Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Totally Agree with David Cameron

This is the coldest and darkest night so far in 2011.  I am on the ropes.  But maybe I can be the Rocky of bloggers and pull this one out of the hat.  Hope springs eternal.  Here goes. 

So apparently David Cameron has called for us here in the UK to be the Christian Nation that we are.  The BBC called it a backhanded chastisement of the C of E, a criticism that they are not doing enough.  Well, here is one person who couldn't agree more.  Really.  He is right about this.  He is right about some things, actually. Yes, I would like to see the half-assed politically correct version of Christianity that silences and marginalizes the spirit of God that lives in all of us replaced with a Christian nation.  Believe me.  Some real Christians would be awesome.  I know some great ones here in Cambridge.  The ones I know live in a spirit of love and look for justice in all their actions.  I have been around a lot of Christians and a lot of Occupiers and I will say they have this thing:  the real spirit of God or Abraham or the Earth Herself, love.  I always said that if  you strip away all the language, the motivating force of Christians and Occupiers - that thirst for goodness and fairness and good stewardship and a more virtuous world, it's the same thing.  It's the same thing holding the Occupation together that held together the early church.  And that sounds scary, I know, but this is Advent and in Advent you are supposed to change.  Because the world changed when Jesus came,  Well, we need the world to change now and we can do it with the teachings of Jesus together.  Because Jesus was all about tolerance, so we're set there.  

So let's have a Christian nation!  What would that entail?   Let's look at their paperwork.  There is a baptismal covenant.  If you're a Christian, this is what you promised.  This is your soul:

Q: Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human

A:  I will, with God's help.  

  None of our existing institutions are more important than love, dignity, peace, justice and liberty.  Not the Tory Government, not any political party, not the Corporation of the City of London, not the labour unions, not the churches.  None are more important than the highest values, the core teachings on which they were based.  They are there because we believe in democracy and freedom, charity and love.  Yet we deny ourselves these wonderful virtues, we deny ourselves the very thing that our souls crave.  We deny ourselves this goodness because we are in service to the very institutions that are supposed to feed our souls and our bodies, the very institutions that are supposed to be good stewards, uphold democracy and bring justice where justice is needed.  We are police, and priests, politicians and lawyers and we are in thrall to institutions that we all know are not working.  And everyone needs more love, justice and peace.

We as a Christian nation should strive for this.  Strive doesn't mean doing the same thing you always do in the same way.  Newsflash:  that isn't working.  It's not working for the activists and it's not working for the Christians.  Strive means trying new things, going forth in faith. 

 That is why many people are trying to forge an alliance between Occupy and Christians and why many people at the camp have invested incredible amounts of energy and effort reaching out to the Christians.  As much as it is a big fat discouraging pain in the ass from my perspective It has been my chief pursuit since Occupy Half Term  Isn't that what Cameron was saying, let's see who we are and what values we share and let us live them, let us expect them, let us insist on them.

Really, if you read between the lines, I think David Cameron has just come out in favour of the Winter Carnival Proposal. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Will You Strive for Justice?

So anyone in the Church of England who is baptized makes a baptismal covenant with the Church and the last question that they ask you is this:  

Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human

And if you are in the Church of England, you answered:  I will, with God's help.

This is what every one of  those guys promised.  So please, Church of England, the work of the Occupation is squarely within your remit, it is your job responsibility, it is your responsibility to lead the true church universal to humbly be with them and aid their cause.  The people in the camps are tired and cold.  They are dealing with alcoholics, mental ill health in the community, hunger, homelessness, and external enemies and lawsuits.  Lend them your aid.  If you do not agree with the form of this call for justice, then help the form to change, help the form to change in order to honour the substance, the very substance of Occupy -

Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winter Carnival: Ten

 For discussion purposes only: 

Revised Winter Carnival Proposal
put forth by the Winter Carnival Working Group

We recognize and respect the essential differences between people of faith, people of no faith tradition (who are people of good faith) and the Occupation.

We embrace, however, our commonality and believe it to be more important than our differences.

We are united in our fervent desire for justice, and united in understanding that the Occupy movement presents an opportunity (an unimaginably great opportunity) to bring the best desires of our hearts into this world.

We understand that there are deep moral failings in our governments and markets.

We recognize that these moral failings are as a result of choices some humans have made.

We want to make more moral choices. 

We therefore want to remind ourselves of our moral traditions.  And we must learn anew what they mean for today. 

