“What’s Next?” Ask “What’s Here?”

11-24-11

This is a death we are living through, the slow unfolding of multiple interlocking catastrophes, the deconstruction and reformation of every social and natural system you can name: politics, economics, social relations, culture, the eco-system, the human spirit. It is also a birth of something new. In fact, what is being birthed is a mass realization that there is no way to separate any of these realms from one another. At the deepest level, it is our thinking that is undergoing transformation; we can no longer compartmentalize ourselves from one another nor from the whole. We also sense the pace of this death and rebirth is advancing. 

The Occupy Movement is a harbinger of that quickening. And the pace of its reproduction and infusion into every conversation is breathtaking. The Occupation is alive.  It is melting the armor of apathy, cynicism and denial. It is bringing us to our senses.

The encampments are the unique and universally recognized symbol of the Occupation.  In the past week, there has been a groundswell of opinion questioning whether the encampments should be abandoned and asking what’s next.  I expressed my own reservations to a national working group, declaring that it was in the collective interest to abandon all encampments to release energies otherwise directed toward security and survival and for the sake of birthing an even more diverse and decentralized movement. And, I advocated that it be done in our way and on our own schedule without remaining as stationary targets for law-enforcement.

Some agreed that it is time to move on. Others forcefully declared that the encampments have not yet exhausted their function, that holding territory is essential. Yes, some sites have the support of the civic leaders. Others have been aggressively confronted and dismantled by force. Some camps have been overrun by the homeless and unemployable. Still others are vibrant centers of brilliant leadership and innovation in the way they are reaching into the surrounding communities.

The question of what is next is coming up everywhere. “Occupy 2.0” is unfolding as I write. Opinion pieces have appeared in Common Dreams, HuffingtonPost (here and here), DailyKos, the Christian Science Monitor, among others. What are the questions they are asking? More importantly, what are the questions we should be asking?

Is holding territory still an essential presence for the Occupation? Multiple mentions of the Indignados movement of Spain have been made:

 

The 15-M movement began there last May 15. It wasn’t an occupation. It was a protest held in Puerta del Sol Square over the economic crisis that became an overnight occupation. Then it was dismantled by authorities; then it turned into a see-saw conflict over whether they would stay or go. A month later, when they finally went, it was by choice. One veteran of 15-M (there are no leaders) said: “It was a strategic move that led to the survival of the movement.” By happenstance they had evolved another preference: to fan out into districts of the city (and elsewhere in Spain) and conduct regular meetings with local residents. These then forwarded proposals to a weekly “assembly” held in the square.

 

Is holding public territory essential to the evolving process of the Occupation? Luis Moreno-Caballud and Marina Sitrin ask “Is there a way to occupy public space with horizontal assemblies, yet also focus locally and concretely?”

Is claiming public space essential to the DNA of the Movement? A strong argument can be made that it is. Each encampment has been a micro-claim to the Commons, a symbolic claim to everything that is held in common, including all natural resources, the earth itself, which is now all but completely monetized as private commercial property.  And yet, all our wealth, all the capital that we know as civilization, derives from the Commons. And we want it back. Now.

Reclaiming Commons not only refocuses our awareness on the shared roots of community, but these encampments are the material evidence of a new organism occupying and propagating within the body politic. From the original plazas and parks, the movement is now faced with the necessity of dispersing, morphing and adapting, spreading the ethic of holding Commons into every possible context. 

Whether they continue to exist or not, the original encampments have modeled the integral nature of politics, culture, economics and community well-being. The continued viability and validity of the movement derives from our ability to realize this in ever expanding contexts. By including more people, reaching into communities, workplaces, religious and social institutions one at a time, even if only for short periods of time, and by continuously creating and connecting the micro-solutions our local and global circumstances require, we will be birthing on the ground the answer to that oft-repeated question of the casual or clueless observer, “We know what the Occupation is against, but what is the Occupation for?” You need only put your hand on your heart and lower your gaze to find out.

 

 

Views: 255

Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 26, 2011 at 7:51pm

 

Strange that so many people on this site are urging people to vote, to seek Congressional legislation, to target legislators, and to seek Congressional amendments, when none of that is anything new, Gary.

