Can Occupy Open the Door to a Better World?

By Peter Bergel

The Occupy movement has opened space for a national – even international – dialogue on the kind of world we want to live in. It has empowered many citizens to find the audacity and courage to think outside the box – to consider sweeping solutions that were off the table a few short weeks ago.

Will this dialogue run out of gas, or will it help us make the vast changes we need?

Putting People First

That is up to us. If we sit back and watch while occupiers freeze and struggle, Occupy will wither and fade. If, on the other hand, all those who like Occupy’s ideas get off their knees, jump on board and start displaying the kind of moxie they like to venerate their forebears for showing in the American Revolution, things could change very rapidly and very profoundly. How will they change? That too is up for grabs. Therefore, now is the time for all of us to think beyond today’s headlines and offer bold ideas.

Earth Charter

Begin by conceptualizing a world that works for everyone. Fortunately, that concept has been inordinately well developed over a dozen years or more by a highly competent cross-cultural team of internationalists working in part through the UN. This group has produced a vision document called the Earth Charter ( which, in my opinion, touches all the important bases.

It is divided into a preamble; four sections of principles – sixteen in all – each of which is further developed in 3-6 sub-principles; and some guidelines for its implementation. The four sections which are the heart of the document are titled:

1.      Respect and Care for the Community of Life

2.      Ecological Integrity

3.      Social and Economic Justice

4.      Democracy, Nonviolence and Peace.

Essentially all the social change concerns one can conceive are covered in one or another of the principles in this document. It is thus an ideal vision of where the Occupy movement could lead us. It gives us a glimpse of a world whose paradigms have shifted from growth and domination to sustainability and cooperation. If we can summon sufficient people power, such a world is possible.

However, since every principle and sub-principle of the Earth Charter means that some major corporate vested interest must be sacrificed, or at least greatly modified, it seems clear that the current governmental structure, dominated as it is by corporate money and influence, will be insufficient to move us toward that vision.

“People power” means lots of people who are aware of – and willing to use – their power. We must activate those who currently tell pollsters they support the Occupy movement by helping them reclaim that power. I believe that goes far beyond asking them to vote, or even work on candidate campaigns. It means actually taking their power back from the corporate and governmental structures that are not serving them well. A small example is transferring their financial affairs from the big banks to local credit unions and community banks.

Let us ask ourselves how we can reclaim and use our power in nonviolent, yet effective ways. Φ

Peter Bergel is the Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks, founding editor of The PeaceWorker online news magazine and a member of Occupy Salem Oregon.

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