Our Connect 2012 conversations focus on ways to build and weave the Occupy Cafe community.  We use this forum thread to capture key aspects of our Cafe Call conversations (Tuesdays 1-3p Pacific/4-6pm Eastern--register here for the ongoing series) and to continue the dialogue in between our calls.  

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Let me say a bit more about this "living into humanity's New Story" idea...

The concept of this Story is one that is showing up in many places.  I have seen it referred to as The Shift, The Great Transition and The Great Turning.  In Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein calls it The People's Story.  In his "Roadmap" Micheal Nagler refers to as The Story of Belonging.  And Annie Leonard's wonderful Story of Stuff project has a great new video out called The Story of Change (perfect for "mainstream" folks who don't get the "Occupy" energy).  

To me, these framings are all tapping into the same deep sense of urgency and opportunity that has been driving my personal journey as a change agent for the past four years.  So what might it mean for the Cafe to be a place where we "live into humanity's New Story?"  I see three levels:

  • External: we learn about the opportunity and the possibility for external transformation--that a world that works for all is indeed possible and that it is already emerging even as the old order struggles amidst the chaos created by its failings.
  • Communal: we experience together what it is like to be part of a community that is transformed--a place where all are welcome to come together in a spirit of caring, compassion, authenticity, dissent, deep listening, commitment, the exchange of gifts, etc.
  • Internal: we learn how to "be the change"--we examine our own shit and grasp the ways in which transforming the world around us requires us to shift our own consciousness as well.

All of these things feel like forms of "action" to me.  And they also suggest the possibility of more traditional action we might undertake together in service to this vision.  That's MY declaration of possibility for today.

Here's The Story of Change for those of you who haven't seen it yet.  Highly recommended, along with all the rest of the Story of Stuff series...

Glad you liked it, Jerry.  I'm apparently an "investigator."  Did you watch the original video as well?

Cool.  I think you will really like Block's Community.

Scribing the 10/2 call...

  • Talking about Garry Davis and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as something worth making a commitment to.
  • A participant reports hearing talk of Islamic imposition of sharia law and US/UN government declaration of martial law.  That "something very bad is coming" and we should put up food, prepare for riots, etc.
    • Some on the call are sympathetic to these concerns
    • I respond that I do not accept these concerns as based in fact, and ask if a task for the Cafe might be to look into the facts around such notions.  Ironic that we started by holding up the UN's Universal Declaration and are now hearing anti-UN paranoia.
    • Mushin is furious that ideas based in fear, pitting one religion against another and appealing to our patriotism are infecting our society--a form of "mass psychosis."

Links for the Metta Center's Road Map:

From the Story of Belonging:

We all want a world of peace and justice–a world where all of us BELONG. To get there we must to be able to articulate why such a world is possible, how it is based in the underlying reality of the universe.  Fortunately, this is a favorable time to articulate such a vision.

The old story–the story of separation– artificially kept alive by the mass media among other things, is not only demoralizing but now demonstrably false.  The new science and humanity’s ancient traditions of wisdom converge beautifully to demonstrate that we are not material beings isolated from one another, doomed to compete for scarce resources (and hence to perpetual conflict), trapped in a finite existence.  Clinging to that false vision of reality has precipitated a spiritual crisis.  Here is the “new” story” (it has actually been around for millennia but the time has come for us to make it the blueprint for the world we want). It is about belonging:

As great as the infinite space beyond is the space within the lotus of the heart.

–Chandogya Upanishad 

Since…transformative change is a matter of when (not if), the real question becomes whether such change will be smooth or catastrophic.  This question is apropos for our own time.  Pressure is building, and “stuckness” is everywhere (think of education).

(Sally Goerner, “Creativity, Consciousness, and the Building of an Integral World,” 153-180)


Despite appearances, we are passing through a time of great possibility.  Yes, problems are mounting; yes, the institutions we might have expected to deal with them seem to be paralyzed and the people at large not yet mobilized to deal with problems of this magnitude: global overheating, wars, an income gap and global poverty creating misery for countless millions.

But this can also be the occasion for a great renewal, if we understand what’s ultimately wrong, and how to address it.  What we are really passing through is a spiritual crisis.  Somewhere along the line we have forgotten who we are and what we are meant to do here on this earth.

The sages of all nations and religions have said that we are not these mere bodies, marvelous as they are: we are, to use one simple formulation; body, mind, and spirit.  A modern teacher (he visited the U.S. in the 1950s) gave us this inspiring picture, from the depths of his own realization, of human nature and its destiny:

On the physical plane man is but an animal.  On the intellectual plane (s)he is a rational being.  On the moral plane (s)he is a power for good.  On the spiritual plane (s)he is a radiant being full of divine light, love, and bliss.  Humanity’s ascent from one plane to another is its natural movement.

