Sources of the Occupy Movement – Part Three – Ongoing Movements and Organizing

Feminist and anti-oppression activists, the human potential movement, and other ongoing organizers and movements for human betterment have played important roles in the emergence and nature of the Occupy movement. (The articles below are just a few examples.) Such movements have been organizing demonstrations, communities and networks and transforming people’s consciousness and behavior in one form or another for hundreds of years. They’ve been training and empowering people and exposing them to the dark side of the social systems they live in and the possibilities for a better world, even as they themselves have become more experienced, aware, and skilled at new ways of living and being together.

Many people became leaders and practitioners of these organizing and transformational skills, forming a dispersed pool of resources for disparate transformational activities over the last many decades. The high purpose, tremendous passion, propitious timing, evocative non-specificity and intense community of OWS attracted a wide variety of these folks to its various centers of activity – the Occupations themselves – and into diverse support, leadership, and teaching roles. And then much was learned, experienced, created, modified… Had there been no past movement activities generating this pool of experience and skill, the Occupy movement would have looked very different indeed. And now the Occupy movement itself has become part of that ongoing learning, deepening, evolving collective experience…

As Occupy encampments are broken up by authorities, various commentators wonder if the movement is falling apart. They forget that through the activities of OWS in the last several months, tens of thousands of people have not only been inspired but have also taken leaps in awareness, experience and skill and that new leaders have emerged and new networks and groups have formed and new questions are being asked by newly focused and empowered citizens. The fact that this development is diffuse and nonlinear does not mean it does not exist. It only means that mainstream eyes will not necessarily recognize the new forms in which it will surface, over and over and over, expanding and adapting as it goes.

As one OWS sign insightfully said – in words whose significance not everyone will grasp – “This is a movement, not a protest.”

I have a feeling we ain’t seen nothin’ yet…

Blessings on the Journey. It has been a long time.


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Where Are the Women at Occupy Wall Street? Everywhere—and They’re Not Going Away 
Sarah Seltzer – October 26, 2011


Ariel Federow has a pithy phrase for the problem many at Occupy Wall Street are trying to avoid. “There’s a ‘manarchist’ problem in a lot of left-wing spaces,” Federow, a young New York–based artist and activist who has been active in Occupy Judaism and has regularly volunteered downtown, says. “By that I mean a small group of white guys take up space and make de facto choices for a larger group of people.” But what’s surprised her so far about Zuccotti is that this concentration of power hasn’t happened. “There’s a strong current of actively saying ‘no’ ” to that element when it does pop up,” she says, “of people doing work around safer spaces and speaking out against sexual assault. And while women are leading, there are also other men involved.”

A number of other women echoed Federow’s surprise.

Jackie DiSalvo, a CUNY professor and member of the OWS labor working group, says that while she’s heard younger women report issues like unwanted attention, her veteran eyes see a huge difference between mass movements of the sixties and the culture of Occupy Wall Street. “I was in SDS—we had all these ego-tripping superstars. There was very macho leadership, and very aggressive sectarian fighting,” she explains. Now, she says, thanks to decades of work by the women’s movement and other kinds of consciousness-raising, within OWS, “there’s really a big effort to avoid domination.”

….The casual observer, unaccustomed to organizations without hierarchy, might mistake leaderlessness for structurelessness. But in fact OWS is governed by a highly structured, constantly evolving series of processes, with checks and balances to make sure no voice or one faction takes over….

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Women in Occupy Denver
Chad Kautzer – 1 December 2011


When I asked Terese Howard, one of several women organizing in OD [Occupy Denver] about this behavior [violence and harassment by police], she noted its galvanizing and critical effect. “As the police act more brutally and more absurdly,” she says, “the people see their power more in connection with each other and not the state.”… She is … helping to build a “leaderless” movement, which really means recognizing “forms of leadership based in knowledge and hard work, as opposed to institutionally bundled authority packages,” she says. “In order for OD to move forward toward concrete success and productive change, we need to collectively understand how to be a leaderless, transparent, diverse, active movement.”

I asked Liberty Shellman, also a member of Occupy Denver’s GA [General Assembly] Procedures Committee, about how this movement can be made sustainable. She speaks of the “need to address the systemic problem of oppression.” Liberty says she is presently focused on “women and other gender marginalized communities of the movement,” because, she said, “numerous women speak to me about their experiences and feelings of marginalization. I don’t think that the dominant gender in our movement is being intentionally discriminatory,” she says, “I merely believe that they are the products of years of indoctrinated prejudice.”

