Shortly after the Occupy Wall Street movement came to life last September, I visited a few of the activist camps and documented some of what had been created. The various people I met were largely earnestly passionate about organizing more sustainable social models, challenging what many in our society value, and positively reforming how our species chooses to live and interact with one another.
What I witnessed at Oregon’s Occupy Portland encampment inspired me, and also gave me unexpected hope. The enthusiastic activists had successfully created a vibrant alternative city, complete with self-determined regulations, regularly prepared vegetarian meals, recycling and composting systems and medical care, in addition to daily educational classes and structured consciousness raising meetings. Young hippies and elderly disabled veterans joined together in meals, as well as in conversation. Donated resources were shared, and respect and personal responsibility were the norms.
It was a beautifully warm and sunny autumn Monday when I initially strolled through Occupy Portland; I was immediately greeted by a young man who offered me half of a donut that he had been eating. I graciously accepted this rather intimate personal gesture, and continued to explore the temporary village.
Lunch was being served as we walked past the kitchen tents, and a disparate group of people was waiting in line patiently for their hearty meal. The camp was decorated with all manner of hand-made signs and messages, concerning everything from universal health care to the Bonus Army. All of the OWS residents that I met seemed to be actively engaged in trying to create a peaceful and viable revolution.
Later that evening my spouse and I spent a few hours perusing Powell’s Bookstore. The huge shop consumes an entire city block, and is an institution in the city; the progressive business freely allows its patrons to sit in their cozy cafe reading unpurchased books for hours on end. While I was looking over some books on beavers, a dozen or so people from Occupy Portland gathered in the cafe for an OWS organizational meeting. The dedicated activists were intensely focussed and determined, and were still hard at work hours later when I left.
I was struck by how unusual it was to see such a diverse group of individuals working together so selflessly on something that was not about economic or personal gain, but concerned how to best build a more viable, kind and just world. Their shared passion was genuine and sincere, and spoke volumes about what motivates the Occupy Wall Street movement, and how we all can work collectively to help manifest positive change.
Happy Birthday Occupy Wall Street. Thank you for reminding us all what is possible when we choose to share, organize and peacefully cooperate.
All photos were taken at Occupy Portland on 10/24/11