From In The Trenches, to #Occupy The World

The headline of our local paper’s Sunday edition was, “#Occupy The World: Wall Street Protests Go Global in Asia, Africa, Europe” and so the bold printing, coupled with the fact that he got a Sabbath’s leisurely day off, triggered the first time my working-in-the-trenches husband brought it up and into our conversation in any great detail. He was aware of the Occupy Wall Street protesting, but very off-handedly up to now, for he is more luddite in his habits, and prefers to keep it that way (he thought the # hashtag mark was a typo :).

However current affairs are hard to ignore when tipping points happen — the “hundreds of thousands” participating in the grassroots Occupy Wall Street protest is quite a movement. We both hope it can remain peaceful as passions continue to flare.

“In the trenches” has long meant “hands on”

Our conversation got me thinking about those I think of as “my peeps” too — in the trenches managers who do try to be aware of everything going on with “the big picture” and in “a global world” today, but who are much closer to having my husband’s habits than having mine. They are managers who I wish I could talk to on blogs, on Twitter, or on LinkedIn, but they aren’t there. They are managers who I wish I could reblog and tag on Tumblr as a better collection of our voices, but they aren’t there either. They are in their trenches, working by their Ho‘ohana, and managing with Aloha too, but in a more hands-on way than I do as a manager/ writer/ coach/ having the luxury of more knowledge work than physical work, and choosing virtual teams and tribes in addition to my geographic ones.

In reality though, ‘luxury’ is the wrong word. Each kind of work has its own pros and cons, its own pressure-cooker times, its own slow-down times. Each kind of work can be in the trenches. We are all Working in today’s ‘Knowledge Economy.’

Work happens wherever you are, and whenever you decide you’ll do it.

Work happens why you want it to, and why you need it to.

Work also happens in whatever you feel is your logical progression for it to happen. More often than not, it’s according to a personal hierarchy of needs (like Maslow articulated for us), but that’s my convenient point of reference, and my habitual one, and others may not think about it at all. They stay in their trenches, and they ho‘omau; they persist.

They concentrate on the work at hand. It’s the work of their own hand, and they concentrate on making it good. On making it both worthy (to the world) and worthwhile (to them).

You are the leader of your work

This is one of the up sides to Occupy Wall Street being a leaderless movement: Every single participant has a much greater freedom with defining what the best-case scenario of good followership is for them. Every single participant can be unencumbered, and can make a difference of some kind, so this very pervasive movement tips from frustration to worthy action.

When we consider work in larger context, it becomes easier to see how even protesting — the best single word I can think of for the Occupy Wall Street movement — can be a person’s chosen work too. I’d bet that every person who has chosen to letter a sign, march in one of the protests, or otherwise participate in one of the Occupy encampments, would say without hesitation, “I’m working in the trenches too.”

So when I think about all those “hundreds of thousands” participating in an ‘Occupy’ protest of some kind, my wish for them is the value alignment of Ho‘ohana I hope the work they have presently chosen gets streamlined and focused in a very personal way for them, where it becomes a very clear intention for worthwhile work. This is one of those crucible times, where people can more clearly discern their purpose or calling.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement represents an amazing amount of human energy. It deserves the significance of Ho‘ohana.

Related Reading in the archives: Following is NOT a Passive Activity.

‘Occupy the Tundra’: One woman’s lonely vigil in bush Alaska. Click on the photo for the story at the LA Times.


  1. Rosa Say says

    This is new for me, thinking about protest as valid work. I have had to be more open-minded about it, and have done some reading outside my norm, so I can better understand the values at play. Isn’t protest just another way to turn up the volume and be heard? | Turn up the Volume and Manage Loudly.

    For instance, Chris Hedges, political and cultural writer, and author of Death of the Liberal Class, wrote this in an essay for Truthdig last November, a good ten months before the September kick-off to Occupy Wall Street:

    Power and the Tiny Acts of Rebellion

    There is no hope left for achieving significant reform or restoring our democracy through established mechanisms of power. The electoral process has been hijacked by corporations. The judiciary has been corrupted and bought. The press shuts out the most important voices in the country and feeds us the banal and the absurd…

    …Our worst premonitions are becoming reality. Our intuition has proved correct. We are reaching the breaking point. An explosion, unless we halt the increased pressure, seems inevitable. And what is left for those of us who cannot embrace the contaminants of violence? If the system shuts us out how can we influence it through nonviolent mechanisms of popular protest? How can we restore a civil society? How can we battle back against those who will mobilize hatred to cement into place an American fascism?

    I do not know if we can win this battle. I suspect we cannot. But I do know that if we stop resisting, if we stop rebelling, something fundamental will die within us. As the corporate vise tightens, as the vast corporate system begins to break down with fossil fuel decline, extreme climate change and the expansion of global poverty, even mundane and ordinary acts to assert our common humanity and justice will be condemned as subversive.

    It is time to think of resistance in a new way, something that is no longer carried out to reform a system but as an end in itself. African-Americans understood this during the long night of slavery. German opposition leaders understood it under the Nazis. Dissidents in the former Soviet Union knew this during the nightmare of communism. Resistance in these closed systems was local and often solitary. It was done with the understanding that evil must always be defied. The tiny acts of rebellion—day after day, month after month, year after year and decade after decade—exposed to everyone who witnessed them the heartlessness, cruelty and inhumanity of the oppressor. They were acts of truth and beauty. We must take to the street. We must jam as many wrenches into the corporate system as we can. We must not make it easy for them. But we also must no longer live in self-delusion. This is a battle that will outlive us. And if we fight, even with this tragic vision, we will lead lives worth living and keep alive another way of being.