For these reasons, we have named ten weekends throughout the dark cold winter and ten virtues, or values: 

Tolerance [diversity?  respect? love.  I think this one should be called love?],
Generosity [could rename charity?],
Temperance [prudence?],
Courage, [Fortitude]
Liberation [could rename freedom? or Liberty? ; )]
The environment/Stewardship/Green/Environmental

Ten sacred ideas.  On those ten weekends, the Church of England and the Occupation will meet to discuss the sacred texts and modern failings of these virtues.  The proposed format can be replicated any place, any synagogue, temple, mosque, church, town hall, living room,or school.  It can be modified.


1.   If the [summit/meeting] is in the evening, a Candelit procession to the meeting place for the town or neighbourhood. 

2.  Once in the meeting place, the format is

a.  Reading from Sacred Texts by people to whom the text is sacred or important (Koran, Bible, Pagan writings) (music could be offered instead of a reading, or a short film).  Readers are asked to bring the members of their community if they are in one.  It is essential that at least two communities or faith traditions participate here, as the point is to engage with others.  (With respect for our differences and an eye on our commonality, to engage with others.)
b.  The vision of Occupy:  how the virtue under discussion informs the Initial Statement, and ideas for making the UK (whether it is our governments, our markets or ourselves) more reflect this virtue.

c.  A public discussion - This could be comments and questions, or it could take the form of a general assembly, and people could identify the commonality between a and b enough to vote assent to proposals.

3.  Anything else is in the discretion of the locality.  If people want to have an ancillary arts festival based on that weekend’s virtue, then they can.  If they want to organize a big party or a potluck, they can.  If schoolteachers want to teach the virtue that week, they can. 


We propose the following schedule:

January 21-22 Tolerance [diversity?  respect? love.  I think this one should be called love?],
January 28-29 Generosity [could rename charity?],
February 4-5 Temperance [prudence?],
February 11-12 Accountability,
February 18-19 Courage, [Fortitude]
February 25-26 Equality,
March 3-4 Liberation [could rename freedom? or Liberty? ; )]
March 10-11 The environment/Stewardship/Green/Environmental
March 17-18 Democracy
March 24-25 Justice

For everyone’s information, here are the ten statements as amended. 

Over 500 people on the steps of St Paul’s, #occupylsx collectively agreed the initial statement. Like all forms of direct democracy, the statement will always be a work in progress and used as a basis for further discussion and debate.
1.      The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.
2.      We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.
3.      We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.
4.      We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.
5.      We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.
6.      We support the strike on the 30th November and the student action on the 9th November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.
7.      We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.
8.      The present economic system pollutes land, sea and air, is causing massive loss of natural species and environments, and is accelerating humanity towards irreversible climate change. We call for a positive, sustainable economic system that benefits present and future generations. [1]
9.      We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.
10.  This is what democracy looks like. Come and join us!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Paul Newman as Frank Galvin, Closing Argument, The Verdict

The Verdict is a Sidney Lumet film from 1982, a courtroom drama starring Paul Newman.  It is the movie our evidence professor showed us in law school.  I love the closing argument.  Here it is:

Galvin: Well...You know, so much of the time we're just lost. We say, "Please, God, tell us what is right. Tell us what is true."
I mean there is no justice. The rich win; the poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time we become dead, a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims -- and we become victims. We become weak; we doubt ourselves; we doubt our beliefs; we doubt our institutions; and we doubt the law.
But today you are the law. You are the law, not some book, not the lawyers, not a marble statue, or the trappings of the court. See, those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are, in fact, a prayer, I mean a fervent and a frightened prayer.
In my religion, they say, "Act as if you had faith; faith will be given to you."
If we are to have faith in justice we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice. See, I believe there is justice in our hearts.

Mississippi Goddam: could I be more alienating?

I struggled with anger today.  I get so incredibly angry that people cannot see the importance of this movement.  I am furious that everyone will not drop everything and help.  My long-standing hatred of humanity has really come back.  Why won't everyone embrace this and give of themselves to make it work?  Why are so many people on the sidelines?  Why?  This is a love revolution, that's what this is, and things are bad so what the hell is the problem with giving this a try?  That's what I don't understand. I don't think people really are sheeples.  I think a lot of people have had their humanity poisoned by consumerism and, let's face it, money, so much so that they do not even have the language or the breadth of thinking required to see what joy and happiness and healing we could bring to the world.  But I think even the most poisoned of us still have hearts that ache for love and justice. And all of us want our children to have bigger, cleaner lives with more love and a healthier earth and moral government. We all want that. 

