Schneider to bring Occupy Wall Street to conversation



Nathan Schneider will bring his experiences in religion, technology and reporting on the Occupy Wall Street movement to his conversation today about the American consciousness with Krista Tippett.

Schneider, author and editor of two online publications, Waging Nonviolence and Killing the Buddha, and Tippett, host of public radio’s “On Being,” will speak at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy. Week Seven’s Interfaith Lecture theme is “Conversations on the American Consciousness.”

Schneider’s first book, God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet, dealt with religious identity — “people try to struggle to make sense of religion in the modern world, and the challenge of coming to identify with it, and coming to understand it in modern terms,” he said — a topic Tippett has also explored, Schneider said.

And while Schneider’s most recent book was about Occupy Wall Street, seemingly a departure from his religious work, he said the movement carried a strong spiritual element.

“That in some ways seems very different. It’s focused on economic injustice and how people have been organizing and trying to find ways of challenging a culture and a society,” Schneider said. “Many people saw this as not just an economic crisis but a spiritual crisis. That came out in kind of explicit and implicit ways. Something very, very spiritual was taking place here. The space, the Occupy space, was being thought of and treated as sacred space. There were all these ways in which this movement seemed to bear resemblance to religious movements around the world.”



Schneider became one of the first reporters to cover Occupy Wall Street by first paying attention to the Arab Spring. He and his Waging Nonviolence colleagues knew the Arab protests were built on years of planning and organizing, an aspect of the story media outlets weren’t adequately exploring, so Schneider set out to find other campaigns in the works to “bring alight stories of planning and strategizing and organizing,” he said.

Schneider covered numerous groups, some of which developed into more and some that didn’t — and one of them happened to be Occupy Wall Street.

Many secular Occupy Wall Street activists turned toward churches as part of the movement — a move Schneider found interesting — out of frustration that the religious institutions weren’t living up to what they believed churches should be. As a religious person, Schneider said he agreed.

“In some sense I think that, in generation after generation, people are revisiting core values, trying to recover them in new ways and see the ways they are not being practiced by the institutes that purport to represent them,” he said.

In more recent projects, Schneider has been exploring technology and how it is affecting, enabling and disabling ways of organizing groups and building new economic arrangements, and how that touches on spirituality.

“What new kinds of social contracts are people looking to have [with] each other? What do people do to be legitimate now? How has this changed?” he said. “I think our values are always shifting. Technology plays a certain role in that. Sometimes I think that role is overstated. Sometimes I think the ways it’s most impactful aren’t recognized.”

Schneider pointed to history, citing how people in the 1920s and ’30s believed advancing technology would allow for fewer work hours and more leisure time; however, now people who work the most often are also the most wired, he said.

“What’s odd is that actually technology has really done the opposite, and this is not just a story about technology, it’s also a story about politics and labor organizing,” Schneider said. “In this way, I think it’s a reminder that technology doesn’t have deterministic effects on us.”