It's my personal soapbox, a place for me to express thoughts and feelings, musings and rants, reflections and recollections; to have fun with words -- about things spiritual, environmental, social, political, economic, and, from time to time, personal. And of course about peace. Soapboxes are in public places (as London's legendary Hyde Park) on purpose, and so I invite conversations with you, for it is through civil discourse that we can gain some perspective on the seeming chaos of these changing times and learn together how to shape a positive future for ourselves, our communities, and the generations to come.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Presidential Politics 2012 #2 - Values, Principles, and Occupy

My initial post on this topic called for the emergence in this presidential election cycle of an alliance of inclusivity as an alternative to the existing or potentially expanded array of divisive political parties. I concluded by noting that "the platform of such an alliance would value and give top priority to the common good."

But what does that mean? What would the platform of such an alliance look like?

Well, a glimpse of an alliance platform is suggested by my hope (as expressed in my post about the Occupy movement) that Occupy would move beyond encampments and "come together...to demonstrate (not protest) how we might live together in new ways -- caring, compassionate, and mutually supportive action and practices regarding money, health care, food, shelter, even local, direct/participatory democratic governance."

Values and Principles: The Earth Charter as a Starting Point

An alliance platform needs to rise above issues of the day. It can't be about a set of policy proposals or plans to "fix" this or that social or economic ill. Instead, it needs to be about fundamental values and principles. I use those terms together recognizing that they refer to two different things. One way I've heard them explained is that values are what we live for (nouns) while principles are guidelines for how we live (verbs) to be in accordance with those values.

There is already a lot of history as to what values and principles would promote the "common good." The Earth Charter in particular, for example, can serve as a starting point to inform the platform of this alliance. Its preamble states:

"We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. ...

"To realize these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities. We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world in which the local and global are linked. Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature.

"We urgently need a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for the emerging world community. Therefore, together in hope we affirm the following interdependent principles for a sustainable way of life as a common standard by which the conduct of all individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and transnational institutions is to be guided and assessed."
The Earth Charter then goes on to enumerate 16 principles and 61 sub-principles grouped in four categories:
  1. Respect and Care for the Community of Life
  2. Ecological Integrity
  3. Social and Economic Justice
  4. Democracy, Nonviolence, and Peace
A Next Step for Occupy?

So, why do I put Occupy in the title of this post? Well, it's with the expectation (hope?) that Occupy may decide to involve themselves (ourselves??) in electoral politics this year, as a next step beyond encampments. For example, they/we might show up at election campaign events all over the country (presidential, congressional, state, local) not to disrupt or take sides or express preference for one candidate or another but rather give voice to the values and principles we'd like to see manifest in a new society. These may be, for example, those expressed in the Earth Charter or some synthesis that may emerge organically as the conversation continues.

What excites me about Occupy, though, is that the movement is not just about politics or platforms or policies. Nor is it even about merely expounding on values and principles. Occupy is actually an experiment to co-discover what those  values and principles are and to put them into practice, to put bodies on the line, so to speak (a much better metaphor than "boots on the ground"!), and thus to demonstrate and learn how they can work in "real" daily life.

In essence, Occupy is attempting to manifest the intention that the Earth Charter concludes with: "Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life."


  1. well said, It seems to me at this point a major challenge will to keep those who espouse conflict from framing the occupy movement.

    I often remind my self the Evolution is far superior to Revolution.

  2. agreed.......and i worry, grieve and fret to see how now, especially, after such glorious beginnings, so many occupies have split up into rival groups, each one in shock and disappointment that old habits die very hard and creep up to sabotage what we've built so enthusiastically........