#Occupy Open Space Activities
Catalyzed by the meteoric rise of Occupy Wall Street into public notice and discourse, outsiders are connecting the dots between their pet issues and OWS’s focus on “the unchecked power of Wall Street speculators and corporations”. Many are urging the Occupiers to speak to their own hot issue, to help them carry it into the limelight. Others are urging the Occupiers to choose their favored high-leverage strategic focus to counter the power of “the 1%”. Still others are urging Occupiers to expand their perspective to embrace even larger issues – beyond economic injustice and power concentrations – particularly the rapidly emerging meta-crises of peak oil and climate change. Below you will find an example of each one of these.
I find it especially interesting how OWS, in all its chaotic but embracive process, seems to deal with all these people who offer them suggestions. Their approach looks remarkably like Open Space Technology.
Although individual Occupiers have diverse agendas of their own, collectively they seem to ignore suggestions from the outside. They don’t seem willing to settle on a clearly defined collective agenda of issues, proposals and demands. Personally, under the circumstances, I believe that strategy is wise. This does not mean, however, that there is no issue advocacy going on in their midst.
What they offer is space for ANYONE with ANY information, issue, proposal, or demand to announce themselves and see if any other occupiers want to join them in talking about it and organizing around it. Spontaneously organized brief TED-like talks, workshops and working groups on dozens of issues are popping up in and around the occupations. This is exactly what happens in an Open Space conference – and these folks are living it, day after day after day.
I’ve seen two compelling examples recently. One is Robert Steele’s electoral reform proposal (number 2 below). Robert showed up on Liberty Plaza in NYC, connected up with the OWS democracy working group and did a presentation that occupiers video’d, posted on youtube and then promoted on Reddit – at which point it went viral and opened up new organizing possibilities for Robert and his allies. The second example is in #4, below. The story is so remarkable and detailed that I’ve included extensive excerpts from the mailing list mailings I have received on it. The writer, Bob Schultz, is a right-wing advocate for strict adherence to the original intentions of the Constitution. His responses to his experiences at OWS are quite revealing – revealing both his own worldview and the unique functioning of OWS.
One of the most powerful social change interventions we can do, I believe, is to create contexts where people’s passions can self-organize into collective action. That’s one of the main things I see OWS doing, intentionally or not. Within such an environment, the knowledge, visions, capacities and possibilities of a movement can evolve rapidly into forms we could never predict – and then shift in response to changing challenges, understandings and opportunities. I think our society needs that right now.
PS: I encourage you to explore a fascinating attempt to pull together what the Occupiers collectively believe – the so-called “Occupy Wall Street Mandala”, an incredible, fully zoomable online hand-drawn circular map of OWS’s worldview. On my Mac, click-and-drag moves the picture, while sliding two fingers on my trackpad zooms the image in or out (bigger or smaller).
Occupy the Food System!
by Eric Holt Gimenez and Tanya Kerssen, Food First
Excerpt: “In the past few weeks, the U.S. Food Movement has made its presence felt in Occupy Wall Street. Voices from food justice organizations across the country are connecting the dots between hunger, diet-related diseases and the unchecked power of Wall Street investors and corporations.”
Robert Steele’s OWS Electoral Reform Proposal – a compelling talk to a group of OWSers who took it viral on youtube and Reddit
Excerpt: “I regard the New York General Assembly as the center of gravity for the rest of the country. I believe this particular working group on politics and electoral reform is the center of gravity within the center of gravity. In other words, you have an opportunity here to change the nation.”
Eyewitness to the Occupation
by Asher Miller and Ben Zolno
Excerpt: “…Our economic system requires infinite inputs, on a planet with finite resources. It’s just not physically possible to continue this way. Sooner rather than later we’re going to run out of the resources that maintain our growth.
. “Thus, most “solutions” of equity and accountability will actually make things worse–by increasing participation, increasing growth, speeding up the train’s path toward ultimate destruction of the planet we depend on to further our quantity and quality of life.
. “We must now broaden the questions beyond, “How can we make sure we all get our fair share in this system,” to include: “How do we make sure we all get our fair share in the new system–a lower-carbon system–and how do we handle this transition?” Also, “What economic change can we create, and what default changes must we learn to accept?”
