Zuccotti Park – Tip of the Iceberg

The epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement is Zuccotti Park.   It’s become a significant problem for the Mayor of New York City.  Mayor Bloomberg  has thus far successfully walked the tight-rope.  He has to keep the City open for business and, at the same time, not infringe the right of Occupy Wall Street to protest how that very business is conducted.  I’m not without admiration for Mayor Bloomberg.  But, brilliant and measured, as he is, he doesn’t understand what the Occupy Wall Street Movement is, or is becoming.  Consider this quote, as reported in the New York Times:

“My personal view is, why don’t you get out there and try to do something about the things that you don’t like, create the jobs that we are lacking, rather than just yell and scream,” Mr. Bloomberg said Thursday. “But if you want to yell and scream, we’ll make sure you can do it.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/04/nyregion/for-bloomberg-wall-street-protest-poses-a-challenge.html?_r=1&smid=fb-nytimes&WT.mc_id=NY-SM-E-FB-SM-LIN-FBW-110411-NYT-NA&WT.mc_ev=click; visited 11/7/11

Perhaps it’s his personal wealth that blinds him.  Mayor Bloomberg is clearly at the top of the 1%.  He is reported to be the 12th richest person in the country with a net worth of $19.5 billion, most of it from and still invested on Wall Street. http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/; visited 11/7/11.   He sees the Occupy Wall Street Movement as just kids yelling and screaming in a park in his city.  He supports their right to yell and scream but like the many of the rest of the 1%, he’s not listening, yet.  He probably thinks that the movement will go away, perhaps with bitter cold in a winter only weeks away.  I hope he’s wrong.  I hope that Occupy Wall Street will  prove that it can’t be driven away so conveniently.  Perhaps then Mayor Bloomberg and more of the 1% will begin to hear what is being said.

If Mayor Bloomberg was hearing what Occupy Wall Street was saying he wouldn’t make a comment that essentially boils down to “Get a Job!”  Isn’t that the point here.  We have rescued the machinery that the 1% uses to create and hold their wealth.  But, they aren’t putting that money to work on Main Street.  They’re sitting on it.  Credit for small business and ordinary people remains tight, despite attempts by the government to ease it.  Unemployment remains above 9%, despite government attempts to reduce it.  Job creation is improving but remains tenuous and anemic.  Current job growth will take many years to make a substantial reduction in unemployment.

Occupy Wall Street is trying to tell Mayor Bloomberg and others that there are too few jobs.  They are pointing out that the 1% is hording money and not putting it to work where it can create jobs.  The furor over excessive executive compensation is but a first focus on this problem.  But,it is something Occupy Wall Street is clearly pointing out. The admonition to quit yelling and screaming and get a job in these circumstances evidences  ignorance and avoidance of responsibility.  Who has the greater ability to create jobs, the folks in Zuccotti Park or Mayor Bloomberg and the 1%?  Who is failing the nation on this issue?

Beneath the ignorance evidenced by Mayor Bloomberg’s “Get a Job!” statement is an even more troubling lack of perception.  The “kids” in Zuccotti Park and whether they have jobs isn’t the whole issue.  They are just the tip of the iceberg.  They really do represent the unrest, dissatisfaction and desire for change in the way business is conducted of  much of the 99% .     The amount of money held in the IRAs, 401Ks, and straightforward savings and investments by the 99% is substantial.  It is  a little bit greater than the amount held by the 1%.  Mayor Bloomberg and the rest of the 1% need to listen to the yelling in Zuccotti Park.  It’s a warning.  They are the voice standing on the tip of the iceberg .  They are yelling: “Change course for your own good!”  The 1% would be wise to listen.


I’m Too Old to Sit in the Street

I’ve never been the public protesting type.   And, now, even though there is a protest I’d like to join, I’m too old and soft to be sitting in the street.   But, I believe that Occupy Wall Street offers a real hope of changing our business culture, especially the business of financial services.  So, what can I do.

Well, I can do the same thing that a lot of the 99% can do.  You see,many of the 99% have some wealth.  No, we don’t have the seven and eight figure incomes of the 1%.  Most of us are still working for a daily living and only dreaming of being able to retire.  But, we are the ones who hold most of the IRAs, 401Ks and have some savings and investments.  We’ve worked hard and saved.

