12/12 Vital Conversation featuring Charles Eisenstein: "How Might Occupy Support the New Economy?"

"The root of the word economy itself comes from the Greek meaning 'home,' the place we occupy," writes Occupy Cafe Steward Gary Horvitz in his short piece on "why we're doing this."  It should therefore come as no surprise that the subject of a New Economy is intimately bound up with our vision for the movement itself.  And it is also no coincidence that we have Gary to thank for inviting Charles Eisenstein to join us on Monday,12/12 for the eighth in our regular series of "Vital Conversations" Cafe Calls. Now that this call is complete, please review our "Collaborative Tablecloth" notes, and continue the conversation via the thread below.

Our intention is to produce the "raw material" for a declaration of what might be possible for the movement in this terrain.  The questions below provide our focus, and we invite you to offer our thoughts as we explore this further.  Meanwhile we have convened a small team to take what has emerged and craft it into a one or two page statement that can be presented to the wider movement in general, and in particular to people planning to participate in Occupy Wall Street's 12/18 "unconference" on the Vision for the movement going forward.  You can participate by joining the "Occupy 2.0: New Economy" group, where we are using this Forum thread as our "home base."   We are also planning a call for Wednesday, 12/14, time TBD.  If you wish to participate, post your availability here.

Background:

As the Occupy movement continues to evolve, it seems increasingly important that a positive, creative  focus emerge at the core of what we standing for.  We know that our current economic system is morally, and increasingly financially, bankrupt.  Over the past decades, much deep and innovative thinking has gone into imagining alternatives to the current failed approach, i.e. a "New Economy.".

Conversations about a New Economy have evolved naturally out of the focus on Wall Street that sparked this movement.  And they have been among the most active discussions here at OC.org as well.  Paul Bernstein spoke powerfully to this subject as a conversation starter for the 11/14 Cafe Call.  The New Economy dialogue has also flourished via the forum discussion "A new Economy--Exploring the Heart of Sustainability," started by Gary Horvitz on 10/26, which had 177 posts as of 12/11.  

We are now honored and delighted to by the opportunity to deepen this conversation with the help and inspiration of Charles Eisenstein.  Charles is the author of Sacred Economics and The Ascent of Humanity.  "No Demand Is Big Enough," his "Reality Sandwich" blog reflecting on the nascent occupation of Wall Street, should also be considered "required reading" for those who care about where this movement is heading.  An excerpt:

We protest not only at our exclusion from the American Dream; we protest at its bleakness. If it cannot include everyone on earth, every ecosystem and bioregion, every people and culture in its richness; if the wealth of one must be the debt of another; if it entails sweatshops and underclasses and fracking and all the rest of the ugliness our system has created, then we want none of it.

No one deserves to live in a world built upon the degradation of human beings, forests, waters, and the rest of our living planet. Speaking to our brethren on Wall Street, no one deserves to spend their lives playing with numbers while the world burns. Ultimately, we are protesting not only on behalf of the 99% left behind, but on behalf of the 1% as well. We have no enemies. We want everyone to wake up to the beauty of what we can create.

Inspired by Charles' insights and our sense of the current moment in the Occupy movement, we invite you to join us for this Vital Conversation.  We are framing our conversation around the following questions, which we invite you to respond to via this forum thread in advance of our call as well, in order to help "seed" our dialogue:

  • How might the Occupy movement powerfully contribute to the emergence of the New Economy?
  • Many organizations and initiatives are already engaged in bringing the New Economy into being.  How can we work together with them in taking the next steps?  What unique contribution can the Occupy movement make?
  • How might the act of “Occupying” be re-imagined such that it is modeling and bringing forth the New Economy in ways that have impact, are accessible to anyone who wants to participate and are widely embraced by all segments of our society?


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I was really interested in checking this out, but like the rest of the West Coast Occupations, I'll be busy with the West Coast Port Shutdown actions.

