Greetings fellow cafe folks.

I'd like to offer an alternative perspective on OWS. First I'd like to introduce myself-

 

I'm a native San Diegan, facilitator/process artist (co-host of the 14th annual World Open Space on Open Space in Moscow in '06; co-editor of Russian translations of process arts books and articles, including Open Space Technology: A User's Guide and the mini-hosting guide for World Cafe), .
After having been involved for about two weeks- which included one week of staying at Civic Center Plaza overnight- I decided to no longer take part. 
I blogged about my participation from the very beginning.
And the last two posts go into the reasons why I've ended my participation in the Occupy Process. http://reinhabitsandiego.wordpress.com
I've lived half my life abroad- Iran and Russia (and was eyewitness to the Islamic Revolution (and the Iran-Iraq War and the US hostage crisis) in Iran and collapse of the Soviet Union. 
My own politics are in many ways aligned with those taking part. I was arrested in front of the CIA at age 17 (civil disobedience), at age 18 went public with my intention not to register for the Selective Service, throughout my twenties was a war tax resister. While in Russia, I protested the wars in Chechnya. 
My worry - and that of a few others who share the values but not the strategy of OWS- is that elites are actually interested in seeing OWS continue and grow because little of consequence will come of it. I've seen in my life subtle and not so subtle means of engaging masses- including highly educated people- in movements that actually bear little fruit.
I think this comment by Richard Moore (linked to on my blog) sums up - a lot of my concern (I will add that I don't 100% agree with his perspective but at its core I think his point is a good one) where I'm coming from:
What I am sure of, is that none of the grass-roots initiatives or movements currently on the scene have any hope of changing anything. In fact, activist energy is increasingly being channeled and managed by the very system we are hoping to change. As with Obama, who managed to fool all of the people some the time, and even now is fooling some of the people all of the time. 'Hope you can believe in', if you're dreaming.
But someone like Obama can only channel those who see hope in the political system. More and more people are realizing there is no hope in the political system. So we are getting things like The Zeitgeist Movement and Anonymous, that cater to those who have given up on politics, and give them something to 'join' or 'follow' so they can pretend they're 'doing something'. Here is a relevant posting on Zeitgeist:
The latest of these vehicles of co-option is the Occupy Wall Street movement. This one's really a humdinger. It has all the right slogans, and an appealing internal process. Its success is not surprising, because it is the latest version of a formula that has been thoroughly tested and refined 'on the ground'. We might call it the 'twitter formula', and we've seen it in the 'colored revolutions' that were used to bring about various desired regime changes, and more recently in the 'Arab Spring' movements, that soaked up lots of energy and prevented unwanted regime changes.
Four years ago progressives found hope in Obama. This time around they're finding hope in the Occupy Wall Street movement. In both cases, this 'hope' became available all too easily, was accompanied by all the right mainstream publicity, and offered easy ways to join in and become not only a follower, but an active participant. This is what co-option looks like.
rkm

 

I'm curious how this all lands for you!

appreciatively,

raffi

p.s. feel free to share with others, but do not include my last name (if you know it).

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"p.s. feel free to share with others, but do not include my last name (if you know it)."

I should add that I do not trust anyone who refuses to use their full name or post a picture. I also question the commitment and integrity of someone who "throughout my twenties was a war tax resister" but then abandoned his resistance.

One of my mentors, the late Wally Nelson, refused to pay war taxes for 54 years up to the day he died. I have refused to pay war/empire taxes for 32 years. There is no more powerful act of non-cooperation with the System than refusing to fund it. A movement based on the power of money to control the world should understand that. Widespread tax resistance and a national general strike are the two tactics most likely to bring the system crashing down, while we busy ourselves creating a new world within the shell of the old.

Robert-

Thanks for pointing this out. And I'll try to speak to what you brought up. I haven't posted my picture because I haven't gotten to it.

As for not listing my last name, it's just a matter of privacy. I don't feel comfortable with the idea of, say a future employer googling my name and on the basis of that information developing an opinion about me. As a facilitator, I've worked with very different organizations and contexts. And I'd like to be able to keep that flexibility.

To be clear, if it would help you to be more engaged in this conversation to know my last name, feel free to "friend" me, I'll give you my last name and email! Not listing my last name has been my best solution to participate in a social network.

