Tomorrow (Tuesday) at 1:30pm, I will be teaching a yoga class at Occupy Boston, in the greenspace next to Dewey Square, by South Station. There are classes there at 1:30 everyday- all are free, and all are welcome. Last week yoga at Occupy went viral when famed yogini Seane Corne, flanked by Elena Brower and Russell Simmons, led a yoga class at Occupy Wall Street. (Elephant Journal has coverage.) Not surprisingly, her appearance caused some controversy, with some on the blogosphere complaining that the Occupy movement is “too devisive”, and therefore un-yogic. Ms. Corn does a great job speaking for herself, so I won’t bother, but I wanted to articulate why I’m joining Occupy Boston tomorrow.
Obviously, I’m very sympathetic to the cause, otherwise I wouldn’t be there. While I’d like to see the movement start to articulate some tangible policy objectives.* I agree completely with one of their primary complaints- that the distribution of wealth in this country is unsustainable (with 1% of the population owning about 30% of the wealth in this country, and 10% of the population owning more than 90% of the wealth), and is destroying the fabric of our society and corrupting our democracy.
Though I am (at least according to my tax return) one of “the 99%”, I have done a lot of work with “the 1%”. In my time in New York, and in Boston, various bosses, clients and colleagues have clearly “been the people” that the Occupy movement are protesting against- bankers, executives, economists and the like.
If there’s one thing the two sides seem to agree on, it’s that somehow “the 1%” are different. The protesters often caricature them as fat cats and oligarchs, no doubt. And in my dealings with these folks, they more than occasionally talk about themselves as if sitting in boardrooms or advising national leaders or selling million dollar properties has somehow transformed them into something different from the rest of us.
And to my eyes, that’s bull, and not the market kind. They get the same kind of mad when their teenagers are, well, teenagers, and get just as gooey-eyed when their children are unbelievably cute. They are straight and gay, burger eaters and veggies. Their vices, gifts and insecurities aren’t that different- they just have more money to spend on them, or more money riding on them.
When Seane Corn spoke before her class on Wall Street, she talked a lot about unity, and said 100% seemingly a hundred times- “100% peace, 100% unity, 100% of the time.” The wisdom here is that when you consider yourself as a part of the whole, in union (yoga means “to join” in Sanskrit, don’t forget) it’s hard to either demonize or screw other people, because they’re the same as you. So in standing with the protesters, I don’t see myself as “against” the 1%, though I certainly oppose the policies that reinforce income inequality. I am for 100% coming together for a solution.
I hope you’ll join me.
* I am not a social scientist, public policy expert, or economist, but for those who care, my list of demands for OWS would include: a tax on complex financial transactions, breaking up “too big to fail” banks, and forgiving federal student loans at the same dollar level we used to bail out the banks in 2008 as a stimulus measure.