In search of real change

You must’ve noticed all this occupying going on lately. Occupy Wall Street has worked its way into news headlines all over the place. The other weekend, I ran into Occupy SB while downtown. Occupy San Diego is all over my news feed, I’ve been hearing much about police brutality in Occupy Oakland and Occupy Denver, and heck, people are even going for Occupy IV. In case you haven’t noticed, this place is quite occupied.

The most common criticism I hear of the movement is that it lacks a cohesive message. That’s not completely untrue. In fact, one of the issues I’ve had with the movement is because I can’t clearly tell what their primary objectives are. From the things I’ve read and the conversations I’ve had, though, these are the facts that drive the Occupy movement:

1% of the US population holds a ridiculously disproportionate amount of the wealth, therefore ‘We are the 99%’ has become the rallying cry.

It’s a movement against corporate greed and, more specifically, the systems that allow it to bend the rules in its favour.

Some major changes need to happen. The power held by big banks goes largely unchecked.

The Occupy Wall Street movement does a good job in voicing out that there is something majorly wrong with the way things work. We need some sort of a new order. Something to curb corporate greed, to support the poor, and to increase employment. The movement recognizes the need for change, and recognizing this need is something very important in the world.

An area where the movement isn’t as strong, in my opinion, is explaining exactly how this change should come about. Tax reforms? Major redistribution of wealth? New government officials? One thing holding me back from feeling empowered by all the occupying is the fact that without offering a proposed solution, this runs the risk of only turning into a formal, public, complaining session that breeds cynicism.

But wait. There’s an even bigger reason that I can’t Occupy anything right now.

I am the 1%.

1%? Really? Even though I’m just a college student barely getting his feet wet with a real job? Even though the only way I can afford to live near my school is if I split a house up eight ways? Even if my bed is made out of scrap wood and all my furniture is practically stuff that’s been passed around so much that I’m probably the ninth or tenth owner of a lot of it?

Yeah. 1%, baby.

There’s this graphic that’s been floating around the internet that I’ve been digging just due to the sheer truth behind it.

Perspective changes it all.

There’s the often quoted statistic that if you keep your food in a fridge, clothes in a closet, and sleep under a roof, you’re richer than 75% of the world. Well, add that to the fact that I have a job, a car, a smartphone, a bank account, and can afford to pay for a college education, and yeah, I’d say I’m at least somewhere close to the 1%.

See, I can’t Occupy Wall Street, or even State Street, because I am a part of the problem.

It seems like an overstatement, but it really isn’t. I live in a system that perpetuates this sort of inequity. Not only do I live in it, I embrace it. I buy more things than I probably should. I don’t give nearly enough. While people go hungry, I sit around downloading new iPhone apps. How can I protest against corporate greed when I can’t fess up to my own personal greed?

And the truth is, I don’t want to live this way. But I do. And I don’t. Comfort can be cathartic. It’s insane.

See the thing is, the change that needs to happen can’t primarily be dictated by a change in politics, a change in business, or a change in government. People have been trying that ever since. That is practically the running theme throughout all history books. People trying to bring out change, revolutions, new ideologies and systems only to have the same problems persist.

The change that’s gotta happen must be an internal change. I must change. Not just Wall Street.

One of the best lessons I learned from my parents growing up is that you can’t at all control the actions of others. You can only be responsible for what you do and how you respond. I can’t control Wall Street, and I have no influence over big businesses. To ask a massive corporation to turn from their Scrooge-ish ways isn’t realistically going to have very much success. But if I focus on my own greed, and my own heart, maybe…

At the very least, we’re getting closer.

But that leads us to one other problem. I can only change myself so much, and in reality, that isn’t very much at all. I’d sure love to see myself as a loving, giving person, but that’s not so easy. Not when I’m tallying up what I spent each week and have to get creative with my budget. And that’s just talking in money terms. It’s hard for me to give up my time when I know how busy I am this quarter. The change I need to undergo is drastic, and I can’t do that on my own. It’s going to take something a lot bigger and a lot more powerful than I am.

Love, in the purest, raw, most highest form.

In my life, there’s only been one thing I’ve found that can actually bring about this drastic, yet necessary change. My faith in Jesus has been able to change the way I see things, and anything I do that might make this world a better place is a result of that. My desire to pursue human rights and global justice is only because I believe that I have been Loved so much that I can’t help but pass it on. Having experienced grace and forgiveness has enabled me to move past the biggest hurts in my life and forgive others I never ever would’ve thought I’d be able to.

I’m still far from perfect, and I know I still have a lot of things to work on, but I know the only way I’ll ever be able to really work on them is by relying more and more on this faith. I don’t want to overcomplicate things with religious rhetoric, because I don’t even think this is about religion. It’s about Love. Quite simply, the more I allow this Love I’ve received to truly Occupy my life, the more I find myself wanting to change for the better. And change happens person to person, and it happens on the inside.

I think we need something bigger to occupy us to help us change in ways we couldn’t, left to our own devices. What do you want occupying your life?

Philippe Lazaro2011