What Is The Idea Whose Time Has Come? – Stephen Collis

5 Jan

Cross posted from OccupyVancouverVoice Dec 22, 2011

One of the most powerful slogans to come out of OWS is “You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.” I love this powerful conceptual meme (the phrase apparently comes from Victor Hugo).

It points, for one thing, to the fact that this movement is more than tenting in public parks—it’s about a conceptual shift in the underpinning ideas of our society—a shift that has caught on, and will survive the eviction of the physical encampments. But it does beg the question—what is this idea whose time has come? Answering this question goes some distance towards answering the common criticism of the Occupy Movement: “we don’t understand what you want!”

This is to some extent understandable, as the idea whose time has come is a very big idea, with many facets and consequences. This idea signifies such a fundamental shift in thinking that it is no wonder people might scratch their heads a bit. We have the meme. Let’s start the process of filling in its meaning. As we do so, we will find this idea keeps unfolding deeper and deeper layers.

The idea whose time has come is …

the idea that we can and should CARE for each other and the planet (I’m playing off something Vancouver occupier Tosh Hyodo has said); CARE is at the meeting place of LOVE and RESPONSIBILITY, and as a poet once said, responsibility is the exercise of our ability to respond; when we do so out of love, we are “caring” (as a verb: “to feel concern, be concerned; to take thought for, provide for, look after; to guard and preserve”)—what a different political and economic system it would be if we would truly work from and through this idea! Capitalism is built on self-interest, competition, and a seemingly “valueless” bottom line (profit and growth above all else)—the intersecting economic, ecological, and political crises now shaking capitalism have the same root: greed, the pathological idea of unlimited growth, and the tendency not to see someone else’s problem as our own—the idea whose time has come holds first and foremost that the days of apathy and not caring are over—

the idea that it is up to us to make the changes that need to be made(not some supposedly better informed “expert” or supposedly more qualified “leader”)—we can and must all stop now and figure this out together, pooling the common resource of our collective intelligence—and the idea whose time has come is that we can do this (the “Obama factor”—for all the disillusionment and failed promise of Obama’s presidency, his simple mantras—CHANGE—YES WE CAN—have resonated far beyond his ineffectual and in fact damaging administration)—

the idea that we must fundamentally change how and what we are doing—because the how and the what of the current system have led to a completely dysfunctional, unbalanced, and unsustainable relationship between the economic, environmental, and social spheres (see the diagram below)—this idea also includes the concept, very active in the movement today, that another world truly is possible (and so the idea that we must once again take up the project of utopia and activate our imaginations to envision and build that “other world”)—

the idea that we have a right to a future—that the current system is eroding and in fact robbing us of all our tomorrows in the name of excessive profits and unsustainable life-styles today—that we have to act now, with considerable urgency, to ensure that we have a viable, bearable, and equitable future for all human beings, and indeed a world of balance and health for the entire biosphere.

The idea whose time has come? What hurts you hurts me, and what heals you heals me. It’s time to let the healing begin.

—Stephen Collis


9 Responses to “What Is The Idea Whose Time Has Come? – Stephen Collis”

  1. susanonthesoapbox January 10, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    I really like the idea that it is up to us to make the changes that are necessary, that we can’t wait for someone else to do it for us. It reminds me of something Jane Goodall said in an interview with the Calgary Herald last October.

    The reporter asked what can one person do to make a difference? Her answer was: “Each person can just spend a little bit of time each day thinking about the consequences of what you buy, what you eat, what you wear and how you interact with people. If millions of people think about the consequences, they start to change and we need that.”

    It’s a good place to start, don’t you think?.

    • idnami January 13, 2012 at 12:15 am #

      I absolutely agree. The world is composed of people. Each person does their bit to improve or worsen it. If we took a second to consider our choices a few times a day that would make a HUGE difference. But it has to begin with awareness. if you aren’t aware that your contribution to the problem or solution is significant why would you make the effort? Especially since that effort is very likely to appear at first to make no difference whatsoever?
      That is something that I find hard about being involved in Occupy at all. Our efforts are either unnoticed or belittled for the most part and continuing is a constant act of faith. You just have to believe that this is making, or will make, a difference to somebody, somewhere and that you as part of the larger whole are helping to create a wave of possibility that things will change. Or at least hope.

  2. stonedhipster January 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm #


  3. annette January 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Beautiful idea and thrilled its time has come. The cynic in me sees this as a recycled utopian dream that so many before us throughout history have dreamt. But no one has been able to make this dream a reality. Every generation has its oppressors to make sure the people’s dreams are destroyed. While we the people have to keep getting back up and keep trying, how will this Big Idea accomplish different outcomes than failed social revolutions of the past? Together with love, responsibility and caring, as underlying factors for a common good approach to our ideal society, we also need the wisdom and knowledge of the ages.

  4. Patricia January 6, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    is the potluck really at nine on sunday? or is it at five like normal?

    • Ron Paul January 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      So Occupy Calgary is now just a social club for hipsters? Potlucks? Could have been so much more…

      • idnami January 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

        It always was a social club for hipsters. However unlike other social clubs we also welcome the terminally unhip. And anyone else.
        What is wrong with continuing to build the movement through social interaction exactly? However, NONE of this has to do with the article you are commenting on. Please read the article and say something about it. Discussions like this belong on Facebook.

        • Patricia January 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

          I would reply on facebook, but I do not have facebook so I am unable to do so. So, hope it is okay to ask here to clarify what time the potluck is at. 9?

          • idnami January 13, 2012 at 12:01 am #

            It is ok except I’m sadly out of touch with the potluck scene. When I get an answer I’ll let you know. Meanwhile what did you think of the post?


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