An open space for global conversation
I was invited to host a conversation at Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday, February 1st from 1-2pm EST (a recording is available here). The subject I chose is "Occupy as a Leap of Faith." As I note below, my initial inspiration was the work of Frances Moore Lappe. I also want to acknowledge the influence of my time with the FOUR YEARS.GO campaign. Much of the language that came to me in my opening comments at Trinity were a direct expression of the basic message of that initiative, and echoed the words of Lynne Twist (who was central to the launching of 4YG) in particular.
The conversation began here before the event, seeded by a Cafe Call on January 6th. I have reframed the core questions, and look forward to our ongoing dialogue on this theme:
Initial post for this discussion, from January 4th:
For me, the essential power of the Occupy movement has been its ability to inspire a very large and diverse group of people to move out of a place of disempowerment into one of possibility. It is easy to understand the resigned, cynical and dis-empowered perspective given the current state of affairs on this planet. That makes the decision of so many to take a stand based on the possibility of something new all the more remarkable and precious.
France Moore Lappe's wonderful book Getting a Grip 2 presents an elegant framework that addresses this dichotomy directly, with the twin premises of scarcity and sufficiency at the heart of two different spirals. She moves from these core premises all the way through to the specific political and economic dynamics that have created a world where the 1% are increasingly able to dominate and exploit the 99% on the one hand, and a world where we work collaboratively to meet the needs of all, on the other. You can study the two spirals on her www.smallplanet.org website here [and we have also now posted them below as well].
The "spiral of powerlessness" begins from the assumption that we don't have enough "goods or goodness" (to which I would also add "time") to go around and that as a result, human nature is inherently "selfish, competitive and materialistic." The "spiral of empowerment" is based upon an assumption that we do have enough, both materially and spiritually. As a result, we can trust our "deep needs for fairness, cooperation and effectiveness," harnessing them to transform the systems by which we organize and govern ourselves so that the voices and the needs of the 99% are heard and met.
The Occupy movement emerged out of those "deep needs." The encampments were grounded in the Occupiers' faith in "fairness, cooperation and [the] effectiveness" of the people. And they were energized by the discovery of sufficiency, as the basic needs not only of the Occupiers themselves, but also of the poorest and weakest among us, were met with grace and love, despite extremely challenging circumstances.
Now almost all the encampments are gone. Perhaps they will reemerge, perhaps not. But it is their lesson that holds the greatest power, in my opinion. How can we nourish that precious faith in human goodness and the sufficiency of the universe that is the source of our ability not simply to "solve our problems," but to step into a realm of possibility in which the true genius of humanity can be unleashed with all the incredible power and brilliance that is within our grasp?
Perhaps we might start by looking within ourselves. In that spirit, I suggest that we begin our conversation with these questions:
[Note: I suggest that we move from these initial framing questions to the ones that are now posted at the start of this thread above]
...the impulse toward the self-constitution, self-governance and self-determination of We the People is getting stronger by the day.
Could you help me to feel it? I did not find a trace of it in my locality, my country, EC - since four years I try in the heart of global power. I feel the growing potential but no impulse at all - except fear and anger.
I am ready to discuss the complicity of 99%, but let me wait till Ben comments (I hope he will...)
Well, Pawel, I don't want to keep you waiting too long... But I also don't know that I have the time to do full justice to this thread. I'll put a few thoughts down below though...
Our technical ability to act together is threatened by ACTA. First thing to do together is to oppose it firmly and effectively!
Thanks to everyone who has jumped in here to make this one of our more intriguing discussions. While at times it feels a bit abstract and even intellectually intimidating, I also sense some important and practical themes emerging as well.
I love the Covey diagram David shared, which reminds me quite a bit of the spirals described by Frances Moore Lappe that we posted at the beginning of this discussion.
On "good and evil," I want to restate the quote from the list of sources for UU spirituality:
Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love
There is no reference to people as evil. And the response is love.
When I asked above "how do we create 'a world that works for all' by fighting a portion of our brethren?" the question was rhetorical. An "us versus them" mentality will NOT work, in my opinion. Which is not to suggest that we ignore those "prophetic women and men" who are calling us into action during this critical moment in history, or that we deny that there are structures in this world that deserve to be called out as "evil."
It's not exactly a conundrum, but it is a challenge. It means being compassionate toward those cops who pepper spray peaceful protesters, and even those corporate executives who game the political and regulatory systems to line their own pockets at the expense of our communities and our environment.
Finally, with regard to Pawel's inquiry around "feeling" that a shift is taking place, I think again of Lappe, who speaks of how much is now possible and how little we know about both what might truly be at work already and what our capacities might be as we more fully unleash our generative spirits.
Thanks, Ben, these are great thoughts.
I would challenge the notion that the protesters at UC Davis, for example, were being entirely "peaceful."
Damnable as the pepper spraying was, it seems to me that, whatever the physical demeanor of the protesters, completely blocking a public pathway was an aggressive act --- including being aggressive against citizens who, whether or not they sympathized with Occupy, may have needed --- or simply wished --- to use the pathway for the purpose for which it was intended: getting from point A to point B in the most direct way.