So why are people letting these brave people at the camp languish and be abused by the police?  Why aren't we helping them?  Until we take them in and listen to their message of love, they will not leave their tents.  They deserve a hero's welcome.  They deserve a parade.  Really, they deserve our respect and attention.  And they deserve some fun.

I am a huge Nina Simone fan but I always disliked Mississippi Goddam about the civil rights movement because she gets so angry talking about how slow justice is, how slowly equality came to the United States.  Her anger is unpleasant.  I am sure mine is.  At least now now I get hers.  Once your eyes are opened to how change is possible and justice is possible, you get very impatient. 

Or, I get very impatient.  And I am especially impatient with people of faith and activists.  These guys are living your principles.  They want to do your work.  They want to share your virtues and burdens. 

If you believe in God, then this is your chance to show us, because we have sold the great gift of our lives for money and it has too much control over us. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

News from the Occupy Front:

I will be brief because Liberty's birthday party is tomorrow and so we are getting up all the Christmas decorations and making a cake all in one day.  We bought the tree and got it home and I found a bird's nest in it.  The most thrilling part of the day, definitely. 

The camp had a really great success with the 30 Nov strikes but is now pre-occupied with the trial, which starts 19th December.  This is why I didn't want to get sidetracked with high profile litigation.  Believe me, I know it is really fun and absorbing.  A diversion, however, in my estimation, from the more important task, the urgent task of bringing the 99% together. 

Even if the Occupation is completely vindicated at trial, I don't see how it helps that much in regard to moving the movement forward.  If a court of law rules that free speech extends to camping, then certainly this would be a wonderful and true ruling that beat back all the dismal rulings the courts have handed out recently, and beat back the assault on civil liberties New Labour committed under the horrible Blair and Brown regimes.  That sounds pretty good.  If a court of law rules that the land in front of St. Paul's is common land, as opposed to within the control of the Corporation of the City of London, which I understand is at issue in the trial, then that's really a big "meh" when it comes to moving the movement forward.  If the court rules against the Occupation, it is a terrible blow, I think, something that knocks you straight into the activist ghetto; do not kid yourselves, this sets the movement back ten years. 

I have no idea what the Occupy Barrister is advising the camp in private but the public statements are in my mind frighteningly optimistic.  Ten years as a trial lawyer taught me that expectations must be managed, and success cannot be guaranteed.  All I am saying is what I would tell my own clients, which is this:  you might lose, and you need to really be thinking hard about what your plan B is going to be in case that happens.  Whenever I won in court, I was so in the mindset of damage control when the verdict was read out, so ready to spring into action to limit damages, that I couldn't really comprehend the victory.  They are very wonderful wins, those, and I hope the camp has one. 

In the meantime, the idea of Winter Carnival is slowly spreading.  There are several major things to clear up there:  (1) it is not meant to be over Christmas, it is meant to be over weekends between January and April and thus needs to be renamed. (2) it remains my vision that this be an event with the express goal of people of faith and the occupation reaching out together to people who are not activists or people of faith, reaching out to all the people, to come together and fix the problems humans have on earth. 

I had lunch with an incredible Quaker woman and we came up with the idea of zooming in on one lone event, and radically simplify the proposal.  I love the idea we came up with, not least because it incorporates the sound ideas that really touch people of faith that were brought up in the Day of Repentance proposal that is going separately through the Multifaith and Outreach groups at the camp. 

THe idea is that People of faith and the Occupation, the Church Universal and all activists meet in the streets of their towns one night in the winter for a walk.  Physically walking together, shoulder to shoulder, with no masks or banners, no requests for money or even an ear, just a message that it is possible to stand together.  That is the only message.  A walk in the darkness, each person holding their little light.  No talking necessary.  Maybe even better if it is silent.  Maybe the walk goes from the cities into the Cathedrals and maybe there people talk.

I had an idea that the United Kingdom, once they ended the walk, could write their own Book of Love.  Every person who comes on the walk can if they want bring a single sheet of A4 where they write what they wish for the world, and for the world their children inherit.  Imagine walking to the cathedral and each person writing their page in the Book of Love.  Everyone could read the Book of Love, and thus we could begin our discussions. 

We could even name a single date for this event for every place:  4 March.

