Ken La Salle — Less than a year, in September of 2011 – 9/11 for those equipped with irony – the Occupy Movement sprang from the homes of the downtrodden. Those without homes sprang even easier. In New York City, they gathered in Zuccotti Park and marched on Wall Street. Across the nation and across the globe, the poor and the powerless stood against the rich and the powerful with the only things they had left: their bodies and their voices. What were they doing, anyway?
Whether you agree with their message or not, it is clear that the Occupiers were trying something that had not been done in quite some time, a non-violent refusal of traditional values. (The last time this had been tried on such a scale in the United States, Martin Luther King was assassinated as a result.) The Occupiers rejected the “value of greed”, if such a term even makes sense, and decided to redefine values for themselves.
This is important for anyone studying philosophy and ethics, because it shows us that our studies do not end where the book we are studying ends. Many of us work our way through Aristotle, Kant, and even Nietzsche. We learn the ethics of the Greeks. We are taught about the Categorical Imperative. We learn about Utilitarianism and Pragmatism. But it is when we walk away from those studies and live out our lives than the real value of what we learn comes into play.
Who amongst us is a Deontologist, a Utilitarian, and so on? Do we live according to labels? No, we don’t. People rarely live according to a single label. In the end, those labels end up being static, wooden… useless.
But that isn’t what philosophy is about. If philosophy was about simple categorization, there’d be no point in studying it. You could just learn the labels and apply them, like some kind of computer programmer or everyday plumber. Philosophy is about learning how to think and how to apply the lessons of thinkers from the past and then, and this is the important part, move beyond them.
That is what the Occupiers have done and are doing. They are taking the values of the past and moving beyond them. That’s what philosophy is all about and the facts surrounding Occupy – the volatility, the emotion, the conflict, the thirst for answers – display for us just how powerful philosophy really is.
Many of us learn about philosophy as a dead, boring list of theories from a bunch of equally dead and boring thinkers. But remember, those people were alive once. Their ideas were earth-shattering in their time. Now, this is your time to shatter the earth. Think beyond the great thinkers of philosophy. Find your own answers or, better still, find the answers for a whole new generation of thinkers.
Bring philosophy to life.
About the Author
You can find out more about Ken La Salle at www.kenlasalle.com. Climbing Maya, An Exploration Into Success by Ken La Salle is now available from all major e-tailers by Solstice Publishing You can also find The Worth of Dreams/The Value of Dreamers, a compilation of Ken La Salle’s first year with Recovering the Self with plenty of bonus content, available as an e-book from all major e-tailers and coming soon as an audio book.