This, of course, brings us closer together and eventually to the realization of our oneness: while our bodies are separate, our minds can resonate harmonically, and on what he calls the “spiritual plane” we are simply one: as other sages say, pure consciousness.  Our “natural movement” is from separateness to unity. We are indeed “stuck,” as Sally Goerner says, somewhere far short of this picture, and this is why we are lurching from crisis to crisis with very few people even looking for a way to break free from this “stuck” place and launch new possibilities.

Happy birthday Ghandi and Groucho!  Rest in peace, Barry Commoner.

No, that would be 3-5pm Central, my friend!  

I like the stuckness notion.  What if it's the same kind of stuckness you have when tectonic plates rub against each other, and the the release of that pressure is an earthquake?

I've been thinking about the questions that surfaced on yesterday's call--fears of Sharia law replacing our US code, as well as "FEMA camps" and impending mass arrests.  These fears, based in the idea of separation (i.e. powerful, sneaky, angry hordes of Muslims are plotting to get us) are a manifestation of the "spiritual crisis" addressed in the Metta Center's Story of Belonging.

So here is a "task" for the Cafe, showing up right on cue!  How do we live into a New Story of oneness in a time of divisiveness and radically divergent perspectives on "the facts?"  How do we create a welcoming and hospitable space for all, especially those on the "margins," while grounding our conversations and our community in a Story that may not resonate for them?

On the call, I suggested that this might come down to a matter of faith in that Story.  On Monday's Cafe Call, Jerry Hill said "coming here" was like "going to church."  I took that--atheist that I am-- as a compliment.  Maybe our task is to become evangelists!

I would like to believe that we can use reason and facts to address this notion of radical separation that carriers of the New Story see as being at the heart of what ails us.  Here, for example, is an article that directly addresses the Sharia law hysteria from The Nation magazine's Islamophobia edition this past July.  Here's an excerpt (I recommend reading not only the full article but the entire issue):

From a legal perspective, the wave of anti-Sharia legislation should be much ado about nothing. Sharia is as much a threat to our Constitution as Bible verses calling for the stoning of adulterers or the genocidal directive in Deuteronomy to leave “alive nothing that breathes.” Like the Old and New Testaments, Sharia has its own conflicts and tensions with modern conceptions of gender equality and citizenship. To suggest that banning Sharia or the Bible is the only way to ward off the stoning of women or the execution of apostates is clearly, maliciously false.

Yet support for such bans has come from the highest political spheres. Like Reagan’s dire rhetoric on communism, warnings of a looming Islamic takeover have come from Republicans running for president. “I believe Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it,” Newt Gingrich said in July 2010. Michele Bachmann declared that Sharia “must be resisted across the United States,” and Herman Cain condemned the “attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.”

However absurd, the notion that radical Muslims are trying to take over the country seems to be catching on. A 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 30 percent of Americans believe Muslims want to establish Sharia in the United States. The percentage was even higher—52 percent—among those who said they most trust Fox News.

But does the statement of a Rutgers law professor and expert on the role of Sharia and foreign law in American courts carry weight in this atmosphere, especially when printed in a Left wing magazine like The Nation?  I know I would be automatically suspicious of anything coming from a source like Fox News or the Wall Street Journal opinion pages or The National Review.  I'm not giving up on facts--I'd love to be informed as to what CT law supposedly will allow Sharia to supplant American jurisprudence as was asserted on yesterday's call, for example.  I have no doubt that such a law is either non-existent or being completely misinterpreted by those who wish to spread fear and make a bogeyman out of Islam. 

But I am also fairly sure that whatever facts we uncover will be insufficient to address the fears of many, many people.  Look at how popular denial of climate change and evolution are in this country.  This is why I suspect that there is a faith component here.  What is the world we choose to believe is possible?  Is it the one we are hearing about from the myriad carriers of the New Story?  Or is it something more apocalyptic and conspiratorial, in which the inherent goodness and wisdom and abundance of the universe cannot be called upon, let alone trusted?

This is SO interesting!  The Whitehead piece you copied, Jerry, contains a mix of statements that strike as right on along with some of the very same type of inflammatory conspiracy theory claims that I see as being part of the problem.  In general, I couldn't agree more with the call to rise up as citizens and reclaim our democracy. 

Yes, as anyone who has followed the Occupy movement can attest, our constitutional rights are being trampled, police are militarizing to a scary degree and the surveillance state is upon us (I assume that everything I write here in the Cafe may wind up in a file on me somewhere at the FBI, NSA or CIA).

Yes, the "war on terror" and the "war on drugs" are travesties, serving vested interests that thrive on fear and divisiveness while destroying millions of lives and destabilizing entire nations.

Yes, Homeland Security is joke and a boondoggle (see this piece in today's NY Times, for example).

And no, that still doesn't mean that FEMA  is planning to lock us all up or that SSA or NOAA agents are about to go on a rampage. The hysteria around their bullet purchases comes from the "right wing noise machine."  Sources like InfoWars and the Drudge Report.  They are not reliable.  

