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Occupy the Dream: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the power of love

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"Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

Today the Occupy Movement will be engaging in global actions centred around the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The heart of Dr. King's vision offers wonderful inspiration for the movement -- one that is deeply rooted in love. King's approach to activism was all about "love in action."

The activists of the civil-rights era faced incredible repression and brutality, yet remained firm in their conviction to love, their conviction to non-violence. This gave them tremendous "moral capital." Violence, as an activist tactic, very rarely is successful. It is speaking the language of the oppressor, and they respond with even greater violence. But the images of loving activists in contrast to brutality is poignant, moving and transformative. It opens the hearts of the undecided, and calls them to join in the quest for justice. Those who seek to undermine the Occupy Movement, or any activist movement, invariably point to acts of violence.

King taught that while legislative changes such as desegregation (a focal point for the movement at that time) were important, unless we also change our hearts and minds, we would end up with "a society where men are physically desegregated and spiritually segregated, where elbows are together and hearts apart. It gives us social togetherness and spiritual apartness. It leaves us with a stagnant equality of sameness rather than a constructive equality of oneness." He beautifully said that "we are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality."

Dr. King's greatest vision was that the world would come together in a "Beloved Community." The civil rights movement represented an attempt to created that Beloved Community in microcosm. Today, within the Occupy Movement, we can also create this kind of community, founded on compassion, non-violence and mutuality. This in turn can help lead to the tipping point, towards that day when we are able to live in a world that works for everyone. King's profound dream was to enlarge "the concept of brotherhood to a vision of total interrelatedness."

If he were alive today, I believe Dr. King would have recognized the incredible potential of this remarkable time in history.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

By remaining firmly grounded in love, we are practising "prefigurative politics." Instead of waiting for some far-off dream of a peaceful, loving world, we are living it, right now, in real time. The principles of participatory democracy, central to the Occupy Movement, allow us to practice a world where everyone is important. Having a leaderless movement is also a radical step -- we all are leaders today.

Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has said that in this era, "the Buddha is the Sangha." This means, the community is the new Buddha. It's time for us all to wake up, and tap into our collective wisdom. We are moving beyond the top-down hierarchical structures that have dominated all areas of life in the past -- from politics to spirituality, from culture to economics. It's time for a new era, an era of shared power, of horizontality. This is the way ecosystems work -- complex webs of systems within systems, supporting, nurturing each other in webs of checks and balances. It's time that we integrate fully into the planetary body, recognize our profound interconnection, striving always towards mutually enhancing relationships.

It's time to go beyond that outdated dog-eat-dog-eat-dog isolating, disconnecting model of the corporatocracy, into a new world, where we care for each other in networks of compassion. As activists, let us learn to model the world we want to live in, in the way we treat each other within our movements. It's time to let go of the fractured politics of the past, the petty politics of distrust and internal conflicts that have undermined many a movement. Let us truly, deeply, authentically occupy the dream, the dream of a world that works for everyone and all life. Dare yourself to let go the cynicism, to let go the fear, let go the separation, and become a shining star in the constellation of love.

"Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

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