Tuesday, April 17, 2012

general strike creatively

The Occupy movement is calling for a General Strike: “no work no school no housework no shopping” on May 1, 2012. Natasha Lennard suggests that there are many ways to participate, even if you must work or go to school, etc., that day. Beyond the usual recommendations (MayDayNYC‘s “If you can’t strike call in sick. If you can’t call in sick hold a slow down.”), Lennard offers two basic goals: do not support the oligarchy, and express solidarity.

For example, not using Facebook or Twitter all day is a mild form of striking; tweeting/posting “gone for 24 hours for #Occupy #GeneralStrike” before, and “back from #OWS #GeneralStrike” after, sharpens the message of solidarity with the movement.

Lennard points out that one of the messages of Occupy is that “there is no homogenous way to strike.” Because we no longer “live in an industrial society where work means the same thing” to everyone, we are each free–and required–to contemplate what striking means to us. There are ways to “express solidarity without having to withdraw from labor.” We can find creative ways to challenge the status quo, and to show the strikers–and the 1% they are striking!–we are with them. It is important to be visible, so the media and the public realize how many of the 99% really are participating. Lennard says that ideally, there will be many people “out in the streets, connecting and enjoying the day together.”

If you have to work/go to school, join the strike during your lunch hour (and take your lunch, so you minimize your participation in the economy). Call in to radio programs and mention how you are on strike as part of your comments. At a stoplight, get out of your car, hold up a “99% General Strike” sign, then get back in and drive away. Have a picnic in the park with your family or friends, and post a sign next to your gathering. Go sit in a bank lobby with your sign (then go quietly when they kick you out). No work No school No houswork No shopping No compliance *and* Yes creativity Yes connection Yes solidarity Yes fun.

Bonus material: Here is the statement supporting the General Strike from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two-Spirit, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming contingent (LGBTSTGNC).

Extra Bonus material: Juan Conatz’ blog post about the origins of the term “general strike”

(original post, with links, at So May We Be)

Monday, April 02, 2012

tenth annual Fast Day observation

Fast Day was once a national holiday. The “opposite of Thanksgiving,” instead of a feast and celebration, it featured a fast and contrition. It was even at the opposite end of the calendar, in April rather than November.

Centuries later, we are reviving and reimagining the holiday for contemporary life. This Thursday, April 5, 2012, the First Unitarian Church of Hobart will observe the tenth annual “new” Fast Day. You and your congregation are invited to join us, or pick another April Thursday for your fast.

As early as 1670, leaders proclaimed days of humility, fasting and prayer — citizens were to express remorse for their sins and to ask God’s blessing on the crops they were planting. Our 21st century version focuses less on remorse and more on introspection.

By refraining from eating for a day, we awaken from the blur of our daily routine, and observe our lives from a different vantage point. The time that we would normally use for eating, and the regular reminders of our hunger pangs, provide an opportunity to reflect on the values we are living in the world. These insights may be shared and strengthened at a potluck break-fast that evening.

Most of the colonies — and then the states — proclaimed fast days well into the 18th century. The federal government followed suit, and many presidents declared national fasting holidays.

The last federal Fast Day was held after President Lincoln was assassinated, in 1865. His proclamation of two years earlier read in part, “We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God …we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace … It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

Historian Dean Grodzins, then at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, proposed a revived Fast Day in 2003. Since then, some of his students have observed Fast Days with the congregations they serve. We note that our fasting is by choice, while tens of millions go to bed hungry every night. This recognition helps us to see our lives in a larger context, with an emphasis on compassion and justice.

Fasting is part of many faith traditions, as a ritual of purification or discipline. Our Fast Day is a little more flexible. Since the object is the interruption of routine, we embrace many types of fasting, from a full 24 hours to a simple daylight fast, from absolutely nothing ingested through a water or juice fast, to refraining from eating a favorite food (this is especially good for people whose circumstances require that they eat at regular intervals). On Thursday, participants will fast as they feel appropriate, then gather for the service and potluck at the First Unitarian Church at 6:00pm.

To paraphrase part of Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation, “it is the duty of nations as well as of human beings to recognize their inter-dependence, and to acknowledge their failings, in humble sorrow, yet with hope that genuine repentance and accountability will lead to mercy, pardon, and greater cooperation in the future.” Awareness, mercy, and cooperation– may we indeed embody these virtues, whether or not we fast this Thursday.

(this is adapted from an earlier TYC post; it is cross-posted at So May We Be)