the nations wealth but how we intend to go about redistributing that is up in the air.

    On the other hand as you articulated the protest is a solution in it’s self. it solves the problem of not having a Temple court in the US by creating one. That’s the brilliance of it. If there were demands or a coherent message then they could be met, and this would have to stop. This way we can keep protesting for as long as we want to

    Ryan Gaffney

    October 25, 2011 at 5:30 pm

  4. I am happy to say that as I look back on my life I have few regrets and I wish you the same. I listen to the news pretty much all day during the week in the office, although it is primarily the financial news until 3 p.m. when the market closes, and for the life of me I still can’t figure out what these nutters want. It seems a whole lot like camping out for Star Wars or even organizing a Flash Mob show.

    They are still camping on the lawn outside City Hall in Irvine, even though several other cities have “moved them on”. I find it hilariuos that they make them pack up their tents and move to the sidewalk once a week so they can mow the lawn. And of course the people who live in the adjacent neighborhoods got so tired of the campers and the honkers that the city was forced to put out traffic warning signs saying, “Quiet zone, please don’t honk”. What if I need to honk for traffic reasons? will I be ticketed?

    Obviously, greed is not good, in spite of Gordon Gekko’s soliloquy. Competition is good. Lots of things about the American Capitalist system are good. But camping in the road isn’t going to change what’s wrong with the system if you don’t have a clear message. It just makes you a bum!


    January 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    • No camping in the road is not going to solve the problem of cooperate greed. It is however going to solve the problem of Not-Camping-In-The-Road. That’s the brilliance of it. They aren’t bums because they are protesting… What are they protesting? Essentially, the system that requires them not to be bums! Bumception! now they get to bum it up to their hearts content.


      January 4, 2012 at 10:45 pm

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