23 November 2011

B.Y.O.C. (Bring Your Own Coffin)

Yesterday I saw the show Fela! for the second time. The first time was last Christmas before the Occupy Movement had started. Needless to say, seeing it in this context made the show even more powerful. What is Fela Kuti if not the voice of resistance? What is the Kalakuta Republic if not the occupation of space in defiance of an unjust government? But the portion of the performance that struck me most was the end called B.Y.O.C. (Bring Your Own Coffin). Fela asks: "Whose coffin are you willing to carry?". 

Recently, Occupy Oakland moved to 19th & Telegraph after a lengthy march through downtown and to the site of a school that is about to close due to budget cutbacks. Helicopters flew overhead as people peacefully moved through the streets and eventually wound it's way back to the Uptown district of downtown which is a spot of recent revitalization. The sentiment that I got from some residents was that they resented being encroached upon by the protesters. So I ask: "Whose coffin are you willing to carry?" 

So many of the arguments that I've heard from people (mostly teachers since that's who I'm around) reluctant to join this movement is that there's no "cohesiveness", it doesn't "make sense". How surprised (and delighted) was I to hear this line in the show last night, "You know what makes a bad teacher? Someone who's always trying to make sense of everything". Is it all about making sense of everything? The people who are camping out feel like their backs are up against the wall. Personally, I don't want to wait until my back is physically up against a wall to take to the streets. So I ask: "Whose coffin are you willing to carry?" 

A friend of mine recently stated that "(W)hen the people overcome, and we will, everyone will benefit, whether you were there or not ... We're not rallying, marching, meeting for the people there...it's for us all." I'm not perfect. I'm not sleeping out on the ground. I'm still watching my television and going out to dinner but I've been thinking more strategically about where my money is going. I'm reading about what's happening and supporting where I can. And yes occasionally having a laugh about the situation. I believe a successful movement has strong conviction but it also has laughter and lots of music! So I ask: "Whose coffin are you willing to carry?" 

When I ask that question, I'm asking what burden are you willing to carry? What discomfort are you willing to deal with? What hard decisions are you willing to make? Eventually, you will be able to lay that coffin down at the feet of the people who it belongs to but now it's yours to carry. If you are willing. 

Kere Kay! 

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