Commentary: Occupy Movements

Diversity in belief and lifestyle too often isolates individuals from one another, juxtaposing them as natural opposites, incapable of formulating the same wants and opinions.  Difference, however, does not have to be a distinctly divisive force. Common understanding through common desire can be achieved despite underlying differences in opinion, belief, and morality.  Empathy, acceptance, and understanding can be reached through the use of personal narrative and a relatable medium. When employed properly, words have the distinct power to bridge the differences between individuals and to create mutual understanding that can lead to true acceptance.

Commentary From Two View Points:

Through personal interactions with protestors of the Occupy London movement, journalist Laurie Penny(1) is able to explain the true nature of the protests through the narratives of those at the forefront of the situation.  Though “they are waifs and strays and nuts and eccentrics”,(2) the protestors, viewed by many as an unusual minority, are not only humanized, but shown to be compassionate and understandable.

Having traveled to the protestors’ camp in London more than once, Penny is clearly familiar with the situation she encounters throughout her narrative. Appealing to the general public, Penny utilizes personal stories and the actions of protesters whom she encounters to gain general acceptance for the protestors and to overcome the “grunge” and “hippie” stereotypes with which they have been slandered.  Penny’s narrative is an emotional one, for the moments upon which she focuses her account are those that depict companionship and camaraderie in the face of adversity.

The distinctly human nature of those involved in the Occupy London movement is revealed as their personalities and actions are taken into consideration. Despite the general aura of uncleanliness and rebelliousness that lingers with Occupy protestors, they are shown to be caring and compassionate despite their rugged exteriors. “A network of mutual support for the lost and destitute” the movement is providing a place for those in need. Caretakers of a stray cat, deemed by Penny to be as lost a soul as they are, the individuals who camp in London are shown to be generous and unified by both their financial desires and their outcast role in society. Protestors are a clan of strangers who have come together out of both want and necessity.  They are working hard together in the effort to make the best of their unique situations and to gain equality and justice for all.

The protestors cook and clean together, sharing stories and offering aid to those in need.  When one of their number, an old man, is unable to make his way onto stage due to disability, he is aided and waited on by his companions.  Reporter, Penny herself has a similar experience when she awakes to find that a stranger has given up a blanket to keep her warm. Many individuals involved in the protests are homeless and that they are occupying, not because they want to, but because they have no other place to go.

The Occupy Movement is largely viewed as a liberal, non-religious movement and therefore in the media, protestor’s beliefs and actions are strongly contrasted to those of such social groupings as the “religious right”. Pastor, Erik Raymond(3) portrays the movement with regard to his personal religious beliefs and in doing so makes it clear that despite religious differences between individuals, common wants and needs persist.

Raymond’s argument is strongly rooted in his deep Christian faith and his leadership role as a pastor. He asserts his strong religious beliefs and appeal as well as several Christian-based assumptions in the attempt to explain the protestor’s “craving Eden or leaning ahead towards Zion”.(4) According to his mantra, the protestors wants can be traced to the need of a Christ-like savior who is “fair, loving, just, good, and powerful”,(5) despite their reluctance to express their beliefs in the Christian way.  While the rationale behind the “strange protest” Raymond, is sympathized with on a religious-based need-for-salvation-and-reassurance level, Raymond’s argument still has vestiges of Christian superiority within it, which emotionally is appealing to some Christian readers.  Despite bridging the gap that sometimes exists between the protestors and Christians like himself through exemplifying common sought-after conditions and values, it is apparent that Raymond is not as in tune to the “alternative” lifestyle of the protestors as someone like Penny is.  This is ultimately irrelevant in his specific argument, however, because his credibility as a Christian leader is a stronger appeal to his intended audience than an attempt to understand the protestor’s viewpoint, without the reference to gospel, would be. Like, Penny, Raymond emphasizes universal conditions sought after by the majority of humans, such as equality, opportunity, and freedom from oppression.

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