“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.



Views: 266

Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 25, 2011 at 8:28pm

Oops! Didn't realize there was a limit to the length of comments.

As long as our government continues to supply the illegitimate Egyptian military junta with money, training, and weapons to use against its own people, I support the right of the Egyptian people to defend themselves by any and every means possible.

I hope that nonviolence and noncompliance can bring about change in the US. If the turnout in the 2012 election is so low that the US government would no longer be able to claim the consent of the governed, I hope that it would step down peacefully and concede power to the people. Such things have happened and can happen again. But if it should happen that the US government loses the consent of the governed and refuses to step down, instead attempting to stay in power solely through force and violence, I would resist and I think that's what our founders had in mind when they granted citizen militias the right to bear arms. I was not raised to believe that I have to submit to tyranny and I know of no reason that I should.


Comment by David Eggleton on November 25, 2011 at 8:51pm

"So, what's here and what's real is the question that seems to need constant asking--certainly not in the privacy of our own minds but publicly everywhere."

Please add to those questions:  "What's possible?"

The new culture uses solar gain, precipitation and soils in old/new ways to grow both independence and interdependence, all over the place.

Life creates conditions conducive to life.  No more dead time!

Comment by Raffi A. on November 25, 2011 at 8:56pm

Gary- glad you liked what i wrote. the phrase is not mine though. : )

Comment by Occupy Cafe Stewards on November 25, 2011 at 9:34pm

Dave, maintaining an encampment may be viewed as a temporary substitute for an open space for civic engagement, the council hall, the village well, a community center where conversation can run anywhere, anytime. I wouldn't overemphasize the sacrifice part as much as I would emphasize an unyielding presence on behalf of a principle of common space where we all can meet that isn't commercialized, partisan, co-opted BS.

Mark,-- it's all too easy to support someone else's right to employ violence as a political tool.  But their use is no less completely old paradigm as ours, or yours, would be. I do not condone someone employment of violence as a tool, though passive violence of self-defense might be another issue. I can only suggest that there must be other means than direct confrontational force to de-legitimize a government--because, after all, that's what they are already good at and they would love nothing better than to invalidate the opposition by having it use identical tactics of control. So we have to evolve a different strategy. When Ramana Maharshi was asked how he responds to the Christian Golden Rule, "Do unto others..." He replied, "There is no other."

Also, since there is no established standard of what turnout constitutes a legitimate election, and no way of knowing why anyone doesn't vote, you cannot assume that all no-votes are for the same reason, and no retrospective validity to an assumption that an election is illegitimate. Having said that, sure, a 9% turnout would be a no-confidence vote of revolutionary proportion. And even in that circumstance, are you the one ready to pick up a gun? Seriously? When there are other more effective tactics that anyone can employ? Like stopping all economic activity?

Raffi-- I have training in and considerable practice of Internal Family Systems, which is another name for the inner zoo. ;))

Comment by Raffi A. on November 25, 2011 at 9:36pm

Internal Family Systems? Is that the same as constellation work?

Comment by Occupy Cafe Stewards on November 25, 2011 at 9:39pm

Don't know what constellation work is.


Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 26, 2011 at 12:31am


Of course, Gary, confrontational force cannot delegitimize a government--that can only be done through noncompliance and withholding consent. There's a big difference between delegitimizing a government and ousting a government.

I think you're saying that even if a government is illegitimate, it cannot be ousted by force, which doesn't make sense, as some illegitimate governments have been ousted by force. 

A weak government that lacks the consent of the people can be easily ousted without force or with only a minimum of force.

A weak government that has the support of the people can be extremely difficult or even impossible to oust by force.

A strong government that lacks the support of the people is an illegitimate government, and meets the definition of a tyranny. A tyranny can also be difficult to oust, but not impossible because the oligarchs or tyrants will always be greatly outnumbered by the people.

But a strong government like ours, that can claim the support of the people, is extremely difficult to oust by force because, as you say, force is their game, what they're best at, and what they're expecting and know how to deal with.

So the first step toward ousting such a government would be to delegitimize it, which can be done peacefully and nonviolently through noncompliance and withholding consent.

Once the government has been proven to have no legitimacy, the question is if it will step down or if it will try to remain in power through force.

Delegitimizing a government can only be done nonviolently.

Ousting an illegitimate government that rules by illegitimate authority and force of violence is a different problem. Some people can't be shamed. Confront them with the fact that they have needlessly killed a million innocent children, they just shrug and change the subject, wondering why you'd want to annoy them with something so trivial and irrelevant.

If there is a way to nonviolently oust an illegitimate government that is killing millions of people, I'd much prefer that to picking up a gun. Our current government had killed more than a million innocent people, it shrugs it off as "collateral damage," and many people continue to vote for it, although I'd wager that the majority of voters don't really know that's what they're actually consenting to, and 9% even say that they approve.

