Monthly Archives: November 2011

Occupy The World Movement

Ok, so that’s actually not the name they’ve given themselves as far as I’m aware, but it seems fitting. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or haven’t used the internet or talked to anyone who has, you’ve heard of the Occupy Wall Street thing that’s happening. Well, there are all sorts of offshoots all around the world, in fact there are even 8 people occupying where I live (a town of about 10.5k people!).

I’ve heard all sorts of opinions and read several articles on what this whole thing is about and whether it’s good or bad. I would say there has certainly been faults on both sides, between protestors and cops for example. However, before getting to that I decided to research a bit of what this was all about.

The first website I found is called Occupy Together and that’s how I found out about the 8 people occupying my town. The website has a lot of information in the same way Wikipedia does, it’s all over the place and anyone can provide it. I attempted to sift through some relevant headings but felt a more official approach was necessary, so I went to their FAQ page. I found this page to be filled with some very interesting things. For example, one of the questions is “What is your agenda? Are you anarchists/democrats/republicans/independents/etc.?” and their response provided some insight into the movement as well as the site. First, they made clear to differentiate themselves from the main group, that being occupy wall street, and so they only existed to provide information on what is going on there. Fair enough, except if that were the case, then I think they may want to more closely monitor their articles. For example, the head article at the time of this blog is calling for the creation of a human rights day, exclaiming that these movements are a push for true democracy and human rights as based in the 1948 universal declaration of human rights which the writer says is the basis of many of our constitutions and it was approved by most of the world’s governments. More on the irony of this later, but the point is that such articles aren’t exactly neutral.

The FAQ page also wants to be sure, under the same question, to point out that it’s not about them, it’s about the movement. I find that fascinating, because prior to doing some research, my general idea was that there wasn’t much of a central point so much as just protesting for the sake of protesting. More on that later too (this may be somewhat longer than I originally intended.)

Before moving on, I found one more question interesting: “What should I do if there are two (or more) groups organizing in my area?” This is the exact response, “It is incredibly important to remember that this is a leaderless movement and that, in the spirit of solidarity and to create a more unified movement, it is best to put aside any personal grievances, self-interest, egos, and grudges to come together to form one solid group for your community. When people band together, no matter what their differences may be, the cause is strengthened in their numbers. Should this occur, the groups should communicate civilly to decide which group to absorb into and delete the other groups/pages in order to prevent confusion amongst others would would like to join you. However, this is only our suggestion. There are multiple groups organizing in one city in many areas for various reasons. Do what makes sense and everyone agrees on.”

This seems to be (one of) the Achilles’ heel(s) for this movement. There is an overwhelming drive to “stick it to the man” and be a “leaderless movement”. Why is this a problem? Well, you can start to see it in the very paragraph quoted above. First you have some truth “in the spirit of solidarity and to create a more unified movement, it is best to put aside any personal grievances, self-interest, egos, and grudges to come together to form one solid group for your community.” this is certainly the case, since if you want to start a movement, you need to first come together on what you want to say. Later on though, issues start to arise when they say “When people band together, no matter what their differences may be, the cause is strengthened in their numbers.” paired with “Should this occur, the groups should communicate civilly to decide which group to absorb into and … However, this is only our suggestion. There are multiple groups organizing in one city in many areas for various reasons. Do what makes sense and everyone agrees on.” It seems we have an issue: if what makes sense, according to what everyone agrees on, is to not be unified, but to have separate groups that perhaps even oppose one another, would it still be just as good as that whole idea about solidarity? This is postmodernism and relativism eating itself.

“Yeah ok, but nobody would do that.” Fair enough. So why is being a leaderless movement a problem? Well, there seems to be a general ethos of the movement, with a bunch of specifics thrown in varying by movement. On a basic level, who gets to decide what the ultimate goal is? I think they answer this by pointing to occupy wall street, since they were first. They might also be the biggest, but don’t quote me on that. Why should they get to decide? Because they are the first or the biggest? Isn’t that just a “might makes right,” or perhaps a “speed makes right” mentality?

To answer that question I decided to jump over to the official Occupy Wall Street movement’s page. Their “About” page is most helpful in determining just what this all is about. They cite the official start of the movement as taking place September 17th, 2011. The official reason for all this is stated rather clearly in stating that the movement “is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.” There’s a lot in that statement.

