Greetings to all Occupiers in this cafe.

The "Core Conversation" thread seems to be rife with talk of a different structure and process for what we call our "economy." I am creating this thread with the idea of hauling all that rich conversation over here and re-opening the Core Conversation thread to an exploration of other topics that might one day grow up to be their own threads as well.

Here is where we can critique the old economy if that is your bent, thrash out the meaning and structure of a new economy, the values we hold most dear about energy exchange with our world that truly values the others who share this world, whether it is by legislation or by grass-roots one-brick-at-a-time rebuilding. What needs tweaking? What needs to be discarded.

How do we begin? What are the steps? Where is it happening already? 

Here are some resources I am familiar with:



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What are those "standards" you seem to believe "we all agree to"? Where are they articulated? If they exist at all, who created them? When did this supposed consensus occur?

"Where the problem lies..where the solution lies is obvious."

Obvious, only if you're unwilling to look at your own contribution (your tendency to take offense and personalize) rather than cast blame at or try to ostracize and censure the dissident.

Mature adults don't "take offense" when their ideas or arguments are criticized. And a mature group, society or nation does not exile or silence dissidents or minorities because some self-declared core group is uncomfortable with their presence.


"What can we do to make these discussions truly generative, as well as hospitable to all who wish to participate?"

A generative environment requires some creative tension - a threshold of discomfort which has the potential to push people off their habitual or unquestioned complacencies, question their certainties and consider challenges as opportunities for growth.

A hospitable environment is one in which different voices, differing approaches, and challenging critiques are welcomed - and one in which each participant takes responsibility for their own reactions (and over-reactions) rather than looking for a scapegoat to blame for their own feelings.

Well said, Robert.  I would also add that seeking to understand why someone is so passionate about what they are saying--why it matters to them-- is more hospitable than trying to persuade them that their beliefs are wrong or their arguments are flawed.

And that comes from someone who loves to argue!

I think that at this stage of our little enterprise, creating social fabric is our most important task.  Once we begin to feel connected and to value one another for the gifts each of us brings, we can consider what it might mean to be a community of virtual occupiers and what we might be able to create together that we cannot do on our own.  

And this might explain the difference in approach between us. 

I do not come here for "virtual community" because I don't believe in the validity or reality of the concept. I come here to consider, debate and challenge ideas, words, theses, strategies for a living revolution.

I see no people here (other than the tiny images, icons or avatars), only words.

Studies have shown that the more time people spend on-line, the less they invest in real community, real relationship, real connection. Wendell Berry refuses to even own a computer and believes that we can love only what we know, and can know only what's in our immediate physical presence. The rest is abstraction, which is the curse of modern humanity - which has abstracted itself from the natural environment, and abstracted all knowledge into mental ideation. 

P.S. I don't try to persuade a true believer out of their certainty (only they can take that step). But, when they propagate false notions in a public space, I feel it's my responsibility to challenge them (the ideas) before other unsuspecting individuals take it as gospel.

"I see no people here (other than the tiny images, icons or avatars), only words."

But we both know, Robert, that there ARE people "here," behind these words and avatars.  People with feelings and relationships and precious lives.  Perhaps the fact that a number of them are feeling disrespected by you stems from your denial of this fact.  

I'm curious (and please don't take this the wrong way)...  If you believe there are no real people here, only ideas--why are you not following the esteemed Mr. Berry's example?  

I agree that building community in a virtual context is a huge challenge. The world of large group dialogic process from which I take my inspiration is full of people who eschew anything other than a face-to-face experience as necessarily lacking in essential humanity and "aliveness."

That said, I am fascinated by the challenge of "proving them wrong."  I believe that we can weave together connections in this space--which is in many ways more supportive of content and ideas than a face-to-face conversation-- with synchronous conversations in our Cafe Calls and via other means, and also eventually with a face to face component for the Cafe.  In this way, I think something new might emerge--something that is virtual in many ways, but also generates a depth of connection (and therefore of initiatives and action) that many imagine to be impossible.

As Peter Block puts it, we want conversation that is transformational, not merely "interesting."  Ironically, I think that one opportunity to move beyond the shallow world of the merely interesting has arisen out of the heated exchanges you have had with many of the people here.  Were you to commit to treating them AS people and to exploring some kind of reconciliation, I believe that it would be quite powerful on a number of levels.  

Ben Roberts

"why are you not following the esteemed Mr. Berry's example?"

Ah, but I am. He has access to book publishers and major magazine editors to get his words and ideas propagated - and, not coincidentally, to vociferously challenge a good part of the status quo.

