Occupy is a movement based in dissent, both outwardly directed at the economic and political status quo, and inwardly invited via processes like the General Assembly. "Authentic dissent" serves the well-being of the whole, and comes out of a sense of ownership and acceptance of one's own part in creating the current state of things.  Other forms of dissent, such as blame, complaint, resignation and denial can be destructive to our efforts to bring forth something new.  

Rebellion is another kind of dissent--and a flash point within the movement.  Some feel that it is our only option.  Others suggest that it is not the way to invite the 99% to come together to co-create "a future distinct from the past."  [See the post below for more on this question.]

Similarly, our response to dissent is crucial.  When it is authentic, are we willing to hear it without trying immediately to "fix" things?  Can we resist the urge to argue, give advice or "take care of" the dissenter?  

With the Occupy movement at a crossroads of possibility, we sense that doubts, concerns and reservations are also in the air.  Before we are ready to fully commit ourselves to something, we also need the opportunity to say "no."

Join us for this Monday's Vital Conversation when we consider what it means to open the space for Authentic Dissent, based on the model developed by Peter Block in Community: The Structure of Belonging.  Eric and Elaine Hansen, who have worked extensively with Block, will co-host a discussion in which your authentic dissent about all things Occupy will be welcomed with deep listening and curiosity. 

And as always, we invite you to use this forum space as well, to expand the conversation.  Please post your thoughts in advance of (or following) our Cafe Call.  You might consider one or more of these questions:

  • What doubts and reservations do you have?
  • What is the yes you no longer mean?
  • What is the no you are withholding?

  [Photo from Network]

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I ran across this HBR blog post this morning - http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2012/05/do-you-know-what-you-are-feeli... - and it is a fine example of what happens when we replace our certainty with curiosity and take ownership of our own experience and express it with respect for others:

Peter Bregman shared this - 

"A woman I work with interrupted a presentation I was giving and asked me to proceed differently with the sixty people in the room. I made a snap decision not to get into a fight on stage and proceeded the way she asked. The presentation went fine.

But she didn't need to interrupt me; the presentation would have gone fine either way. I was angry. I felt stepped on. And I believed she prioritized her own agenda over our mutual one.

I wanted to get back at her. I wanted to embarrass her the way I felt embarrassed. I wanted to talk to lots of other people about her and what she did, gaining their sympathy and support. I wanted to feel better.

But I didn't do anything right away. And, as I sat with the feeling, I realized that while I felt a jumble of emotions, mostly I felt hurt and untrusted.

Mustering up my courage, I emailed her, acknowledging the challenge of making in-the-moment decisions but letting her know I felt hurt and mistrusted. She sent me a wonderful email back, acknowledging her mistake and thanking me for my willingness to let her know when she missed the mark.

And, just like that, all my anger uncoiled and slithered away.

Maybe I got lucky. She could have emailed back that I was incompetent, monopolizing the stage, and communicating poorly. But, honestly? That would have been fine too - because I would have learned something from it, even if it didn't feel easy in the moment.

Most important to me, our relationship was strengthened by the encounter.

But if I had just railed about her behind her back? Built a coalition of support for me and outrage about her? It would have felt good in the moment, but, ultimately, it would have hurt me, her, and the organization."

Too often we assign meaning to others words and actions without checking in with them first...there is always a story behind the story - even our own. Thanks for considering these thoughts, Elaine.

Lovely story, Elaine.  Thank you for sharing this with us!  And of course thank again to you and Eric for bringing this conversation to the Cafe.  I'm really looking forward to the next one on June 11th.  Still thinking that Ownership is the one I would like to do.  Let's get it going on the forum fairly soon, and also send out our invitations well in advance too.

Synchronicity is everywhere these days!  This video was just posted to the Occupy Everywhere LinkedIn group:


And here is the response I posted back:

Hmmm... I guess there's something in the air! At Occupy Cafe, we hosted a "Dissent conversation" two Monday's ago and guess what graphic image I chose for our posts about it? http://www.occupycafe.org/forum/topics/5-14-vital-conversation-dissent

The question for me is, now that we're all mad as a hell, what ARE we going to do about the depression and the air and the fears about inflation that are causing politicians to impose austerity when DEflation and unemployment are the real danger, or the fact that our whole money system is deeply, perhaps fatally flawed, never mind the absurd yet widely accepted idea that perpetual exponential growth is not only a good thing, but an essential one?

Anger is useful up to a point. But creative energy and positive solutions need to come from a deeper emotion, it seems to me. I vote for LOVE. And I suggest that the Occupy movement will stay limited in numbers and impact as long as its message is primarily one of anger and opposition to what is. People need to understand what might be possible in a different future from the one they now expect. Otherwise, even if they don't like what the banks or the government or Monsanto is doing, they are not going to rise up in sufficient numbers to call for a change. They will be scared that, as bad as things are now, tearing down the deeply flawed institutions we have now will only leave chaos and something worse (anarchy!) in their place.

Anarchy does not mean chaos. Anarchy means no rulers, not no rules. 

Numbers alone cannot bring about change. The US capitalist imperialist system has killed millions of people and has never had a qualm about killing millions of innocent people. Homeland Security recently bought 450 million rounds of hollow point ammunition, and there are only 300 million US Americans. If people rise up in a fascist system, they get shot down. The only way to bring down the system is to stop supporting it and to, as Buckminster Fuller suggested, create better systems to replace it. .

Much of what has been done and is being discussed in reconomy is anarchist. Reclaiming the commons, worker-owned collectives, all these are anarchist concepts. When I joined Occupy Cafe I was not an anarchist. Only after meeting anarchists and studying the literature did I become an anarchist. In a sense I always was an anarchist, as I've always opposed hierarchy and always supported equality. But I'd been brainwashed and I didn't know that's what anarchy is about.

