The Occupy Movement has identified itself using the term 99%. On the face, this seems to present a permanent dichotomy between the 1% of richest people, and the 99% of the rest of us. Of course, there is no way to erase the simple fact that there will always be a richest 1%, and so it is a permanent dichotomy. However, we may also look at this in another way. The Occupy Movement, in my estimation, has stumbled upon a profound insight: In human terms they have identified the ultimate truth of ultimate interrelation. What does this mean?
First, the nature of all things is to be in a process of becoming. Nothing remains the same in two consecutive instances. There is always a transition to a mode of manifestation as the next new thing. Also, as Whitehead says, there are no “atomic facts,” a statement that means that the becoming of every occasion of experience (every entity, as it were) is uniquely interrelated with the becoming of every other occasion of experience. This is one way of describing the Buddha’s dharma of the interdependent co-arising of all phenomena.
Applying this ancient insight to the 1% and 99% apparent dichotomy reveals that the 1% and the 99% require one another, and condition one another, and are in an inseparable interrelationship we might call interbecoming. They interbecome, or mutually condition and mutually become one with the other. This interbecoming nature of all phenomena means that we cannot be satisfied by simple dichotomy. The 1% needs the 99%, and vice versa. When we realize the truth that the 1% and the 99% interbecome together, we realize that there is only the illusion of dualism.
Second, as soon as we identify 99% of the population, there is no honest way to affirm any kind of monolithic uniformity. To attempt to do so would result in a severe denial of reality as it is in its suchness. The ineradicable fact of the 99% is a breathtaking pluriformity. The 99% requires vast diversity within its unity. The 99% is composed of Republicans and Democrats; theists and atheists; conservatives and liberals, archists and anarchists; wealthy and poor; upper class and middle class; lower class and homeless; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Humanists; black and white; women and men; native peoples and immigrants; undocumented residents and documented residents; old and young; militants and pacifists; the violent and the nonviolent; the married and the single; faithful and unfaithful; GLBT and straight; perpetrators and victims; union workers and nonunion workers; capitalists and socialists; sighted and blind; deaf and hearing; bourgeoisie and proletariat; tastes great and less filling—ok, you get the idea.
Within the 99% these polarities are not seen as insuperable barriers—but a kind of dialogue or truce seems to be underway among them. These are not insurmountable dualisms: they are realities that interbecome each with all of the others. To cry out 99%! is to cry out unity in diversity! It is to recognize that there is no such thing as uniformity, no such thing as absolute sameness in all of creation. It is to bow to the gift which is reality as it is. It is to bow to the gift of the truth of humanity who has now exceeded 7 billion unique, irreplaceable, living persons! I say that the Occupy Movement has stumbled upon the Ultimate Truth of Ultimate Interrelation.
Third, actually, what is required by the Occupy Movement is a profound and expansive “inter-” dialogue that spans inter-religious dialogue, inter-ideological dialogue, inter-gender dialogue (and so on), but that must begin with the inter-dialogue that addresses the quintessential blind spot in the identification of the dichotomy of the 1 and the 99. The consequences of maintaining this dichotomy result in a kind of violence known as class warfare. In place of class warfare, genuine, authentic interclass dialogue is what we need in order to begin to transform the oppressive structures that reduce billions of human beings to the status of wealth creators benefitting only the very few.
Intentional interclass dialogue may be modeled on the experience of decades of intentional interreligious dialogue, which, when it is at its best, manifests as a force for mutual transformation of all dialogue partners. In other words, the kind of interclass dialogue I am proposing would insist that persons be open to the risk of changing their core commitments when they are grasped by the class reality of the other dialogue partners. For instance, in its beginning stages, we may recognize at a deeply conscious level that it is dehumanizing to reduce persons who have been enriched (or even those who have enriched themselves at the expense of others) to the simple fact of their accumulated wealth.
Those in another class may come to the conclusion that those enriched persons should not be only (or primarily) identified as “the rich” or “the greedy” or the “1%.” In such authentic interclass dialogue as I propose, the reciprocal dehumanization through identifying titles like “the poor” or “the indigent” or “the lazy” or “welfare recipients” might be abandoned, in turn, by those who use these terms.
More important than the language issues, though these invariably structure our thought-processes, is the re-humanization of the participating dialogical partners (dialogians), and the other members of the classes whom they represent. It is easy to wage various warfares and violences against dehumanized abstractions. It is more difficult to do that to real persons.
The hoped for outcome of interclass dialogue is a transformation of one’s own person, deeply affected by the class reality of the others, so that there will be a transformation of the structures that dehumanize all of us in vicious circles of violence (violence in varying aspects of experience: physical violence; spiritual violence; psychological violence; geographical violence, etc.). The hoped for outcome of interclass dialogue is liberation from oppression: oppressors and oppressed alike need to be liberated from the vicious cycles of injustice. The hoped for outcome of interclass dialogue is mutual transformation that gives birth to justice for the 100%.
If we can learn to occupy the dialogical space among us, which means making room for the others while they make room for you, then we will begin to experience what it means to interbecome with our fellow human beings. We will participate in the divine activity of self-emptying love for the sake of the other. After all, that is what is meant by the word love, and the religious word creation: In the loving act of creativity, God made room for what was not God. Can I make room for what is not me? It is a lot easier to do if I know someone else is making room for me. Interclass dialogue needs to be about making room for the other. Room for love that liberates. Room for creative mutual transformation, or interbecoming.
What do you think about the prospects for interclass dialogue? What are the necessary parameters? What should we be mindful of as we proceed?