“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: 250

Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 27, 2011 at 6:05pm

Cut off a second time--here's the end of that comment:

 
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 their breath until they can get their head above water, I am not condemning breathing. If I tell people not to vote until they have a democratic form of government, I am not condemning voting. In both cases, I am trying to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and to promote the general welfare.
-----'
Here's a link to the entire essay, as it may be difficult to read here in segments:

 

 

 

Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 27, 2011 at 6:33pm

 

Gary, when I get sick I might do a variety of things, but I will try not to do anything that might make me sicker.

Delegating our power to representatives who can't be held accountable, and allowing them to make our decisions for us, is what got us into this mess.

In trying to get out of this mess, I will try to do everything I can that might help us accomplish that objective, but I will not do anything that keeps us bogged down in the same mess or could make it even worse.

While attempting to recover from an illness, I might try to drink plenty of water, get lots of rest, change my diet, and even take a natural non-pharmaceutical pill. But I won't take pharmaceutical pills because I know that many of them have toxic side effects which are often worse than the diseases they're supposed to cure, which is why properly prescribed pharmaceuticals, taken exactly as prescribed, are one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

If the problem is that I find myself going in the wrong direction, I may stop, try to determine the correct way to go, turn around, and go in the new direction. All of which would be useful. But I will not, as part of a wide array of remedies and in order to avoid "doing nothing," continue driving in the wrong direction. That would only take me farther in the wrong direction and is not a remedy but a continuation of the problem.

If the problem is a system where power is vested in the government instead of in the people, something with which you may or may not agree, I agree with nonviolent remedies that have a possibility of changing the system,  but I would not include within any array of remedies, strategies or tactics that would continue to legitimize a system where power is vested in the government instead of in the people.

If you don't believe that power should be vested in the hands of the people (the dictionary definition of democracy), and merely want a more benevolent tyranny rather than a true democracy, then you will continue to legitimize tyranny while attempting to persuade it to be a bit more benevolent. 

Good luck with that.

 

Comment by Anna Harris on November 28, 2011 at 6:20am

At tonoght's General Assembly, Monday 28th November, the following staement is being considered by OccupyLSX:

"The crisis of the system opens the way for all of us to be co-creators of our future, not its victims. What is needed is a truly democratic alternative to a parliamentary system that has been compromised by corporate and financial interests. Therefore, in order to facilitate the transition to real democracy and the liberation of the disenfranchised majority, we call for the formation of people's assemblies in neighbourhoods, workplaces and education establishments across the country, assemblies where no one will be excluded, and where the voice and sovereignty of the people will be expressed. And we call for a day of action in support."

Whether the camps continue or not the next phase of the Occupy movement in the UK is being unfolded - to take Real Democracy to the people through people's assemblies and consensus decision making. This is where the hard work starts. It will not be easy. In the words of Gary Zukav:

It will replace the old world because billions of us will tend the tree daily, even in difficult times – challenging hatred, anger, greed, and revenge in ourselves by choosing awareness and love instead.  In short, the new world will grow strong and healthy while the old world dies because the old world is based on fear and the new world is built on love – clear, conscious, responsible, courageous, and capable.

Comment by Pawel Klewin on November 28, 2011 at 7:24am

 

Mark, quite correctly you recognized my question as provocative.

When you say you can NOT answer it is logical.

When you nevertheless answer it is not.

7000 miles separating us, different historical experiences, make me privileged to hold a side view.

My provocative question is not mine – it is being asked by global reality. How could it have happened, that over millennia we have been misusing our power? How has our thought been related to our power during the process?

Quantitatively each of us has 3 Watts per kilogram of body weight. Signaled from the brain: “flight, escape” or “fight, win” we can produce 10 times as much. Qualitatively, multiplied by 7 billions and using physical power we control it is horrific.

Qualitatively, IMHO, we should undertake the endeavor to better understand how our power is interconnected with reality on one side, our consciousness on the other. What do we want to escape from?

We can not know what the source of our power is. We can however understand the feedback between thought and power over generations, the way we use our power, the way we think.

Individual beliefs interpreting 300 Watts each of us "possesses" as his power over the system are baring our way to such understanding, are making us separate and vulnerable. 

P.S.

Added upon the post by Anna: Do you really believe we can and we should nullify the past to build the future?

Gary, answering the same question you said you don’t separate the past and the future deliberately. And yet you believe they are separated. Do we believe “deliberately”?

Comment by Robert Riversong on November 28, 2011 at 11:19am

Pawel Klewin invited me to respond here to his comments, which are sufficiently enigmatic that they require absorption more than response. (By the way, my grandfather came from Warsaw.)

But what does demand a response are Mark Smith's continued diatribes about the "one true way" to achieve our goals. Even a cursory reading of his inundation of words makes evident the ubiquity of self-contradictions (which are endemic to any fundamentalist ideology).

Mark recognizes the illegitimacy of our national government but, because he fails to comprehend that authentic democracy is impossible on the scale of anything larger than a Greek city-state, he stridently proposes a national response to what is, at root, a local issue. What we focus our attention on takes energy from us. Thus, even a national campaign to boycott elections results in the focus remaining on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the national polity, which is precisely the opposite of where OWS attention has been and where it will need to diffuse in version 2.0 - local communities, where true democracy is possible.

Mark also failed to respond to my comment on another thread that a voting/not voting strategy is insufficient by itself, particularly when most of us continue to pay for what we don't support - through our taxes, our banking practices, our credit addictions, our consumption of corporate products. If Mark insists we must de-legitimize the federal government by withholding our vote but continues to pay taxes to Caesar to execute his policies - then he's little more than a toothless hypocrite.

Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 28, 2011 at 12:41pm

Thank you, Anna. I have been grieving the second loss of the Egyptian revolution. The first loss was when Mubarak stepped down but the brutal military junta (SCAF) remained in place and the situation became worse. The second loss is occurring now, as valiant attempts to organize an election boycott by the Egyptian revolutionaries failed and Egyptians are voting. No matter who wins, SCAF will remain in power, legitimized by the election that the figleaf of a civilian government it will dominate totally. From now on the Egyptian revolutionaries will no longer be freedom fighters struggling against a brutal dictator or an unelected military junta, they will be "terrorists" resisting a "democratically elected" government. If I thought there was any chance that there was a god, I'd ask her to have mercy on their souls.

Pawel, if you continue the past, the future becomes the same as the past. It is not a question of nullifying the past, but one of constructing a future. Should we have remained without fire because we, like other animals, survived without fire for eons? Did it nullify the past to begin using fire? Raw foodies may think it was a bad idea, and so may environmentalists in places like the US where so many forests are gone, but sometimes we have to accept a future even if it is something new.

Robert, I am not saying that there is only one way. I support all forms of nonviolent resistance and noncompliance with tyranny and I have never said that all other forms should not be used, as you'd have seen if you'd had time to read my posts the way you claimed you had. What I'm saying is that it doesn't make sense to resist taxes while continuing to vote to authorize, legitimize, and consent to allow a government to tax you. You are working against your own best interests. And since you never responded to the substance of my arguments, such as my primary argument that uncounted, unverifiable, and easily overridden votes for officials who can't be held accountable during the only time they're in power, will never accomplish anything, I think you should stop criticizing me for not responding to your repeated substanceless assertions.

I do not pay taxes and never have in my entire 71 years. There was only one year in which I earned enough to be required to file, however for some reason of its own the IRS was allowing people who filed that year to average the past two years' income with the current year's, and since I'd had no income the previous two years, having been homeless and unemployed, I had no taxes to pay.

I doubt if I'm as much of a hypocrite as you are, since you refuse to pay taxes while you continue to vote to authorize the government to tax everyone else, but I am indeed toothless, as are most low income seniors in this country. If you see a low income senior citizen in the USA with a full set of teeth, either they were fortunate enough to have Veteran's benefits or they're immigrants from some country with a national health care plan. 

As for the argument of scale, the Greeks didn't have telecommunications. We are no longer in the horse-and-buggy days when we were unable to communicate without travelling long distances on horseback for weeks. 

While local self-governance should indeed be part of our focus, it is not impossible to have national and even global self-governance, as most things can be decided locally and we now have the ability to communicate nationally and globally to consense on those things which require national or global consensus.

As for "diatribes," the lie that I ever excluded other forms of noncompliance, calling me a hypocrite and toothless, those are just the typical smears that every political operative resorts to when they are trying to get out the vote for corporate rule and cannot logically refute my arguments.

I do not propose a national response to local issues, I propose self-governance at appropriate levels for all issues. If th

Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 28, 2011 at 12:43pm

Continuing, as I got cut off again:

Arguments for tyranny that may have been appropriate in the 18th Century, such as that the rich are better educated and therefore more fit to rule, that the mob and rabble are incompetent, and that communication across large distances is impossible, fail to recognize that we are now in the 21st Century where such arguments are no longer valid.

 

Comment by Pawel Klewin on November 28, 2011 at 4:36pm

 

Pawel, if you continue the past, the future becomes the same as the past.[Mark]

Pawel Klewin invited me to respond here to his comments, which are sufficiently enigmatic that they require absorption more than response [Robert].

As a substrate to design better future we have nothing more than the experience of the past. Is there anything enigmatic in the simple logic of such statement?

 

Comment by David Eggleton on November 28, 2011 at 5:27pm

"As a substrate to design better future we have nothing more than the experience of the past."

We have creativity and we have what is given right now, in addition to the great story of compliance, non-compliance and other choices.  In the past, creativity was used too often in arbitrary ways (give the dominant ones what they demand).  Going forward, in the manner of the universe (all sorts of simultaneous, non-synchronous risings and fallings of different scales, etc. [see Fuller]), one may design in a less arbitrary way, on a more complex substrate.

No comment on what's enigmatic.

Comment by Pawel Klewin on November 29, 2011 at 6:57am

 

Fuller was a pioneer in thinking globally. [Wikipedia] 

Act locally, think globally is the keynote of my thinking.

Permaculture is Life Enhancing AND Life Affirming [your Café group heading]

From European perspective the idea of permaculture fits the principles of organic and biodynamic farming. I belong to organic movement in Poland, my social activity has started trying to adapt organic market after economic transformation in my country, my philosophy is founded on instinctive nutrition, using organic products, I pay neither taxes nor social/health security, and I don’t go to supermarkets.

Let us act as if we are part of nature… [futurescenarios you link to]

I am sick of the calls for action – I want to participate in the process of change design.

I cannot understand why you believe you are a part of the solution, while I belong to the problem. The reasons are enigmatic for me. Is it because I believe that permaculture can be an element of the solution, not the solution by itself?

If you can help me understand, I will present my view on possibility of one deciding/designing action in less arbitrary way. Your use of the word "arbitrary" in our context offers the prspective of most promising interpretations.

 

 

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