An open space for global conversation
As Occupy Cafe gets ready to set up on the ground in Philly for #NatGat (and to bring the world there with us via Maestro, live-streaming and this website) these questions are crucial to our presence being generative and "leaderful."
I want our inquiry in Philly to be designed to meet the movement where it is, as well as to be at the leading edge of supplying what is “missing.” In this regard, we had some interesting discussion yesterday on our C2012 call, and prior to that as well. I am currently holding two distinct visions of where “the movement” (in both the narrow and the widest sense) might be “at.” Call them the “everything is evolving as it needs to” versus the “this isn’t nearly enough yet” scenarios.
“Everything is evolving as it needs to”
On the one hand, there is a great deal in motion. People are awakening and they are not willing to settle for “business as usual” any more. It is impossible to know the full scope of what is emerging, and we can choose to trust that is it sufficient and make our job be to carry that message, to mirror to the movement as much of what is working well as we can, and to create links (community) among those who are already in action to support and synergize what they are doing.
“This isn’t nearly enough yet”
On the other hand, it is possible that, while the potential is there in terms of people, ideas and the will to act, the form of what will really make the difference is not currently emerging, change agents sense this, and they are feeling desperate and cynical. They are tired, angry and in pain. The “system” seems too powerful to be defeated. The movement is shrinking and becoming more extreme rather than gaining energy and broad support.
Of course, it is probably more useful to see this as a spectrum than as an “either/or” and perhaps in some ways both things are true. Here is my thinking in terms of conversational design based on this framing… If we’re basically on track (“everything is evolving as it needs to”) our job is to make that visible to the movement and celebrate what is emerging. From there, new ideas and initiatives can also be born, but that is not our main focus. Rather, we are tending to the spirit of those who are engaged, helping them to feel safe and inspired and appreciated, and building community. If things are not on track, however, the key missing becomes BOTH a tending to spirit/community AND the catalyzing of something new that can shift the dynamics within the movement and in the wider world. The question that resonates for me at the core of this is the classic “if our success was completely guaranteed, what bold steps might we choose?”
Along the lines of “bold steps,” I got a vision yesterday that really inspired me. It is outlined here. The core of it is for a huge segment of Occupy’s energy to be channeled into the creation of “alternative communities” that both heal our broken neighborhoods and support our desire to move towards ways of living that are increasingly disconnected from “business as usual.” This specific idea can be discussed in the Alternative Economy group here--let's use this thread to address the question more generally.
Yay, great to hear someone else saying "leaderful" instead of "leaderless"! That's an important change we all need to make.
I'm gonna go with “This isn’t nearly enough yet”, because we have so many resources that go unused, and while we have changed the discussion in this country, weh have accomplished very little in terms of actual change (so far).
I think what the movement really NEEDS is a really good discussion forum or site or app, that allows world-wide communication about goals, strategies, and tactics. If you look around, you'll see that most of the Occupy web sites are lacking in this area. And I have to admit that our own OccupySac.com discussion forum is basically dead, and we're looking for something broader and better to replace it.
We also need to unify around our message and goals, and make it clear what we stand for. I hope that the Philly National Gathering will accomplish this.
I heard a great quote on my favotive tv show recently: "This is the day we should have been preparing for"
What are the qualities of such a discussion forum in your opinion, Nathan? I hear that it is helping us to unify our message and goals, and to develop our strategies and tactics world wide. What is the key, in your opinion, to hosting conversations that produce those results?
Imagine that Occupy Cafe is accomplishing this three months from now. What does it look like? Feel like? What are three steps we might have taken to evolve into this vibrant communications space?
Well, if I knew the answer I would have done it already :p
But there seem to be some smart tech-minded folks here, so I'll at least try to define some features:
-Must have open discussion on important issues.
-Must be more "timeless" where discussions carry-on, and you can look back later and understand the discussion that contributed to a certain outcome (unlike Facebook's "quip on something today and forget about it tomorrow" approach)
-Must be better than current platforms like PHPBB or WordPress, and current forums at OWS, OSF, OLA, etc.
-Must be nation-wide, but with local discussion areas.
-Local discussion areas should be controlled by local Occupy admins if available.
-Must integrate with Facebook.
-Should make it easy for newbies to locate and interact with their local occupy.
One huge "works well" for Occupy has been out ability to use technology to our advantage. But we're not exactly on the cutting edge, we're basically just using what's out there, rather than moving things forward. I'd really like to see something like what I describe developed for web and as an app for smartphones. Hmmmm
I have changed the title of this thread to include "what has worked well." An appreciative focus is at the core of what I want to bring to our dialogue. I think it's so valuable to build upon our strengths and to CELEBRATE our accomplishments.
Changing the global conversation comes up for me as well, Nathan, as our signature achievement. The other key piece, I think, was the modeling of alternative community and direct democracy via the encampments, GAs, working group, etc. Together, these actions shifted many people out of resignation and cynicism into action and possibility. Many may now be drifting back into those negative realms, because (IMHO) what's MISSING is broad awareness of effective, bold venues for action that can help build sustainable (in every sense) alternatives to the status quo and "business as usual."
Hi Ben ~ Utopia is simple. Only one inner goal - peace of mind. Only one outer goal - basic human needs met for all. Everything else is just a distraction. ~ Chris
Um... yes. I agree. And (seriously!) can you say more about how these principles relate to the specific question at hand, Chris?
