Starhawk on the Occupy Movement

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 29, 2011 — 9 Comments

Author, activist, and Reclaiming co-founder Starhawk has been attending several Occupy gatherings in California and writing about those experiences at her blog. In addition, she has also written about Occupy Wall Street for the Washington Post’s On Faith section.

Occupy Oakland

Occupy Oakland

“At its essence, the message of the Occupations is simply this: “Here in the face of power we will sit and create a new society, in which you do count. Your voice carries weight, your contributions have value, whoever you may be. We care for one another, and we say that love and care are the true foundations for the society we want to live in. We’ll stand with the poor and sleep with the homeless if that’s what it takes to get justice. We’ll build a new world.” The Occupy movement is not overtly religious, like the Tea Party. The 99 percent includes people of all religious faiths, and people who have none. But I believe its core message and ethic is profoundly spiritual, even prophetic.”

Starhawk goes on to say that the Occupy movement “renews my faith in the human spirit, in our creativity, our craving for justice, our determination to root our world in love.” As mentioned above, you can read her ongoing reports from the various Occupy gatherings in California at her personal blog.

For more on Pagan reactions to the Occupy movement, check out these reports from PNC-Bay Area and PNC-Minnesota. You may also enjoy these recent blog posts from Alison Leigh Lilly, T. Thorn Coyle, Jonathan Korman, and Gus diZerega.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Tara Miller

    In Starhawk’s book “The 5th Sacred Thing” women take to the paved streets of San Francisco to break up the concrete and plank gardens to feed the children. This leads to a revolution where people reclaim how society is structured so there is enough clear water and food for everyone in each neighborhood. In the book, this new society has to stand up peacefully to an invading military force from another region that is mainly run by corrupt corporations. To me it is prophetic and powerful that just in August the Kickstarter campaign raised over $70,000 to bring this book to the big screen. Now people in America and even around the world are taking part in the Occupy movement to discuss ways of reshaping a brighter future.

  • Anonymous

    In contrast, the “religious right” supports putting the authors of the pre-Obama economic collapse back in the presidency. When did repeating the mistakes of the past become confused with wisdom? ROFH[owling]MAO

  • Well, here we are again, with Occupy Wall Street.

    When first posted about on here, I wasn’t sure where I stood with it. I questioned the motives and goals of OWS.

    Now, I grow more sure that I do not like it. It is a movement whose own members have tainted it with violence, sexism, racism, prejudice, and hate.

    For instance, I have heard that the ability to speak at the OWS follows what is called a “Progressive Stack.” What this means on a basic level in practice is that if you are man, and especially a white man you are “encouraged” to let those who are members of the “minority” communities to speak before you. This is different from how such events normally work, where in you stand in a line and when you get to the front you’re allowed to speak, not pushed aside because of race or color and told to “wait and understand the privileges you have enjoyed because of your race/gender.”

    I’ve also read (sorry, still looking for the news articles) that the OWS and other locations were having food brought in. Nice, high quality food like one would find in moderately high end restaurants. However, due to all the “homeless” and “former criminals” that showed up for this free food, the chefs that have been cooking have stated that they will be making only “rice and beans” and “directing the homeless and former criminals to the local food shelters and soup kitchens.” (so much for equality and acceptance in the group.)

    Of course, there is the violence and social disorder that has been going on that I’ve heard about from the major news outlets. They’ve shown some of it on tv, some of it they’ve just talked about (like the rapes that have been reported, and the apparently unreported rapes and other assaults that the group is tell it’s members to let them police, rather than going to the professional police.)

    And then of course, they even have former terrorists telling them how to go about achieving their goals. Hi there Bill Ayers. -waves-

    I’ve already talked about the “Fair Share Fallacy” about them demanding the 1% pay their fair share (and shown in the previous article that the 1% already pay a much larger percentage of the total tax burden, as well as having already higher tax rates than the rest, there by invalidating the argument that they are not already paying their fair share, they are in fact arguably paying much more.