In our savings and retirement plans is our voice to add to those who occupy the streets.  And, we can speak a language that Wall Street already understands.  We can go to our brokers and advisers and tell them that we want investments evaluated differently and we want to invest in ways that will change the culture of Wall Street.

I read Mark Cuban’s blog: Blog Maverick, on his advice to Occupy Wall Street. http://blogmaverick.com/2011/10/14/my-soapbox-advice-to-the-ows-movement-and-then-some.  He puts forth some very interesting ideas.

But the point is that you don’t have to go sit in the street to raise a voice of protest.  There are other ways that may also be effective.

OWS, Please Don’t Go to Washington

One of the critiques of the Occupy Wall Street movement, usually leveled by the objects of the protest, is that the movement needs to focus its attention on Washington.  The gist of the critic’s comment is: “take your complaints to the government.  It’s their job to fix this.”  What that means is: we’re not going to fix it.  We have ours and we like it that way.  It’s also a tactic to deflect your movement.  Wall Street wants you to spend your energy flailing away at politicians.

Please don’t fall for it.  Stay where you are.  You’re in the right place.  Taking your movement to Washington will only dissipate its energy.  Your business is to create a new financial culture.  Washington won’t help you do that.  Even if we set aside for a moment the current lack of Washington’s ability to govern, cultural change is not the business of government.  Governments form and reform as response to culture and cultural change.  They don’t create it.

Stay the course right where you are.  You’re in the right place and you are talking to the right people.  God willing, they eventually will listen to you.

