Just as new life begins in childbirth every day, the occupy wall street movement and  affinity groups are being born and nurtured the U.S. and the rest of the world.  The Occupy movement itself is the new kid in town. The baby of the family who initially restores hope and inspiration. The baby coos and she cries and she is awfully cute...the family mascot.

  But then something else begins to happen. We are exhausted. This new baby won't sleep through the night and we must wake with her. Her crying grows louder and more demanding as our baby begins to figure out what she wants from us. Some people begin to offer unsolicited advice, "Maybe you should let that baby cry so she learns to sleep through the night" or "Just give her a bottle, she's too dependent on the breast".  Everyone's got an answer, but few lend a hand.  These experts are the strangers on the bus or the distant relative who is never around when help is needed.

   Meanwhile the older kids aren't  getting enough attention, so they dutifully fall into their well rehearsed family roles in an attempt to restore some sense of harmony, or least an illusion of control. The oldest might coddle the baby, take over some of Moms chores, reassure everyone that it's ok, I got this. A middle child might become sulky, acting out, being "naughty" all the while muttering that things were going just fine until baby came along. And their will be other family members who will attempt to function the way they always have, incorporating the new baby into their family slowly and invisibly, hoping to forge ahead on the path they have already cleared  for themselves.

So now that OWS has been moved out of the parents bedroom (Zuccotti park) and is beginning to settle into a more concrete sense of self (individuation) it seems only natural the the standard human patterns of behavior will follow. And a society that coined the term "terrible twos" will find that they are not quite sure how to handle this entire out of control toddler situation.

It is in these early years of identity formation that we have the best opportunity as parents and siblings to either nurture our child's strengths or, pardon my frankness, really fuck them up.  I see those of us who have been around a while, who have seen social activism cycle through several incarnations with different focus, as the big sisters, aunties and mothers. I think it's fair to ask ourselves how we feel about this charming but disruptive new addition to the family? How has she changed our perception of where we fit in the birth order? And finally, what can we do as elders and mentors to nurture and guide this child through a healthy development process while finding her place in the family.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

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Comment by Anna Harris on January 5, 2012 at 4:37am

Nice image Jennifer. But you make it sound as though the 'big sisters, aunties and mothers' have something special to offer because they have been around a while. It would be fairer to say that this is a mutual learning situation, where we can all see possibilities we could not see before this birth, and where we need to be open to learning from the baby as much as, or perhaps more than, from our past experience. What is 'healthy development'? and taking her place in the family guided by 'elders and mentors' sounds like she will end up in exactly the same mess as before.

How do we really open to this new situation and encourage and support these new possibilities against the background of fears and uncertainties of 'fucking up'? By trusting that this child knows what she wants, in spite of often appearing confused and contradictory. And going with the lack of identity, of a single voice, at this time, and appreciating the richness of the variety and spontaneity, with all the chaos and unpredictability that comes along. Not easy......But nobody ever said it was going to be easy

Comment by Jennifer Hazard on January 5, 2012 at 3:28pm


Thank you for your comments, you are so correct. When I reflect on my own parenting style when my children were young, I allowed them great freedom of expression and experimentation (with appropriate safety guidelines of course) and one of the greatest joys of parenting has been the lessons I learned from my children throughout that process.The second greatest joy was that they did not repeat all of my mistakes and "end up in the same mess" That is the goal of good parenting I think, and good mentoring. My blog post was a re-post and (my fault) taken out of context here and was meant to be a message of encouragement to certain 'elders" who were struggling with their role in the OWS movement. I'm glad this has stimulated discussion, these are important issues...we are all experimenting and learning new ways of relating to one another, hopefully we are on the path to creating a society that is respectful and appreciative of both our history and our future, the old and the young, and soundly rooted in the present moment.



Comment by Ben Roberts on January 6, 2012 at 9:37am

Thanks for this reflection, Jennifer.  I particularly like your final question: "what can we do to guide this child..."  I too have thought about the movement as a child, as have others I talk with regularly.  We've been saying that it's in a stage more like puberty/8th grade!

Meanwhile, I think Anna's points are well taken, especially appreciating the "lack of identity."  In fact, we might take that further and caution that, as appealing as the personification of "the movement" is, there is a also a danger in treating this set of events and conglomeration of people active on the ground (not to mention those who has supported/sympathized from "the sidelines") as a single "it."

My friend Raffi and others like to call Occupy a "process," rather than a movement.  I think it's a meme, or perhaps a set of memes.  And its impulses fit within a larger set of movements/initiatives/visions/organizations/campaigns/protests that are all, in my view expressions of an impulse for global systemic transformation along political, economic, social and even spiritual dimensions.

So when I think of how I want to nurture this "movement," (probably still the best word for general conversation, despite its limitations), I think about how we might help to integrate and align the energies flowing through it with all the other expressions of this same transformational impulse that calls us to create, as Peter Block puts it, "a future that is distinct from the past."  

Our "Occupy 2.0" conversations have explored some basic ideas for the next phase of the movement that speak to this.  You can see a table that represent a summary of what I and my fellow OC Steward Jitendra Darling have synthesized from these discussions and our own observations/predilections here on the "collaborative tablecloth" from our 1/3 call.

Comment by Jennifer Hazard on January 9, 2012 at 4:20pm


Yes! You bring up many valid points. My fellow Occupiers here in Milwaukee have had many similar discussions.Our language, and the meanings we ascribe to certain words or phrases, can feel limiting when creating a new reality. What a fun project it can be as long as we are mindful with our use of words and  explanation of our version of concepts. 

I do appreciate the idea of Occupy as a process and I think that naming it as such may help expand peoples perception as we move forward.

I'm going to check out the conversation you linked, thanks for your thoughts.




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