For me, the Occupy Wall Street movement and its countless offshoots worldwide was a kind of awakening. Its principal theme was inequality: rich/poor, haves/have-nots, just/unjust. It has always been so, but the scale of it varies through time. In the U.S., this economic divide has been brewing since the 1980s.
Last year during times of unemployment and bread-line level deprivation, that reality broke through the veil of public unknowing, and took the form of the Occupy movement, traveling at light speed from city to city, country to country, courtesy of social media.
As a Buddhist, I was sympathetic to this movement, and wanted to help. I was never one of those youthful demonstrators linking hands and facing down riot police armed with batons and guns long ago when the issues were civil rights and the Vietnam war. Back then I was too indoctrinated into the establishment to buck the system and question authority. But now I do question authority.
People have told me that the Occupy Movement disintegrated because of a lack of leadership, no goal, no concrete demands, or a step-by-step program. Perhaps. I’m not sure these 99% protesters needed to do anything more than shine a continuous light on the truths they were speaking during this critical time in the development of human consciousness. Their message, essentially, was what the Buddha taught in his second Noble Truth—that the root cause of unnecessary suffering is grasping, clinging, selfishness, and greed—often for money, sometimes for emotional or physical safety, nearly always for power.
The energy of greed is the prime distorter of human community. Last year, I thought I was seeing the first baby steps of a giant leap forward, one that would transcend and outgrow what form the Occupy movement took. But rather than unfolding into a catalyst for change the world over, it seems to have vanished, which I find very sad. We need people to keep shining that light on truth, forcing the world to see that inequality. This is not just for the 99%, it is for the 100%. We all need this leap in human consciousness to happen.