I was invited to host a conversation at Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday, February 1st from 1-2pm EST (a recording is available here).  The subject I chose is "Occupy as a Leap of Faith."  As I note below, my initial inspiration was the work of Frances Moore Lappe.  I also want to acknowledge the influence of my time with the FOUR YEARS.GO campaign.  Much of the language that came to me in my opening comments at Trinity were a direct expression of the basic message of that initiative, and echoed the words of Lynne Twist (who was central to the launching of 4YG) in particular.  

The conversation began here before the event, seeded by a Cafe Call on January 6th.  I have reframed the core questions, and look forward to our ongoing dialogue on this theme:

  • How has the Occupy Wall Street movement changed your sense of what might be possible?
  • To what extent do you live as if we truly have enough goods, goodness and time to create a world that works for all?

Initial post for this discussion, from January 4th:

For me, the essential power of the Occupy movement has been its ability to inspire a very large and diverse group of people to move out of a place of disempowerment into one of possibility.  It is easy to understand the resigned, cynical and dis-empowered perspective given the current state of affairs on this planet. That makes the decision of so many to take a stand based on the possibility of something new all the more remarkable and precious.

France Moore Lappe's wonderful book Getting a Grip 2 presents an elegant framework that addresses this dichotomy directly, with the twin premises of scarcity and sufficiency at the heart of two different spirals.  She moves from these core premises all the way through to the specific political and economic dynamics that have created a world where the 1% are increasingly able to dominate and exploit the 99% on the one hand, and a world where we work collaboratively to meet the needs of all, on the other.  You can study the two spirals on her www.smallplanet.org website here [and we have also now posted them below as well].

The "spiral of powerlessness" begins from the assumption that we don't have enough "goods or goodness" (to which I would also add "time") to go around and that as a result, human nature is inherently "selfish, competitive and materialistic."  The "spiral of empowerment" is based upon an assumption that we do have enough, both materially and spiritually.  As a result, we can trust our "deep needs for fairness, cooperation and effectiveness," harnessing them to transform the systems by which we organize and govern ourselves so that the voices and the needs of the 99% are heard and met.

The Occupy movement emerged out of those "deep needs."  The encampments were grounded in the Occupiers' faith in "fairness, cooperation and [the] effectiveness" of the people.  And they were energized by the discovery of sufficiency, as the basic needs not only of the Occupiers themselves, but also of the poorest and weakest among us, were met with grace and love, despite extremely challenging circumstances.

Now almost all the encampments are gone.  Perhaps they will reemerge, perhaps not.  But it is their lesson that holds the greatest power, in my opinion.  How can we nourish that precious faith in human goodness and the sufficiency of the universe that is the source of our ability not simply to "solve our problems," but to step into a realm of possibility in which the true genius of humanity can be unleashed with all the incredible power and brilliance that is within our grasp?

Perhaps we might start by looking within ourselves. In that spirit, I suggest that we begin our conversation with these questions:

  • When have you experienced a deep and powerful sense of sufficiency?
  • What would it take for you to trust that we truly have enough goods, goodness, and time to create a world that works for all?

[Note: I suggest that we move from these initial framing questions to the ones that are now posted at the start of this thread above]

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Pavel: the question of good and evil strikes me as quite relevant as well, although not because it implies some sort of theology.  Certainly within the UU tradition, we are invited to contemplate their meaning and implications without having to bring God, or the lack thereof, into the equation.

What I do find compelling and challenging is the need to reconcile a perspective that sees good and evil in the world, with its accompanying tendency to demonize portions of humanity (in this case perhaps "the 1%," "the system," "corporations," "the radical right," etc.).  How do we create " a world that works for all" by fighting a portion of our brethren?  

Are you familiar with the concept of synchronicity (as formulated by Carl Jung)? Isn't it significant that we were posting in the same moment of planetary time:-)?

Absolutely and beautifully synchronistic from my own wholeness and big picture seeking perspectives.  Namaste.

If they're truly evil, then they are not your brethren. Evil seeks to end peace (for example lying about WMD's to start a war). In contrast, good is an appreciation of wisdom, where wisdom is the application of knowledge which serves to promote life.

There are a large group of people who advance the agenda of evil while acting in good faith, this is simply a problem of ignorance. Evil utilises predatory systems, the most comprehensive of which is the civil law system. Like the good book says, judge a tree by its fruit.

Thanks, Ben, for highlighting these statements of Core Ideals and the Citizen Now project.