Are all these people infiltrators, or does the core group of Occupy Cafe stewards want the Occupy movement to "midwife something new" by continuing to use only old, proven ineffective electoral political tactics that have failed consistently for over 200 years?

I'm tired of people pointing to "progress" through our electoral system and the government it maintains. If the Civil Rights movement had been successful, slavery would have been abolished instead of remaining, like the death penalty, a Constitutionally legal penalty for a crime, and blacks would not have double and triple the chances of whites of dying young, being poor, going to prison, etc. If the Women's Rights and Feminist movements had been successful, the ERA would have passed and women would now be getting the same pay for the same work as men. If the New Deal had been successful, Glass-Steagall would never have been repealed, the banks wouldn't have been deregulated, and GATT, NAFTA, and similar trade deals wouldn't have allowed Congress to financially reward corporations (with taxpayer money), for outsourcing US jobs.

Where is the US movement that successfully used traditional electoral politics to bring about real change?

I'm the one who is saying that we need to be creative and to do things in new ways, including all forms of noncompliance and withholding consent, such as boycotting corporations, taking our energy out of the old capitalist system and developing alternative systems that put people before profits and protect the environment, and no longer voting in sham elections.

I think we can delegitimize the old system nonviolently and that's what I'm trying to do and to educate and encourage others to do.

But if people want to continue to work within, consent to, vote for, and petition the old system, they are not just doing things in the same old ways, but actually working to prevent change.

I question the sincerity of people who won't consider or try doing things differently, when those things are peaceful, nonviolent, and in some cases, such as not voting, effortless, and can be extremely effective like all other boycotts, but try to say that since they won't attempt to change the system nonviolently, and therefore the system is going to remain in power with their consent, I am wrong to reserve the right to use violence in self-defense.

What was it JFK said (quick google) "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Is voting new? Is voting something that the Occupy movement just invented? 

I don't only reserve the right to use violence in self-defense, such as if somebody is trying to murder me or my child or a friend or fellow Occupier, but I also reserve the right to use violence in defense of the tens and sometimes hundreds of innocent children that our government is murdering with drones bombs every single day. As S. Brian Willson puts it, "We are not worth more, they are not worth less." Indeed, we all agree with Maharshi that there is no other, that those children are us.

If people would be willing to use new, unconventional, creative, nonviolent tactics such as boycotting elections, I might never have to face the possibility of taking up arms in defense of my own life and the lives of those innocent children being murdered by our government every day with the consent of voters. No, voters don't have a ballot where they are asked if they approve or disapprove of murdering innocent children. They are asked if they are willing to delegate that decision to elected officials who can't be held accountable and who do not allow public opinion to influence their policy decisions.

Who are

Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 26, 2011 at 8:01pm

Again, my comment got cut off. Might be a problem with my browser. I'm learning to save before posting, so here's the rest of it:

Who are the people at Occupy Cafe? Are they all determined to continue to vote to consent to the murder of innocent children if they are allowed to hope that within a few decades they might get some favorable legislation for themselves in return? Are people here so materialistic and calculating that they willing make such a trade-off, the lives of innocent children in return for their own dreams of a representative government that might, someday, reform itself by renouncing the benefits it gains by representing the interests of the 1% who spend billions to put their puppets in office, and instead begin to represent their constituents?

I'm all for new, creative, nonviolent things, but I don't like people who are mired in old ways that don't work, telling me that the old ways are new and the new ways are old. I'm no genius, but I'm not a fool. 

Voting in US elections is violence, because voting is the act of granting the consent of the governed to a government that is the most violent empire in the world today. If voters won't renounce violence, they have no business asking me to do what they're unwilling to do themselves. I am nonviolent. I will not vote to delegate my power and authority to a government that engages in wars and war crimes. That's like handing a gun to a madman. But people who are so apathetic that they vote to delegate their power to warmongers and genocidal maniacs, dare to accuse me of apathy and condoning violence? As the kids as Santa Cruz said so eloquently, "Shame on you!"