Like Jon Stewart (who explained this distinction to Fox News' Chris Wallace a few years back--h/t UpWorthy.com), I dislike much of the mainstream media's reporting, but less because it is occasionally inaccurate or intentionally biased--I really don't think it is skewed in the way so many assert.  What I do take issue with is what it chooses to emphasize and what it ignores.  I am also bothered by certain things it, like mainstream society, takes for granted, such as the idea that GDP measures anything useful and that growing it is good and necessary.  And the need to always present "both sides of the story" as more or less equivalent, even when one is hooey (e.g. climate change denial).

But... when it comes to something like those bullets, I'll go with CNN:

In the face of the furor, the Social Security Administration's public affairs shop -- which spends most of its time issuing releases about speeding disability decisions or looking up benefits information -- issued a statement explaining that its 295 agents need the bullets for target practice and to protect the agency's 66 offices across the nation.

"These investigators have full law enforcement authority, including executing search warrants and making arrests," the agency said in an August post. "Our investigators are similar to your state or local police officers. They use traditional investigative techniques, and they are armed when on official duty."

Hollow point bullets are standard-issue items for many police agencies, the Social Security Administration said. The bullets expand when they hit a target and can help prevent injuries to bystanders from bullets passing through a body, according to police.

Investigators "use this ammunition during their mandatory quarterly firearms qualifications and other training sessions, to ensure agent and public safety," the administration added.

This is just the latest in a long history of uniquely American anti-government conspiracy theories, said Kathryn Olmsted, a University of California at Davis history professor and author of "Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories in American Democracy."

That another one would surface in the midst of a contentious election cycle and continued unease over the nation's financial future is not all that surprising, Olmsted said Tuesday.

But this one, she said, seems particularly tenuous.

"It strikes me as one of the more extreme conspiracy theories," Olmsted said. "I'm surprised it has any traction."

Yet it does...

So where does this leave us?  If we agree on the need to step out of fear and of blaming "them" for our problems or thinking we can vote our way to the world we want, like shoppers buying the latest model car, do we need to sort out the details of which assault on our rights is real and which is imaginary?  Can we take heart in the fact that the Right and the Left are both ringing the alarm bell?  Or is the truth also important?  Do we need to be careful about how and why we indict our government, based on the knowledge that we need it in the end and so we have to come together to create a form of it that we can trust and that performs its functions effectively and justly?  

My concern is that the InfoWars crowd doesn't see a valid role for government in many places where I see it as essential--most especially in the protection of the Commons, control of monoplistic mega-corporations, the guarantee of basic human rights and the provision of a safety net (and ultimately, as Charles Eisenstein and others suggest, a minimum standard of living) for all.

Inspiration for today's Connect2012 conversation from the GroupWorks deck (not drawn at random today!)

This card suggests some ways we might seek to conjure up "real" magic, without engaging in "magical thinking."

And here's a random card for good measure as well...

Well, C.A. I don't know about the idea of "guiding Occupy."  Does that resonate for others here?  Makes herding cats sound like a lay-up by comparison, if you ask me.  Not to mention smacking of... patriarchy.  And there's already InterOccupy.net in that space, although I'm sure they would reject the notion of "guiding."  At the same time, Jitendra, Pia, Heather and I (the current "core team") are thinking about the possibility of moving the framing of our work beyond the Occupy meme per se, based on a sense that, whatever one may think about its vitality out in the world, it may have served it's purpose for us here in the Cafe.

As far as "identify[ing] people at the Cafe who want to be specific about organizing and planning actions" more generally, it's certainly something we've considered. In fact we attempted to do that early on, and you can see all the groups that emerged from our organizational efforts as well as out of the spontaneous desires of members.  You'll also notice that there has been very little "action" emerging from that initial energy.

Meanwhile, I know you have made many attempts to find people who share your passion for feminist studies, Das Kapital, etc.  Sometimes you blame me and Jitendra, in posts like this one, for the fact that people aren't responding to you.  But I think there's more at play here, including the fact that the number of people actively participating in the Cafe is fairly small and yet we are also quite diverse.

I heard Gar Alperovitz speak at Bioneers last week about the dangers of "projectism."  When global systemic transformation is what we seek, and the world is already full of great pilot projects, not to mention large scale initiatives focused on various aspects of change, is one more site where the emphasis is on "getting into action" what we are being called into here in the Cafe?  Believe me, C.A., part of me says "of course it is!"  But then I look at what is working here now and it seems rather different.  Maybe we're offering the reflection piece of the cycle, as a compliment to all those meetings where you are deemed to have done nothing of value if you don't leave with a list.

Or perhaps, a propos our topic this week of collaboration, the answer is to partner with another entity that already focused on creating spaces for "organizing and planning."  Here are three that come to mind...


Weekly Cafe Calls

Regular Calls are no longer being held.  Below is the schedule that was maintained from the Fall of 2011 through Jan 10, 2013.

"Vital Conversations" 

8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT 

Tuesdays (except 10/16)
"Connect 2012"

1-3p PDT | 4-6p EDT | 8-10p GMT

"Occupy Heart" 

3-5p PDT | 6-8p EDT | 10p-12a GMT

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