My Address to an Occupy Group
In the highly unlikely case that I should ever be invited to address an Occupy Group, I’ve prepared this little pep talk.
Good morning everyone. I’m honored to speak to you this day. It is a beautiful day at the park, and I am privileged to have this opportunity. Let me give you a little background about myself. When I was born my family lived in an eight by forty foot trailer near the banks of a river in a very small town. We were always quite poor. The great thing about being poor and growing up among other poor people was that there was nothing to envy and no measuring stick of materialism to which I compared myself. But my parents worked hard to create with their hands a living. My mother raised and nurtured children. My father worked in the uranium mines, raised food and animals, and hunted and fished with my brothers. By some standards it may not seem like much. But my parents owned their living. They made it for themselves. It belonged to them.
Not unlike you here today, I’ve know my share of struggle. I’ve survived divorce and raising children on my own. I’ve toiled to get through college and graduate school. I’ve budgeted and skimped and done without. But what I possess, I have created with my own hands. All that I own, I have obtained or created through the use of my mind, my ingenuity and persistence. It may not seem like much but it is mine. It belongs to me. It is the expression of my life.
Are there any homeless people here today? You over there–the man sitting on the bench– would you say that you are homeless? Would you say that your identity, the quality of your character, the value of your life, are defined by your status as homeless? No? You’re right. You have an identity and a value that is far too great to be defined or expressed by circumstance. Are you a good person? Yes. That is the worth of your soul; your identity is that of a man, free to create with his own mind and his own hands his own shining destiny, or his own dismal failure.
So I ask, who are we? What is our nature as humans? I challenge you in this crowd of unique and fascinating people, to tell me, are you a movement, or are you individuals with the capacity to think for yourselves and choose according to your own thoughts, affections, and faculties which impel you? You see, you are not the “99%.” You cannot be defined as a percentage, a class, or by the quality of your clothes or the square footage of your home. Here, in the United States of America, you are defined by the way you exercise your mind to create a unique identity. You are not formed or acted upon and shaped from the outside. You are actualized through the volitional arts of your hands.
I never defined myself as a “poor” person. Such a designation would serve only to pit me against others of “middle” or “upper” classes. I defy class identifications. I am not a mote in a mass, as one might think of members of a “class.” Are you? I think, act, and make for myself. I am not owned by this class or that class. I am not consigned to a percentile which constrains my happiness or dictates my worth. I am free to master my passions and focus their force into works, and a life that for me is my opus.
You are not “occupiers.” You are free Americans, thinkers, doers, rebels, poets, and inventors who have shamefully allowed yourself to be acted upon by outside forces, to be typecast as prostrate and insentient. But you are not. You are actors. You can choose to act for yourselves, and interact within the civil society. With freedom comes responsibility. You choose action or inaction. But either choice will have a consequence. And because you own your mind and your mind chooses how to act, you bear the responsibility for that consequence. If you act industriously, with cleverness and creativity, then you own the rewards for that industry. If you act slothfully, looting the wealth that others have earned, living on substance that you have not produced, the you will bear the suffering that comes from abdicating your identity as a producer.
Are we free to choose whether we succeed or fail? Yes. What makes us free to do so? We do. We are not made free by legislation or achievement. We are, by our natures, free. We are given by our very nature the ability to think and act, not to be acted upon. So, even in your passivity you are choosing. And if you sit in this park and continue to allow invisible forces and invented classes to act upon you and define your happiness, you will have forfeited your freedom for a pitiful identity not so different from an animal.
America has a lodestar that helps us to remember that we are free. The Constitution of the United States is that lodestar. Do our rights come from the Constitution? No. Our rights are not given by the hand of man. They are, because we are. The great document whose words have been inculcated into the hearts of patriots throughout the American Centuries, gives us a scaffold for government which protects those rights. The Constitution lays out a system of governance which separates and limits its diverse powers. And government is not, in of itself, an authority. It is given power and authority only by the consent of the governed, those for whom it is designed as a protector of individual liberties and the administrator for the civil society.
The Constitution reminds us that the government does not grant rights. And if government attempts, through force, to remove our rights, its abrogates its duly assigned role as the protector of freedom, effectually nullifying its authority. If the governing bodies assert authority without the consent of the government, then the democratic form of government becomes a tyranny. You are not animals living under the tyranny of a zoo keeper. You are people. Act like people. Think like people.
Before you destroy your own lives in your attempt to destroy the people you envy. Remember who you are and that you have control over the chains of your own bondage.
Go home this May 1st, and save your energy to gather and remember of May 28th, Memorial Day. Do not destroy your city, but build up an appreciation for the men and women who died for your right to be here today, and to choose whether or not you live in freedom, or suffocate under the tyranny of your self-negation.
Thank you, and God Bless America.