 

Comment by Pawel Klewin on November 27, 2011 at 11:48am

 

Hello everybody, this my first post here. In view of the real (observed) context of your discussion I am an outsider (Warsaw, Poland, Europe). In view of planetary nature of the system (whatever "system" means) you are missing an external POV.

On the other hand I have been trying to join the Movement (as defined by Paul Hawken in 2007) since 2008. In fact I have joined (David Eggleton here a witness), but my resultant experience is a virtual barrier between individual understanding of own power and systemic understanding of energy flows.

As I do not know how to leap over the barrier I signed in occupy café to observe only. Your energy and your potential are fascinating – even if every time you bounce off the barrier is disheartening.

Gary, you have offered me an opportunity to see the chink in the barrier. I can’t help myself to catch it and try to widen. You say:

This is a death we are living through, the slow unfolding of multiple interlocking catastrophes, the deconstruction and reformation of every social and natural system you can name: politics, economics, social relations, culture, the eco-system, the human spirit. It is also a birth of something new. In fact, what is being birthed is a mass realization that there is no way to separate any of these realms from one another.


How can you then separate the past from the future? Am I somehow wrong recognizing fundamental internal contradiction in your statement? Where do WE belong: dying past or new future? Is the present the third separated element in between? How can we affect future experiencing separateness?

Comment by Gary Horvitz on November 27, 2011 at 3:37pm

Mark,

Are all these people infiltrators, or does the core group of Occupy Cafe stewards want the Occupy movement to "midwife something new" by continuing to use only old, proven ineffective electoral political tactics that have failed consistently for over 200 years?--Straw man

You can see as well as I that no activity here is "directed," filtered" except for propriety and civility. You are evidence that all points of view are welcome.

 

Pawel-- I have not deliberately separated past form future.

As for "Where do WE belong: dying past or new future?"-- I suggest we occupy both simultaneously.

Here's a poem included in the People's Library Poetry Anthology from OWS:

Ghost Flowers
Carolyn Elliott
OCCUPY PITTSBURG

I am dreaming of new death
and old life.

One night I'm carrying the corpse of
a full-grown man inside my womb.

Another, I'm weeping beside the
shallow grave of a dead baby--

then suddenly the baby starts to
breathe and stir again, miraculously alive.

The corpse tells me: I am a grave.
The baby tells me: the grave is a womb.

We are all being born out of a grave.
We are all dead inside a womb.

Here, in the mud, in the cold
We swim in the blood, in the heat.

Here we are ghost flowers,
bruised and blooming in the banker's park.

Here we push up from the ground,
thriving on the rot of the dead world.

Devouring its organs and skin.

They think we will leave
in the winter.

They think we will flee
the wind and the ice.

But we are children of this cold.
We have lived all our lives
in perpetual winter.

In the winter of consumption, alienation, untruth.
We have lived all our lives in the winter
of their system.

We are stirring now up out of the grave
into which we were born.

We are the ghost flowers
that breathe in the moon and the rot,
that make beauty out of winter and death.


Comment by Pawel Klewin on November 27, 2011 at 4:45pm

 

I like the poem; it expresses my feelings, probably the feelings of many.

As for rational discussion, I have tried to understand your answer reading ‘Who are the "Occupy Cafe Stewards"?’

You mention a “shift” there, “spiritual fulfillment” and “collective intelligence”.

I have some experience with “Global Mind Shift” discussions, so please forgive me my question: Is the spiritual fulfillment (enlightenment?) central (or superior) to your understanding of shift, transition, collective, intelligence etc.?

 

Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 27, 2011 at 4:52pm

Straw man? Apart from my own posts, Gary, most of what I see on Occupy Cafe are attempts to get people involved in politics as usual. Sign this petition (which will be ignored), urge your representatives to support that legislation (which has no chance of passing), work towards Constitutional amendments (because we have no time and the amendment process will take at least a decade), and whatever you do (which is the real money shot--what political operatives must say in order to be paid), don't forget to vote (even though you know that your vote won't even be counted). 