    So in the end, my opinion of this OWS has lowered. They are not people protesting out of a sense of civic duty. They are a mass of people made up of people who are extremist, sexist, classic, entitles, and/or ill-educated youngsters who’ve never lacked for anything in their life and have been brainwashed into thinking something that is not true. They are attacking the capitalists, some of which are bad, most of which are decent human beings who haven’t done anything to hurt people, and have actually done quite a bit to help them. They are not protesting the government or the President who has garnered Trillions of dollars in debt that we will be paying off for generations to come, if the country even survives this economic collapse (and don’t kid yourself, countries are going to fall because of this economy and we well could be one of them). So where is the Occupy Pennsylvanian Ave movement? Hmm?

    No, these people are nothing more than political puppets who are more interested in entitlement and causing social disorder, not finding solutions or holding the right people responsible.

    Oh, and by the way, what does it take to get into the top 1%? A billion dollars? 500 million? A million? Nope, about $350,000 dollars. A little over a third of a million dollars.

    • Have you visited an Occupy in or near your town? I’m just asking because you talk a lot about what you see on TV and read, but when I went to my own it was absolutely nothing like what you just said. Most people were old (50+ years of age), not exactly youngsters. They’re still offering food to the homeless and anyone who asks for some, and it’s not ‘high-end’ food. It’s food that’s common to our locality–tortillas, beans, rice, etc, as well as whatever people bring to share. When they have a lineup for people to speak it doesn’t matter what gender or ethnicity you are.

      I like experiencing such things in person though, rather than just through the media. And I’m sure experiences will differ from city to city. I’m just wondering if you have gone to an Occupy near you.

    • Anonymous

      So, basically, you’re summarizing and generalizing a movement that has spread to hundreds of cities… largely based on what you see reported on TV or the mainstream media? I know you’re smarter than that.

      While the Occupy movement has it’s pros and cons, I’m glad that there are some folks out there who are willing to stand up against the b.s. that has been passing as ‘free-market capitalism’ for the last 20 or so years. Corporations, and their CEOs, have been shipping American jobs overseas for years… leaving low-to-middle class Americans increasingly impoverished. All the while their CEOs make half a million a year, plus stock options, plus guaranteed golden parachutes. The traditional capitalist excuse for this is ‘well, they deserve it’. I don’t agree. Financial corporations, and their leaders, are what got us into this recession in the first place. And, as always, they have been allowed (thanks to political corruption and lobbyists) to walk away unscathed. And the rest of us are left holding the bag. Where is the justice in that?

      Sure, there are cases where anger manifests as rage. But we’ve been left with nothing else. Take a sober look around at this country. Where is the opportunity? Where is the hope for a better future? We’ve ALL been sold out by these corporations.

      Aine’s right: Try going to a march and interacting with the protesters. Yes, there will be some losers. But the majority of them are passionate about effecting change for the better in this country. And THAT, I think, is inspirational.

      We CAN do better… but sitting on our posteriors pontificating isn’t going to change anything. And that’s what the corporations are betting on.

    • As someone who is closely involved with the local Occupy movement where I live, I can tell you firmly that your criticisms and concerns do not apply to anything I have experienced.

      We have no “progressive stack” in our general assemblies. Everyone has an equal voice. I will say that occasionally in the context of protracted discussions, those who comment regularly will be bypassed in favor of those who rarely comment. Other than that, though, if you want to speak on the stack, you speak. If you want to make a proposal, put yourself on the agenda to speak about it. If you want to start an affinity group and organize a protest, you have the autonomy and personal authority to do just that. Nobody’s voice is suppressed due to perceived privilege.

      Everyone eats, and everyone eats well, especially the homeless. A significant portion of our occupation consists of the homeless, and they have their own specific representation at the general assembly. Our occupation is actually quite centered around homeless issues, as we live in a town that has a disproportionately large homeless and transient population that city government does little to help. The local street families have been an important part of the occupation in terms of logistics, security, knowledge, and perspective. Their voices are extremely valued. This movement is building amazing bridges between the privileged and the disenfranchised in this town, bridges that have been desperately needed for years.

