An Open Letter to Supporters of Occupy Wall Street

occupy veteran

Photo: Ted Fisher

Let me start by saying I get how difficult things are, and how busy we have all become.  I get how overwhelming it can be to just keep up.

Part of what we are fighting, what we’ve all agreed is the problem, is the way that we are being disabled by the 1%.  After all, if these folks had not conspired to rig the financial system in their favor, we would all have approximately 50% more income to use to help us meet our needs, and at least 20% more time.  That’s one extra workday a week, and, for many families, one extra income.

So our efforts to restore sanity and justice to a system gone mad are hobbled by the insanity and injustice of the system we are up against.  I get that.

I want you to know, too, I appreciate the efforts you are already making.  I know we are all, daily engaged in unseen and unrewarded efforts to help those near and dear to us, and, for some, just to meet our own needs.    Many of us are going above and beyond what we expected we could do.

So, yes, I am going to ask us all to do more, but please know that I get how much we are already doing, privately and publicly.  And I get that what I am asking is completely unreasonable.

It’s a bit hard to wrap our minds around what is happening to us.  I think about Virginia Zimmerman’s comparison to the Elizabethan era explorers who first gazed out across the unbelievable expanse of the Grand Canyon.  They saw evidence of the true dimension of time, the incomprehensible scope of our past, and they simply had no conceptual framework to understand it.  They literally couldn’t see what was before them.  That was a moment like the one we are in now.

It makes perfect sense to be thrown off balance.  Our hearts are telling us something is true that our minds simply can’t comprehend.  Our minds are encountering truths that our hearts are just not willing to take in.  I get that too.

Here is the rub.  Our inaction is the only guarantee of our defeat.

This week, in Durban, South Africa, the representatives of the global poor are dashing themselves on the rocks of those who represent us, the nations of privilege, desperately hoping to get our representatives to see reason.  I listened to Apisai Ielemia, Foreign Minister of Tuvalu, whose nation will be entirely underwater in my lifetime, asking, in vain, only that we set and enforce a limit on what we are entitled to spew out into the air, the ocean of air on which we all depend.

The planet is warming and the polar ice caps are melting faster than even the most pessimistic scientists predicted.  That’s not just bad news for Tuvalu.  It means the storms we’ve seen this fall, storms that many of us and our neighbors are still recovering from, will become commonplace.  It means that we can no longer depend upon the weather patterns we require to grow our food.  We’ve seen the effects already on the bee populations, these unpaid, unsung heroes of the food system without which we would be hamstrung in our efforts to feed ourselves.

How many of us are already feeling the effects of this emergency?  How many have more friends sick or dead from cancers and other chronic ailments than they believed possible?  How many have seen their households striven by divorce or their children founder on the way to independence?  How many have already lost their jobs, our homes to this scandalous betrayal by our corporate elite?

So there is the problem.  We are all too busy, and feel too powerless, to undertake the collective actions we need to change our deadly course, but unless we change course, we will only become more embattled.

The only answer I can see is this:  We have to act together.   And we have to do it now.

We have to act on two fronts.  One is to interrupt business as usual in order to change the course we are on. This means challenging the priorities of the institutions we are part of and the institutions on which we depend. The longer we wait, the more serious the disruption to the planet and its people.  The other is to continue to maintain and extend a safety net for each other, to mitigate the harsh effects of this increasingly heartless system on our community.

So I know it seems that coming together on a regular basis to hold signs and listen to each other can seem futile.  But despair is the very glue that holds this immoral system together.  And the only thing that dissolves that glue is our unrelenting determination to show up – to show up against the odds, against the dictates of our unmanageable schedules, against the ongoing demands of our children, our jobs and our marriages.

And, I know it is counter-intuitive, we need to celebrate.  Yes, celebrate.  Because unless we find some joy in this most perilous moment that we inhabit, we will surely be pulled under by the tides of resignation.   We need to call on the better angels of our most resilient selves to laugh at the absurdity of the army arrayed before us, to weaken their hold on us through our ability to sing, to speak poetry, to enact on stage our refusal to be swallowed up.

We need to activate our most creative, most resilient selves in order to be able to imagine what we can do in the face of this deepening crisis.  We need to draw encouragement from what we see in each other, our faces that reflect back to us the knowledge that we can do this impossible thing.

That is the reason I am asking you to continue to lend your support to the Occupy gatherings. Just show up as you are able, on top of everything else you are doing, to lend your encouragement and support to others and, in turn, to gather strength of purpose and resolve to continue to insist that we can learn to live with each other with respect, in solidarity, and in mutual recognition of the enormity of what we are facing.

David-Kristjanson-GuralIf you are able, plan an event.  Be sure to include the opportunity for people to speak out, be sure to make space for creative expression, and soul filling fun. If you can’t do anything else, just come show your support.  Bring your homemade sign; bring the wisdom and compassion etched on your face, and stand together sharing your abiding presence.

If you can’t do that, I get it, but please, somehow seek to make visible your continuing support for our courageous collective effort, the effort to create a world that makes sense for us, for the people of Tuvalu and for all those who come next.

