Occupy began with the ideal of equality for all. Equality of men and women, rich and poor, racially, socially and legally. It started out with the idea that we all share the same rights and responsibilities, that the rich man is no less accountable for his crimes than the poor man. That we all have the right to be treated with kindness and respect, be we sane or mentally challenged, sober or drug addicted.
When the camp was in Olympic Plaza all were welcome; wealthy banker or drunk homeless person. At least on the surface. The truth is, prejudice and judgement are deeply ingrained in each of us as human beings.
I have witnessed racism, sexism, defamation and character assassination by those who fly the banner of equality under which this movement was founded. I have seen a man hounded for months by people he tried to help, for the offence of poor communication and self expression. His life has been deeply affected, his reputation ruined, friends turned against him.
I have heard the cry of racism from people sheltered and loved by a multicultural community; people treated with great respect despite personal flaws as glaring as the man who is even now being persecuted intolerably.
We can never succeed if, each time some person speaks or acts in a way we don’t personally like, we cast aside the values that form the foundation of this movement. It must be more than words, for the great change humanity so desperately needs must start within each one of us who claims to care.
If we behave in the very ways we find repugnant in others, what right have we to protest the behaviour of others? If we slander, accuse, persecute and generally alienate even one person, how on earth are we to grow towards the welcoming, loving equality that is our goal? If we are willing to hurt or harm any person to satisfy our prejudices or paranoia we have failed. This failure is our greatest one, and it has always been with us. It must be overcome or we have lost already.
That’s right. You are no better than those you criticize and neither am I. Look into the eyes of the human being before you and see yourself reflected there. He or she is your equal and deserves your respect no matter who they are, as you deserve theirs. But it starts with you.