My definition of “authenticity” = becoming more conscious about how we show up in the world, and what uncomfortable changes we are willing to make within to find a better way to be with each other. In other words, aligning values with actions. Standing up for your beliefs. Getting “real.”
In general, our society caters to the comfortable world of social norms and status quos – many prefer not to think too hard or have meaningful dialogue. We can allow the system to run us and blame others for our problems. This thinking allows people to apathetically remain unconscious — until the bottom falls out from beneath. Then what?
The way I see it, the bottom is falling out (finally), and people are taking unconventional action – which is why the Occupy Movement continues to intrigue and inspire me. It’s grassroots, messy, ambiguous and loud. It’s also creative, community-based, and – Hallelujah — freaks people out, disgusts others, and creates some level of mass discomfort, including police brutality and the bombastic denial of the 1%. But things just can’t remain the same. Is it the breakdown before the breakthrough — or possibly the breakthrough itself?
And because people are taking action in bold and creative new ways, the status quo is predictably reacting, resisting change, and attempting to suppress free speech…riot police with pepper spray and tear gas…and lots of money changing hands in attempts to stifle the mic checks and tent dwellers.
Occupy has exposed the beast’s underbelly of corporate and financial greed and associated political bedfellows. But at its deepest levels, Occupy also challenges us to personally reflect on what changes we each must make to be engaged, empowered citizens, and what we can do to individually and collectively to make a difference.
Case in point: I recently trekked down Telegraph Avenue to UC Berkeley for a Robert Reich speech about Class Warfare in America. Same day as the General Strike at UCB, and the evening of the Mario Savio Youth Activist Awards. To my great surprise, I discovered a diverse mass of 10,000+ people – from professionals to professors, to students and concerned citizens — at Sproul Plaza — the center of the free speech movement in the 1960’s. People were literally hanging from the rafters.
I had unknowingly entered a massive Occupy Cal General Assembly. And I was completely overwhelmed with that jittery feeling of suddenly being thrust into history-making.
So I nestled into one of the many circle discussions, and engaged. A vote was being taken to raise tents that had been destroyed by the Cal Police a few days earlier. It was a democratic and organized process…and the dialogue was interested and thoughtful. To my right was a German UCB exchange student who couldn’t believe he was witnessing an American uprising; to the left a grassroots organizer who had been present in this same plaza 40+ years earlier. Lots of upsparkles and some differing, yet respectful opinions…all tempered with an urgency for action and civic transformation.
Votes taken, circle by circle. Soon thereafter, a dozen insta-tents popped back up amidst this sea of cheering humanity. And we flashed peace signs at the riot police on balconies above us. My inner mantra: “Love thy neighbors, even if they are armed with pepper spray.”
The evening was filled with fiery hope. When Bob Reich’s speech brought down the house, my heart wept proudly. “The days of apathy are over, folks.”
Yet ultimately, to be sustainable, this movement requires us to reflect on how we integrate our words with action. We can complain and shout and demand change from the ground up, but will we move our money out of the large institutions that almost tanked the economy? Will we flex our consumer muscle and stop shopping at big box stores? Or continue to fill the pockets of the 1% (including working for them) without considering the consequences?
Maybe we invest in our local communities. Move our money. Buy locally grown food. Reconsider our client base or job position. Publicly question authority. Instead of blindly following our leaders, we forge leadership qualities within ourselves and our communities. If we do this inner work, the outer walls will come tumbling down.
Of course, we will always have blind spots, but the point is to reflect and connect – internally and with each other — and truly begin to embody the change we want to see in our institutions, society, and the world.
With a lack of authenticity so prevalent in our corporate and political institutions, let’s courageously align our values with actions – from the inside out.
“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”