We Need a Politics of Jubilee

15 Feb

What I’m thinking is that the Occupy movement is the beginnings of a politics of Jubilee. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What is Jubilee?

Writing in Leviticus as Literature, the late Mary Douglas observes (p. 243): “Release of slaves and cancellation of debts incurred under the preceding regime were common practice for victorious conquerors, a magnanimity that cost them nothing while their rule was new and their power to enforce it recently demonstrated.”

That, the release of slaves and the cancellation of debts, is the basic idea. But what is proposed in Leviticus (25: 10-11) is more radical:

And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed.

Every fifty years a Jubilee and, while we’re at it, lets give the land a rest, a chance to renew itself. As Douglas goes on to observe, however, the doctrine of a Jubilee every fifty years is

much more controversial and difficult to enforce for an established government. . . . Effectively, it prohibits private accumulation and even accumulation by the temple treasury. It ensures that there will be no gross inequality of wealth-holding. . . . Solidarity will not be undermined by resentment of perceived injustice.

Which is exactly what we have no in this country: The 99% have concluded that the 1% have rigged the action in their favor and they’re going to keep things that way, thank you very much.

The banks got their Jubilee. To be sure, their creditors didn’t forgive them, but the Federal Government provided them with funds to pay their debts. That is to say, you and I bailed them out. And now they’re back to raking it in, hand over fist, while we watch our neighbors loose their home. No Jubilee for us.

Maybe it’s time for Jubilee for us all, and for the land to, the oceans and fields, the mountains and the valleys, and all the living creatures around us. Can we really continue letting the corporate-owned Republicrats running the world for the benefit of a few privileged people?

The way I see it the Occupy movement is the opening call for a Jubilee. No specific demands, no specific proposals, just STOP! Let’s everyone speak up, everyone listen, and figure out how to start over again.

Jubilee. What does a politics of Jubilee mean to you?


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