Posting this on my personal profile is one thing… Here on the .org is quite another, so let me begin by stating I am not special. I claim no unique position to speak for anyone else, but myself. I claim no privilege that gives me the right or the desire to tell others what they must do or how they should feel. That said I can speak from my own experience, and as such I will attempt to do so the best I can.
(This is one of those times you wish you had paid closer attention in English class.)
The power in is in the streets, not online. While online actions can occasionally be effective, online tools are just that. It’s a tool in the toolbox and is most effective when they are used to support boots on the ground. If simply an online presence was truly effective in bringing about real change there would have been no Occupy camps to begin with because years of donations and petitions to and by the Sierra Club, MoveOn, AARP, and the ACLU would have been all we needed to bring about real change in the real world.
Some see access to these online platforms as power. They want it. They don’t know what they will do with it, but they just want it – by any means necessary. They won’t tell you this though. They will bring up slogans like “transparency”, “horizontalism”, etc. And I say slogans because this is how these concepts are being used in this context by certain people. And they are being used by people who are either incapable or unwilling to allow these principals to guide their own actions.
A lot has been said about the old team and its members and how it operated, while the content that populated the various platforms and the way the team actually operated somehow don’t go hand in hand. The perception held higher than reality. And process held above people.
I thought this was a people movement. (The operative word being “people”.) Personally, I value no one process or sets of processes over the people they are meant to apply to. Where this makes a collective feel uncomfortable – those concerns should be addressed in an honest debate with no one overly invested in their own personal assumptions or perceptions. Then and only then can progress be made and the right adjustment or reforms be implemented.
Perhaps it comes from years of process analysis and supply chain management – work that, when done well, requires the gathering of the facts and an assessment of how things actually are before any future planning or modifications take place, that I find it important to have an honest and clear assessment before reform? This simply wasn’t done.
In a resistance movement – you’ve got nothing if you don’t have trust. To keep trust one must act trustworthy. A lot of people like to say they are an anarchist or dress up like one or both. They will shut down proposals and cause divisions by using the horrible word “reform”. Yet, hardly any of these people display what I believe to be central to actual anarchist ideology – that a person acts personally responsible. An anarchist doesn’t need to be told what to do because they are already acting in an honorable manner.
I might also point out, that while grounded in some anarchist philosophies, structures, and principals – Occupy is not an anarchist movement. As it says on occupywallst.org,
“Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.”
I hate to tell you, but 99% of Americans or the world’s populations are not anarchists. Personally, knowing how important personal responsibility is to anarchist ideals, I think the world would be a better place if they were.
I could be wrong. I don’t think I am an anarchist. I certainly wasn’t when I came to City Hall on 10/1/2011. I was a former Democrat and Obama volunteer who thought we would just get money out of politics and get some bankster trials started and be on our merry way. Though there was some talk about that, there were all these other discussions going on. I stopped. I listened. I participated in the human mic and the active-listening it required. I heard talk about community and people, in not just breaking down old perceptions and modes of thinking, but reimagining new ones, about acting and being neighborly, and about seeing people as they are not how we are programmed to see them. What I heard and the personal revelations they stirred within me where closer to a spiritual awakening than a political movement.
Perhaps this was due to my own internal bias? As a sober member of AA, concepts of service without personal gain, trying not to be judgmental, personal assessment and correction were not new concepts to me. Principals of solidarity were not unlike AA steps & traditions.
I can’t tell anyone what the movement should mean to them. I can only tell them what I think and if I believe it should take a certain course, or do a particular action, or issue a particular statement, tell others my thoughts and build a consensus for that among the collective.
I have always tried to act with mindfulness towards personal responsibility. Online and in the streets. I did, many months ago attack a person who was spreading lies on the page. After flaming out on this person online, I promptly admitted, regardless of the reasons, that it was wrong and apologized to the individual and the group. More recently, after it was apparent that a knot of people were running a smear and gossip campaign I was angry and yelled at certain people. It should say something that after more than 14 months around these people, none of them had ever seen me angry or yell at anyone who was not in a police uniform. Even more recently I specifically stated I was leaving for good and was going to break the principals of solidarity by telling specific people “fuck you” which is the same as a personal attack. Perhaps this was not the right course of action for me to take? It certainly wasn’t my first option or my first response. After 20 plus years in the business world, 10 of those at a Fortune 500 company, where everything is compromise, compromise, compromise. Where pragmatism is held nearly as highly as a low golfing handicap, Occupy gave me back my idealism. And the general principal of personal accountability is not open for negotiation for me. There can be no compromise here. No negotiations. That’s not to say we cannot be human. We all make mistakes. We need to be brave and admit our own wrongdoings and we need to be humane and not just forgive, but help others learn the lessons of our mistakes.
We cannot allow bullying, deceit, and personal agendas rise among us. These need to be squashed, politely and via a healing means if they can, but by other means if necessary. A better world will not rise from the labor of those who practice such dark arts. The only things these practices will create is what they always create, another set of those on the inside and those on the outside and those trapped in between. Personally, I thought we were fighting for social justice and against inequality. To me it seems awfully silly to be fighting to be at the top of the food chain of a horizontal movement. Those who are, I proffer, misunderstand the movement on the most basic and fundamental level.
We must strive to make “Another world is possible” not just an empty chant or slogan – we must all accept the gravity of that statement on a personal level and act like it at all times.(Even when we don’t know what exactly what to do.) Personally I am ready, as I have been this past year or so, to do that. I know others are as well.
The people united, will never be defeated!