Monday, 7 November 2011

Occupy Toronto, Part V

We bumped into each other in our church foyer just before a worship service, a woman I hadn’t spoken to before. Instead of the usual, “Isn’t it a beautiful sunny day?” kind of comment I expected, she began to criticize. She told me everything that was wrong with those “Occupy” people. She was very elderly, so maybe it would be kind to assume that extreme age was twisting her mind and her character beyond her control. “Why don’t they get a job?” “What good are they doing?” “And that girl just died in Vancouver.” On and on she went with a peculiar vehemence. I just listened in silence, but I wondered, “What is it to you, that you should be so upset?”

Then there was a blog war I followed last week. The blogger had offered an intemperate lecture to the Occupy London participants. Comments poured in. One side agreed with the initial post that the Occupiers should go home and be useful, while the other begged for patient listening.  They did not express these opinions in the tone or the language I am using in this description. Phew, the feathers flew!

I am fascinated by the emotion around the “Occupy Movement”. Why do these campsites make people furious?
I would understand if such anger came from a local business owner who thought they were keeping customers away. I would understand if drivers expressed anger that the marches were adding significantly to traffic congestion. I certainly understand that people will be arrested if they act violently toward others or their property.
But many folk who have no first-hand knowledge or experience of what’s happening seem to be extreme in their reactions. They seem quick to focus on any negative side-effects of the protest and show no interest at all in discovering whether something positive might be happening. Without having met and spoken to any of the Occupiers they spew insulting assumptions about their intelligence, their life circumstances and their ethics. Curious.

The mayor of Vancouver, for instance, is blaming the tragedy of a drug overdose death on the Occupy camp’s “dangerous” living conditions. Really? because such tragedies don’t happen otherwise? Is this just a political excuse to keep the law and order folk happy or is he expressing a deeper fear?

I’d like to think of these seemingly irrational reactions as a litmus test of our own state of mind or spiritual maturity, but it has to be more complicated than that.
There are a lot of hidden buttons being pushed and there have to be some lessons here for all of us.
Wouldn’t it be cool if, when we see somebody doing something we think is crazy, we reacted with curiosity and questions, instead of judgement and disdain?