Everyone: I was introduced to Ben in fall 2010, when his and my "terms" as members of the Working Group that developed the larger body of draft Guiding Statements of which these Core Ideals are a part overlapped. Using his skills as a professional facilitator, Ben moderated the Group's conference calls during that period. And he was instrumental in establishing and cultivating the collaborative ethic by which the Group conducted the project.

You can read the complete set of draft statements at CitizenNow.org, where you also can learn more about the roots of the project and the various tools now available to support the reimagining of the statements as a public resource for open-source visioning for a U.S. democracy movement. And an introduction to the project went up yesterday at Huffington Post.

A couple of observations about the Citizen Now statements that may be relevant to this discussion:

1
The formal title of the complete set of statements --- which includes a Purpose statement and statements of Public Goals --- is "Draft Guiding Statements for a Community Convening a Democracy Movement for the United States."

But, although the statements are presented as outlining a vision for transforming the political culture, most of the Core Ideals are human ideals, not just political ones.

This seems significant. One would hope --- at least, I would --- that principles, such as the UU example that Ben mentions, offered in a religious context would promote, in a direct and transparent way, those qualities in human relationships that recognize and elevate human dignity. One doesn't necessarily expect the same from principles offered in a political context.

On that level, these Citizen Now statements express a healthy impulse.

2
Occupy communities often have spoken in terms of "injustice" --- and often have framed injustice in terms of economic inequality.

In the Citizen Now statements, the statement of Purpose has it that [emphasis mine]

[Organizational or Community Name] exists to convene, equip and empower a movement of
citizens who work together to make real the founding vision of the United States as a country
in which “Governments…derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Otherwise, however, the statements make no reference to "justice" or "injustice" --- nor do they speak to economic inequality.

That said, the statements do, I believe, embody a "rage for justice" --- it's just that justice is framed differently.

The statements bring to bear a fairly singular focus on those transformations that will --- to the greatest degree possible --- widen the parameters of access to information and citizen participation, by

(a)

working toward structural reforms that will "secure those improvements to government, business and society that will enable and encourage all U.S. individuals and institutions to act together in ways that strengthen the self-governing voice and power of We the People" (curtailing the undue influence of money in politics; fair and open elections; journalistic integrity; Internet freedom; government transparency)

and

(b)

"model[ling] a standard of political discourse and action that enables citizens respectfully to learn from one another and work together to examine the issues and events of the day from the broadest perspective --- so that informed, reasoned and wise decisions can be made regarding our future and our general welfare."

For me, the strong focus on increasing access to information and citizen participation is a fruitful one.

I'd be interested to know whether, after reading the full set of statements, those here agree.

How do we create "a world that works for all" by fighting a portion of our brethren?  

We do not. No portion of our brethren can be responsible for the role they play in the universal process. Neither the pattern of power distribution can be attributed to any consciously controlled action within the time range of our generation. Is it the answer you are ready to contemplate? The Core Ideals and the Citizen Now project offer no answer.

David Eggleton has said:

To choose and leap well, we must understand how far behind we are, that things did not begin to go wrong when Ronald Reagan was elected US President, when George Bush was elected US President or in the run up to the crash of 2008.

The perspective that sees good and evil in the world inevitably includes tendency to demonize “portions” of humanity. To understand when things begun to go wrong  means to understand when the sense of good and evil was born.

It was not created by the beliefs and religions – quite contrary, they were its consequence.

The monotheistic religions created the God symbolizing the pure goodness and used Him in the evil way to rule the nations. It has led us to hypocrisy of politics.  

At the core of majority of American discussions lays the power (empowerment) of individuals. The power of free choice between good and evil – although it is never directly said (David points to Stephen Covey who replaces good and evil by greatness and mediocrity). It is the replication of the logic of religions, using the faith in ability of individuals to choose pure goodness.

At Trinity you said we should have faith in our fellow human men and our ability to work together. I agree with you, but upon my 4 years experience with social networking I think that the sense of evil bars the path. Ignoring evil we are impotent – although technically we are able.

There is nothing evil in the logic of the Whole; the sense of evil belongs to the logic given by the nature of our mind. Can the “leap of faith” mean switch of perspective – understanding of evil not as an absolute opposed to good, but as an arbitrary creation by our minds during their evolution?

"The power of free choice between good and evil – although it is never directly said (David points to Stephen Covey who replaces good and evil by greatness and mediocrity). It is the replication of the logic of religions, using the faith in ability of individuals to choose pure goodness."