Many of the political websites that banned me for advocating that people not vote started out by welcoming me. As the late Walter Karp explained in his classic book about US politics, Indispensable Enemies, the ways that the two major parties keep an iron lock on the system include a division of labor where the Republicans represent the political right and the Democrats co-opt the political left to prevent there from being any effective opposition to the political right. 

To co-opt the political left, Democratic Party websites pretend to welcome all leftist points of view, but when anyone posts something that doesn't involve urging people to stick with politics as usual by voting, petitioning their legislators, making demands on government, and attempting to work within the system for reforms instead of working to create a new system, teams of political operatives immediately jump on them to make it clear that theirs is an isolated view and nobody on such websites agrees.

Where are the people here who agree with Occupy Wall Street that the old system is irreparably broken, cannot be reformed, and must be changed? Are there any? I think I know of two possibilities, but while they haven't been urging people to ignore me and stick with politics as usual, they haven't stuck their necks out in favor of recognizing that the old system is broken and abandoning it in favor of direct democracy either, which I can understand, seeing what the response would be.

Our current corrupt government has been known to use many different techniques to subvert attempts to change the status quo, including infiltrators, saboteurs, etc. One technique it has used many times is to start groups which claim to be part of a movement, attract people who wish to join that movement, and then either steer them in self-destructive methods or simply arrest them all. 

I ask again, where are the people on Occupy Cafe who believe that the old, corrupt system of representative government is irreparably broken, and who are willing to abandon it, withhold their consent from it, and devote their energies to creating and establishing a new system of direct democracy where power is vested in the people instead of in the government?

 

Comment by Pawel Klewin on November 27, 2011 at 5:04pm

 

I ask again, where are the people on Occupy Cafe who believe that the old, corrupt system of representative government is irreparably broken, and who are willing to abandon it, withhold their consent from it, and devote their energies to creating and establishing a new system of direct democracy where power is vested in the people instead of in the government?

 

Mark, maybe I am one of them (unfortunately an outsider). I cannot however be sure until I know how you understand the power vested in individuals. Where does it come from?

 

Comment by Gary Horvitz on November 27, 2011 at 5:34pm

Mark, if it is not plainly obvious to you that we at OC are not trying to "get" anyone to "do" anything other than what they are moved to do, then I'm afraid I cannot help you. People vote all the time, with their time, energy, money and their feet. If they are not following you or adopting your ideas, why would that be?

Second, I do not follow all that is happening here and I doubt you have time to do so yourself, so I find what you suggest about the OC or the stewards or what we want or that we somehow believe in a dead system to be spurious.

Finally, you are regarding all the activity here as an either/or proposition, that people either believe as you do or they are not truly supporting OWS. I'm not going to mince words here, dude. That's insulting bullshit. You are holding yourself as the arbiter of movement purity and insulting the intelligence of alot of people. When you get sick, do you take a pill? Or get some rest, or eat differently or drink lots of water? Do you do one of those things, believing that it alone is the cure? Or do you do all of those things, knowing that together they will all make the difference you seek? That's the rationale for engaging with the existing system. It is not the sole cure. It is part of the cure. It's an immediate action to address emerging issues, not the sole cure for the disease.

Good luck with your campaign.

Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 27, 2011 at 6:01pm

Pawel Klewin: "Mark, maybe I am one of them (unfortunately an outsider). I cannot however be sure until I know how you understand the power vested in individuals. Where does it come from?"

Ha! The great intellectual Mark Smith will now attempt to answer one of the deepest philosophical questions in the history of thought. NOT!

I will, however, pass along something that a homeless person at Occupy San Diego said to me yesterday. We were talking about the right of self-defense and Cisco said that even a butterfly will try to escape when somebody tries to capture it, and that even plants will try to protect themselves by various means like thorns. 

The Declaration of Independence says that all are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. As an anti-theist, I think that the rights preceeded the concept of a Creator.

The Ecuadorian Constitution attempts to guarantee the unalienable rights of animals and of nature, which makes perfect sense to me, not just in an ecological way, but because it seems obvious to me that the environment which sustains us has as much if not more right to exist than we do. 

