Light and Gold: Stephen Dotson on the Spirit of the Occupy Movement


What is the spiritual core of the Occupy movement?  Stephen Dotson, PYM Middle School coordinator extraordinaire and active participant in Occupy Philadelphia, shares his insights into the basic ethics of right relationship and human goodness that penetrate this national social phenomenon.  Stephen touches on several universal truths that this movement is evoking, and which are paving the way for a deeper national discussion about the nature money and community.  What does the Golden Rule look like in America today?  In our globalized economy?  Really, listen--Stephen speaks powerful ministry.

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Comment by Francis X. O'Hara on 12th mo. 26, 2011 at 3:59pm

Peace be With You, I found it quite helpful to hear and contemplate Stephen Dotson's insight's and as well to have the QuakerQuaker resource to draw from as I travel pregressively more deeply on this path. I'm with a small rural Meeting in western New York with Occupiers in many local regional larger towns, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and other's. I cherish this resource of Q.Q. and hearing diverse perspectives and hearing how other beloveds are led in their practice of Friendship. 

Comment by Patricia Barber on 12th mo. 27, 2011 at 8:36pm

Thank you, Stephen. I have struggled to find meaning in the Occupy movement beyond a mutual but somewhat incoherent disgust with our current economic situation and the growing gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us. While my heart has tended toward supporting the movement, my head has entertained considerable skepticism. At 53, I have a hard drive stuffed with memories of quite a few "movements" driven by very selective understandings of very complicated issues, manned (and womanned) by mostly young, middle class Americans filled with good intentions but with little real world experience and a very poor understanding of global issues beyond their very limited world view. While it seemed to me that the Occupy movement was more broad-based than many other movements (the anti-globalization protesters come to mind), I couldn't help but wonder if it wasn't heading down a similar blind alley. I am still not sure quite where it is all leading (particularly now that colder weather is setting in and there seems to be growing agreement among those within and without the movement that this all has to go beyond simply occupying public spaces) but at least Stephen has given us a clear and simple spiritual basis for the protest to which we can all say, "Amen." I offer here Leo Tolstoy's expression of what the Occupiers are perhaps seeking:

"It is this law of love and its recognition as a rule of conduct in all our relations with friends, enemies and offenders which must inevitably bring about the complete transformation of the existing order of things, not only among Christian nations, but among all the peoples of the globe."

Comment by Stephen Willis Dotson on 12th mo. 30, 2011 at 12:32am

Thanks Francis and Patricia for the comments, I feel well-used.

Patricia, it's funny you should mention Tolstoy. I ended my talk with Madeline groping through my bag trying to find "The Kingdom of God Is Within You" so that I could share the last two pages of the book with her and her microphone. I had left it at home. Here's a link to the final chapter: You can scroll down and read the ending that I had hoped to share. 

I also think there's a big generational aspect to it that we need to be wary of. I am reluctant to post a link to a news article here, but this piece put out recently by Marketwatch on ( does a great job of talking about what concrete goals the movement has in its sights, the generational politic that serves as primary fuel, and the darker consequences that loom on the horizon if there isn't a substantial response. We can start working on this generational piece right here within the Religious Society of Friends.

The role of technology can't be underestimated in this either. They sold away the future of the largest generation (Millennials) to ever come into existence, after raising them with super-high hopes, and we (I myself, am a Milliennial) just so happen to be those best at manipulating the tools of the day to suit their needs. Yikes.

Though there is, in the process and strategy of the movement, a spiritual foundation based on universal values, there's also an anarchistic dark-side that (I believe) should spur us into deeper involvement as Friends. If people like Quakers aren't willing to get down in the trenches here, then we're handing this popular movement over to more volatile and potentially violent groups. We're also risking further generational division within our community if we ostracize this movement. However, we haven't shown much willingness to leave our small pond of Qism and engage in healthy, constructive conflict within a diverse populism. This thing isn't going away, and we're going to have to raise our voice and fight for nonviolence (sic) both for the health of our world and the wholeness of our faith community.


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