We turn our C2012 focus to Occupy Cafe itself for this conversation.

We are engaging in an iteration of this inquiry process around ways that Occupy Cafe can evolve to better serve and expand the movement and perhaps even to more fully embody our own brand of "Occupying." 

Collecting answers to the following questions is one way to start:

  • What have your best experiences with Occupy Cafe been so far?  Is there a particular story you might share with us?
  • If you had three wishes for OC, what would they be?  

Please share your answers here on our forum.

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I'll try to answer your questions in a moment, Ben, but first please let me recount what just happened to me on Twitter. After a couple of hundred years of racist imperialism, somebody who calls themself a liberal just posted a comment saying that "the last few days" have made them angry and that this country has been ruined by Citizens United and is "now" a country for rich, white, old men. No problem with the genocide and ongoing persecution of Native Americans, no problem with slavery and ongoing racism, but suddenly in "the last few days" there has been a problem about political party campaign donations that a liberal finds upsetting. Can you understand why I'm outraged and wanted to express it? From the moment the colonizers invaded this land, people of conscience have been angry at the racist injustice of imperialist systems created by and for rich white old men, and here's a self-styled liberal who has only noticed a problem in the past few days.

To answer your first question, Ben, I find it valuable when I am able to express my opinion, particularly when my opinion is counter to the conventional wisdom. There are fewer and fewer opportunities for dissent, and my personal experience over the past decade is that as election time draws closer, even those will mostly vanish, as websites pretending to be open and inclusive start purging anyone who doesn't toe the Democratic Party line. I hope that won't happen here. 

Did you read the article about the connection between the White House and the crackdown on Occupy? Do you think that it was written to express disdain for you? Do you know that I didn't write it, I just posted a link? Although it appears from the redacted documents that Obama is out to get Occupy, I'm not out to get you. In fact, my feelings towards those who vote to authorize the government to wage wars, cater to the rich at the expense of the poor, pollute the planet, and brutalize protesters, are of compassion and almost unutterable sadness, not of disdain at all.

As for your last question, "Is there something we can create together, based not on mandate, argument and persuasion, but on our common desire for a future distinct from the past?" it appears to be a constructive and positive question, and deserves a thoughtful answer. 

First let's examine how the question is constructed. Try this for an analogy. You're in a vehicle accident, your arms and legs are broken, and an ambulance takes you to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctor says, "I agree that you need medical care. Is there something other than cleansing your wounds, setting the bones, putting casts on so that your bones heal properly, or prescribing something for your pain, that I could do to help you?" Doesn't it seem a bit strange that the doctor would reject all forms of treatment for such injuries, but claim to wish to help?

Do you think that it is possible to create a future distinct from the past, using only methods that aren't controversial? Do you think that if we continue to repeat the same old experiments in the exact same old ways, we can get different results? Do you think that new and different, and therefore controversial approaches can be suggested without using argument and persuasion? And why do you lump mandate in with argument and persuasion? Is it the same if your employer orders you do do something (mandate), or someone uses arguments to try to persuade you of something?

Do you think that war plans are drawn up, and wars initiated and funded by our individual failure to find ways to relate to each other compassionately and cherish each other's unique beauty? I think war plans are drawn up by the Pentagon and that they are initiated by the President and funded by Congress without regard to what is in our hearts or how we relate to each other. I think that no matter how consciously and beatifically we examine our hearts and our relationships, we cannot end wars by changing our inner beings while delegating war powers to a government based on a militarized economy. During the Vietnam wars, millions of Vietnamese Buddhists continued their compassionate inner consciousness until so much blood had been shed that many began immolating themselves in despair.

Those who truly believe that the answers can only come from internal individual changes in consciousness, would have no reason to be interested in electoral politics or fundraising. There is nothing spiritual or enlightened about fundraising or voting. How can we create a future distinct from the past by rejecting new, different, or controversial strategies and using only methods that haven't succeeded in changing anything in the past?

If you find my comments generative, why would you be concerned only about what do do about me? Why would comments that make you think, cause you to be angry, frustrated, or hurt, and feel a need to do something about me instead of thinking about what I'm saying and why it disturbs you?