As for what you're saying about tax resistance and Wally Nelson-- I think you're absolutely right about the place of tax resistance to bring a system down. I might very well come back to tax resistance but my commitment to it has simply changed.

"As for not listing my last name, it's just a matter of privacy."

There's a lot of people who feel the same. But I don't see it as a matter of privacy so much as a matter of the courage to stand by one's convictions, regardless of the personal consequences. That - and complete transparency - are cornerstones of non-violent action.

The reason we will not likely ever have the kind of social revolution that we are seeing in the Arab Spring, that we saw in the former Soviet republics and in Tienanmen Square and in Burma, is because few Americans are willing to stand by their convictions. We want to keep an escape hatch open, be anonymous rebels, and retreat to our comfortable lives when the going gets tough.

P.S. I don't much care for the virtual "friend" game.

 

 

Robert,

I came here at a friend's encouragement to take part in conversation, to share my experience, and to learn from others. I come at this from a perspective of a facilitator/process artist- I think we all win when we can draw out the perspectives of all involved, including the so-called 1%. Whether we like it or not, we all live on One Rock.

I don't see my role right now to speak truth to power or to demonstrate-- as much as these are very valuable activities.

I'm not committing to any kind of nonviolent action other than conversation with all kinds of folks.

I slept several days at the Occupation in San Diego, was filmed and photographed many times there. And I'm pretty sure if anyone wanted to find out who I am that wouldn't be a problem (especially seeing as I challenged rather directly one person who I suspected to be a police informant).

And I totally get not wanting to be part of the virtual friend game!

And I really appreciate you sharing where you're coming from.

Robert,

I can't speak with any confidence about how much or how OWS is being co-opted. I wonder if any of us can say with confidence that there is or isn't an Illuminati/etc. conspiracy.

I'm not sure OWS necessarily needs a common vision to succeed. I think it needs a powerful, generative container for collaboration.

 

 

"I'm not sure OWS necessarily needs a common vision to succeed. I think it needs a powerful, generative container for collaboration."

If the container for the job never existed, how will it come into play without the prior participation of imagination?  Do you make some great distinction between imagination and vision?

I tend to think common vision is key to choices of unique contribution by all the different players.

David,

I'm not sure how well I can respond to this clearly here via text, but I'll give it a whirl.

First off, to be fair, I think at the very least there is something of a container- at least formally- for collaboration. It's not a container that I feel very safe or comfortable in, however.

As for whether the container comes first or imagination, I think this is something of a chicken-or-the-egg thing. Groups achieve amazing things in many ways-- it can start from just having a good container, and perhaps it can start with imagination/vision and then the container comes into place.

I know for myself that I like to have a sense of what's the field I'm playing in...so I feel more comfortable getting involved knowing if there is a container, or a commitment to creating a container.

Also, I'm not sure a common vision is -- depending on what you mean by this- necessary. Unless by common vision you mean something that is shared but which exists in very broad strokes...

...a first attempt at an answer.

Curious how this lands for you.

"Also, I'm not sure a common vision is -- depending on what you mean by this- necessary. Unless by common vision you mean something that is shared but which exists in very broad strokes..."

Bingo!  That is what I mean.  Everyone needs to feel/believe/trust s/he can contribute her/his own way, even as everyone else does.  For that, only very broad strokes will do, at least for what makes the first impression.  The broad-brush vision statement may be loaded for eventual unpacking.  There's an art to creating one, I suppose.

Glad we cleared that up!

appreciatively,

raffi

It's not a matter of the factual truth or falsity of the One World Conspiracy. It's a matter of the mindset we choose to bring to a social change movement: Black & White, Good vs Evil, Us vs Them - or We're All In This Together and it's a lot more complex (and probably a lot more simple) that we might think.

This is reminiscent of a theme I'm seeing in a number of places about the "need" to engage in the electoral process, which means the two-party duopoly, to have any impact.  Many are arguing that OWS must go there to make a difference, i.e. become for the Democrats what the Tea Party became for the GOP.  Personally, I'm not so sure.  I think there is more power in conversation than many hard core politicos might believe, and OWS is changing the conversation in a dramatic way.

Ben Roberts

Ben, greetings!

I'm not quite following you here-- what are you seeing here that is reminiscent of a theme...?

thanks!

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