Of course, the media --- assisted by Occupy --- played UC Davis as a good-guy / bad-guy drama, with the protesters as angels and the police as devils.
But I've always thought that the UC Davis incident was an excellent illustration of how either / or thinking rarely applies.
The police (and municipal government) response to Occupy has been characterized by a consistent pattern of abusive and violent over-reaction, as well as other forms of harassment. I've read and heard far too many accounts to see this as a matter of an isolated incident or two. It is characteristic of a segment of our society that has come to accept violence and retribution as appropriate and useful tools for the achievement of "order."
This needs to change, in my view. And that will not happen without some form of "aggressive" confrontation. But that is NOT the same as violence. And it can and must be done, as those prophetic voices have long urged us, in a spirit of love and compassion. For my money the UC Davis students were modeling that beautifully.
Our insistence "on getting from point A to point B in the most direct way," which you imply to be the right is a pretty good metaphor for the narrow-minded short-term oriented expediency/efficiency driven economic system that Ban Ki-Moon just refered to as "a global suicide pact." We're not going to create a just, sustainable and thriving world for all unless we confront the systems that are moving us headlong in the opposite direction. That's the essence of Occupy. And the leap of faith it asks of us is to believe that there is something far better on the other side of this battle--something where we really do come together, heal our wounds and love our neighbors as ourselves. Indeed, that can be viewed as the essence of the battle itself.
In Engaging Emergence, Peggy Hollman asks "how do we disrupt coherence compassionately" and "how do we engage disruption creatively?" Occupy is about tackling these thorny questions head on.
I should note that today's Occupy Heart call will address the challenge of "being a compassionate warrior." Please join us!
My UC Davis example was a specific response to your mention of "those cops who pepper spray peaceful protesters" --- but, yes, there's no doubt but that the police and municipal response to Occupy too often has been conceived (calculated?) so as to make violence and other forms of harrassment more likely rather than less. Which is why I used the word "damnable."
Unfortunately, in my view, the introduction of police violence into the mix --- in the form of concrete violent actions by police officers, to be sure --- has tended to trump (i.e., make politically incorrect) legitimate consideration and critique of Occupy's attitude toward, and strategy with respect to, public space. Once we began to see riot gear and bulldozers and pepper spray, physical occupation sites were transformed into stage sets for dramatic spectacles in which police were the "bad guys" and Occupiers were the "good guys."
You probably are not aware that I've published several essays, over the last five years, on issues in urbanism, often related in one way or another to the creation and use of public space. So it's only fair to point out that I do come to the issue of Occupy's use of public space with a point of view born of several years of thinking about this issue.
With this in mind, I submit that it is the intention of the laws that govern the creation of public space --- including streets, sidewalks and parks --- that public space be a public amenity for the public benefit of all. The emphasis there is on "all" --- which is to say that those who would keep faith with what public space fundamentally is should work to ensure that, to the greatest degree possible, public space can be shared.
You see where I'm going with this.
You mention the work of Peggy Hollman. I would have preferred that Occupy find a way to occupy public space while sharing it --- rather than limit itself to an understanding in which "to occupy" is synonymous with "to take over completely" and thus to deny access to others, whether for their enjoyment or for their ability to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible in a life-or-death emergency --- for that too is one of the benefits that public spaces provide.
Surely, had Occupy adopted a "sharing ethic," in its approach to public space --- an ethic in which the UC Davis protesters lined the borders of the sidewalk, for example, rather than cutting it off horizontally, or in which the Zuccotti Park occupants took only half the park rather than the whole thing --- this would have been more consistent with what public space is, and with Hollman's challenge to "disrupt coherence compassionately."
Instead, the Occupiers chanted "Whose streets? Our streets!" and "Whose park? Our park!"
In the context of the Onccupiers' larger "witness" --- which, it must be said, included Occupiers who baited police with taunts and pokes and projectiles --- It never was clear whether "our" referred to the public or to the Occupiers themselves.
The greater the focus on the public --- by which I mean the 100% --- the better.
I do not know how you will respond to this post, but anyhow I am grateful for Ben’s idea of the leap of faith. It has helped me to summarize my experience with social networking oriented to change. I have tried to express it in the shortest possible form, please do not take it as evidence of my hubris. I know I can’t be right – my intention is only to spark a collective action to express it properly. Excuse me also my non native English.
It started 4 years ago with conversation “Designing the Global-Brain-Application Seed -- Designing a collective future for our earth and humanity using web-technologies” at Global Mind Shift. Although “collective” was the issue the conversation failed to produce any collectively agreed outcome. Two years and few more conversations later my personal conclusion was: we are unable to set oriented communication, in spite of amazing technical ability and accessibility of information. Whatever is the specific subject, common conclusion is never reached.
Global-mindshift.org is still available, I have visited them before writing this post and I am sorry to say their keynote and mission statement are the same as what Ben was saying at Trinity, but intellectual quality of conversations was better. The café is a step back, and the activity of GMS has now faded.
