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  •  FTR, I spent a fair amount of time at ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hey338Too

    ...Occupy Los Angeles and would probably have spent more if the movement hadn't been going on while I was engaged in an unamicable divorce. (I also talked face to face with people at Occupy San Luis Obispo, Occupy Denver, Occupy Boulder and Occupy Santa Fe.) I spent my time in Los Angeles listening intensively because I figured nobody wanted to hear about my own experience in previous movements even though I believe and still believe those movements have positive things to offer Occupy. For instance, one of things I did try to impart (and was told was irrelevant) was the likelihood of police infiltration and suppression, both of turned out to be the case.

    I agreed with much of what I heard. I didn't agree with other parts, in particular Graeber's view that it isn't important to put forth some kind of policy agenda that, indeed, such agendas are counterproductive. That unwillingness is something, I think, that hurt Occupy. Not initially, of course. At the beginning, that was a good thing. Turn the conversation upsidedown. Occupy did an excellent job of that and the entire nation has benefited. (I am not saying that was Occupy's only success, but it was key.) But when you say the system is corrupt and shouldn't be engaged with, something must replace it. It does't come about "organically." And on that score Occupy has not succeeded. I know that sounds like heresy and old-way thinking to many in Occupy. It's what my experience tells me. I shall be happy to be proved wrong.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 12:16:32 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Your views (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Josiah Bartlett

      are within your right to express. And your views are quite common to older, seasoned activists who grew up in a different era than many of the young people attending Occupy. And your views are fairly well represented here on dkos, to the point that if someone were familiar with the sites predilections, would think these views representative of Occupy as a whole, while they are not.

      And since Occupy works by variations of direct democracy/consensus (a process that has been much misunderstood and misrepresented here, and thus maligned extremely unfairly), if your views were representative of Occupy, these views would have been reflected in decisions made within the movement. They were not. And thus no one here, with such views, has the right to act as if those views are representative of Occupy in any significant way. The people who comment here are a fraction of the voices found within the movement. But the use of the microphone here is controlled (decidedly not in the spirit of Occupy).

      The fact is, historically many movements had more success by using direct action than by limiting engagement to electoral politics. Working outside party affiliations keeps groups from becoming dominated by party hierarchies and elites. It also empowers and motivates the members by giving them a voice in how the movement will proceed. Once a group ends up going down the familiar paths of hierarchical structures, much of the steam is lost due to marginalizing its own membership.

      This doesn't mean groups like OWS can't influence legislation and government. Only that by remaining outside government, the influence can't be constrained, limited, coerced, co-opted, redirected, or controlled by the typical upper echelons found in traditional mainstream organizations.  

      Once legislative goals are adopted, time and energy and resources become so focused and drained by the effort needed to enact policy that the effort ends up co-opting the group, redirecting and channeling the effort into mainstream approaches which have failed over the last many decades. And this is how electoral politics typicality take the life out of dissent, by channeling dissent into a more muted and lifeless bog of top down bureaucracy. Many of us think it is deliberately designed by the country's founders to do just that.

      Basically, many of the seasoned activists wanted to take Occupy down exactly such a path. They wanted to cut in line to get their hands on the microphone, and then speak at length uninterrupted to share their vast experience, tell people how to proceed, and when that platform wasn't provided, they stomped off never to return, all the while acting as if they were speaking for Occupy in non-Occupy forums. They figured they were entitled to greater influence and (let's be honest) control, and the horizontalism frustrated them.

      The message is, essentially, that Occupy failed, and that it failed because the Occupiers didn't listen and follow these sage voices.

      If these older activists had had their way, Occupy would never have been founded. Have you read the history of how Occupy got its start? There were groups which tried to create Occupy and impose these traditional hierarchical structures, and a group in attendance at the first meeting rather spontaneously rejected that approach and went off to another place, held their own meeting based on horizontal principles, and Occupy was sparked off as a movement. If not for this, Occupy would have been the same old top down group dominated by a few seasoned, celebrated elites, herding all the people into the same old formulas of activism which have failed. Occupy succeeded because this path was rejected.

