NOTE: This discussion was originally classified as "hosted" but has now been moved to the "member initiated" category.  In the view of the OC Stewards, what is taking place here is a debate rather than dialogue.  In a "hosted" discussion here at OC.org, we request that balanced participation be encouraged and that regular summaries occur recognizing all the views being presented.  

While we have no objections to people using the OC forum to engage in debates, as long as they don't cross the line into personal attacks, such discussion is not what we are seeking in the "hosted" category.  

Ben Roberts
12/31/11

We are delighted to have Occupy Cafe member Mark E. Smith offer this hosted discussion on the provocative idea of an "election boycott."  

As "host," Mark will strive to keep the conversation orderly, offer regular summaries of the perspectives being presented and encourage balanced participation among all those who are engaged.  Here's Mark's initial summary:

An election boycott is the only known way to nonviolently delegitimize a government. It doesn't overthrow the government, it simply denies it the consent of the governed so that the government can no longer claim to have the people's consent. Among the many forms of noncompliance, such as removing money from big banks, boycotting corporate brands, withdrawing from the system and creating alternative systems, learning to live on less so as not to have to pay taxes, etc., refusing to vote can be one of the most crucial and effective tactics.

Thank you, Mark, for volunteering your services as "host!"

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But Victoria, surely the criminal organizations would see the light and join us in a non-hierarchal society? Inner-city gangs would totally get "it" and become enlightened if we just explained it to them really carefully.

Yes I think a lot of gang members would get it, the ones that weren't really fucked up. But we wouldn't be the ones to explain it, it would have to be people they respect from their own neighborhoods. 

The religious extremists? I wish we could give them their own country and then make sure they stay unarmed. I have no idea how to get through to them.

Granted, there are some that are totally bonkers and dangerous, but for the rest I can't help but agree that our world is immoral. Maybe for not all the same reasons they do. Still, I look around and see madness. Maybe if the world were not so extreme they wouldn't be either. We've been trained to focus on our most divisive issues to push us apart but most of of us have a lot in common. We love our kids and our parents. We want to be safe and enjoy our lives. We want to be able to provide for ourselves and our families. None of us want crooked politicians controlled by corporations.

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The best folks to reach the gang members would probably be former gang members. The key, I think, is to offer gang members something better, some logical hope. Stuff like free education from kindergarten through college as a right, full employment programs, would help to give them a stake in the larger society.

Religious extremists? Speaking as a member of an evangelical church (don't ask, it's a long story), it may be impossible to reach them. Those folks believe that following God (as revealed in the Bible) is more important than physical comfort or striving for happiness. That's why they'll vote for a former drunk, cokehead, business failure simpleton who claims to be saved instead of a competent policy wonk who doesn't prate on and on about God.

Maybe if we actually demonstrated a sane way of communicating and showed it to be pretty cool, the younger religious folks would defect over to our side. Some of them anyway.

I'm not so concerned with criminal elements and gangs as I am with the Guns n' God crew. Most of the gangs are born of economic injustice and structural racism and the purposeful flooding of their communities with hard drugs. Many of the young people caught in that trap are brilliant and strong. The Guns n' God folks seem mostly weak minded and fearful. They're always the ones who are happy to join up with the pogrom. Wouldn't matter what they think if they didn't feel the need smash you over the head until you think it, too. 

What I was saying is that gang-members will not go for the non-hierarchal spontaneous organization out of chaos thing. If government were to collapse completely the gangs would take what they want.

If we have reforms that's another thing. Then I believe every type of person if not every person can be reached. I just can't see this vision of everyone somehow becoming enlightened and forming into small friendly tribes working in cooperation. More than likely a gang would take control of neighbourhoods and force people to support them.

Even with all the really nice people at Occupy Montreal it was painful to reach the smallest decisions with only 100-120 people at a GA. I just cannot see gang-members agreeing to that process. They wouldn't even need to shoot the facilitator to take over. They would just shove them out of the way and that would be that.

Yeah, reality is inconvenient for those of us who adhere strongly to a utopian vision. 

To me, the anarchist style utopia has much to be recommended and a lot to strive toward. And yet asking most people to self govern feels, right now, very much like asking a bunch of maimed and paralyzed people in the Intensive Care ward of a Maximum Security prison to get up and dance the Polka, then escape and go win the Boston Marathon. It's a tall order, that's all I can say. 

There were a few younger evangelicals at Occupy San Diego, and they seemed very different from the older ones. I had a long discussion with one and despite having told him that I'm an atheist, he never once tried to push his trip on me. Very reasonable person. Plays well with others.

As for the gangs, one time I was on the trolley talking with somebody about the book Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy by Ted Nace, when a very large, very black, very obvious (from his full regalia) gang member sat down facing us. I was afraid he'd hear us talking about gangs and take offense. He listened for a minute or so, then joined in the discussion. He totally got it--in fact he was way ahead of us. He told us that to many gang members, particularly those who happen to be combat veterans, the cops are just a bigger, better armed gang that they need to protect themselves and their neighborhoods from. Although gangs are notorious for raping women, I'd guess that their sexual assault rate is lower by percentage than that of the US military--I used to follow a website run by military victims of rape, and it is so prevalent that it cannot be understood as other than institutionalized.

Victoria,

If I may (having insulted you once), the worth and potential are there, under all that pain, confusion and rage.  If we convey, you are victims, but you need not act like victims, so much can be accomplished among/by us.

But we all must keep an eye on the fuel gauge, and so many (like to) ignore it.  If it's near E, we need to design with that in mind.

No worries David. All insults forgotten. 

I work with the Organic Consumers Association and we spend a whole lot of time telling our 1 million members about red-lining the E, about climate change, and about the need to start ramping up our local sustainability efforts by orders of magnitude. I'm working on a book about that now with the ED of OCA. 

We're framing all of this with a term called BioDemocracy. It's our effort to evolve our democratic understanding to encompass not just human society, but all life on this planet, as worth of representation.

I'm very interested in all alternative or new forms of democratic process. This has been my focus here with Mark, asking for more specific ideas and proposals for how new systems could work.

I'm not going to be promoting a fully anarchist system to millions of people who are simply not ready to even consider it. First we're talking about how the current system is a death-empire. Then we're talking about how our elections are a sham. Then we're talking about how to have real elections.

But we must develop horizontal community democracy just as Occupy is doing, not just because it's the right thing to do, and because it strengthens all systems, but because we may be facing ecological collapse that decimates our larger systems to the point where we will have to be dealing with our neighbors again.

 

V,

Good to know.  Thanks.

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