In our current situation, I believe that power comes from voting or refusing to vote. We can continue to legitimize wars, bailouts, etc., by continuing to vote in elections that empower a government that doesn't represent us because it is beholden to the 1%, or we can refuse to vote for a government that doesn't allow public opinion to influence policy decisions, and take matters into our own hands, forming a more just government where the people's votes are the sole determiner of policy. 

But we can't do both. We can't form a more just government while continuing to vote for, consent to, and legitimize and unjust government. I believe that the Occupy Wall Street List of Grievance establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that our current government in unjust and does not merit our consent. 

Maybe what I'm trying to say if that power comes from the people, and people can delegate that power or retain it. In cases where we delegate our power and find that our interests are not being represented, we have the right, and according to the Declaration of Independence, the duty, to withdraw our consent and refuse to continue to delegate our power, instead retaining it to ourselves.

Here's something I wrote about the value of voting:

 A democratic system of government is one in which power is vested in the hands of the people. 

An undemocratic system of government is one in which power is vested in the hands of the government. That government could be a dictatorship, a monarchy, a plutocracy, an oligarchy, or even a pseudo-democracy, but if power is vested in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of the people, the system does not meet the definition of a democratic form of government.
 
In a democratic form of government, where power is vested in the hands of the people, voting is the most precious right of all, as it is the way that the people exercise the power vested in them, either directly by voting on issues, budgets, and policies, or indirectly by voting for representatives who are obligated to represent their constituents and can be directly recalled by the people at any time that they fail to represent the people who elected them.
 
In an undemocratic form of government, where power is vested in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of the people, voting is totally worthless and a waste of time, as the people do not have power and the government doesn't have to count t
Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 27, 2011 at 6:02pm

Cut off again--here's the rest of the comment I just posted:

In an undemocratic form of government, where power is vested in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of the people, voting is totally worthless and a waste of time, as the people do not have power and the government doesn't have to count their votes, can miscount and/or ignore their votes, can overrule the popular vote, and elected representatives are not obligated to represent their constituents but can represent their personal beliefs or philosophies, their big donors, or whatever they wish, and cannot be held accountable as long as they continue in office, which is the only time that people need them to represent the interests of the people. 
 
In an undemocratic form of government, voters can hope that their votes might be counted, can hope that their elected officials might represent them, but have no power to ensure that their votes are counted or that their elected officials actually represent them.
 
The system makes all the difference. As an analogy, breathing is a good thing and we humans couldn't survive without being able to breathe. But underwater or in a toxic environment filled with lethal gas, breathing can bring about death more quickly than holding one's breath and trying to escape. Breathing isn't always a good thing, it is only a good thing in an environment with oxygen suitable for human life. 
 
The same is true of voting. In a democratic system, voting is precious and essential. In an undemocratic system, it can be fatal, as it can allow the destruction of the economy, military adventurism, obstacles to basic human rights such as jobs, education, food, clothing, shelter, and health care, and other tragic consequences of allowing government to exercise uncontrolled power rather than vesting power in the hands of the people.
 
Most people in the US today are opposed to our government's ongoing wars of aggression. Even those who are uninformed and uneducated, who aren't aware that historically, the way that most empires fell was because they became militarily overextended, sense that there is something wrong with spending trillions of dollars on foreign wars while basic domestic needs go unmet. But because we do not have a democratic system of government, we have no power to end the wars. The best we can do is vote for candidates we hope might end the wars, but if, like Obama, they expand the wars instead of ending them, there is nothing we can do about it because our government has the power to start or end wars and we do not. If wars were on the ballot, it could only be as a nonbinding referendum, as there is no Constitutional way to force the government to obey the will of the people. The Constitution vested power in the government rather than in the hands of the people.
 
I do not oppose voting any more than I oppose breathing. I oppose voting only when it occurs within an undemocratic form of government, thus legitimizing an undemocratic form of government and consenting to be governed undemocratically, just as I oppose breathing only when in a toxic or anaerobic environment where breathing can be fatal. Just as I would want to try to help anyone trapped in a toxic or anaerobic environment hold their breath until they could escape, I want to try to help people trapped in an undemocratic form of government withhold their votes until they can escape. If I tell a drowning person to hold

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