My experience contains also extensive (over 1000 posts exchanged) discussion one versus one with permaculture and self sustaining community activist from Colorado. Inter human communication was the main subject; our understandings matched almost perfectly, but shared conclusion proved impossible - on the level of belief versus knowledge.
I have joined the café hoping my experience can be useful. It is not.
I suspended my decision to say farewell because of Ben’s “Leap of faith” concept. American faith, American spiritualism is hard to grasp for a European. 400 years of separateness results in the differences far greater than I ever expected. Definitely you believe in the potential power of an individual and the change coming from inside – enlightenment and/or the voice transmitting spiritual message.
Your faith can be summarized as: if we listen to the Voice, if we come together, if we chose proper/good premise/principle something (change) will awaken/emerge .
I am humble enough, I do not say I can represent Europe. On the other hand I am European and my mindset is well grounded in the ecophilosophy and ecopsychology developed in Europe since the end of XIX century. The difference between you/Americans and me is in understanding Oneness.
We are one, the spirit is one, and the universe/nature is one. The spirit speaks to us demonstrating the logic of the universe and offering real time communication – the web. We do not understand his voice.
John said: “either / or thinking rarely applies”. I think he is right when we try to apply thinking to systemic issues. Either/or is however given as a mode of operation of individual consciousness – we have to make choices. Most of them are routine, to choose change is very difficult.
The logic is evident in the system and independent of our consciousness. We understand the logic of the matter, we know (but do not fully understand) the logic of genetic information forming our brain, body and heart. We do not try to apply the system logic to our consciousness.
The logic of the system is not either/or. Quantum entanglement is a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics – Schrödinger’s cat is neither dead nor alive – he is both simultaneously. To change the way we think we should apply system logic to define our freedom of choice within the internal and social structures existing upon information coded in DNA.
In view of Ben’s discussion with Lynne the only authority we have ever had is God. No matter what the symbol represents the authority has been effective and founded our development.
Instead of discussing the choice between good and evil we should use the knowledge to understand the system logic, because it is what God communicates to us through the nature – nature outside and inside us (whatever He is, however we imagine Him – we must not agree here).
The best way to do it is to replace the logic of related objects we perceive by the logic of the process – we are the present state of it and there is a spirit in it. The good solution is the informed logical solution.
IMHO the faith should leap from simple naïve belief in our ability to act “good” together to the real and faithful collective action using all available resources. If we do not “consume” the ability right now, the narrow window in time will close.
I understand your intentions Ben, but either/or logic leads in dangerous direction. The idea of “being a compassionate warrior” is very close to the concept of the war for peace.
I hope you won’t take my post personally – as I said at the beginning it is intended to be the call for informed collective action to change the way we think and believe, respecting the integrity of both. I believe in the power of our faith, I have faith in our power to act together.
"Your faith can be summarized as: if we listen to the Voice, if we come together, if we chose proper/good premise/principle something (change) will awaken/emerge ."
If (that's a big if) Voice is in the list because of what I've written sometime/somewhere, you've misunderstood me, Pawel. My use of the term echoes that of Stephen Covey, who employs it in place of unique personal significance. Hence the eighth habit, find your voice and inspire others to find theirs. A large part of my faith settled on that (process-implying) vision. Part, because I see a need for and place in the opening phrase. I could write The 9th Habit to advance it.
Thanks for your post. I may reply to other bits of it.
Did you think I imagine my whole person equipped with loudspeaker in the head, or heart;-)?
I do not need faith to recognize my unique personal significance, logic and knowledge are enough for me. Nevertheless I hear the voice and feel responsible to communicate with others to become significant in scale of the planetary system/process (and its velocity). I do not care if your hearing comes from faith or knowledge, but I have faith you hear what I hear.
I seek for understanding why you believe the faith itself is the purpose of occupy action and the solution of the problem founding the movement. For me it should be the motivation to course change oriented action. If we are many hearing the voice telling us we are able to work/act together we should start the action, collectively design the mechanism of joint action.
Process implying vision cannot mean the future process only. Our unique personal significances are the effect of the past process – one process. We will not agree the meaning of “oneness” unless we understand how one process has created billions of unique significant individuals, able to affect the future.
Referring to your other post today: Don’t we need more oneness in the future? When we do not find it in the present, shouldn't we create collective understanding of the past?
We are both too clever, I fear. Of course you are one who, against the odds, recognizes your unique personal significance. Here you are, writing with confidence and curiosity. Many do not accomplish that, do not make an attempt, do not seek answers.
I used the word faith only because of its prominence in this thread. More often I write of placing my bet.
To me, "we should start the action, collectively design the mechanism of joint action" is contradictory, particularly if you and I (for example) participate in one design effort. Neither knows enough of the specifics of the two places. Each of us should do it with our neighbors, and act with them.
You asked: "Don’t we need more oneness in the future?" We certainly do. I believe we get it with complementarity (improving arrangement of uniquenesses).