      And I see this as the first wave of a new era. More of this will return. It isn't a matter of if, but when. Other approaches may be tried, but this isn't over by a long shot. And I said as much from the dawning of the movement. I knew it would be of short duration, but I also knew it would likely come in waves.

      By the way, in Portland (which reportedly had perhaps the largest camp in the entire movement) the activists, although younger than you for the most part, were very well aware of the police and of police infiltration. This was not an area in which the lacked experience.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 01:22:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What a completely dismissive post... (0+ / 0-)

        ... I don't agree with a lot of MB's politics.  But, if I were starting or building a movement, and he offered advice -  based on his background I would be grateful for it.  I would pick his brain, take notes, and refer to them as the movement progressed.

        I wouldn't have inferred that the "seasoned activists" were trying to "cut in line" to get their hands on the microphone.  What kind of "thinking" is that?  If that truly was the mindset of the OWS organizers when they were approached by "older activists", then I would argue that they were guilty of ageism and received the fate they deserved.  And the subsequent waves your refer too will end the same way unless the organizers can modify their behavior - they must be able to distinguish the difference between "passing the torch" and "compromising the movement".  Your comment makes the movement sound as if the MIC check was actually just an echo chamber.

        Looking through the bent backed tulips, To see how the other half lives, Looking through a glass onion - John Lennon and Paul McCartney

        by Hey338Too on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 02:45:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Utter nonsense, and a monstrous strawman (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Josiah Bartlett

          No one told MB he couldn't have his say at an Occupy organizational meeting. Quite the contrary, not only is MB welcome, but so is everyone who is interested in protesting/challenging Wall Street hegemony and other issues.

          What the Occupy direct democracy approach IS saying is that MB has to share the microphone with everyone else, and that he won't be given special privileges because of who he is. In other words, people are treated as equals. Plenty of older people were involved (I'm not exactly a spring chicken).

          Thus, what you're really criticizing is treating people as equals. You're basically stating is you've somehow determined MB's voice is worth more than the voices of other people at these gatherings. With that approach, celebrity, popularity, who you know, can win over more authority than is deserved. The point here is that the people have, collectively, the final say. If people were to build a solar array, of course experts would be brought in. But the experts aren't given absolute authority. The people can listen, think, weigh the data, and decide.

          If we are to take your approach, how do the people, in a egalitarian community that uses a horizontal system, decide who has more worth than the rest? People in OWS can lead, and can have influence, and sometimes that influence can be rather strong. What they can't have is absolute dominance, using a hierarchical structure that can be manipulated by cliques and back room alliances to create a more or less permanent power base for people gifted in the art of persuasion, to the exclusion of others.

          In Occupy, everyone gets a chance to put forward plans and projects or set policy. This takes time to sort out, and over time and with practice people get much more efficient at this process (Occupy was just getting started), and good thinkers with good ideas are expected to find support, but what we won't do is allow a group of elites (who may not even be gifted or particularly wise, but who use their influence and assets to win control) have complete dominance rendering the majority into unequal, subservient followers. With the horizotnal system, qualified people who would often be dismissed or unheard by elites (think of good economists, some of the best, who never are heeded by people in office) get a far better opportunity to affect policy.

          When Occupy does elect or appoint delegates, those delegates are subject to immediate recall, and are mandated by the delegating group. No one has a term of office in which they have complete dictatorial control, from which they can set about to use their position of authority to arrange a cabal of protective supporters that insure such persons never lose power.

          If you think such structures tend to lift the better leaders to the top, think again. Just look at history. Was Bush the best we could do? Or is Romney or Trump a good leader of a corporation? Are the oil company execs the right choice for determining energy policy? Should Monsanto CEOs determine agricultural practices?

          Or should the people whose lives are affected by these policies have the final say?

          What some of the seasoned old-timers wanted was privilege. They wanted to push aside others, and be ushered in to positions of authority based on their resumes, rather than win over people with the worthiness of their ideas.

          It's a different way of thinking, and a better way to self-manage a community.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 03:30:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I don't understand several points of your... (4+ / 0-)

        ...criticism here:

        • I never attempted to take any leadership role in Occupy. I never approached the microphone. As I said: I listened. I'm not responsible for anything others of my general political point of view, experience or generation may have done.

