A literal chill has recently settled over the Occupy Wall Street protests even as the movement itself has heated up with general strikes and Bank Tranfer Day. As days have turned into weeks since the protests began, I've found myself pondering Martin Luther King's famous question, "Where do we go from here? chaos or community?"
I've been blessed to have recently read God is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations, a collection of speeches, sermons, and writings of the retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Reading this book got me thinking that one demand the 99% could make is that there be a Truth and Reconciliation Commission regarding the Great Recession.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a critical and controversial aspect of South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy, based upon the principles of restorative justice. The work of the Commission included inquiries and hearings about human rights violations, hearing applications for amnesty from those who had committed crimes and told the truth about them, and recommendations for reparations and rehabilitation for victims and their families. Archbishop Tutu explained the spirit of the Commission in this way:
"Restorative justice believes that an offense has caused a breach, has disturbed the social equilibrium, which must be restored, and the breach healed, in a process through which the offender and the victim can be reconciled and peace restored."
My point here is not that a straight line of comparison can be drawn between the choices precipitating the Great Recession and the apartheid regime. I believe that the spirit and processes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission could restore social equilibrium, heal the breach between the 1% and the 99%, and encourage reconciliation between the wronged and the wrongdoers.