. “I shared these questions with hundreds of Occupiers, and stood patiently while they went through the usual phases: confusion, denial, anger and acceptance. Ultimately, they each walked away with a good grasp on this new perspective, grateful to have a copy of “The End of Growth” to explore and share.
. “OCCUPY is the new national discourse. This moment is permeable, yearning for an honest exchange of ideas. Good ideas can push the movement forward into territory never seen before; bad ones could mean the end of the movement. Now is the opportunity to use the energy of passionate, intelligent people to make an all-hands-on-steering-wheel turn away from out-of-control consumption and toward a path of conscious sustainability….”
4. An activist with an agenda discovers Occupy Wall Street: Excerpts from the Updates of Bob Schultz of We the People
At 9 AM on Saturday, October 8, I was tuned into CNN, broadcasting from Atlanta. The Host was interviewing three young people who had participated in “Occupy Atlanta” the day before. One was a 26 year old female veteran back from the hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan and enrolled in College. The other two were males in their 20’s who were employed.
The host asked what the Occupy movement was all about. The young people said, “We want to fix the system.” The host asked how the system could be fixed. The young people struggled to find an answer but had none. Eventually they suggested more people should vote.
I turned to Judy, my wife, saying, “That’s it. I’m going down there. These folks need to know about the Constitution and how it can solve their grievances.” Four hours later, we were in New York City.
I had a thought to find a meeting room somewhere near to the protests so I could talk about Liberty and the Constitution to whomever might come. Research uncovered a new community center two blocks away called Charlotte’s Place. We were able to make cont
act with and then meet with the director in between visits to the Park who agreed to give us time to meet there with interested people.
As we walked among the protestors, we observed many who were clean-cut, bright eyed as they moved throughout the crowd open to exchanging ideas with strangers. I noticed a table with a homemade sign, “INFO.” I approached and asked, “How can I conduct a teach-in on the State and Federal Constitutions? The young man said, “Start a Working Group.” I asked, “How do I do that.” He said, “Announce it.” I asked, “How.” He said, “Get up on a bench and yell, ‘Mic Check.'” That will get the attention of the People.”
I did just that. The People turned their attention to me and began to repeat, in waves, every few words I said. I announced I was starting a Constitution Working Group, that the Constitution can be used to control the Bankers, the Corporations and the Politicians, end undeclared wars, end Bailouts, end the Fed and end our debt-based, fiat currency.
Each part of the message was repeated two or three times as the crowds carried the words and energy back to others farther away. I announced the first meeting of the State and Federal Constitution Working Group would be at 6 PM on the steps at the east end of the Plaza.
Cheers were heard and People raised both hands, pointing all their (wiggling) fingers upwards. I learned later that was a hand signal expressing approval. Before I could descend from the bench, 20-25 people surrounded me, some asking questions. What became clear to me was they knew little to nothing about the content, history, meaning, effect and significance of any provision of their State and Federal Constitutions. I lectured from the park bench for more than 30 minutes, before someone else from a distance yelled, “Mic Check,” drawing attention to the new speaker.
Before my 6 PM meeting I learned OWS had a General Assembly (GA) meeting every evening about7 PM, run by a group of “facilitators.”
At the 6 PM meeting people signed up to be on the Constitution Working Group, providing their names and email addresses. Before the start of the GA, I engaged in a loud conversation with a student from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York about his grievances and the Constitution. He started out expressing his anger at the greed and corruption on Wall Street, Again, dozens of young People, apparently genuinely eager to learn, gathered around to listen to the conversation.
After more mingling, I did another “Mic Check,” announcing there would be a meeting of the State and Federal Constitution Working Group on Wednesday at Charlotte’s Place and those who would like to be on the Working Group should meet me on the Steps. More people signed up, bringing the total to 29, including two attorneys (one of whom is a professor of Financial Law at Cornell and under contract to teach Financial Regulations to folks at the New York Federal Reserve (ponder this for a moment), a young veteran combat photographer, another young veteran, a high school math teacher, a full time student at PACE U., and so on. Again I was impressed at the level of intelligence and sincerity of the people who were there.