I don't know how internal family systems work, but I do know a little about how external family systems work. In families where they believe that the father has the right to rape the kids, the kids don't complain about being raped because they know that's their father's right. Such families usually try to homeschool their kids, because if the kids go to public schools and are told that their dad doesn't have the right to rape them, there will be family conflicts. I don't think most voters consent to our government killing innocent children because most voters are consumers who want the material resources such as oil, coltan, etc., that can be obtained by killing innocent children in faraway countries, but because most voters think that the government knows best and that it is the government's right to kill innocent children. Respect for authority is fine, if it happens to be a legitimate authority, such as parents who care for and don't rape their kids. Respect for authority becomes a sickness when it is an authority that rapes their kids or kills millions of innocent kids. But that authority has to be exposed as illegitimate before people will stop respecting it and consenting to allow it to govern and to continue to do such things.

Education can enable people to know their unalienable rights and to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate authority. Just because somebody is your father doesn't give them the right to rape you. Just because a government is in power, doesn't give them the right to kill innocent kids in your name. When p

Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 26, 2011 at 12:33am

My comment got cut off again, but this time I'd save it, so here's the rest:

Education can enable people to know their unalienable rights and to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate authority. Just because somebody is your father doesn't give them the right to rape you. Just because a government is in power, doesn't give them the right to kill innocent kids in your name. When people understand, they tend to stop submitting to and consenting to such authority and the authority is publicly delegitimized.

Stopping it is another story. If the authorities here find out that a father is raping his kid, that father can kidnap his kid, flee to another country that lacks extradition, and continue raping them. That kid is helpless, until they get big enough to escape or until somebody finds out and decides to help them. A government that lacks the support of its people can continue killing them, or killing innocent children in their name, unless it can be stopped. It can easily be delegitimized nonviolently once people understand the problem, but stopping it is another story. And yes, in that case, I might have no other sane option than to pick up a gun. I don't think that the child who has no other option, should be criticized or punished if one day they can't take it any more and find a way to kill a rapist father because there's no other way to stop the rapes. It would be nice if there were other ways, but sometimes there aren't. 

Personally, I'm only willing to remain nonviolent as long as there is a possibility that nonviolence can accomplish something. Since nonviolence can delegitimize a government, I have no problem with nonviolence in that context. But if you're trying to tell me that in the event that our government should be proven to lack the consent of the governed, but refuses to step down, and continues to kill millions of innocent children, while using violence against anyone here who protests, I should either stop protesting and just stand there and watch millions more innocent kids be killed in my name, or should limit myself to protests in which I cede to an illegitimate government the sole use of violence, I'm afraid I can't agree.

Cops in Egypt and here in the US have been known to rape both male and female prisoners. Usually this is done when the prisoner is helpless and cannot escape or defend themself. That's an abuse of authority. It could happen to anyone. It could happen to me. If you're trying to tell me that in such a situation, if I happened to have an opportunity to escape, or to hit the cop over the head, or to grab their gun and shoot them, I shouldn't because I should remain nonviolent, forget it. I'm not an enlightened being, I'm just an ordinary person and I won't waive my right to self-defense just because enlightened beings don't mind being raped and killed.

As for Ramana Haharshi and the Golden Rule, did he mean that there is no other rule, or that we are all one so there is no other? I agree that there is no other rule, in fact on one website that I ran, that was the only posted rule. I also believe that we are all one, so theoretically there is no other, but in cases where sociopaths separate themselves from humanity and commit crimes against humanity, they are not us. If they can be quarantined to prevent them from doing further harm while attempts are made to rehabilitate them, as Norway is doing with mass child killer Anders Breivik, that's fine with me. In fact I think it laudable and I admire and respect it. I would always want to do the same. But don't ask me in the name of nonviolence to refrain from using force to stop a Breivik who doesn't surrender peacefully. That's asking too damned much.



Comment by Mark E. Smith on November 26, 2011 at 12:35am

Sorry for the type (and any others that escaped my notice)--that's Ramana Maharshi.

Comment by Gary Horvitz on November 26, 2011 at 7:09pm

Mark, I was not saying that an illegitimate govt cannot be ousted by force. Of course it can. I am saying that what we are trying to midwife here is something new. I am saying that using the tactics of control to oust a govt that uses tactics of control to stay in power does not represent anything new. 

Ramana Maharshi meant there is no "other" to "do unto."

And as far as there being no other rule, here's a paraphrase that hooks me:

"As you do unto others, so also you do unto yourself."

By that is meant there is no "other," only Self in many forms.


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