Here is Covey's diagram, which Pawel has seen before:

Excellent message, Pawel.  Of course, I love "There is nothing evil in the logic of the Whole."  We surely must put our minds in their places, as they provide just one of four intelligences with which we can compose.  However, I'm struggling with "No portion of our brethren can be responsible for the role they play in the universal process."  I would say any role is chosen, thus more or less responsible, but that results are wild.  We only know that principles are involved in trends.

 1.

I would say any role is chosen...

Can you expand your supposition? How can I choose to be one of your 1%:-)?

2.

...one of four intelligences

Do you advocate the beauty of the whole or the fragmented persons?

1. Becoming (remaining) one of the 1% is not something for which that one is responsible?  I feel you've changed the subject.  For you I assume it would require a series of choices. ;-)

2. The former, as hinted by "four intelligences with which we can compose."  Without the whole, the mind is not in its place.  What did you imagine I meant?

1.

For those in the overcrowded tail of rats race no such series of choices is being offered. For those at the head NOT remaining there (slowing down) carries mortal risk of being trampled by the crowd behind rushing to grasp their share of wealth (see John below mentioning compliance of 99%).

2.

Four intelligences mean fragmented person. Do we have to decompose consciousness to compose the image of whole person? (I imagine nothing, the intention of my questions is to understand you)

What Covey promotes is contrary to recent developments of science scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-theory-of-consciousness.

Integral informed perspective needed! Replied by you on January 8, 2012 at 4:28pm

Choices don't have to be served, as they can be made.  When they are not served, they certainly can be more challenging, requiring more imagination and, of all things, faith.

I read the SA article.  IIT being in its infancy, I'm not ready to drop the mature and robust whole person paradigm (my beloved, admittedly) for it.  I suspect billions of people could care less about IIT, which does not point to a familiar art of human being, as far as I can ascertain.  I give it credit for this, however:  "Tononi’s IIT postulates that the amount of integrated information that an entity possesses corresponds to its level of consciousness."  Possession and integration benefit from participation of the body, heart (no, not the organ) and spirit, which help establish a healthy range of priorities for humans, 

Four intelligences mean potential for fragmentation, not guarantee of fragmentation.  And fragmentation we have had for ~400 years, including suppression of two of the intelligences (the unmeasurables).  Integration and balance of the four intelligences, yielding unique personal significance, is where I'm placing my bets, as you must have noticed at some point (and yet you ask).

The race is on.

(The second link is to a list, unfortunately, so I don't know what of mine you wanted me to review.)

Pavel, you initially respond to Ben's question "How do we create 'a world that works for all' by fighting a portion of our brethren?" by saying [emphasis mine]:

We do not. No portion of our brethren can be responsible for the role they play in the universal process. Neither the pattern of power distribution can be attributed to any consciously controlled action within the time range of our generation. Is it the answer you are ready to contemplate? The Core Ideals and the Citizen Now project offer no answer.


To be fair: In developing the draft Guiding Statements that now anchor the Citizen Now project, the Principles and Purpose Working Group was not asking the 2,000 or so citizen-participants in the original phase of the project to address the specific issue you raise.

As it happens, however, I do think that, if a critical mass of people were to live out the Ideals, the Purpose and the Public Goals outlined in the Statements, it would, over time, go a long way toward transforming --- perhaps "redeeming" is a good word --- the situation you describe.

Your suggestion that "good" and "evil" are not absolutes but human constructs --- which I take as a way of saying that things are not necessarily as simple as they seem --- offers a powerful challenge to many in the Occupy community. I never have liked the framing rhetoric of "the 99%" and "the 1%" --- partly because it perpetuates the old us-them patterns, but also because it too easily is used to suggest that "the 99%" are all good and blameless and that "the 1%" are all evil and, well, you get the point.

In his new book, The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century, Carne Ross counters that --- to the contrary --- it is only with the complicity of a large percentage of what Occupy calls "the 99%" that the very culture for which many of them now blame "the 1%" has been built. By not taking their citizenship seriously enough, Ross argues --- by not engaging politically; by blithely "voting in" officials that perpetuate and create unjust and irresponsible policies; by placing their trust in hero-leaders rather than in themselves; by not voting at all --- "the people" have been enablers and silent partners in their own undoing.

I find this "tough love" compelling. I also assume that many of those of us who, over the last few years, have joined communities working for democratic renewal --- including, but by no means limited to, Occupy --- would not have done so, if they did not agree.

But the impulse toward the self-constitution, self-governance and self-determination of We the People is getting stronger by the day. This, I do think is an absolute good.

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