      Our group is self-policing, with the blessing of the local police department. We work in cooperation with local nonprofits to provide on-site crisis intervention when it is needed. We have had no significant issues of violence. We do have issues regarding the mentally ill segment of our population, but we have dealt with these issues effectively and safely. We have the approval of the mayor and the City Council, who have temporarily exempted the camping ordinances for our movement. This exemption was partially based on the recognition that we are fulfilling many important community needs.

      We are not a bunch of ill-educated youngsters, nor are we sexist, classist, or entitled. This area has a deep countercultural history and has long been a hotbed of activism. Occupy ranges from preteen kids to great-grandparents. If anything, the twentysomething-hipster demographic that you stereotype as the average Occupier is conspicuously absent from this scene. At least half of our local movement has grey hair. And we are protesting as a civic duty. This is about the citizens of this town standing in solidarity with those who have been marginalized to make a statement to the public and to the city government about significant social issues that are affecting this city.

      I kindly suggest that you get out in the world and see what is actually going on at Occupy movements across the country as opposed to reading about it on the internet.

  • Pitch313

    Just thinking back…When the Loma Prieta quake collapsed the freeway, the City of Oakland did not call their police and on on the mutual assistance of other police agencies to force away the temporary gathering of civilian rescuers to get victims out of the rubble.

    Same during the Hills Fire.

    And other disasters and emergencies.

    Only when it’s some kinds of political…

  • Ninjanurse

    In Providence I spoke to an occupier who was a born-again Christian, and a veteran of the Clamshell Alliance antinuclear occupation, as was I. We were standing next to a Sukkot booth, adorned with palms, lights and cards. He said two women passing through had lent the occupation the framework for a couple of days. The occupiers took good care of it and it stood as an expression of liberal religion. After the framework had been taken down a neat pile of palm branches and some cards remained.

  • Sacredhunt36

    My pagan spirituality has taught me to look to wild nature for guidance when I try to resolve questions or conflicts both within myself and within my communities whether local or on a larger scale. One overwhelming lesson I have learned over the years is that a “disneyfied” view of the world and of spirituality, while it feels wonderful to be all about glitter and unicorns, is totally unrealistic and unnatural. Nature is as much about death as it is life as they are both infinitely connected in an infinite sacred circle. Seeking a balance in all things is my own guiding principle but tempered with the knowledge and awareness that love and joy exist in this world but in equal part with pain and suffering which in spite of the negatives we attach to them also serve to teach us and guide us in important and invaluable ways.

    While I see some admirable goals of many involved with the occupy movement I also see much ugliness, violence and behaviors which disgust me. I see an escalating relationship of violence between many protesters and the police who are sworn to keep peace and order for the communities impacted by the protests. I see some individuals lacking honor and integrity on both sides of that particular relationship which I foresee in the end corrupting the proper and just role of the honorable individuals doing what is right on both sides of the barriers and police tape.

    I feel for those people who are negatively impacted by the protests and the necessary efforts to keep them controlled and peaceful. Those men, women and children who are simply trying to get to and from their work, school or other vital daily activities who may be losing income because they are made late or completely unable to get to where they need to be. Those business owners who have had their businesses vandalized, those protesters and police who have been injured, those who have sustained financial or property loss which for many may be unrecoverable and devastating to themselves, their families or their businesses and employees.

    While I applaud the many individuals who have participated in the occupy movement for good and honorable purpose I fear that unless they end soon they will end very badly for everyone involved, the good intentioned and the bad. There has been good experienced, points have been clearly made and messages soundly delivered to many who needed to hear them. There has been pain and suffering on both sides as well. I hope however that both sides will end the escalating violence before good people cross lines that they will forever regret.