Liberals and progressives aren't mad as hell and they're never going to get mad as hell. Civil disobedience is an oxymoron. If you are civil, you are courteous and polite and you respect authority. In a capitalist imperialist system, that means respecting property more than freedom. Disobedience to the system means respecting people more than property. That's not civil, that's civic. Liberals and progressives are dutiful citizens, bound to working within the system rather than opposing the system. Their loyalty is to the state, the civil order, not to the civicus, the people. They respect the state more than they respect themselves. They've been divided and conquered and fear their neighbors more than they fear the state which has taken away their rights and considers them expendable resources rather than full citizens. They vote for representatives who aren't bound to represent them, and no matter how badly those representatives betray them, they don't feel themselves competent to make their own decisions. Of course they don't--they've never been allowed to. Where workers have taken ownership and ousted capitalist management, there is always more productivity, not less, more efficiency, not less, and more personal satisfaction, not less. There's even more prosperity, since the bulk of their labor is not siphoned off by the ruling class, the slave-owners. The motto of anarchy is "No masters, no slaves."

The function of the state is to frighten people, to terrify them into submission, and to kill them if they don't submit. The state usurps the sole legitimate use of violence and is violent. Liberals and progressives believe that the state is necessary in order to keep the scary right wing from taking over, and they are incapable of recognizing that the state and the scary right wing are one and the same--that they are supporting exactly what they fear, and that the right wing has already taken over and will not and cannot prevent itself from taking over. Not even wars of aggression based on lies opened the eyes of liberals and progressives to reality. They want to believe that the innocent civilians the government kills abroad are terrorists and cannot understand that it is our government that is the terrorist.

LOVE is the answer, but love of people, not love of property. Love of freedom, not love of law and order. 

It is, in my opinion, a mistake to think of Occupy as a marketing scheme that has to appeal to the lowest common denominator to grow its numbers. That's what political parties do, and that's why they're losing public support. If it is to be successful, Occupy has to create inspirational alternatives that appeal to people's highest aspirations, not to their basest selfish interests. And it doesn't have to have the greatest numbers, it needs only what Margaret Mead and now Peter Block advocate--a small group of committed people. As the merger of government and industry outsources jobs, reconomy creates alternative livelihoods. As government has nothing to offer them but the military or prison, people will turn to alternative economies simply to survive. And once people get a taste of self-governance, of decision-making, of responsibility, they won't return to slavery or wage-slavery. Once people experience genuine freedom, the kind that money can't buy, they won't continue to worship hierarchy and inequality. Once people have the opportunity to take pride in their competence, they won't continue to see themselves as incompetent.

It isn't a question of calling for change, it is a matter of being the change we want to see.

In Canada, students are protesting tuition hikes and the general public is protesting laws against protests. In Brazil, some students have taken over their schools and proved that they can run them better than the government can. Seeing that, their parents and teachers sided with the students against the government.

Why waste energy complaining about, yelling at, or trying to tear down institutions that are failing of their own accord? Build alternative systems to replace them and just let the old systems fall.

Wow Mark, Bravo. Yes to everything you say. Your clarity is breathtaking - civic instead of civil. Give them a taste and they won't return to slavery. Anarchy - no rulers. Build the alternative instead of wasting energy on trying to bring it down.

I feel something has changed for you, you are no longer attacking everyone for not caring, dragging things down into despair. You are leading with a confidence that people can and will respond. And it's not difficult. It is just below the surface. May be we can't see it but it is already happening.

May be I'm misreading this but that's what it feels like.


Thanks, Anna. I think the credit goes to Ben. As long as I felt (rightly or wrongly) that I was being silenced or attacked, I was very defensive. Being silenced or attacked was my experience on liberal and progressive forums for over twenty-five years, so that's what I'd come to expect. Once Ben made it clear that there would be no silencing or attacks, I felt less insecure.

Being attacked and marginalized was my experience at my local Occupy also. I wasn't silenced, but my teach-ins were scheduled for inconvenient times where few people would attend and weren't video-taped like other teach-ins. Yet whenever I run into people who attended, they tell me how much they took away with them and how my words changed their actions and attitudes. As some of them are activist community leaders, I think there is the potential that someday, probably after the November elections when people become disillusioned once again, I might be allowed a voice. In the meantime, those who were intent on co-opting my local Occupy away from change and into politics as usual, have succeeded, so I stay away. Even the local Occupy events that appear to be most promising, are nothing more than excuses to register voters and direct energies toward government and away from self-governance. For example, recent anti-nuclear protests are aimed at trying to convince government to shut down unsafe reactors, rather than at removing from government the power to make such decisions and vesting that power in the people who are most at risk from the unthinkable consequences (Chernobyl, Fukushima) of bad decisions.

It is obvious to me that if we delegate decision-making authority to capitalists, decisions will be made on the basis of profitability rather than on on the basis of safety. But liberals and progressives, for the most part, don't seem to "get it." They're looking for less greedy capitalists rather than opposing capitalism. They're afraid of radical solutions when only radical solutions can bring about real change. So they're hoping for change, but not ready to be the change they want. Derrick Jensen, someone I don't really admire for unrelated reasons, did an excellent explanation of hope. He said that when he's hungry, he doesn't hope for food, he makes himself something to eat, because he has control over the situation. But when he's on an airplane, he hopes that it won't crash because he doesn't have control. We need to avoid situations where we don't have control, stop delegating decisions to systems over which we have no control, and create situations where we can stop hoping and start taking control. 



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