On Wednesday, eight of the 29 met (we have since learned it is difficult to schedule meetings when all can meet, given the diversity of everyone’s professions and occupations).
A consensus was reached regarding a simple, one or two word definition of the overriding grievances of OWS: Money, Debt, Bailouts, Federal Reserve, Corporate Personhood and the (Undeclared) Wars…. Since then, we have had two more meetings in NYC and one Webinar. [If you are interested in the subject matter of this, see the link above.]….
From those I have talked to or heard from, there has been real relief expressed that someone is pointing the way back to the Constitution. However, there are different viewpoints on who is back of OWS; what its real purpose is; what is going to take place because of it. IMHO, the OWS may morph into a more formal, national organization something like our Constitution Lobby, albeit possibly without incorporating. The danger is it may be co-opted by a person(s) with an agenda contrary to that of the Constitution Lobby. With that in mind it will be interesting to see how much respect the Constitution Working Group actually receives from the powers behind OWS, whoever they are.
I will continue until the Constitution is back as the main-frame for America and our Nation is back on track.
Founder, We The People
His story continues on
from which excerpts are here:
On Wednesday, November 2 at 7pm, the Constitution had a notable event at Occupy Wall Street.
Bob Schulz and Judith Whitmore were first to address the OWS General Assembly on the steps of Liberty Plaza to present a “report back” on the OWS Constitution Working Group. The group was initiated by Bob on October 8, to give the Constitution a voice among those seeking to define and solve our Nation’s problems.
On this night, speaking to about 1,500 occupiers using the “People’s Mic” method, they reported the fact that the Constitution Working Group had produced a Statement of Beliefs and posted it on a new domain www.OccupyTheConstitution.org.
The setting of the park has changed considerably. For revolutionary buffs, the scene somehow reminds of Washington’s encampment at Valley Forge. All available space is now taken up with tents, huddled together, except for information and media areas, the food line and a narrow aisle to access these. We are told generators have been removed by the police and one wonders how the occupiers can or will endure the winter weather.
We offer a written “re-enactment” of exactly what was said. Imagine yourself there, repeating every few words, with hundreds of others, so those behind you could receive and transmit the message. The “people’s mic” is how the occupiers communicate without a PA system.
Yells Bob: “HI, I’M BOB!…..” (assembly repeats)
Yells Judith: “HI, I’M JUDITH!….(assembly repeats) THANK YOU..(etc) FOR ALL YOU DO! (etc)”
Bob: “THE CONSTITUTION WORKING GROUP..OF OCCUPY WALL STREET..HAS PRODUCED…THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT OF BELIEFS..AS A PLATFORM..FOR RECOMMENDED FUTURE ACTIONS..TO SOLVE THE NATION’S PROBLEMS… INCLUDING..BAILOUTS..CORPORATE PERSONHOOD..WAR..UNSOUND MONEY…AND DEBT.”
Judith: “THE CONSTITUTION WORKING GROUP…ASKS THAT THESE BELIEFS..NOW BE CONSIDERED..BY ALL PEOPLE…IN AND OUT OF THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT..PONDER THESE..AND MAKE KNOWN YOUR APPROVAL..
Bob: “THE STATEMENT OF BELIEFS…IS NOW POSTED…ATWWW.OCCUPYTHECONSTITUTIONL.ORG (there are cheers with this announcement)…GO THERE…STUDY IT… SIGNIFY YOUR APPROVAL…
Judith: “THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO HEAR…FROM MILLIONS OF US..UNITED IN PURPOSE AND SPIRIT…WE ARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE…WE ARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE..WE ARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE…WE ARE FREE! …..WE ARE FREE! …… WE ARE FREE!
Bob: “WE HAVE COPIES OF THE STATEMENT OF BELIEFS HERE FOR ANYONE WHO WOULD LIKE ONE. THANK YOU.”
There was applause. Bob and Judith were then surrounded by very appreciative people who wanted a copy and volunteered to help pass them out to the crowd. New people joined the Constitution Working group, including two law school students.
The Voice of the Constitution was heard. It felt GOOD and RIGHT.
One woman said with tears in her eyes: “I have been here since September and this is what I had hoped for.”