At Dawn on Wall Street

I have been very interested in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.  I have the impression that I am watching the dawn.  It’s new.  There’s light, heat and lots of color.  There is promise and fresh potential.  The new day does not yet burn white hot.  You can look directly at it and see what will later become obscured by its own intensity.
For many years, I have believed that I live in a culture that is in the process of deconstruction.  I’m a middle child of the baby boom, born in the second half of the decade following the conclusion of the Great Depression  and WWII.  I was born as the United States emerged, center stage, as a world power.
The culture that had arisen in the founding of the nation and carried it through its Civil War, industrialization and Westward Expansion was struggling to deal with the new realities of a changed position in the world.   My impression is that, for the most part, we handled it like a clumsy adolescent.  There were lots of mistakes and irresponsible behavior, punctuated by moments that showed amazing promise.
And, like adolescents, growing into a new role creates strain, struggle and ultimately old ways must give way to new. That struggle ate away at the cultural institutions we inherited.  Many of them are proving to be inadequate to our new challenges and must change or die away.   Cultures may always be in the process of deconstruction and reconstruction; but, that can also be seen as evolution.  I perceive that what we are experiencing is more severe, perhaps more analogous to an extinction than an ongoing gradual modification.
One of the hallmarks of cultural deconstruction on that scale is the peoples loss of trust in the existing cultural institutions.   There seem to markers, where tipping points were reached and the loss of faith in an institution generalized in the population.   We first lost trust in our legislative representatives.   The exact tipping point is probably fading from memory.  It could have been any of several.  I think about things like “Red Scares” and some of the more noted scandals that led to convictions and prison terms.  But, finally Congress spent so much time and energy on the election process that  they stopped doing the business of governing altogether.  The Watergate scandal marked the end of our trust in the Office of the President.    Similarly, the O. J. Simpson trial marked the end of our trust in the judiciary.   Our churches began to do as much spinning and posturing as anyone else engaged in the quest for power.   Some, actively abused the trust placed in them to steal either treasure or innocence.  Probably the tipping point was the uncovering of the child abuse so desperately covered up.
I don’t mean to imply that these have been universal or that there haven’t been great, wonderous and inspired people and moments.  There have been.  We are still the culture the rest of the world turns to for example and help.  We’re still the people who pull together in times of greatest travail and do the most to help feed, house and treat the ill in the world.  We always are at the head of the line to provide disaster relief.  When disaster strikes the world knows it can expect the people of the United States to be generously compassionate.
Yet, even that has been perverted before our eyes.  Since September 11th, 2001 I have watched amazing unity in the face of assault wither into a cynicism that has critically eroded freedoms fundamental to who we believe ourselves to be.  It’s like we have sought the safety and security of a jail.
One of the last of our institutions to fail us was business.  The end of trust in our business was marked by: the Enron and Worldcom scandals.  They were the revelation that business was gaming the financial system.  Sub-prime loans, credit default swaps, derivatives and and just plain stealing that brought us recession and unemployment were just the expansion of that game.
 But, this last failure of business brought a genuine crisis and created a broader picture of the cultural failure.  For example, our government responded with bailouts of businesses that created these problems.  Business convinced  cloying politicians that they were “too big to fail” and if we rescued them they would rescue the rest of us.  Well, we rescued them and they, have failed to rescue the rest of us.  They have shown that in their existing culture all that matters is: “I’ve got mine.”
Now we being forced to see through that hogwash.  Still, though, we wanted our institutions to succeed so badly, to avoid the necessary changes, that we gave them another chance to fix things.  Then in the debt ceiling debates of last summer we were forced to the realization that our existing institutions are not going to “fix it.”  At that time, I sensed a general attitude shift to: “If we’re going to end this recession, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.  There’s no use waiting for government or big finance to help.  They aren’t going to.  We had better get at it”  And, that brings me to “Occupy Wall Street”.  The “Occupy Wall Street” is a movement.
It is a movement away from what has become a dysfunctional financial culture to a new one.   It is, I believe, one of the first moments we can identify as new culture in construction.  It is the glow on the horizon.  At present it mostly expresses outrage and frustration at the failure of  the old culture.  That frustration that captured in the slogan: “We’re the 99%”.  But, there is more than just the voices of frustration.  The movement is about doing something to relieve that frustration. The movement is still in the process of determining what it wants a new financial system to look like.  There is discussion and no resolution, yet, about what fair distribution of wealth and opportunity to acquire wealth should look like.
But, if I’m right, eventually that consensus will develop.  When it does, that consensus will become the paradigm for the new financial culture.  Don’t expect that consensus to come easily or soon.  Their are many voices to be heard and the fringes will have to be trimmed away to get to the core.  It won’t be an easy or short process.  But, I am getting the sense that the people on the front line of the movement, the ones in the parks and camps, realize this and are preparing to stay engaged until that consensus develops and is on its way to being adopted.  Constructing a new culture is not light work.
The “Occupy Wall Street”  movement, in my opinion, has a significance far beyond what is being reported in most of the media. Ben Hecht said: “Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time, by watching the secondhand on a clock.”  I think that analogy applies to media coverage of “Occupy Wall Street”.
I also think Occuppy Wall Street’s  significance is being missed by those most invested in the culture that is being replaced. The denizens of Wall Street seem to think that this is just kids occupying time, and it will all go away.  I think they’re wrong.
A new day is upon us, it’s dawn.  It’s time to embrace the new day and make the most of it.  The folks in the Occupy Wall Street movement are ready to get up and get at it.

Mothers Privilege

Mothers are privileged with access to the fundamental spiritual process of the cosmos that the rest of us do not have. 

Everything I continue to learn about cosmology, astronomy, physics, biology, geology and other fields of science tells me that the fundamental pattern of nature is: birth, life, death and re-birth. That pattern is everywhere. Our own Sun is a third generation star. We know that it is composed, at least partly, of elements that were created in a parent and a grandparent star that were born earlier in the history of our universe. They lived until their fuel was consumed and then died in spectacular supernovas. Our Sun was re-born from the matter ejected by the supernovas, including trace heavy elements formed in the parent and grandparent stars.

We share in that re-birth. Our Earth and our bodies are composed of atoms of heavier elements that were created as those parent and grandparent stars fused hydrogen into the array of the periodic table. We are re-birthed from the same elements blown into the universe by those spectacular supernovas! If you take a moment you will bring to mind a myriad of ways that you have seen this same pattern in all of nature.