I value open discussions, Ben, and I value and respect people who are willing to discuss interesting, challenging, and controversial possibilities for solutions to the problems that exist "in the world." I respect you for admitting that these problems really do exist "in the world," and not just in our hearts or minds. We can no more end war by changing our hearts and minds than we can fix a leaky faucet by changing how we think about it instead of changing the washer. 

If the problem is me and my attitude towards you and others here at Occupy Cafe, then all we have to do is figure out how to handle me. But if there are real problems "in the world," then doing something about me isn't going to solve those problems. Let's talk.  ;)


I am pleased that you found my question about what we can create together to be constructive.  I would like to pursue that.  I also again appreciate your eloquent articulation of the tragedy of our global situation and your frustration with people who appear to believe that things were just fine up until a few years ago, ignoring things like the genocide on which this nation was founded.

And I apologize for interpreting your remarks as expressions of "disdain."  I don't know what judgments, if any, you are making, nor is it consistent with the culture I seek to create here for me to issue judgments myself.  I can say that I have felt irked, annoyed and vexed by comments from you that I read as strong criticism of the values and intentions I and others are seeking to manifest here in the Cafe.  The post from you that I responded to stated that the suggestion to move beyond an "us versus them" and "99%/1%" framing "is all so predictable, and so horribly reminiscent of capitalist imperialist strategies to derail democracy movements."  Since replacing "us versus them" with "we are also them" is an idea we articulated in the post before that, perhaps you can see why I might have felt repelled by your comment.

Meanwhile, one of the elements of an "Occupy Cafe culture" we are planning to support is a request for brevity when we are in dialogue.  When I see a post in response to one of mine that is as long as the one above, especially when it is filled with so many questions, I feel overwhelmed and frustrated.  And yes, I see the irony in my request for brevity, as this post itself is rather long!

There are also aspects of the questions themselves that I struggle with, e.g. "Do you think that war plans are drawn up, and wars initiated and funded by our individual failure to find ways to relate to each other compassionately and cherish each other's unique beauty?"  This sounds sarcastic and/or judgmental to me given that a core part of the culture I and others seek to create here is indeed compassion.

Finally, when you parse out my words and offer analogies as you did above with the question you  found constructive, I feel exhausted.  I think I get that my use of the phrase "mandate and argument"  didn't work for you because you want to be free to argue and don't believe you are issuing "mandates."  But I need to be free to have exchanges where semantics aren't as much of a focus of controversy, especially in these text-based exchanges.  It feels like too much work to address it all.  I request that we give one another the benefit of the doubt in a case like this, trusting that we are indeed "on the same side."

So... I wonder how we might work together on this idea of an OC Culture?  It seems like a huge challenge, given that we appear to disagree on many things regarding it.  And yet it appears to me that this may indeed be possible and that, in fact, I need the help of someone with your perspective to craft a culture that will be more inclusive of people who hold their outrage over the state of things front and center.

Is there one particular element we can address, so that our exchanges can be short and simple, and I won't feel so overwhelmed?  I think the question of how we handle "us versus them" framing, including the idea of blaming other people for the way things are, lies at the heart of the matter.  I would like to start there, if you're game.  It's probably best to create another C2012 thread on this specific subject if we decide to go there.

Ben, saying that "we are also them," does not eliminate or transcend the "us" and "them" way of seeing things. How else could I interpret it than to mean that it would no longer be, "We are the 99%," but would become, "We are also the 1%?" 

There are at least two sides in any revolution, those who support the status quo, and those who seek change. In the USAmerican Revolution, some colonists wanted independence, while others remained loyal to and supported the King. The 99% and 1% distinction is not imaginary or arbitrary. When the Framers of the Constitution talked about ensuring that those who owned the country would always run the country, the owners they referred to were the 1%. Some people here may be part of the 1%, but they cannot also be part of the 99%. The object of electoral politics is to gain the consent of the 99% to continue to be ruled by the 1%. That is not the objective of Occupy as I understand it.

You are setting an agenda and predefining topics, while talking about not having an agenda or predefining topics. We cannot discuss things without using words, which means that we are using semantics. 

No holistic approach can be limited to a single topic or element. I'll be happy to discuss anything you wish, here or in a separate thread, but we need a single standard where we are both free to express ourselves. It is exhausting and overwhelming for me also, but we cannot mandate a culture and limit expression while still remaining open and inclusive.

