Last week, on a visit to Keiner Plaza I had the opportunity to observe one of the first General Assemblies of the OccupyStl movement. At the onset, there was a brief debate over the location the Assembly would be held. A lone woman blazed a trail to the center of the plaza near the tents, while a larger contingent lobbied, and was ultimately successful, for a place in the shade.
Watching this exchange, I began to reflect on this emergent movement taking shape, here and around the world, whereby new societal forms and norms are incubating in the shadowy womb of public parks. Inside this network of micro-societies, people are enacting a new kind of social mechanism to identify problems, find agreement on solutions and determine the appropriate actions based on those decisions. The really promising point is that everyone seems to have their sights set on the lofty and idealistic goals of true consensus, based on facts and free of fear. This stunning global response is rising out the mud of bitter partisanship and from the basic realization that the institutions people have traditionally relied on to mediate opposing interests are no longer up to the challenges we are now facing. As a result, no great change is going to be born inside the beltway of D.C. or in corporate boardrooms.
The excitement I felt watching this display of political participation was checked by a somewhat sinking feeling, to be quite honest, because by embarking on this path to challenge the corporate-run status quo, the Occupy Movement is looking to directly confront some of the most powerful groups on the planet. Naomi Klein’s alludes to this fact in her widely read articlein the Nation magazine, “We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows...it will get more frightening."
With such economically powerful and shrewd adversaries, the occupy encampments scattered around the world must wield its most powerful weapons, love and imagination. An all-encompassing love for all people, including the 1%, is vital moving forward. An approach of love and compassion will facilitate a broad coalition across the socio-econimic spectrum, from which the most effective solutions can be arrived at. To love the 1% and still be demanding of them to respect the rule of law and to allow for a wider range of interests to be protected by the national government they own, will be a high wire act of the most death defying kind. It can only be accomplished by taking the conversation out into the open air and the heat of the midday sun, where people can courageously present their best ideas.
The fact is that people need solutions now. The Occupy Movement, as Matt Taibbi points out in his recent Rolling Stone article, is reaching the point when it will have to stand for concrete proposals. In the short-term, the fact that they stand for principles will suffice, but all the coalitions from all the cities need to come together in many difference capacities to plan, so that the most innovative and forward-thinking solutions may be presented during 2012 as a counter-narrative to the presidential election that is sure to, like a black hole, have the kind of gravity that swallows all the light and truth that comes near it. I have recently heard that there is an idea of an OccupyCongress to send delegates from all the cities that are engaged. At minimum, it could be a useful to start having individuals travel to sites where ongoing debates can be held among citizens. This could stand in stark contrast to the narrow debate between the two establishment candidates.
For too long a shadow has been cast over the concerns and intellectual contributions of everyday people by the political, economic, and media establishments. Now that, through what Jeff Sharlet calls an "Incredible Display of Political Imagination", people have taken public spaces to have somewhere to plan and to create a platform so that they may step out into the bright lights of public scrutiny with a urgent message to be broadcast to the world. The citizen’s voice must be as consistent and concise as possible and their actions as noble as the task of reimagining our aspiring constitutional republic deserves.
[drafted by Bill Teller]