The first thing to notice is that it is not a rational, proof or argument, but an assertion. I am as dissatisfied with this (US) government as the next guy and would probably agree with many of the issues they raise, but their claims need to be proven, not just asserted. The general feeling I get from that statement is “the world’s going to crap!” ok, “the people in charge are the problem!” eh…that’s an unsubstantiated jump, but ok, “we need to get rid of all of them! power to the people!” …wait a minute. Who was it that elected these people? Who created the system? Psst…it was the people. Believe it or not, there’s a system for changing government called the democratic process and voting. “All politicians are corrupt bureaucrats!” Well now, that is an interesting problem. Who do we put in power if we don’t have politicians? Certainly it can be nobody from the occupy movement, since they are a leaderless movement. Perhaps the scientists? Economists? (Italy’s trying that right now. Google it.) Perhaps the everyman? Seems rather like Plato’s philosopher kings doesn’t it? Perhaps we put nobody in power, and we move to a sort of anarchist world. Maybe read some history on where that’s been tried.

You ever wonder what happens to all the stuff after stores have their “everything must go!” sale? Yeah, neither do I, but that’s the issue. It seems this movement has taken the approach of the everything must go, without considering what step two is. Ah, but wait a minute, it seems this movement was inspired by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt known as the Arab Spring. To just focus on one, let’s take a look at what’s happening with Egypt. They succeeded in their goal of ousting their dictator, all in the name of democracy and fairness, and what happened after that? Currently, the military is in control and sees no reason to give up that control. There is a saying which says “power corrupts. absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Are we so naïve to think that if the occupy movement were to be successful, something similar would not happen to fill the hole left by the current systems of government? Perhaps for some it is naivety, but I think a lot of it is actually arrogance. We, as humans, have a tendency toward chronocentrism, which means that we think our generation is far more enlightened, smarter, etc. than previous generations.

Think about it. The underlying ideas are simply that we won’t repeat the mistakes of the past. “Yeah, but that was Egypt, this is America. “That was the USSR, this is the UK.” “That was in the 19th century, this is the 21st century.” “That’s just what my parents/grandparents think.” “That was in the Old Testament.” It’s everywhere. This whole idea of secular utopianism has been tried again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and it hasn’t worked every time. Why do we still try it? Because we think we can do it better. Why did the league of nations come about? Why did the UN come about? Where has everything gotten us? These are not new ideas, but they seem new to a generation unwilling to take the effort to read that boring history stuff.

There’s also all those pesky rich people, the 1% that are “writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.” Seems like a good idea, but it doesn’t work. An easy way to figure out why? Go to YouTube and search for “Eat the Rich”.

So why do people do it? Well, I think there are a number of reasons. Anger and worry at the sorry state of affairs, wanting to be a part of something bigger than themselves, feeling a sense of entitlement (largely unearned), etc. It also could be the desire to be on the inner circle. Look up CS Lewis on that. Or, it could be the fact that people are trying desperately to find a universal in a world of particulars. Look up Francis Schaeffer on that (or this guy, for a shorter version).

Ultimately, I think what would do the movement some good are the following:

Research – Historical, philosophical, financial, economical (can I use that word that way?), and cultural.

Direction – Ditch this whole “leaderless movement” idea. Contrary to popular belief, a whole bunch of people not knowing where they’re going isn’t better than one person not knowing where he’s going. If you’re not going to have a leader, at least have something. Get a bunch of people together and draft up an official list of complaints and an official plan of how to fix it. Fully fleshed out, not just “get rid of government”.

Remember way back at the beginning when I referenced the article and how I was going to throw in some irony? Well, the irony is that the writer of the blog feels that many of our constitutions were based on a document that came out in 1948, and that she’s pushing for certain things while belonging to a movement which doesn’t want a leader. Maybe that’s not so much irony as it is inconsistency. However, I know what she means by that. The ideas contained within that document are what many of our constitutions are based on. However, there is there is one important issue in dealing with that, particularly with the American declaration of independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”



The Love Languages Have Limits

I think most people once they get into college (at least) have encountered the 5 Love Languages. They come from a book which I haven’t read, so I will not be dealing particularly with his work so much the outworkings of it among many people.

