Discourse / Letters / November 2, 2011

Letters to the Editor: #OccupyBioneers

Dear Knox,

Please attend the Bioneers conference events at Knox this weekend.

In fall 2008, I traveled with around 70 other Knox students to attend the satellite conference, which was at the time five hours away at SIU-Carbondale. We wondered … “What if this could come to Knox?” That dream has now come true.

Our trip was a peak experience in my time at Knox. If you pay attention to the speakers, and the conversations they will provoke, it will serve you in the future.

Since graduating, I’m back home in Washington, D.C. On Sunday, I will join thousands of people encircling the White House to tell our President to say no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline (see www.tarsandsaction.org).

Taking gentle steps towards supporting the voice of the people, I hold on to one quote from Naomi Klein’s Bioneers 2008 lecture: “Obama has always been a centrist. So what do we do? Move the center.” She was speaking broadly then, but she was arrested with 1,252 others, including myself, in civil disobedience in front of the White House in August as part of the grassroots effort to stop this pipeline.

That work is moving our country in the right direction: towards a future where we make rational choices based on our support for the conditions of life on this planet, instead of denying warning signs and clinging to our addiction to oil. The center begins to shift.

A few people on that trip became my closest friends at Knox.

More than putting inspiring ideas into our heads, Bioneers 2008 created a space in which to build a community and to contemplate our place on this planet, in the face of both threats to existence and precious opportunities for positive change.

Bringing the event to Knox removes the pilgrimage, but adds convenience and inclusiveness. Take advantage of this. Don’t be afraid to dedicate a whole day or two, or to attend the events with friends and fellow (Greek) organization members, and discuss later.

Maybe even camp at Green Oaks, and hear what the trees have to say about what you hear during the day. I haven’t been to #occupygalesburg, but I spent a few days and nights at #occupywallstreet while passing through New York City this month.

I wasn’t “angry,” but curious about what the hell is going on. The protest’s home in Zuccotti Park was a wall of sign-bearers surrounding a bustling camp of music, cooking and constant conversation. I approached slowly. The first person I spoke to was a young woman named Hope, whose sign read: “ASK YOURSELF HARD QUESTIONS.”

Planning to visit only a few hours, I stayed for three nights doing just that. At the Manhattan protest, I had hours and hours of the most honest, civil and challenging conversations about the pressing issues of our time (the economy, the environment, the meaning of life) with people of all walks of life, not just those who can (barely!) afford college.

Looking to fulfill your experiential learning requirement? The #occupation of your choice awaits. Commence! Whatever your views, see the organism for yourself. There are immense inner and outer challenges before this movement (not to mention this country), but in my short time in that NYC park I got a much denser education than any week at Knox, and for free. Pete Seeger included!

Bioneers in Fall 2008 came close, though. Go this weekend! Let me know how it is. Please develop your capacity to look deeply, and to contribute, at a time when the world has many burning questions and far too many people shielding their eyes from the light.

Knox offers resources for this and presents obstacles too. It is an ongoing project to make “The Knox Community” more than a polite expression at official events.

Please use the occasion of Bioneers to put “community” into practice. Spend the critical time with your heart and mind, and please listen to each other. A voice truly heard is a thread in togetherness. We cannot get through this century alone; we’ve got a lot of weaving to do. Cultivating true love, 

Joey Firman ’11


P.S. Love yourself. Take “time off” to do what you need to do, go where you need to go, be who you need to be.

Joey Firman

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