What does this have to do with the thread Mark? Personally, I'm more interested in seeing you use your intellect to facilitate more discussion along the lines of what's being offered instead of hijacking this topic with banter.

In other words, if you don't enjoy what's being offered, why don't you start your own "cafe?"

Scott--I request that you reframe this in NVC terms.  

I engaged with Mark on this subject because I believe he has something to offer in terms of creating a culture that is more inclusive.  That may sound counter-intuitive given that both you and I are triggered by his comments, and perhaps share a concern that his aggressive language will turn many people off and shut down conversation or even cause people to leave.  And yes, Mark, I do have that concern.  But I also believe that Mark is demonstrating a way of holding anger that is shared by many, and that a lot of our more New Age-style talk may not work for such people right now. 

Meanwhile, this thread is about how we imagine that the Cafe might evolve in general, and in particular I would like to see its focus be on the two questions I posed to initiate it.  I have created a new discussion where the idea of enhancing the OC Culture can now be addressed specifically.  I invite you, Mark, and anyone else who is interested in contributing to process to join us there.

I could change the last sentence to "start your own thread," and change my evaluation of what Mark is doing to eliminate "hijacking this topic with banter."

My point being, I'm completely frustrated that I've spent any time trying to understand how these comments are relevant to this topic. Mark's words are longer than I can enjoy and don't meet my needs for clear, concise, or even meaningful dialogue. A different topic could be acceptable in my opinion; I might even join in the conversation since I get what he's saying.

Does this answer your request of me, Ben?

Actually, I was hoping you would address your reframed remarks to Mark.  And yes, I would say that this sounds a lot less judgmental and demanding, to be sure, so thank you for that.  

Since you asked though, I suggest you consider the possibility that the statement that Mark's post(s) "don't meet [your] needs for clear, concise, or even meaningful dialogue" still contains an element of implied evaluation versus objective observation.

Oh, and I forgot the most important part of my request!  Can you summon some empathy and compassion for Mark as well, please?!

Wow, thanks, Ben! I consider that a major breakthrough. Usually people who don't agree with what I'm saying just attack me. No matter how much they may talk about empathy, compassion, and nonviolent communication, I only get attacked, so it makes me even more skeptical. Some say that you should judge a society by how it treats its dissidents, and judging from the way that I'm usually treated, it makes sense that I tend to be skeptical--even cynical with regard to claims to openness and inclusivity. I don't post to be disruptive, I post to try to communicate. I know that there are others who think and feel the same way that I do, and it isn't right that they should have to be afraid to post for fear of being attacked the way that I usually am. Thanks for walking the talk and setting an example of how openness and inclusivity are really supposed to work!

Scott, I hope you will take part in the new thread and other future threads, and that we may find some areas of mutual understanding, or at least find ways to discuss our disagreements in a constructive way.

You're most welcome, Mark!  Thank you for acknowledging my efforts.  I'm delighted with this little experiment in OC Culture in action.

For those of you following along at home, it might be important for me to point out that Scott and I were discussing the importance of Non-Violent Communication (NVC) as a core tool during this past Tuesday's Connect 2012 Cafe Call.  Indeed, his avatar of two giraffes is, I believe, a nod to the NVC distinction between compassionate--aka "giraffe"-- language and violent--aka "jackal"--language.

So my calling him out as I did was based on my knowledge of the importance he places personally on NVC.  After my initial posts, I found myself worrying that others might be put off by the notion that "the NVC police" are scrutinizing every word that is written here and are prepared to swoop in with "requests" blazing if a judgmental or non-compassionate word appears!

Rest assured that's not the case.  That said, when there is conflict, I would like to see us turn to these tools to help us remember that we are all indeed on the same side at the most fundamental levels and to be compassionate with one another as a result.

Ben Roberts


Weekly Cafe Calls

Regular Calls are no longer being held.  Below is the schedule that was maintained from the Fall of 2011 through Jan 10, 2013.

"Vital Conversations" 

8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT 

Tuesdays (except 10/16)
"Connect 2012"

1-3p PDT | 4-6p EDT | 8-10p GMT

"Occupy Heart" 

3-5p PDT | 6-8p EDT | 10p-12a GMT

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