Do Some Activists Blame Instead of Taking Action?

Cartoon by Elizabeth Wagele

I agree with the Occupy Wall Street movement. So much is dreadfully wrong with our country, what else can we do but take to the streets?

One of my friends has a problem with Occupy, however. First, he says the word is aggressive. I see what he means: occupying is a hostile concept. We are angry and want to fight back, but perhaps throwing anger around is counter-productive to achieving the changes we want – for several reasons. Is it time to cool down and concentrate on our priorities and developing strategies for action?

As an Observer Enneagram type, I’m sensitive to having my space intruded upon. The thought of being occupied raises the hair on my back, wouldn’t make me want to cooperate. We are outraged the government and Wall Street messed up housing loans and the Supreme Court messed up elections. But does the word occupy encourage everybody to want to join in and work to improve our country or does it vaguely say invade? Not that marches and sit-ins are bad, but we’ve done that for months and months. I wonder if assertive action is called for now, as in “let’s implement the high ideals we want for our country, such as EQUALITY, EDUCATION, INTEGRATION, PEACE, DIGNITY, JOBS, HOUSING, FAIR ELECTIONS, HEALTH CARE, COMPASSION, ECOLOGY, FREEDOM, TOTAL CONTROL OF OUR OWN BODIES…”

Second, my friend doesn’t like the way the movement demonizes the 1%. They’re all kinds of people, some good, some not so good he says. Some are philanthropists who share their wealth and do other good deeds. So while we don’t like the imbalance, we are condemning individuals for their financial status without knowing how they got there, what their attitudes are, whether they’re generous or greedy, or what. We’re essentially calling people names instead of accentuating our determination to replace bad policies and bad laws with sound ones. When we rail against the 1%, we may not mean to, but by our language we’re demonizing a group instead of criticizing a practice or economic and social policies.

Demonizing is a propensity we’re born with. Greedy and people demonize when they steal. Politicians demonize when they lie. We demonize the competition. We demonize people we’re at war with. We dehumanize individuals who have hurt or shamed us. I have demonized and I’m ashamed of it. We forget we all breathe the same air.

Carl Gustav Jung said, “The real existence of the enemy upon whom one can foist off everything evil is an enormous relief to one’s conscience. You can then say, without hesitation, who the devil is; you are quite certain that the cause of your misfortune is outside, and not in your own attitude… Much could be said about the close proximity of good and evil, and even more about the direct relations between of pairs of opposites…” So those of us who don’t want to do the hard work of positive activism—over and beyond sitting in and marching—just might prefer to find a scapegoat to blame and leave it at that.

I like the Occupy movement because I don’t like what has happened to our country, but I think my friend has a point. Demonizing hurts and kills. For example, demonizing is why American soldiers burned Qur’ans in Afghanistan. So I suggest we shift away from negative wording and toward carrying out our demands for positive changes. Non-violently.

See for list of famous Enneagram and mbti types

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