An open space for global conversation
“What’s Next?” Ask “What’s Here?”
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.