Paul and Terra

Occupy Language

Terra and Paul perform spoken word adapted from this peice at Frolona Fest (Nov '17)

We've been exploring what it means to live a new story. This is hard to define. We want to hold a space for something different. We strive to exist on the edges, where the changes happen. How do we hold that space?

Living a new story carries a lot of implications about how we live, what we do, who we are, how we talk and think. And in bringing about the shifts that will be required of us in the future, more and more of us must begin to occupy these edges. To find space and hold it. This will begin with how we talk--our language.

The legacy of the Occupy movement is language. We redefined the word "occupy." That word-at least in certain subcultures, and really in the culture at large-can no longer be used without invoking the reality of wealth inequality and our potential to stand in the face of it. We redefined the words "one percent." Before Occupy, that word could have referred to a penny as easily as a petroleum magnate. Now-for most of us-that phrase standing alone can only mean one thing.

We must continue to reclaim our language. We must continue to build the vocabulary of a movement that will build a new story from new words with new meanings. And with every act of dissent, we must seize as many words as we can from the pages of the old story and write them into our new glossary of change.

Having reached the end of our old story-there are a few chapters left, but if this is The Hobbit, we're approaching the Battle of Five Armies, and the fat part of this book is in my left hand-we are left wondering which book we will read next. Those of us who find paper and pen at hand must help to write it.


Our new story will start with new words. What are the words? Standing Rock gave us protectors. In Sacred Violence we propose default condition, hitman culture, and sacred violence. In other books, we find pain body, hero-narrative, imagined order, and horizon of possibility. Some words are the proper nouns of place and person: Ferguson, Flint, Katrina, Monsanto. Some words are thematic: climate change, monoculture, permaculture. Our new words will reflect that this is the long story of slow time: Slow food, slow money, slow conversation. Algunas palabras saldrán de otras lenguas, y aunque casi no hay idioma con razón, cada lengua nos ofrece su propia sabiduria especial. Some words will be entirely new. Coin them and use them. We must all become wordsmiths as prolific as Shakespeare. This is real world high stakes Balderdash.

All of the words we do not have! The words we almost had, but left abandoned on the road, waiting for us to pick them up and dust them off. To cry over them once more and remember to carry them again for a while: Bohpal, forgotten but never departed. We almost had the words of endless unheard prophets: storytellers like Thomas Berry. And we hear them again in living words if only we will listen when one of us finds a resonance with a deeper story. I can hear it sometimes when I listen. We are close.

Pero qué vamos a 'cer con tantas palabras? The more I delve into the new stories, the more I understand the nature of our work. We are leaving the age of the engineer and entering the age of the storyteller. There are so many stories, and so many words. Are we close enough? We are clever. Will we learn the words, and weave them together to make them our own?

As we reclaim our words, we must use them to further explore and define the new story. In our limited vocabulary, we must heap meaning and meaning upon words until their nuance becomes as significant as their spelling. And so our language and our story must transcend the written word. Yet the poets will persevere-their words our stepping stones from the shore out into this vast lake of meaning.

One percent.

Many of us agreed, in 2011, that one percent of the population can exert substantial control over the other 99%. I suspect, historically that most of our societies have been structured along these lines. Who is the 1%? I'll propose, dear reader, that it's you.

If one percent of our population can dominate the story of our current culture, then another one percent can write a new one. It cannot be one without the other. We are the one percent. This story is not our story, and we will not read it, write it, hear it, or permit it to be told in our language. We are the one percent, and we will occupy a new story-a story whose foundation bears upon the solid earth. A story whose length is greater than its telling. Una historia cuyas palabras se hierven del estómago sin invitación, y que se cuenta sin parar. Una onda que apenas se nota en el momento pero que se pone tsunami sin advertencia.