It’s fun to get tweets from my grown-up “beluga grad” fans who are surprised to find that the singer they knew in childhood now cares about the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. They shouldn’t be. I’ve been tracking societal trends and Earth changes for decades. My values have been in my songs, and in the respect I’ve shown my young audiences. I’ve not done one commercial endorsement and never marketed to kids. Their innocence does not merit exploitation. They need our love.
I want to advance the notion of maturing the OWS energy into something that attracts broad buy-in. I’m for a mainstream movement of sustained service to humanity and to Mama Earth. Not groups pitted against this or that, but people and networks coming together for a vision that shapes a different possible world.
I’ve always considered myself apolitical. Maybe it’s better to say I’m non-partisan. I like to see merit in diverse views and I know that dialogue makes us wiser. Together, we can mature from protest to rally, and from angry reaction to sustained positive action powered by all we love and hold precious.
Political labels are confusing and divisive. Left, right, these are odd words for philosophical differences or political stripes. I don’t belong to any political parties, and can’t be framed in left/right terms. “Radical centre” might begin to describe my views and yet some misuse the word radical as meaning extreme. Not so. It’s about “roots.” The roots of belief systems are found in childhood.
“Child honouring” is my politics. I am emphatically, passionately, for the right of every child of every culture to breathe. To be loved, nourished, and protected — to be welcomed into a loving village. Ah, but how we go about addressing that right is the stuff of informed dialogue and democracy.
How we tend the primary garden — the primary ecology of being and becoming — grows baby brains and shapes young dreams. It impacts lifetimes and generations. Shouldn’t this move us to do right by the child socially, culturally and economically?
I was 10 when my Armenian family emigrated from Cairo to Toronto. Maple Leafs hockey, pop music, Beatles and Motown shaped my early teen years. Then it was Tommy Douglas, Bobby Kennedy, MLK and the civil rights movement, and the songs of Dylan, Mitchell, and Seeger. Pete, that is. Now we need “new music” for the current civil rights marches worldwide. We need to power OWS into a growing movement that’s strategically smart: disciplined, peaceful and positive. The right stuff to attract a critical mass of support for healing a broken system.
Why do some people have an aversion to social justice? Faith leaders for millenia have touted it; does that make them “leftists?” If you’re not for social justice, are you for injustice? If you’re not for fair trade, what exactly are you for? Let’s trade the old political labels and romantic notions of activism for this: sustained service to the greatest good of the greatest number.
The world’s ills most impact the world’s young whose wounding impacts lifetimes and thus generations. Addressing the universal, irreducible rights and needs of children in their formative first years, we can grow peacemakers and Earth stewards in every culture. Call it grassroots developmental social justice, if you like.
As Jack Layton said in his parting words: “Love is better than anger, hope is better than fear, optimism is better than despair.” Beyond Left or Right there’s an emerging global dialogue — and movement — for a bold new world. I’ll meet you there.
Raffi Cavoukian is founder and chair of the Centre For Child Honouring on Salt Spring Island, B.C. Known to millions as the singer, Raffi, he is also an author, ecology advocate and entrepreneur. His awards include the Order of Canada and the Order of BC, along with three honorary degrees.