In case you are unfamiliar, the 5 Dr. Chapman lists are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. The idea is basically that everyone feels most loved via one of these avenues and finding out what your significant other’s love language is will help your relationship; in fact, the subtitle to the book is “The Secret to Love that Lasts”. This is another not-so-subtle book in the long line of pop psychology wherein man is essentially treated as a machine. Now that might seem like a harsh comment since this book deal with “love” and relationships so let me unpack it. If you happen to marry someone whose love language is words of affirmation, then you need to realize that and try and implement this in your relationship. According to the book, if you do this well, you will have found the secret to love that lasts. Input = words of affirmation, output = love that lasts. Do you see a problem with this approach yet? Perhaps the fact that people are far more complex than this? Or perhaps that that equation isn’t absolute in the sense that your relationship could be terrible even if the love language equation is being fulfilled?

There are several problems with this approach, but I will say that there is some truth to the general idea. Since everyone is different, we will likely respond differently to different things, I don’t think anyone is going to argue that point. It is always helpful in relationships to discuss things that you like and don’t like, but I think this approach has extreme limitations in usefulness and I will mainly be discussing what those limits are and how we have abused them.

As I said, it’s always helpful to discuss things that you like in relationships, and the love languages could theoretically help here if you are looking for words to describe or define things you like. However, I think this extremely limited use is where the positive ends for the system. Why? Because usually what happens is you encounter the love languages through a survey (at least that was my experience) and then you think “ok, great, now I’ve got that nailed down and if someone really loves me, they will need to know this.” and you could start conversations about your loved one with “Well, my love language is ____ so…” to which I think we need to put on the brakes because something significant has just happened. Suddenly you have moved your foundation from finding out what you like and what your partner likes to “I am this, you are that.” Why is that significant?

The reasons are numerous, the first being that things do not work that simply. Believe it or not, your likes and dislikes are not as rock solid as they first seem. For example, think about kissing or hugging the person you love most in life and then think about kissing or hugging a casual acquaintance. Even if all three people in that equation (you, loved one, acquaintance) all have the love language of physical touch, something is drastically different. This practically screams “WE ARE NOT MACHINES!” yet this is the idea that we have bought into from culture. If the love languages are truly as definitional as we proclaim them to be, then it should not matter who/what direction it is coming from so long as it is coming. This is reductionism.

Secondly, they can quickly be used as weapons of manipulation. Oftentimes we think it’s a good idea to take these love languages surveys as a couple (those spiritual gift surveys are shady too, but that’s another blog) so that we can…what? Find the secret to love that lasts via the quickest and easiest method of an input/output transmission of information. If he realizes that my love language is quality time and she realizes my love language is words of affirmation then we will have a great relationship or at least have something dealt with, all in time to catch the afternoon game. Why take all that time, effort, and money to go try doing different things and talking about different things together to really learn what the other person specifically likes when you can just take 15-20 minutes of your time and maybe a couple bucks and get it done quick and easy? This is the attitude of a culture which is consumer-driven and reductionistic so that man equals machine. How can that be manipulative?

It is not difficult to imagine an argument between a couple, or a venting between one member of said couple and another person when you have the frame of mind mentioned above, especially if both people took the survey together. “He knows what my love language is, he was there! So why isn’t he doing that!” “If you loved me you would ____ because you know my love language is___!” “Maybe I will leave because at least so and so wants to spend quality time with me!” The list could go on and on and on.

Another problem with the system is that people are fallen. Regardless of how wonderful your relationship is, that person cannot make you whole, nor can they satisfy you completely and unfailingly 100% of the time. This is not how we were made. We can only be fully satisfied by God. The Psalms are ripe with passages that depict exactly this truth.

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.”  – Psalm 65

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” – Psalm 42:1-2a

This does have relation to our relationships with one another though, and it is truly a wonderful effect. The best way I have heard it described is by thinking of two people as the bottom two parts of a triangle, with God being the top point. If the two people are both moving towards God at the same time, what is their relation to one another? The effect is that by moving closer to God, they are also moving closer to each other.

How does this relate to the love languages? Well, in such a relationship, if someone were to ask what your love language is, you could answer with “yes”. The issue becomes not the “what” of your particular love language or set of likes, but rather the person. You can enjoy physical touch or words of affirmation or quality time or acts of service or receiving gifts or anything else that you can think of, not because you enjoy those things in themselves, but because you enjoy the person with whom you are doing them with. Your love language becomes all-encompassing. This doesn’t mean that everything becomes flowers and rainbows and butterflies, but it does mean that you are functioning in a relationship that is not between two machines, but two people.

This leads appropriately to the asking of what love is. Helpful in this regard would be a couple links from Sam Storms, one simply being a list of related articles, with the second dealing with the love of God.