        • I never said my views were representative of Occupy. I said I spent my time listening to what people deeply engaged in Occupy said to me and what they told others in small groups at Occupy sites and at the microphone. I presented in my comment a couple of points of view that I heard expressed frequently in Los Angeles where I spent quite a bit of time and at other Occupy sites that I merely visited.

        If you're saying that I only heard a small portion of the panoply of views being expressed by Occupy participants, I could scarcely disagree. Indeed, that's what I said in my first comment—that different people engaged with Occupy have different assessments of it on the second anniversary of its emerging into public view. How could I have heard more than a small proportion of the views of the thousands of people involved? I was never at OWS or Occupy Oakland or dozens of other Occupy operations. I didn't, however, as you seem to imply, misrepresent what I actually heard expressed on the ground and from the microphone by a few score people.

        • SDS worked initially via direct democracy/consensus. And it always, until the Weather split, continued some element of this in its political decision-making. The concept and name of "participatory democracy," after all, came from SDS, however imperfectly it was carried out in practice.

        It's not as if older generations of activists have no experience with such direct democracy approaches, or are unfamiliar with the advantages and disadvantages.

        Many feminists in SDS, in the organization and in the groups they founded shortly before and after SDS collapsed, pushed this approach even more. They had objections about male-based hierarchy. I was in one of those groups—the New American Movement. (There were, as I am sure you are aware, criticism of patriarchal behavior in Occupy as well, including a predilection for male voices at the microphone.)

        • I have never suggested that Occupy (or any street-politics organization) should itself engage in party politics or adopt vertical leadership structures. While that may be the path that some seasoned activists sought for Occupy, it's not one I ever suggested. Rather, my approach all along has been: Occupy has vigor, it has changed the national narrative, let's see where this goes.

        • For the record, not all the old activist approaches failed. Some did. But most had both victories and failures. I think that is exactly what happened with Occupy, some victories and some failures. I am pretty sure you don't believe this, but the way you're saying what you're saying here seems to imply that Occupy only succeeded.

        As for this just being the first wave? Huzzah. Even if I'm watching from my wheel chair at some nursing home, I'll be cheering on any activism that weakens or wrecks the plutocracy and gives voice to people who have none.

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 03:17:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think we're getting into the weeds (0+ / 0-)

          We were discussing this:

          Despite pretenses (5+ / 0-)

          the powers that be here never really understood or supported Occupy. Just my view, and no, I'm not going to hunt down quotes from way back that I remember.

          And Occupy never supported the Dems.

          But on the other hand, Occupy wasn't a third party.

          And you answered with this:
          Occupy was never just one thing as can... (2+ / 0-)

          ...easily be ascertained by hearing the different views today, two years after it began, of those who actually participated in it. So saying that we didn't really understand or support Occupy is claptrap.

          And you also answered with this:
          I spent my time in Los Angeles listening intensively because I figured nobody wanted to hear about my own experience in previous movements even though I believe and still believe those movements have positive things to offer Occupy. For instance, one of things I did try to impart (and was told was irrelevant) was the likelihood of police infiltration and suppression, both of turned out to be the case.
          Your comment seems to indicate you felt at lest a bit marginalized. You might not think of it that way, but that's how I read your comment.  It seems to me, based on your comment, that you felt that your influence wasn't entirely accepted.

          In fact, this is what you stated: You felt "no one wanted to hear [your] own experiences." So, it seemed to me you were expressing what so many others have who were, like you, experienced activists, and who were frustrated that they couldn't get the group to listen or value their experiences.

          I actually felt this way too, on occasion, so the sentiment isn't entirely lost on me. Often my age seemed to get in the way. But I stepped back and tried to cooperate, because I saw a growing movement attempting to use an entirely different approach, and that this approach was worthy as a goal in itself. In fact, in my view it was goddamn marvelous.

          And thus, I decided quite consciously that expressing my individual experience more extensively could wait. I perceived that the young people had become fed up with older folks dictating the terms of the universe to them, and they knew their energy at that moment in time was a precious commodity, and that older people had in recent years largely removed themselves from this particular equation. Many old stalwarts on the left quite determinedly gave up on direct action. The young Occupiers knew the day was theirs, and the momentum was theirs, and that the rest of us, for the most part, weren't really contributing to the momentum until they came along. I understood this, and thus wanted to urge them to go forward with my participation and support, which I provided as much as I could. I went to meetings everyday, or as often as possible within my economic circumstances.