I just thought it might be worth pointing out that, given the timing, you may be shutting out most of the West Coast Occupations from the discussion.

That said, just about everything I've got to contribute to the economic discussion is featured somewhere within this rather clunky and academic paper I wrote recently: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0Bzgjzmswuf9ZNDNhNmJhMjctM2RjZS00Y2...

Feel free to check it out... I hope it dovetails in some way with tomorrow's discussion... perhaps we can talk about it (either tomorrow's discussion or my analysis... or both) in future.

Thanks for the link to the paper.  I'll take a look.  And yes, we're well aware of the timing.  In fact, my fellow OC Steward Jitendra Darling will be missing the call to join the port action.  As they say in Open Space, "whoever shows up are the right people."

I think there's a certain poetic symmetry to the timing.  While many are involved in an action AGAINST the current order, we are tending to the positive energies that must be nurtured FOR creating something new to replace it.

Ben, 

This is a BS answer re: "whoever shows up are the right people." You and I both know that sometimes we leave out important people due to unfortunately people. Many times even the "most right" people get excluded. Unless you believe that everything is pre-ordained and perfect no matter what happens. 

I happen to believe it is unfortunate that many that might come from Occupy on the West Coast are involved with the Dock strike instead.

Rob

Skimmed the paper.  I can't copy any text from that format, but wanted to excerpt the last graf, which appears to come closest to addressing questions relating to what it might be possible for Occupy to do.  The bulk of the paper, it seems to me, is devoted to a diagnosis of our economic ills and the principles that might be employed to address them, as opposed to an analysis of Occupy's place in the grander movement to shift our economic structure.

I see where you're going with this, though I think keeping an eye on what not to do is an important factor in looking forward on what to do. 

addressing a few ideas extrapolated from the last bit of my paper (conecerning Veblen's "instincts"), I think it's important to keep in mind whom our economic institutions are meant to serve, of whom are these institutions comprised and what forms they can take. Within that, defining a new economic paradigm means defining the limits of who "we" are (in my estimation, along a spectrum ranging from the individual to the broader collective, locally, regionally, nationally and globally defined), what our economic institutions are and how do we interact with them (An economics professor once told me that economics is the allocation of limited resources to provide for unlimited wants... I think he was on to something, but I rather think it a matter of variably limited resources providing for limited needs and further wants which, in total are limited by the sustainable limits of production from variably limited resources over time), and what form these can take (whether you like the efficiency of price signals found in the capitalist market or the egality of parecon or the simplicity of central planning, despite all its other problems, there are a multitude of forms whereby economic interaction can take place).

I tend to think that the Veblenian contradictions of Capitalism are informative to what we should aim for. Whatever economic aims we reach for: The contradiction of incentives between business and the public interest must be reconciled; the engineering of scarcity through the private property mechanism must be eradicated so that the free flow of human potential may be unlocked; and the contradiction of incentives created by a credit economy which drives speculation far beyond actual value must be put to an end. Off the top of my head, to me, what this means is no less than a public/private small business system based socialism with an interest free banking system (and to think, they are calling Obama a Fascist, Socialist and Muslim and not me).

As for what more specifically occupy can aim for... I would suggest a repeal of Taft-Hartley.

Here's some background on the idea of a "Declaration of Possibility" from Peter Block, whose writings in Community: The Structure of Belonging inspired this inquiry:

The Distinctions for the Possibility Conversation
The challenge with possibility is it gets confused with goals, prediction,
and optimism. Possibility is not about what we plan to happen, or what we
think will happen, or whether things will get better. Goals, prediction, and
optimism don’t create anything; they just might make things a little better
and cheer us up in the process. Nor is possibility simply a dream. Dreaming
leaves us bystanders or observers of our lives. Possibility creates something
new. It is a declaration of a future that has the quality of being and aliveness
that we choose to live into. It is framed as a declaration of the world that I
want to inhabit. It is a statement of who I am that transcends our history,
our story, our usual demographics. The power is in the act of declaring.

