Sources of the Occupy Movement – Part Two

Let’s take a look at the influence of activist arts and video game culture – and the novel idea that fun and social change are a marriage made in heaven.

One of the trademark characteristics of Occupy is an out-of-the-box, creatively courageous exuberance. The 60s had some of that and there have been flashes of it since, but the Occupy has stood high on the shoulders of its predecessors and taken exuberance and courageous creativity a giant next step, making it a life-affirming leaven for their outrage and a key element in their broad appeal. How can we be light-hearted and serious at the same time? Just look at their signs! Here are three collections (with some obviously popular overlaps)….


These folks are ALIVE!


Check out the articles below…






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Occupy LAAAAAA: Artists in SolidarityInterview with Elana Mann




[Much] criticism of the Occupy movement comes from the clashing of staid historical scripts of protest and the current improvisation that is happening on the ground right now. Folks seem to be looking toward each other rather than the political agendas of those already in power. …. The Occupy movement is improvising new relationships to uncertainty and power… The scripts of how past protests operated (particularly protests from the 60s/70s) are clouding people’s minds for how protest should function and operate now…. I am so glad that the members of the Occupy movement try to listen to the people next to them instead of the demands of the media or the politicians…. I see the current improvisational thrust of Occupy to be moving around consciousness-raising on a national and international level, an attempt at deeply listen to the concerns of people who have been silenced for a long time.


My desire is that the improvisational practice of freedom within the Occupy movement continues to grow and expand beyond the confines of the protest. This improvisational way of living creates further flexibilities and responsibilities to change rather than fixed states driven by fear. Echoing this sentiment, artist and mediator Dorit Cypis wrote so beautifully in a recent Facebook post: “So right. Occupy has no one site. Occupy has become a state of mind that we each must take on and spread through individual and collective daily actions. Protest the ‘empire’ while self-witnessing how we each may be colluding in small ways. Live reciprocity and generosity. Listen empathically and choose when to take decisive action to enliven ‘a brave new world’.” Through improvisation, maybe we will discover a way toward a more equal, functional, and just future.


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Editorial in the Boston Phoenix
November 16, 2011




At some point during the online reaction to the New York Police Department’s eviction of Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park, someone wrote: “Knock over the hive and even more bees will swarm.” That is a fair prediction of the effect that forcibly removing occupiers from New York, Oakland, and Portland, Oregon, will have. Occupy — all of the estimated 2600 chapters flowering throughout the world — is not a traditional movement. Rather, it is a spontaneous, self-regulating phenomenon that is becoming adept at improvisation, collectively making things up as it goes along, and inventing a rule book — not playing by one.


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OWS Puppet Guild presents: Occupy the Holidays! A Theater project in Lower East Side, NY
by Joseph Jonah Therrien



As has been shown for hundreds of years, puppets are a very special and potent tool in the battle for a new consciousness. They help us educate ourselves and others, and they help us celebrate what we’ve accomplished so far. They will help us tell our story and continue to grow this movement and re-inspire our failing democracy.


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Video and Lyrics for the song “I’ll Occupy”


First of ten verses:


I first was pepper sprayed
Just standing on the side
But it took me being blinded
to open up up my eyes
Cause I’d read the daily news,
and not responded actively
and I realized then and there
this revolution needed me…





Tom Atlee’s reflections:


Is the existence and character of the Occupy movement influenced by the subculture and vast pool of skills that have been created by hundreds of millions of young people playing online video games for two decades? What a weird thought! Before you dismiss it, consider the skills described by game innovator Jane McGonigal, in her remarkable TED Talk, “Gaming can make a better world” (short URL: )

Gamers become “super-empowered hopeful individuals” by developing the following “four superpowers” during the average 10,000 hours of gaming they play before the age of 21:


1. URGENT OPTIMISM – Gamers are excited to tackle big obstacles NOW, believing that ultimate success is actually possible.
2. STRONG SOCIAL FABRIC – Gamers like and trust each other in the game, and are willing to help each other out.
3. BLISSFUL PRODUCTIVITY – Gamers feel optimized as human beings when tackling something hard and meaningful. They are, in fact, happier working hard than relaxing and hanging out.
4. EPIC MEANING – Gamers love big, inspiring missions and planetary or galactic stories they can have a role in.


Watching McGonigal’s video again after weeks of exciting Occupy era news and commentary, I found myself wondering if this movement is so different than earlier ones partly because so many of its youthful participants have spent so many hours playing video games. When the call to Occupy Wall Street was released, did these young people respond with such enthusiasm, dedication and competence – and in such numbers – partly because the challenge was simultaneously so epic and so simple, so creative and social, and so precisely undefined as to seem to them actually do-able?


I have no idea whether this is true, but it seems to me a fascinating possibility. And, to carry Jane McGonigal’s thesis further in the direction that she, herself, carries it: Might this movement find ways to create the kind of powerful synergy between gaming and real world transformation that McGonigal envisions, and begin changing the world in more entertaining, engaging, powerful ways traditional activists never dreamed of?


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Occupy Wall Street takes lessons from The Yes Men
By David Montgomery




We’re in a conference room at New York University with about four dozen slightly starstruck activists, artists, students and professors. A couple young people from Occupy Wall Street have temporarily left the occupation to be here. A leader of the frolicsome 1990s student uprising against Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic is present. The Yes Lab is in session — presided over by the Yes Men, the dynamic prankster art duo who specialize in impersonating corporate lackeys and fooling journalists…. The Yes Men propose to catch the new creative spark of revolution — from Tunisia to Wall Street to Washington — and coach it into bigger headlines and better buzz. Like radical Johnny Appleseeds, their goal is to sow the land with scores of activists schooled in how to practice what Servin calls “using humor to attack the powerful.”

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The fun theory is “that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.” The videos on this site explore the remarkable possibilities. (I don’t care much for the “PlayBelt” one, but the others are great.)


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Why Play Games When There’s Work to Do? Fun, Games andSocial Change.
By Adam Fletcher




Cooperative games emphasize participation, challenge and fun rather then defeating someone. Cooperative games focus on fun and interaction rather than competition and alienation…. Initiative games are fun, cooperative, challenging games in which the group is confronted with a specific problem to solve. Initiative games can be used for several reasons. The games can be used to demonstrate and teach leadership skills to people, which helps to promote the growth of trust and problem-solving skills in groups. Games demonstrate a process of thinking about experiences that helps people learn and practice responsibility.

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