All of creation reflects its creator. We have just celebrated Easter, the great feast of the Resurrection. We tend, in spiritual discussion, to talk about resurrection instead of re-birth. But, we speak of the same thing. As I continue to explore my spiritual experience, I see the same pattern of birth, life, death and re-birth. Resurrection is the spiritual pattern of the all that is. Our son, Michael, tells me that a better translation of the Hebrew scripture quoting God’s words to Moses on the mountain is: ” I am who I am becoming.” The pattern of God is continuing creation, continual re-birth.

I can see this pattern from afar. I can observe it. I can play my small role in it. I can feel it in prayer. But, I cannot participate in it the way a Mother does. What a privilege our Mothers know! What honor is due them! Blessings be upon all of our Mothers. It is a good day to recognize their privileged place among us.

Reflections on The Feast of the Epiphany

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany.  Recently, a friend sent me the following litany authored by Howard Thurman:

“When the song of the angels is stilled,

when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and princes are home,

when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

the work of Christmas begins:

to find the lost,

to heal the broken,

to feed the hungry

to release the prisoner,

to rebuild the nations,

to bring peace among the people,

to make music in the heart.”

I find it very appropriate for today.  I like the expression that Christmas is not over.  Its work has just begun.  The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the Light of Christ brought into the world.  Isn’t this exactly how the Light enters?  We carry the Light to find the lost and to make music in hearts.

This also brings to my mind and my prayers my own congregation, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Denver.  We are currently in the process of discerning what new thing our parish is called to do.  What new effort are we called to bring into our corner of the world?  How are we called to continue to carry the Light into the world?

One of the things I keep hearing, all around me, at St. Barnabas and elsewhere, is that our churches need to carry the Light out of their buildings and into the world.  We need to emerge with the Light into the wider community.

Our denominations, our national church hierarchies, tend to respond to the large events: the earthquake in Haiti, the floods in Pakistan.  That is good and requires our support.  It is one way of carrying the Light into the world.

But, we need not go to Haiti or Pakistan to find our brother or sister who is lost, broken, hungry or a prisoner.  Our brothers and sisters are also much closer to home.  We are right here.  We can make music in our own hearts and the hearts of those immediately at hand.  And, we can do it in a way that the larger institutions could never manage.  When we do, we also shall be carrying the Light into the world.

I don’t know what St. Barnabas’ process of discernment shall yield.  I’m anxious to see.  I have confidence that it shall be ambitious and that there shall be a role for me in it.   When our discernment is done and we pick up our lanterns, torches or whatever else we need for carrying the Light, I am confident too, that our hearts shall be filled with music.  That music shall reinvigorate us and sustain us and our community.

Additional information on Howard Thurman may be found at:Howard Thurman Books

You may visit St. Barnabas’ web site at: St. B’s

Remembrance Day

At the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, World War I came to its end.  That day has been memorialized since as Armistice Day, Poppy Day, Remembrance Day and Veterans Day.  The United States changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954, after the cease fire in the Korean War.  In Canada and the United Kingdom, this day is Remembrance Day.   Poppy Day is a popular name for this day arising out of the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Col. John McCrae, of the Canadian Army.  The  honor of the day now extends beyond those who served in World War I  to those who have served in the military in all times of war and times of peace.   Since September 11th, some have also included those who serve in our domestic emergency services.  It is good to honor those who have and continue to serve in our military and other  services.  It is only right to say thank you to them.

I think Remembrance Day is a good name for the day.  Remembrance Day calls more from me than thanking Veterans.  It calls on me to remember the circumstances that caused  brave young men and women  to be placed in harm’s way, making them Veterans.   I am called to remember the horrific consequences of our wars.  The BBC recently published aerial photos taken shortly after World War I that show the fresh scars of trench warfare. They are graphic in their depiction of the complete devastation.  There is a  new BBC program based upon those photos and the memories of that time. The recent movies “Band of Brothers” and “Saving Private Ryan” graphically depict the horror of battle, and what it means for some to earn the title: Veteran.  Remembrance Day calls me to consider what is worthy of such sacrifice.  Remembrance Day also calls me to consider the words of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  To me, Remembrance Day better captures the legacy of those whom we honor:   Remember, remember and do not join me here, in Flanders Fields, where   “. . . the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row. . . .”