[The Update continues with descriptions of the organizing activities that resulted from the collaboration between Bob, Judith, and the occupiers, grounded in their new website. Then:]
WORD TRAVELS FAST
Remarkably, within twelve hours (by 8 AM the next morning), Karl Denniger, a well known entrepreneur and financial/economic analyst, poste
d a potent article about the Statement of Beliefs.
On his popular website www.Market-Ticker.org (see the article “OWS Constitution Working Group”), Denninger posted the entire Statement of Beliefs, made reference to certain Founding Fathers and challenged the Tea Party and others to rally around the Principles articulated in the Statement as they set course to solve the intractable problems plaguing our nation.
Here’s exactly what Denninger had to say, following his repost of the OWS Working Group’s Statements of Belief:
Where are those alleged bomb-throwing anarchists eh?
Yes, this is one of many working groups and has no force of consensus in the form of having passed a General Assembly.
But this ought to make those of you who have claimed that the “Occupy” movement is somehow intended to remove our Constitution and replace it with Marxism (or worse) sit down and smell the coffee.
Why not tea? Because the so-called Tea Party couldn’t be bothered to put this at the forefront of what they stood for. They turned into “Guns” (that one’s actually in the Constitution), “Gays” (uh, that’s not, and in fact is exactly the opposite of what the tea party claims in this regard!) and “God” (uh, again, First Amendment; freedom of religion is not we choose, you obey when it comes to religion is it?)
The flame-out you’ve seen among those who claim to be in the linear descendant chain of Sam Adams’ political thought comes from the fact that they couldn’t be bothered to actually call a general strike. To actually interrupt commerce so as to protest taxation. To engage in proportional response to the looting that has taken place — for instance, by handing out fliers in front of every TBTF bank branch across the country asking people to boycott and naming their admitted crimes (you have so many to pick from and the best part of choosing from the ones admitted to is that it’s in their own words!) and more. In short, to do as Sam Adams did, and believe not in the tired old divisive politics of BS and hate but rather to focus on The Constitution and its restoration.
Hell, among so-called “Tea Party” folks I can’t recall any, other than a handful of bloggers (myself and FedUp included) who have called for or participated in any sort of direct action. We have a few over on Tickerforum sporting American Flags next to their names — they have participated in some sort of peaceful and lawful direct demonstration. But where are the so-called “Tea Party” on this score?
Absent, that’s where.
So into the vacuum steps “Occupy Wall Street”, and out of the Constitution working group comes this. Not bomb-throwing anarchy, not some sort of wild proposal to re-write The Constitution to be a leftist, Marxist dream ticket, but an actual statement of principles that is fully in concordance with SAM ADAMS, THOMAS JEFFERSON and the rest of those who were part of the REAL Tea Party.
If you recall when I first started blogging about “OWS” I pointed out that there was about a two week period where I hadn’t written anything as I was feeling my way around the edges of what this movement really was — doing my own investigation, my own background work. Since that time I’ve been a supporter predicated on it being a lawful exercise of one’s Constitutionally-recognized rights.
I also pointed out that there was real risk in this movement — that the people there had gotten the “who dunnit” right, but that most of them didn’t understand how it happened. This is not surprising; the “how” is difficult and those who did the scamming made it intentionally so.
Well, this Statement of Beliefs is not the end of the debate as to whether OWS will turn into something both powerful and positive, but it is a clear statement of purpose in the right direction.
Those of you on the right who have claimed that this is all some sort of anarchist or communist movement have egg on your face this morning. The knee-jerk reaction will undoubtedly be to both ignore this document and work product and sling mud.
The constructive thing to do is what I’ve been trying to do since I made my decision on how to proceed — engagement, education and promotion of both a positive and lawful message and set of principles.
You now have a a platform from an actual OWS working group that no true Sam Adams’ political devotee can argue with.
We will now find out from the commentary and actions of these groups within the next days and weeks whether those who claim to be “Tea Partiers” really are Constitutionalists or whether they are in fact defecating on Sam Adams’ grave….
[Bob Schultz adds:]
The full article by Karl Denninger can be found here:
We note that hundreds of other blog sites subscribe to Denninger reports and have posted the Statement and his views, along with their own comments.
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