As our Connect 2012: Occupy THIS Cafe inquiry gathers momentum, certain topics are emerging for more direct focus, each of which can be given its own thread.  The first one we are offering is the "culture" of the Cafe.  Our "change agenda" here is to more clearly articulate, embody and promote an "OC Culture." 

To date, such a culture has been implied and suggested in many ways, but not overtly named and cultivated. and while OC members have contributed to it's emergence, they have not explicitly been invited to co-create it.  Consider that invitation issued!

Please share your thoughts below.  You might consider these questions:

  • Describe a time when you were involved in a group (esp online) that had a culture you loved.
  • What was a high point of your experience with that culture?
  • What was your contribution to the culture's creation, persistence and/or power?


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I'm involved with people online through Twitter, but they're not a group and they don't have what most would think of as a culture. My Tweeps (the people I follow on Twitter who follow me back) are amazing. With most, our communications are confined to Tweets, but many of us have connected with each other through direct messages and/or email. One of the high points was communicating directly in real time with people on the ground in Tahrir Square, Cairo, during the Egyptian "revolution," when I "met" brilliant, courageous, and inspirational activists like Hossam el-Hamalawy and Tarek Shalaby.

Some of my Tweeps are active with issues like Fukushima, while others are part of the global struggle for justice in places like Spain, Iceland, Germany, Venezuela, Guatemala, Palestine, Canada, and literally dozens of other countries. This would not be possible without Google Translate, as it isn't unusual for a dozen consecutive Tweets on my timeline to include six or eight in languages I don't speak, such as Arabic, German, Dutch, Portuguese, and Japanese. 

The "culture" that unites us, if it can be called a culture, is a passionate commitment to the global struggle for justice. This takes many forms, but is always in opposition to capitalism, the economic system that values profits above people and funnels money from the desperately poor to the obscenely rich, and in opposition to imperialism, the systems that use military force to dominate by killing millions of innocents and polluting the planet. 

I have very little to contribute, other than to demonstrate to the world that even here in the belly of the beast, there are people who aren't uncaring and indifferent, and who support the global struggle for justice over our own selfish interests--who care more about human rights than about property rights. 

It is a culture that agrees with Krishnamurti that, "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." It is a culture that agrees with Che Guevara that, "If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine." It is a culture that echoes the Jimmy Stewart line in the film, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," that, "Sometimes a lost cause is the only one worth fighting for." It is a culture of resistance in a world where resistance often appears futile--a culture of tiny blades of grass defiantly pushing up through cracks in the sidewalks of a decaying and corrupt "civilization" based on turning living things to dead things.

It is a culture that even under the most brutal attacks of the state, retains enough self-respect to engage in self-defense and does so with humor and creativity:

Armchair Activism

It is not a "new age" culture, it is a revolutionary culture. It doesn't seek to change the hearts and minds of those whose jobs are being outsourced, who are being poisoned by pharmaceuticals, and whose children are being drone-bombed, it seeks to change the world so that those outsourcing the jobs, poisoning the people, and drone-bombing the children, can be forced to stop.

It is a culture seeking to, in the words of Finley Peter Dunne, "Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable." If you are among the afflicted, you will find it comforting. If you are among the comfortable, you will find it unsettling. 

Lynchings used to play a prominent part in the culture of many communities in the United States. Crowds would gather and people would bring their children to watch blacks being lynched. Some towns where lynchings were a regular occurrence were culturally diverse. A town might have had a Catholic church, a Presbyterian church, a Baptist church, a Jewish synagogue, a Muslim mosque, a Hindu temple, a Quaker meeting place, and a Freethinkers' group for atheists. The way that these groups reacted to lynchings varied. Some instigated and/or encouraged lynchings. Some took principled positions against lynchings or even prayed for the lynchings to end. But unless there were one or two people willing to risk their lives to try to stop the lynchings, the culture of lynchings continued to flourish unabated. Despite what the members of the various belief subcultures may have thought, it was the lynchings that defined the culture of their communities, not what they thought about the lynchings. It is not your position, however principled it may be, that defines your culture. If murder and injustice is being carried out in your midst and/or in your name, and you do nothing to try to stop it, it is that murder and injustice that culturally defines you and by which history will know you.