One of the most special people in my life told me a story about a group of people who came into his restaurant.(Proof in Washington)  They had just bought a pretty expensive bottle of wine, so he popped by the table.  And they told them that this day was always a special day.  For every year on that day, the group of friends awoke early in the morning.  They get up early because there is much to be done with every day, and this is a day.  They first on this day deal with something they have not dealt with that needs to be dealt with.  Each person will know what this is.  There was something else I don't remember, but the evening of that day was always a feast, a huge celebration of friendship and life, where they spared no expense and ate wonderful food and drank wonderful wine - hence the restaurant . And why did they spend that day doing those things?  They explained because it was 4 March.  On 4 March one must march forth. 

What Occupy really wants to do is to bring love much more powerfully into the world.  That is the fundamental coming together that must occur if the change they want can happen.  The specifics of that change remain less important than the awakening of kindred spirits (The Walk of the Kindred Spirits), of commonality.  I think it would be no bad thing if they held their candles and walked shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the 99.  In that effort, people of faith are your natural allies.  In the efforts of the people of faith - all people of faith - you are THEIR natural allies.  They are a little slow on the uptake on this point, I grant you but the premise remains correct. 

So a revised Winter Carnival.  Not a Carnival, not even noisy, a walking without content, a coming together of feet and hears as a start, a walk.  A March Fourth? 

Thoughts on Christmas Repeated

Merry Christmas.

Every year the darkness of winter hurts me more. The icy winds, the black mornings, the monochrome of brown green outside. From October 30 until December 21st I tell myself how many mornings there are until I can hope again, until I can look forward to a little more light. And I feel this enormous empathy for the pagans, for the local people on this completely miserable island past and present, who kick it up a notch in December, who drag trees into their houses, and string up lights, and busy themselves in contact with others. These nativity plays and parties and travelling to relatives, all this stuff is really just about people banding together with good will. Truly this is the death of the year, and humans where I live now have banded together to survive this death with song and wine and comfort for each other, having a month of being the best humans we can be.

The traditions that make Christmas special for me, that make it work to protect me from this cold foretaste of my own demise actually have very little to do with Christianity. Decorating a tree (pagan), caroling (ancient pagan tradition of singing in the round), presents, parties, Ebeneezer Scrooge, mince pies, banana bread, Champagne at 11:00 (I do give Christianity credit for Champagne, having been invented by monks), Bill Murray as Scrooge, the original Grinch Cartoon, It's A Wonderful Life - let's face it, these are pretty unrelated to the birth of Christ, but I am comforted intensely by the ritual of revisiting them, and I am trying to pass on that comfort to my children. To me Christmas demonstrates this need for all humans to come together and support each other, this need so richly rewarded and so frequently ignored. If we didn't do it during these dark months, I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be any human life on this island. It's too dismal.

In the coming together we enjoy each other. I propose we come together, not only as a meek Christian who only gets to worship (rather limited activity), but just for now as humans, who many believe are made in God's image anyway. Humans who are fully all the parts of all the stories. In each of us there is a Tiny Tim who who desperately need love. In each of us there is a Grinch who delights in inflicting pain on others. In each of us there is a George Bailey desperately drunk in a bar wondering why the living fuck his life turned out the way it did. In each of us there is a Bob Cratchett who faithfully gets up and goes to work every day to provide for his family. Each of us is Clarence who sees so clearly the suffering of others. Each of us longs to fit in like Rudolph and his dentist friend.

So fellow humans, art tells us about ourselves, and I find this telling heals me of the wounds of this life. I love these stories, and I love Bruce Springsteen playing Santa Clause is Coming to Town. That one especially makes me happy every time I hear it even as I am telling myself -Grinch that I fucking AM - that it can't possibly do it again. Humans need the December hit of eating some yummy food, getting some love and feeling good. Christmas is enlightening for everyone. I find it enlightening - literally, against the darkness, enlightening.

Whether or not you are a Christian, the winter darkness is unavoidable, whether it is in the seasons of the years of our lives (unless you live in California, which is increasingly looking like the best option, frankly) or - importantly in our souls, part of our human nature. I think practicing pure Christianity mostly has too many concepts that blind you to your own darkness. That is why I really do not buy it anymore.

But I do love the story and I can lay claim to that. So here is my take:

We are all Roman Soldiers capable of genocide, we are all King Herod abusing our power, we are all Mary, and Joseph, naive and young, bewildered by bureaucracy and fleeced by an innkeeper. We are all the wise Kings watching and the cold shepherds laboring. We are all that hunted defenseless baby. You. You. You. You are the baby. You are the star.

So merry Christmas, entire world (really my 9 blog readers). Let us love and protect each other, let us give ourselves what we need, and guard against cruelty and the abuse of power, wherever it is found. Let us band together against the darkness by coming together under the light of a star.