The Occupy Wall Street/Vancouver (and other cities) has garnered much media attention the last few weeks. The main concerns of the ‘Occupy’ movement have a great deal of legitimacy to them, and emerge from obvious injustices and imbalances of wealth and power. Are such issues new, though, and do they have a perennial ring about them? How have those in the past thought about such issues (that is those who saw them as issues rather than denying or justifying the problem)? Is in the street protest and advocacy politics the only and most responsible way to confront such inequities?
Thomas More was Lord Chancellor of England in the early 16th century, and he was acutely aware of the disparities of wealth and power in his country. More had a tender and exacting conscience, and he did not flinch from asking and acting on the hard questions. More’s missive, Utopia (1516), pulls no punches nor does it flinch from probing to the core the larger justice and peace issues. More would, in many ways, have a great deal of affinity with the Occupy movement. Book I of Utopia is a must read--there is a poignant and not to be forgotten conversation between More and Raphael that is a keeper. The late 15th and early 16th centuries in Europe was a period of time in which many States in Europe were turning to the Americas to establish colonies. The empires were very much at work to extend their global reach.