Terese notes that men “have a history of privileges making it easier for them to be in and organize with OD” and that women face additional risks in the encampment. Shortly after our discussion, a resolution addressing resource and safety issues for women and LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer] people in the movement was unanimously passed at a GA.

Occupy Your Heart Chakra
by Jules Evans


Adam Curtis of the BBC… blamed the human potential movement of the 1970s… for killing off the Sixties counter-culture, because it turned outward-looking Sixties protestors into the inward-looking self-help freaks of the 1970s…. Looking at Occupy, I realized the two movements have now come together: both the revolutionary anarchism of 1968, and the human potential movement of the 1970s. The protestors take classes in meditation, in well-being economics, in ’emotion work’ and performance theatre. The personal is tied to the political. Occupy is now the revolutionary arm of the politics of well-being…. During revolutions, people get brief and intoxicating flashes of that mystical experience – a whole people, thinking and feeling as one.

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How Empathy is Stronger than Greed 
by Brad Blanton 


Chris Hedges told of an interview by a reporter at the Occupy movement during the first month of its birth. The reporter was trying to find the leader in charge so he could interview him or her. He went up to the medical tent and found someone there and asked, “Who is in charge here?” The woman answered, “I am.” He said, “What are you in charge of?” She said, “Everything.” He said, “Do you have a title?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “What is it?” She said, “God.”

That one hundred percent Co-Creator responsibility is what makes this occupy movement sing. Everyone is willing to take full responsibility for making the occupy movement happen and making it up as we go along.

Hundreds of us, thousands of us at a time have been marching together all over hell for weeks now, chanting “Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Main Street! Occupy Everything and Never Give it Back!”

We have all been evolving with each other for a long time to get to this place. There are hundreds of stories of parallel evolutions of groups of people that brought us to this growing mass movement. Here is a short version of the story of the Radical Honesty wing….

Once upon a time there was a place called the Center for Radical Honesty, where the trainers and participants did a particular kind of work. We stopped lying and being phony the way we had been taught to be all of our lives and started to tell the truth to each other about what we thought, what we felt, and what we did, and we became less miserable, and happier.

It turned out not only to be therapeutic for us one at a time, it also taught us that something was rotten in Denmark…and England and Spain and the United States…etc. Radical Honesty, it turned out, had to do with both psychological evolution and social revolution. When we preached and practiced authentic, contactful, real honesty we both joined and fomented a revolution. Who knew?….

More and more people got grounded in their senses, related to gravity and each other honestly, and developed a strong preference for reality and a short tolerance for bullshit. And, as another extremely gratifying fringe benefit, it really fucked with the minds of moralists whose righteousness is merely a bullshit cover story of lies….

*** CONSIDERING THE ROLE PLAYED BY MOVEMENT ORGANIZERS ***“what_did_we_actually_do_right”_on_the_unexpected_success_and_spread_of_occupy_wall_street?page=entire
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“What Did We Actually Do Right?” – On the Unexpected Success and Spread of Occupy Wall Street
A look back at the beginnings of the Occupy Wall Street movement, how it has spread, and the lessons of its experiments in direct democracy.
by David Graeber


After about an hour of drama, we formed the circle again, and this time, almost everyone abandoned the rally and come over to our side. We created a decision-making process (we would operate by modified consensus) broke out into working groups (outreach, action, facilitation) and then reassembled to allow each group to report its collective decisions, and set up times for new meetings of both the smaller and larger groups. It was difficult to figure out what to do since we only had six weeks, not nearly enough time to plan a major action, let alone bus in the thousands of people that would be required to actually shut down Wall Street—and anyway we couldn’t shut down Wall Street on the appointed day, since September 17, the day Adbusters had been advertising, was a Saturday. We also had no money of any kind.

The long article above is a complement of two others previously posted here:
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Pre-Occupied: The origins and future of Occupy Wall Street.
by Mattathias Schwartz…
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David Graeber, the Anti-Leader of Occupy Wall Street
Meet the anthropologist, activist, and anarchist who helped transform a hapless rally into a global protest movement
By Drake Bennett

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