It's Time to Occupy Our Independence
Bruce Justin Miller, Reader Supported News
03 February 12

- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (...Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…) it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Governments

From the Declaration of Independence

The Occupy Wall Street movement may be less visible in the depths of winter, but it has already awakened a long dormant energy in many of us, an energy that has not been felt and expressed in this country since the 70's. While this energy may not yet be clearly focused, it is searching for an answer. It is longing for a way out of the individual, community, societal, and environmental suffering that has resulted from our gradual and imperceptible loss of many basic lifestyle freedoms that our founding fathers took for granted.

While we like to think we are free today, are we really so when we are totally dependent on others for all significant aspects of our lifestyle, and are we truly independent if we can meet very few of our own basic needs? Carefully examine how we live our lives today, and it's hard to ignore the reality that most of us are no longer independent. Rather, we are almost totally dependent on an anonymous and impersonal corporate-political-financial system far removed from our lives for virtually everything we use and everything we do. We spend much of our life going to school so we can get a job to make money, and then we come home to a bank-mortgaged house often far from where we work, and spend most of the money we earned on maintaining every aspect of our consumptive lifestyle. Most of us don't create and make much that is tangible, and don't take very much individual responsibility for our own well being. Everything we need …food, water, home heating, electricity, driving, travel, consumer products, medical care, and leisure activities….depends on someone else growing it or producing it, and then getting it to us from often great distances.

As long as this complex system works, we can get by with the fantasy that we are independent and secure. But when anything along the way breaks down, as it has been doing with increasing frequency, then we can be immediately thrown out of control, with our security at risk, and we can't do a thing about it. So if we look at freedom through the lens of our modern lifestyles, it is obvious that the independence we claim to have as our birthright has been gradually and imperceptibly eroded by many small choices we and those before us have made, or have acquiesced to, over the generations since that first Independence Day. We are more and more dependent on the corporate state for everything that we do. In essence, we are only free and independent if we are fortunate enough to have played by the rules set down by the system, and as long as the system continues to work and continues to provide us with our rewards. When things go wrong, we are less free, and if they go very wrong, everything we care about will be at risk. Looked at this way, it should be obvious that taking more responsibility for all aspects of our lifestyle is the only realistic pathway to regaining true freedom and independence.

Martin Luther King had some wise words to say about freedom that are very pertinent to this loss of basic freedoms. He said we are only as free as we choose to be. He also said that our choice to be free begins with love. Perhaps regaining our basic lifestyle freedoms begins with choosing to love ourselves enough to draw a line in the sand and finally say no to the unlimited influence over our lives that we have given to corporations and financial institutions far removed from where we live our lives and uncaring about our personal welfare. In essence, we can do what the Declaration of Independence gives us the right to do when our freedom is threatened. We can take actions that will change the system.

By taking a stand, the Occupy Wall Street movement has changed the national dialogue and shown us a way. Individually and collectively we can Occupy Our Independence. We can choose, starting today, to love ourselves more by saying no to dependency, and we can declare our independence from addiction to our consumptive lifestyles. We are only as dependent as we let ourselves be. Through our individual and personal choices, we can make changes in our lives that will starve the more dysfunctional aspects of the corporate state, take away some of its power, and force change to occur. Rather than depending on food imported from halfway around the world at a huge environmental and energy cost, we can choose to reduce our need for imported food by buying at our local farmers markets and planting our own gardens. Rather than depending on the ever more expensive cost of fossil fuel, we can choose to insulate our homes, use alternative energies, and adopt a variety of energy saving lifestyle changes. We can reduce our dependence on the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries by living a healthier lifestyle, and stopping smoking, eating healthier food, and regularly exercising. If we are concerned about the high interest rates banks are charging, we can choose to cut up our credit cards and make a real effort to live within our means. What about those companies that shipped American jobs overseas? We can choose to avoid buying their products and instead buy products that are American made. Or better yet, why not buy some of them in thrift stores where they don't take any additional resources to make. Each of these actions, and there are hundreds more, not only frees us incrementally from dependence on the system, but it also frees us from the bondage of needing to make more and more money to maintain our lifestyle.

And we can encourage and enforce these behavioral changes by focusing our country on a national day of learning and dedication much as we did when we planned the first Earth Day as the National Environmental Teach-In. In 1969, when we realized that our environment was under attack by the very system that today holds much of our personal freedom hostage, we banded together at schools and in communities throughout the nation, and by Earth Day on April 22, 1970, we had become the world's largest-ever grass roots movement. We pulled it all together in six months, and ended up putting the environment up there as one of the most important issues for our generation. Since this time, April 22 has become the natural day to celebrate our commitment to the earth.

Why not put together a similar effort to regain our personal independence? An Occupy Our Independence coalition could focus on a national and even international day of education about and dedication to regaining our true freedom and independence. It could culminate with millions of us making our Declaration of Personal Independence on July 4, 2012. Would it not be fitting to take a national holiday that celebrates our nation's independence, but has become little more than a day off with fireworks and fun in the sun, and turn it into a personal empowerment day that focuses on building a real and tangible freedom for ourselves, through choosing more financial independence, energy independence, food independence, health independence, and independence from needing all the stuff we want but don't really need.

A movement that culminates in a National Day of Personal Independence on July 4, 2012 could bring together in positive action a coalition of progressive causes such as we have not seen in decades, including Occupy Wall Street, environmental, labor, energy, food, and human rights. What a powerful message this movement could send to the world on our nation's Independence Day: a commitment from individual Americans, the 99% and the 1%, to learn about what we have lost, and to dedicate ourselves to regaining our own personal power and the collective power of a society that works for all....humans as well as the environment that supports and nurtures us.

Bruce Justin Miller was one of the university students who planned and organized the first Earth Day in 1970. He directed the Office of Sustainability at the University of Hawaii, wrote the nation's first ozone protection legislation, and received the 1999 Environmental Hero Award from the Department of Commerce for his environmental work. He is currently principal partner in Sustainable Living Design, and is writing a book on freedom from addiction to a consumptive lifestyle.