The distinction between possibility and problem solving is worth dwelling
on for a moment. As I have said, surely too many times, we traditionally
start with problem solving and talk about goals, targets, resources, and how
to persuade others. Even the creation of a vision is part of the problem solving
mentality. A vision is something we must wait for to realize and is
most often followed by an effort to make it concrete and practical. Even a
vision, which is a more imaginative form of problem solving, needs to be
postponed and replaced with possibility. The future is created through a
declaration of what is the possibility we stand for. Out of this declaration,
each time we enter a room, the possibility enters with us.

The communal possibility comes into being through individual public
declarations of possibility. Much the same as witnessing in religious gatherings.
Though every possibility begins as an individual declaration, it gains
power and impacts community when made public. The community possibility
is not the aggregation of individual possibilities. Nor is it a negotiation or
agreement on common possibility. The communal possibility is that space
or porous container where a collective exists for the realization of all the possibilities
of its members. This is the real meaning of a restorative community.
It is that place where all possibilities can come alive, and they come alive at
the moment they are announced.

• • •

The possibility conversation gives form to one way the gifts of those in the
margin get brought into the center. Each person’s possibility counts, especially
those whose voices are quieted or marginalized by the drumbeat of
retribution. In fact, what distinguishes those on the margin in communities
is they tragically live without real possibility. For many youth on the
margin, the future is narrow, perhaps death or prison. They have trouble
imagining a future distinct from the past or present. This is the real tragedy:
not only that life is difficult, but that it is a life that holds no possibility for
a different future. (pp.125-6)

There is, I believe, a purity and simplicity in this kind of a declaration.  It is not a detailed prescription.  It is more like a meme.  The original call to occupy Wall Street had this quality, I believe.  It inspired people all around the world into action around a very basic idea of possibility.  What might we call people into next that would have that universal, meme-like quality?  Something that is tangible and compelling, avoids being prescriptive and powerfully invites people into a place of creativity?  Something that will call them to live into the New Economy?

 

When I wrote my message below I had not read your contribution above. It echoes what I feel in my bones. We cannot convince those that do not feel the possibility that we feel. I see that about the General Global Strike May 2012. I make it as a declaration of possibility. Some when you talk to them about it, their eyes light up, it is like a dream come true. For others, we're not ready yet, we have to get strategies and communication networks organised. Yes all that has to happen, but holding that possibility in mind makes doing all these things more real. It is not some vague possibility in the future we are working towards. And it is not just picking a date to give us a focus. I feel the reality of it. And you can too.

I believe this withdrawal of labour from the system is 'tangible and compelling'. Each of us would have to work out what that would mean in our own lives, what would be the risks we were prepared to take, for ourselves, for our families. To stop supporting the system in whatever way made sense to us, and switch to whatever contribution we can make towards the New Economy. There will be as many answers as there are people. But these answers will involve getting together with others to work out collective solutions. For without the system to keep us divided and isolated we will see our interdependance. It will nourish us as a community, and ensure that everybody's value is recognised and acknowledged.

Anna

On Take the Squares Network https://n-1.cc/pg/pages/view/801083 we are in discussion about the possibility of a Global Strike in May 2012, which would be not just a day when people withdraw their labour, but a time when people switch to an alternative economy. That means that we need to have an alternative economy up and running by that time. This would appear to be outrageous and impossible. Yet it is essential if we are serious about turning the situation around of the morally bancrupt and physically damaging path we are on. It is difficult to ask workers who produce for example cluster bombs, to stop production, unless we have something alternative to offer them. This system will continue as long as we continue to support it.

Cooperation with Transition Town movement which is constructing local alternatives in food, energy, transport, education etc, would be very beneficial. But it is also good to have a time to work towards, to give it some reality, rather than some vague time in the future when this switch will come about.