David Kristjanson-Gural
Spilling Ink — Voices for Radical Democracy

Occupy Photo: Ted Fisher


  1. says

    Help me Occupy Education …needs just a few minutes of yr attention: Help me fix ‘Sky-high’ college tuition: I need 62 more signatures by Dec.21 on my petition This will assure that my petition will get archive permanently on The Whitehouse website, which will almost guarantee that stays around long enough on the public White house to cause some grief for the bad guys 😀 — Here is proof of that strong claim:

    This other fellow’s petition,!/petition/promote-enforce-teaching-evolution-over-creationism/H4HkDs0B was created Sept 24, 2011, well over a month ago, but since it reached over 150 siggy’s it is imortalised and still listed on The Whitehouse website — So, what’s the point?

    Even though that ‘Evolution’ petition had ‘expired’ it’s still online publicly at The Whitehouse website (and, also eligible for signatures! –just not ‘official’ signatures). But if I don’t get 62 more signatures by Dec 21, 2011, it gets deleted -like this one: So, click & sign my petition here: Click & Sign + ask your friends to do likewise.

    Normally, petitions, especially online ones to The Whitehouse, are ignored & a waste of time, but as mine will be permanent in the archives if I get the 62 more needed signatures by Dec.21,2011, this is an exception – it’s a keeper. Plz sign! & ask yr friends to sign:

    Gordon Wayne Watts
    LAKELAND, Fla.

  2. says

    The man in the photo has a sign stating that in his second fight for his country, he at last now knows who the enemy is. That may be so for the gentleman. That may be true for many or most of the people in the Occupy Wall Street movement. It may be true for author David Kristjanson-Gural. But not only is it not true for a large number of Americans, the slogan on that sign itself was carried by Vietnam War veterans at least 45 years ago.

    While learning that the capitalist system run amok in the hands of a cruel heartless oligarchy ruling over a plutocracy disguised as a democracy may be a surprising, eyeopening epiphany to a whole new generation of the newly awakened, there are many of us who have been well aware of this reality for a long time.

    I think it is fantastic that a critical mass has been reached and masses have taken to the streets and educated, drawn in more people and got them politically active. That is a huge first step for a lot of folks and the most commendable aspect of the Occupy movement.

    But since to continue to just hold signs and chant about being the 99% and it being so unfair may have reached the point of diminishing returns while the mercurial attention of the American media and public is turning to the next shiny object, the movement appears to an outsider to be scrambling for ideas to prolong its relevance.

    On the West Coast, Occupy is joining the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to shut down all the ports because they have become the “economic engines for the elite,” though the union’s president appears a bit wary, saying in a letter to his members that protesters were out to co-opt the union’s cause to advance their own agenda. Some support the shutdowns but others feel they harm already struggling workers.

    Personally, I don’t think shutting down ports or clashing in the streets will be very effective this time. If the power establishment wants the ports open, they will use more than the necessary degree of violence to make it so. In my opinion. The only way to have any meaningful impact on the corporate and banking giants is to have a negative effect on their bottom line.

    If it is really true that the people, the so called 99%, are really sick and tired of them, it should be possible to spend all that port-blocking, getting-shot-and-pepper-sprayed energy into successful campaigns to get the public to stop supporting them with their dollars. The money voluntarily given to the 1% by the rest of us is more powerful than our votes. It’s what votes are bought with.

    If we really have reached this turning point where the 99% are really ready to rebel, how do we explain the largest amount of money spent, and the largest corporate retail sales profits made in US history in a single weekend this past “Black Friday?”

    To me, educating the public about how their consumer habits directly effect the power the 1% has over them more than laws do, and getting them to act on it, would truly be a way of putting the power in the hands of the people. That would be revolutionary.

    Then there are the actions of the OWS people who took direct action to make a concrete difference in at least one building in Harlem:

    Occupy Wall Street Protesters Occupy Harlem Boiler Room, Get Tenants Heat And Hot Water

    And the Occupy Our Homes Movement that was inspired by OWS:

    SOUTHGATE: Couple facing eviction gets help from Occupy Our Homes

    Occupy Our Homes: Minneapolis Occupiers Helping a Veteran

    I think it’s time for more of this. Now that all of this enlightenment is taking place, it’s time to get down into the trenches and work with the people who are suffering as a result of corporate and banking greed. It may not be as exciting or get as much non-internet media coverage or express as much rage or blow off as much steam as taking to the streets, but it is a sure formula for winning hearts and minds, little by little, by word of mouth and social media. How can riot cops defeat that? What kind of negative spin can the corporate media put on it?

    Are we content to use all of our energy to go out in the street, pitch a tent and holler at the greedy and complain that the plutocracy is unfair while not lifting a finger to help save its victims? Can we afford to ignore the fact that it is our rampant consumerism that really fuels the “economic engines for the elite?” That the drive to satisfy our insatiable desire for more cheap stuff makes us complicit in a dance with those who would do whatever is necessary to provide it for us, for the right price, no questions asked? That it makes us investors in our own oppression? That as the gentleman’s sign suggests, “We have met the enemy and he is us?”


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