Nearly a decade ago, we threw a party on Wall Street where we gave away $10, 000 outside the Stock Exchange. The money had formerly been invested in stocks but was divested, broken into thousands of small bills and coins that were dumped at the NYSE entrance, where we invited homeless folks from around New York to join the party.
As the opening bell kicked off the day’s trading, we blew a ram’s horn and announced the Jubilee vision, and money fell from the sky. You can catch a few glimpses of it here:
The ancient Jubilee was God’s alternative to the patterns of inequality. It was a systematic interruption of injustice — where property was redistributed, debts were forgiven, and slaves were set free. It was God’s way of making sure masses of people do not live in poverty while a handful of folks live however they wish.
No doubt Wall Street has some things to learn about Jubilee. Jubilee was God’s alternative to the patterns of Wall Street.
As the Occupy Wall Street movement catches the world’s attention, those of us who are critical of Wall Street have a responsibility. We can’t just be defined by what we are against, but should be known by what we are for.
After all, the word “protest” originally meant “public declaration”. It wasn’t just about being against something, but it was about declaring something new and better. “Protest” shares the same root as “testify”.
It’s time to protest-ify.
Gandhi spoke about the need for a “constructive program” — insisting that the best critique of what is wrong is the practice of something better. So his movement started making their own clothes and marching to the sea to get their own salt. They were building a new society in the shell of the old one.
I think the Occupy movement is off to a good start, and will continue to be a catalyst for change … as long as it stays nonviolent and humble.
The Occupy folks may not have all the answers but they are stirring up the right questions. Saying “no” to the way things are is the first step towards a better future.
Something is wrong with a world that continues to privatize wealth and subsidize debt.
There is an entire generation that is saying no to a world where the average worker makes $7 an hour while the average CEO makes over $1500 an hour.
The world is saying no to the patterns where 1% of the world is using up 36% of its wealth.
We can do better. And we must.
But saying no to Wall Street is only the beginning. We need to create alternatives to Wall Street.
I got excited this week when I heard about “Move Your Money Day, ” one of the concrete constructive-program suggestions coming out of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
On Nov. 5 folks all over the world will divest from Wall Street and its banks … in order to invest in a better world.
Ideologies alone are not enough. There came a point in the movement to abolish slavery where ideology required responsibility. As one abolitionist said, “The only way to be a good slave-owner is to refuse to be a slave-owner.” To truly be against slavery also meant that you didn’t drink sugar in your tea, because sugar was produced with slave labor.
So on November 5, my wife and I will be joining the “Move Your Money” celebration, moving our money from Bank of America to the non-profit credit union here in Philadelphia.
It is one small step away from the vicious cycle that continues to see money transfer from the increasingly poor to the increasingly rich.
It is trying to take to heart Jesus’ command to “Get the log out” of my own eye.
It is a move towards Gandhi’s call to “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
It’s one little step towards being less of a hypocrite tomorrow than I am today.
Although moving our $2, 000 savings may not break the Bank, we realize that we are one little drop in what we hope is becoming a river of justice flowing through the streets of New York City and 1, 000 cities around the world.
Enough small things can become a tipping point for massive change. When Rosa Parks decided not to move from her seat on that bus in Montgomery, she said one little, “No” that changed the world. So can we.
Can you imagine if the universities started relocating their endowments?
What if religious denominations moved their retirement funds?
It would be an honor to be a member of the post-Wall-Street Jubilee generation.
Shane Claiborne is a prominent author, speaker, activist, and founding member of the Simple Way. He is one of the compilers of Common Prayer, a new resource to unite people in prayer and action. Shane is also helping develop a network called Friends Without Borders which creates opportunities for folks to come together and work together for justice from around the world.