The internet is, as it was originally intended to be, a free "publishing house of ideas".

And, like the good wordsmith Berry, I stand by my words - I say precisely what I mean and I mean exactly what I say.

"Two epidemic illnesses of our time – upon both of which virtual industries of cures have been founded – are the disintegration of communities and the disintegration of persons. That these two are related (that private loneliness, for example, will necessarily accompany public confusion) is clear enough. What seems not so well understood, because not so much examined, is the relation between these disintegrations and the disintegration of language. My impression is that we have seen, for perhaps a hundred and fifty years, a gradual increase in language that is either meaningless or destructive of meaning. And I believe that this increasing unreliability of language parallels the increasing disintegration, over the same period, of persons and communities." 

- Wendell Berry, Standing By Words, 1984


I like this one:

Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.

By the way, you answered the "easy" part of my reply, but ignored the rest!

I didn't ignore it - I had already answered it. 

This is a place to share words, ideas, concepts, visions. It is not a community of people. It is not any kind of community. We all recognize that by appending the word "virtual" to it - as in "simulated".

That is why I find it particularly ironic that we use the term "friend" to describe (often large quantities of) on-line connections with other disembodied web surfers.

I also ascribe to Thomas Jefferson's sense of ideas as things that, like fire, are infinitely extensible and, once shared, possessed by all who receive them without lessening their value to the giver. We can not "own" an idea once it's been shared, and hence it's foolish to invest our egos in "our" ideas or take personally a criticism of them.



Elaine and Eric Hansen, who have helped on our Cafe Calls and are very well-steeped in the importance of face-to-face community building, have begun using the term "in the clouds" rather than "virtual" for the "A Small Group" conversations they are hosting on MaestroConference.  

These calls are a beautiful example of the power of conversation to create human connections even when we are not face to face.

Voice is different from text, of course.  But our goal is to integrate the two.  Meanwhile, even from text alone, I often get a sense of the person who is typing.  Words are about more than ideas and deliberation, even when that is the immediate context for them (which of course is not always the case).

Yes, "friending" is shallow, but that certainly doesn't mean that people can't become friends through the written word, or that they can't touch one another deeply in this medium.  

I'm curious: why does the idea that one cannot create community "in the clouds" matter to you?

"why does the idea that one cannot create community "in the clouds" matter to you?"

Because I, like Wendell Berry, understand that a primary (perhaps THE primary) cause of our cultural malaise is our abstraction from, and disloyalty to, the earth under our feet, and hence the community of life - human and more-than-human - with which we share a "place". And that it's not possible to love "humanity" in the abstract, but only living people whom we know intimately and living places we know as deeply.

I concur with Ross Jennings (The Art of Placemaking): "The interface between the soulscape and landscape, if we are truly human, is where we live."

We can "resonate" with ideas, but true harmony requires a living presence. Stephen Harrod Buhner (The Secret Teachings of Plants) shares cutting-edge neuroscience which reveals (what the ancients always knew) that the heart is the primary organ of communication - unmediated by mind or language.

I agree with David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous, Becoming Animal) that we cannot heal (as individuals or as a people) unless we literally "come back to our senses" and re-embody into the earth-enshrouded way of living that all native peoples know.

And I know that nothing sustainable can be created that isn't essentially local and place-based.

Connecting disembodied minds in "the cloud" can be useful for developing, honing and disseminating ideas, but ultimately we must "lose our minds" if we are to regain our sanity.

I agree.  Have you noticed that there is a group here on Occupying Your Neighborhood?  I have a vision where members of Occupy Cafe create face to face groups inspired by the Occupy movement and we link together through our Cafe Calls and this website, so that they are supported by the resources and energy that come from connection to a larger network.  

The groups might be small--perhaps just three or four people to start, but could grow from there.

As far as what the groups would do, there are many options I can imagine--I wonder if you have some suggestions as well?  And might you perhaps be interested in forming a local group yourself?

"nothing sustainable can be created that isn't essentially local and place-based."

It should come as no surprise that I agree with that, but two points beg expression.

  • Intuition, which is among the senses to which we need to return, is in play when I send a friend request in these activist communities. I send a request to someone who has intentionally or unintentionally disclosed something of self that I find promising and/or aligned. It is not a matter of shallow or deep, but of sensed kinship as explorers, discoverers and creators. With time, a unique group exists which, on ning sites at least, is also a listserv I may use with discretion.
  • Approaching sustainability is a process necessarily involving much that is unsustainable. We certainly should rely on what's reliable better and more than we do, but to invite the greatest number to do so, we'll use this system while we can. So it seems to all who read this, right?


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