Friday, 9 December 2011

Occupy Toronto For Love

21.11.2011 Jeff and I, the morning Eviction was formally announced. 

It was the morning Rob Ford announced Eviction: 21.11.2011. The night before, my friend Jeff and I had decided to sit outside and wait until sunrise to hear the verdict of whether we'd be evicted or not. We knew one of the mandates of the eviction would be the removal of our tents in the park. Therefore, we decided to test our abilities to ‘Occupy’ without a tent.

Initially we had only one blanket. But, over the course of the night, we experienced the power of humanity or communal love. Where we started the night with only one blanket, by morning we had five more blankets placed on top of us. Through the course of the night, we were provided with food, water and heat pads to warm our hands. By sunrise, we awoke to find us surrounded by a circle of banners and signs.  Those who did not provide blankets provided their body warmth with a platonic cuddle. All of this was given, rather than demanded. We made it through the cold November night because of the unconditional love of our fellow occupiers at St. James Park.

The next morning Eviction was formally announced. As the Cops walked through St.James Park, placing eviction notices on the tents, I realized; Rob Ford had the power to take down our tents. Yet, it was questionable whether he’d be able to break down the unity we'd built in our hearts.

As an occupier, I experienced a sense of communal identity that, in my twenty-two years of growing up in Toronto, I'd never experienced before. St.James Park proved that people were more than self-interested and individualistic being. In contrast, they were also giving and loving being. People savored the company of others and wanted the betterment of "We" rather than just "I".

Further, St. James Park was also a place to consciously evolve and re-imagine the essentials for a community of individuals, who were not common in race, gender, or class. But, were common, nonetheless, in the very fact that they shared common space. 

                                 21.11.2011 Occupiers Cuddle Together Upon Hearing of Eviction.

In our current society, most people would agree that food and shelter are undeniable essentials. However, we often forget the importance of love. Arguably, universal love is one of the primary essentials that every human being needs.  This means we need to love more than ourselves, our nuclear families, our exclusive friends or lovers. We need to be able to love all human beings. This is essential for nurturing a happy community of individuals. Yet, it is questionable whether Toronto nurtures such love.

Right now in Toronto,  the identity that unites us is mass-consumption or Multi-Culturalism. Mass-consumption makes us ostentatious in nature. Through products we construct a superficial identity of worth. Through this act, we define some as a superior and others as inferior. Then, we draw lines and barriers between us and others. On the other hand, Multi-Culturalism constructs a lot of group love among a certain ethnic group. Yet, this may discourage a sense of common-hood with other ethnic groups. 

As a result, Torontonians have a lot of exclusive individual or community identities. And, these identities are out-weighing inclusive individual and community identities. We spend more time celebrating how we’re different, rather than trying to understand how we are essentially common. Therefore, exclusive identities are over-powering a sense of inclusive identity. In this way, we lack a sense of common identity. This prevents us from acting in the interest of the greater universal community.

Toronto needs to start working towards a sense of communal identity that finds the plural affinities between the various class and ethnic divisions. 

 If Torontonians had a sense of common-hood, we could begin to nurture a sense of kinship based on universal love for all. With this sense of commonality, we'd begin to seek a truer essence of equality, justice, joy, and happiness for all.
Therefore, I think, it is time we break down our imagined barriers and begin to re-imagine our identity as a city and nation. We need to start asking ourselves: what does it mean to be an individual, in the midst of a community of diverse, and yet essentially similar, human-beings?  And, the best way to answer the question is from a place of universal boundless love.

Critics may argue that this is impossible. Yet, these same people would never actually attempt it. In contrast, those who occupied at St. James Park were constantly apart of this creative process in experiencing and constructing an inclusive communal identity. And, more often than not, people discovered that it was very possible. All it takes is a simple choice of the heart.

 Personally, I experienced a sense of common-hood across the barriers of race, gender and class. I experienced a bond that was stronger than my woman-hood, middle-class upbringing and South-Asian ancestry. It was a bond of acceptance - human to human. It was a place where I could openly express both my Western and Eastern values and be without fear of judgement. It was a place, where I found the affinity between my Western and Eastern Values. This was essentially our bond as human-beings who want love. This is the ultimate joy and happiness every human being seeks. And, human-beings fear a life without love, for such a life is suffering.  Our aspirations, at the core, were very similar.

For me, the Occupy movement isn’t about negating the system, in an absolute sense. Rather, I believe, it has the potential to contribute positively to our growing and young identity as a diverse city and nation.

In a society that acclaims science, we need to be empirical with our lives. You need to test and observe different ways of expressing yourself. And, question: when are you more happy? Is it when you're being egotistical, competitive and self-interested? Or,  is it when you're being kind, accepting, and self-less?

St. James Park gave me the space to test the waters. What I’ve realized is that our competitive materialistic lives are preventing us from working towards common happiness. St.James Park was a place of acceptance, giving, sharing, simplicity, love and the ultimate creation of a sense of common identity in the now. It led to a happier group of human-beings.

The Occupy Movement has the potential to define Toronto’s cultural identity beyond virtual communities, traditional ideals and consumerism. It has the potential to contribute something lacking in our city, which is a sense of common-hood. I believe discovering our common-hood will have several implications on how we conduct our lives apolitically and politically. 

 As a supporter of the Occupy movement, my radical demand is for the right to work towards building an identity for our community that goes beyond the limitations of 'multi-culturalism' and consumerism. It's encouraging people to love one another, regardless of racial, gender, and class barriers. And, then asking them to ponder: what do we essentially need to ensure the happiness of all human-beings? 

                             21.11.2011 'We Are One' :   Darren Calabrese / National Post:

No comments:

Post a Comment