Well, just my opinion, but I think where we are is "dazed and confused". The arrests of last fall left many with legal hassles they can't afford, and the police were more than ready to not allow anything much on Mayday. And some stuff was weird. The local encampment I was with last fall was "blessed" with a dedicated organizer who was always present organizing and facilitating GAs, and being friendly and helpful. The city council wanted a peaceful resolution to the encampment and appeared possibly willing to move many millions of city funds from big banks to local banks and credit unions in exchange for an agreement to end the occupation. Blessed friendly leader (BFL) argued strongly against this, saying that only CD would expand and build the national movement, so we should stay until arrested. When they came for everyone, BFL was now against CD, arguing that it would turn the public against us. Go figure. Point is, maybe the 1% had boots on the ground and still do. What worked well? The occupations of last fall. It caught them off guard and shifted the current political emphasis from debt to economic inequality. (Now, the 1% are striking back and using their TV media and the elections to shift the focus back to debt.) What is missing now? Focus. That is surely why this website was created, and all the other OCCUPY websites. Everyone wants to focus the energy. Some want to go the Tea Party route and elect candidates, some want to focus on getting money out of politics, some want a new economic system, some want national consensus on a clear "what we want" statement, some want anarchy, etc., etc.. As for peace of mind and basic human needs, maybe that is pretty much all we need. A person with peace of mind no longer needs to be angry, jealous, rich, or even enlightened. Maybe one man needs a yacht only because he hasn't enough peace of mind to fully enjoy a runabout. We admire some people, such as Saints, for their peace of mind. The only thing that seems to bother them much is the poverty in the world. Maybe seeing all people getting their basic human needs met is all the Saint needs to gain complete peace. And all us non-Saints can get peace of mind only when our loved ones have their basic human needs met. But give anyone a little peace of mind and an opportunity to meet those basic human needs, and that is what they quickly do.
Thank you, Christopher! Very lucid and compelling (but what is "CD?"). I have no doubt the movement (and even Occupy Cafe!) is infiltrated with saboteurs of all stripes. COINTELPRO lives.
The desire for focus and the sense that it is missing shows up a lot. I wonder though. What does it mean to have focus in a networked non-hierarchical movement? The encampments and the GA process were the closest we had, along with the slogan "We Are the 99%." But within that, there was enormous diversity and that was a strength, IMHO.
So what are the actions and slogans that we might develop next that have similar capacities for both inspiring many people to join in AND allow for people to pursue what is most passonate for them?
My vote goes for "building transformational community." Getting into relationships that are respectful, authentic, heart centered, and driven by a desire to serve the common good. That's still very general, so I think some specific structures need to emerge where that can be seen tangibly to be happening. Occupy Cafe is one possible locus. I think some new version of the encampments that involves occupying buildings (maybe even legally!) and serving the neighborhoods where we gather is another. I can see this happening all around the country (or the world), just as the encampments did.
This is your answer to my question "what are the actions and slogans that we might develop next that have similar capacities for both inspiring many people to join in AND allow for people to pursue what is most passonate for them?" Correct?
Much, though certainly not all, of the civil disobedience that has occurred has turned people off and has not resonated with their personal passions, it seems to me. What particular focus might new actions take that could result in more energy flowing to the movement?
LOL, Ben, you asked what CD was, and Christopher said it was civil disobedience, answering your first question, not your second.
Occupying land and buildings, in my opinion, is essential to helping people join, because there has to be a space for people to come together, and until and unless we can eliminate government it must be done legally because otherwise it will just be subject to eviction by means of police violence like the encampments.
Many cities like my own are ruled by real estate developers through the political puppets whose campaigns they fund (and the elections they rig to ensure their puppets win, but that's another story), and real estate developers like to see lots of people sleeping on the streets because it increases the demand for housing and drives rents up. Homeless people are constantly under attack and must become defensive to survive, so they are difficult to deal with. Many are veterans and have violent tendencies, either because they suffer from PTSD or because that's the only way they were taught to deal with things. It takes a long time in a safe space with a lot of support before homeless people can start to feel safe and others can start to feel safe around them. The not yet homeless are likely to want to avoid both homeless people and situations that could expose them to violence. Many people want to transition, but few want to risk being beaten or jailed. There has to be land in addition to buildings because people need to eat, so food has to be grown. Many people enjoy growing things but again, until and unless we can eliminate government, most of our efforts to become self-sufficient must be done legally because they are a threat to corporate rule and subject to violent eviction when illegal.
Actions and slogans that draw people in aren't worth much unless there is a safe place for people to be drawn into. And yes, attempts at creating safe spaces are always looked at with suspicion by government and are subject to infiltrators and provocateurs. Self-sufficiency is a bona fide threat to corporate rule, which is why the federal government has a homegrown terrorist law that defines terrorists as people who even think about doing anything that might interfere with corporate profits. Self-sufficiency is a real threat to capitalist imperialism. When the US government invades another country, the first thing it does is destroy that country's infrastructure, its fields, schools, hospitals, roads, water, electricity, etc., so that once occupied, the country will become dependent upon the US government instead of being self-sufficient. Growing your own food and having your own sources of energy are considered terrorist threats to capitalist imperialism both at home and abroad.