We need to think about a basic income, or providing basic necessities to cover the changeover time for people withdrawing from this sytem, which means just about everybody. This needs to move from a theoretical discussion of 'wouldn't it be nice if' to 'OK, here's whst we do'

Anna

I will be at work at 11 a.m. so I won't be able to participate, but I will be closely watching this discussion when I return home. It definitely has my interest.

There’s a clear change we can make that will benefit all segments of society. Change the legal premise of publicly traded companies: instead of first and foremost having to consider the interests of shareholders, have them put the public interest foremost. This will foster businesses making a greater contribution to society (and they will actually make more money).

Social performance should be the new goal for corporations. By definition, a business must provide some value to society or it wouldn’t be able to generate revenue. But social performance would measure benefits that go above and beyond, such as altruistic missions, environmental responsibility, and community involvement. “Corporate Social Performance” is a commonly used term to indicate the degree to which a company benefits society, and there are established industry metrics.

The beauty of this solution is that research shows when businesses place a greater priority on serving the public interest, they actually make more money. This is not surprising when we look at the science behind it. Neurobiology has revealed that people have greater cognitive and creative abilities when their emotions are positive and coherent, and we only need to glance at what employees are increasingly telling us about their desire to work for companies that benefit society. Employees working for such a company have emotional energy that is far more positive and coherent than their counterparts, and as the business emotional intelligence guru, Daniel Goleman, has said, the emotional energy of a business is the number one determinant of its success.

If we change the goal of corporations., everybody wins.

Friends,

In response to the questions of how we can work together with others and create a New Economy, I think there are a number of good opportunities that we should consider and work on. For first let me say that whatever we support I think it needs to be practical, realistic, achievable and incredibly ambitious and transformative at the same time. 

So, here's my ideas: 

First, whatever else we do we need to include changing our tax policies from the local to global level. Today 95% of the land, natural resources and wealth is controlled or owned by 5% of the people - in almost all countries. Our current policies support them in further consolidating this wealth. Instead of taxing income we should be taxing the ownership and use of land and natural resources thus creating an incentive to limit resource use, encourage productivity, and collect the unearned rent and share it equitably with the people of the planet. 

Second, we need to correct the monetary exchange situation. Today several hundred billion dollars or more flows from the global South to North due to unequal monetary exchanges, interest payments, etc. We ought to use a floating basket of common durable goods to equalize the value of monetary exchanges. 

Third, the people need to take steps to create a new currency and economic system that works for the well-being of the people and the planet. The best that I know of it Gradidos and VitaMoney which is already operational and available through the internet to begin using now in the US and globally with a phase-in mechanism to gradually shift to a new economy and monetary system. See: http://gradido.net/en/Academy

Fourth, I am one of the organizers of Commons Action for the UN. We need to create a Commons-Based Economy where the people are included in making economic and governmental decisions at all levels. I am attaching our recent submission to the Rio+20 Earth Summit Conference compilation document with recommendations for making such a transition. 

Thanks,

Rob Wheeler

robwheeler22   @  gmail.com

Skype: robineagle333

Attachments:

As an old Nam vet turned protester, I am very proud of each of you 99%ers. If you take a look at Paulx54 on Twitter, you will see the support that I have for each of you.and the movement. Occupy has made some really significant strides. You have become a household name.

I get the impression that there is hope to gain cooperation from the 1%. Not likely to happen until it becomes apparent that you are a threat to them politically. That gets into their pockets. Unless we/you can effect a breakup of the big banks, stop wars to shut down the military industrial complex, and end their control over the government, nothing more than some token action is likely to happen.

It is going to be necessary for Occupy to become politicized in order to have a real affect on improving America. Believe me, your influence is needed more than ever at present.  I suggest that, as a lobby, there are enough of us to probably swing an election either way. Plus, you can get union backing and be even more powerful.  Republicans certainly are not your friends. If the Dems won't cooperate, to hell with them. Lets form our own party for party time come Nov4.

I am available to help in any way that I can.

Thank you

Paul Smith

 

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