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How the Occupy Wall Street Movement Can Create Real Change

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In the last couple of months the Occupy movement has successfully gained our attention, as protests have sprung up in many of the major cities across our nation. We have come out to stand for corporate regulation and social justice for all Americans. I'm grateful that middle-class Americans have begun lifting their voices; my only concern is that the protesters' motivation appears to come from the perspective that 99 percent of the population has been victimized by the wealthiest 1 percent. In an interview on NPR, Mario Brito, a spokesperson for Occupy LA, demanded that the banks call a moratorium on foreclosures. Yes, the banks are culpable for the current condition of the housing market. They are responsible for the biggest heist that has ever occurred in history of this country. The deregulation of the financial markets that eventually lead to millions purchasing homes they could not afford has broken the backs of countless families while simultaneously ensuring profits for the top 1 percent in this nation. The damage has been so grave that our country's economy is still struggling to pull itself away from the precipice of depression. As citizens of this nation we have every reason to be angry and to protest actions that have gone unchecked by our government.

I understand the anger, but I do not want to get stuck in the experience and the feeling of being angry. I believe that what we focus on grows. As the sounds of protest are mounting around our nation from Occupy encampments I'm asking myself, "What have I done to create the climate we are experiencing?" It is my desire and intention to stand right where I am and be accountable for my actions that have contributed to debilitating this nation. I can acknowledge that I have used credit cards irresponsibly. I have lived beyond my means and failed to prepare and save for rainy days or retirement. Several years ago I watched enviously as many of my friends purchased homes. I came close to joining them, but my partner at the time was persistent in his position that the houses weren't worth the amount people were paying for them. I pouted, and he stood his ground. Although I did not buy more home than I could afford, I did get swept away by the consumerism of the times, and I purchased more shoes, purses, and expensive restaurant dinners than I needed or could easily pay for.

In my perspective, a pair of shoes, an overpriced home, or a bundle of mortgage-backed securities are the same thing. Americans have been greedy, and now we are experiencing the effects of what we have caused. Yes, we have caused this together, each of us in our own unique way. There were those who sounded the alarms, but we continued to salivate for more things, wealth, and power. And now we are here. I am here unemployed, a single parent and one of the millions receiving state assistance. It's difficult to look at myself. But I must--we must--if we are to heal and move forward. In looking at myself, I might see the emptiness I attempted to fill with the acquisition of more things. I might see the part of me that longs to feel worthy, necessary, and powerful. Honestly, it doesn't matter if it's a pair of shoes or bundled financial instruments, it speaks to a deep misunderstanding and forgoing of who we really are at our core.

And who we really are is the most supreme lesson we can begin learning today. We are important, and every action we take has a direct reaction on ourselves and the world at large. The damage we create has rippling impact. And the beauty we inspire will do the same.

We can begin by holding ourselves accountable for our own actions. Then we can forgive ourselves for being fiscally irresponsible and in turn we can offer forgiveness to those who have done the same. What if the 99 percent chose to occupy forgiveness? I'm recommending a fierce and radical forgiveness that propels this nation into what is possible when we stop blaming, stop living with shame, and see ourselves for who we really are. In truth, we are not 99 percent versus 1 percent; that is far too primitive and simple for what is emerging among our people. We are 100 percent citizens who have created a monumental economic challenge.

The purpose of this challenge is to bring light to the dark hole in our hearts that compels us to think something outside ourselves like shoes, homes, and bundled mortgages make us worthy, necessary, and powerful. The only path out of this calamity can be found in taking responsibility for the impact of our individual participation. We have behaved as though what we do has no effect on the whole. But the choices of the 99 percent directly impact the lives of the 1 percent, and the opposite is also true.

Healing and moving forward begin with accepting and behaving as a community of individuals who have boundless internal value. This value must be seen as a beneficial resource for the individual and the collective. We can no longer continue acting on behalf of ourselves for the good of our individual riches. That is greed. Real wealth is created from the desire to be great. And greatness can only be achieved when serving the collective is the primary intention.