 


Thank you, Mark for this moving, heartfelt and eloquent sharing of your experience and beliefs. I would love to hear some other people's answers to these questions as well, and to see if some patterns or themes emerge. 

My answer to this question is similar to Mark's.  Right now, many people, including myself, are riding a social media wave.  Although it's constantly changing (many times not for the better, in my opinion), I think that Facebook has a culture - a concerned citizen/political culture - that I am very fond of. 

The best part of this culture for me is that it's one I've been able to create for myself by "liking" certain groups and participating in them as much as I can.  I'm sure many people are familiar with the saying that "life is what you make of it," and I apply this idea to using social media as well.  Since it's become such a force in present times, I think it's really important for myself and others who are interested to take an active approach in making that social media into a learning tool.  Not only do I read and pass on what I've learned, but I'm also able to share information in return.  So, in essence, another high point of my experience with this culture so far has been having the opportunity to contribute something to a movement that is poised to eventually change the way the country and the whole world is being run.

In terms of my contribution to the creation of this culture, I honestly had very little to do with that.  As I mentioned before, the faces of social media outlets change frequently, so this is something that evolved over the last few years to its current form.  However, my contribution to its persistence and power has been much more significant.  By sharing what I know or ideas and opinions that I have, I've been able to spark a few conversations and/or debates, which tend to keep people thinking for a while.  When people think, as we all know, they have a tendency of coming up with more questions that need answering, and therefore, continue that trend of conversing and debating.  Another powerful aspect of this culture, in my opinion, is the fact that no two people think exactly alike, but as members of a productive society, at least most of us accept that different ideas and opinions are part of what make the world such a fascinating place to live in - a fascinating place that we're responsible to take care of and lead, along with its inhabitants, which is exactly what the Occupy movement is about.

Thank you Christina and welcome once again to the Cafe.

 I liked this a lot: "[a] high point of my experience with this culture so far has been having the opportunity to contribute something to a movement that is poised to eventually change the way the country and the whole world is being run."  That's a pretty powerful feeling!  I think that kind of purposeful and meaningful connection is pretty magical, and also essential to people really wanting to invest their time in something.

I also like what you say about contributing by sparking conversations and then watching them grow and evolve and even generate new discussions.

Good stuff for our OC Culture inquiry in this "discovery phase."  You can see a full list of the "affirmative topics we are considering, including OC Culture and some bullet points for what that might look like, on our new wiki here.

Hi Ben,

I haven't been involved with any online groups but, as you know, I have been involved for the last six months in teaching occupiers the underlying premises of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in a teleconference format. It's hard for me to pick one highpoint because, almost every time I have facilitated one of these teleconference workshops, I have ended up moved to tears when hearing the deep gratitude that occupiers express when the awareness solidly hits them that there is a way to be nonviolent, gentle, and powerful at the same time. It is very fulfilling for me to realize that my willingness to show up and discuss these types of communication can lead to so much empowerment (and often relief) for those willing to show up to the protests for us all.

I envision this type of culture for OC. It is already there and I'd like to see it in an even more explicit form; gentle and empowered communication between the OC members around the future we’d like to create, along with empathy for the the helplessness, anger, fear, and frustrationthat most of us feel about the choices our political representatives are making that do not result in more security, support, opportunity and empowerment for all of us.

I heard Noam Chompsky say earlier this year that if the occupy movement was going to make a long-term difference it would have to gain the support of the masses by creating events that people would feel safe participating in. Occupy Café is, and could be even more so, a place for this type of coming together. NVC, which has many tools that help bring people together, create a safe and empowered environment, and help people to connect deeply with one another about what matters to them, can support that kind of environment.

I’ve seen that when people are truly hearing one another’s pain over the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs that are not being met, an environment develops where humane, mutually satisfactory solutions arise.

I’m willing to contribute whatever I can to share the NVC premises and tools. 

Suzanne

Suzanne, I've shied away from Nonviolent Communications because I had the experience of having it misused as a weapon against me. I've started a new topic about it, and would appreciate your feedback if you have time:

http://www.occupycafe.org/forum/topics/how-to-respond-to-misuse-of-nvc

Thank you.

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