          I said all this much better here:

          There was a feeling here of renaissance, as if these young people were expressing a new evolution of the human genome, or at least a step forward in social intelligence. I remember, long ago when I was in my early teens, reading similar words from one of the iconic voices of the sixties who tried to explain the youth of those times. Was this happening again?  Some sort of new era beginning?

          Perhaps that is saying too much and I can hear the chorus of people having a gag-reflex. Got it.  But these musings were among the thoughts which fleeted through my mind, and reflect the sense of something special going on in the faces of these free-flowing youth, who were peaceful, yet determined, breaking through the inertia of our complacency, but willing to take us along with them, even willing to listen to us, to respond to us, to show us they are thinking this through, that they will make mistakes, but more than ready to learn from us if we can refrain from lecturing them. They've heard the lectures before. They know the tone. And they know we have failed.

          The one thing they are not ready to do is let anyone co-opt their energy. This is their moment. Their momentum, their brave new world to face. Sure, they'll let us give them some advice, point out some things, throw in a word or two. No problema. Unlike the kids of the sixties, they respect their elders. They respect the cops (well, some of them, and more so than in those days), they respect their parents, they respect working people. They seem to care about their world, but they know in their bones the world is broken. And they know who broke it. They know it will remain broken if they don't do something. They know the old ways haven't worked. That much is evident everywhere they look. They don't know how to fix it, at least not yet (they're getting to that) but they want to say, "Please hear us, we're hurting, our parents are hurting, the world is hurting, and no one is fixing it."

          Others have commented much as you have, to the point that your remarks seemed to me to reflect the same attitude I've often seen, that Occupy should have adopted legislative agendas, been more traditional with using an electoral political approach.

          You did write this:

          I didn't agree with other parts, in particular Graeber's view that it isn't important to put forth some kind of policy agenda that, indeed, such agendas are counterproductive. That unwillingness is something, I think, that hurt Occupy. Not initially, of course. At the beginning, that was a good thing.
          And this:
          But when you say the system is corrupt and shouldn't be engaged with, something must replace it. It does't come about "organically." And on that score Occupy has not succeeded. I know that sounds like heresy and old-way thinking to many in Occupy. It's what my experience tells me. I shall be happy to be proved wrong.
          That can't be dismissed as just Greaber's view, because it was part and parcel of what Occupy was all about, and what set a lot of the members on fire. The alternative approach seemed to be what many wanted at that point in time, and Occupy tapped in this.

          This is what I'm referring to when I made the remark that prompted you to respond:

          Despite pretenses (5+ / 0-)

          the powers that be here never really understood or supported Occupy

          Your remarks, in my view, support my statement, as least to me, and in my experience with Occupy. That you wanted Occupy to take a different approach is tantamount, in my views, as not understanding Occupy. And this view you have is pretty much the dkos view as expressed by front pagers and many members here.

          And yes, I realize other movements used various direct democracy approaches. My god, this goes back to the Paris Commune, and Anarchist regions in Spain involving millions or people, as well as the Makhnovists in the Ukraine, and among other groups in various venues all around the world. It certainly isn't new. Never said it was. But it is new to many of the Occupiers, and I watched them come alive with this approach unlike anything I've seen in many years. It deserved to be supported.

          I'm sorry, but no, I don't think you understood Occupy. You feel you did, obviously. I think we're allowed to disagree, are we not?

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 04:37:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  One thing about writing back and forth... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            LeftHandedMan

            ...is that a lot can't be dispensed with in the rapid as in the case of face-to-face conversation. Perhaps someday we'll have a chance for that face-to-face conversation.

            But I do want to reply to three things where you are misinterpreting my views:

            You say:

            You felt "no one wanted to hear [your] own experiences." So, it seemed to me you were expressing what so many others have who were, like you, experienced activists, and who were frustrated that they couldn't get the group to listen or value their experiences.
            • No. That's not at all what I felt nor the sense I meant to convey in my comment. I purposely help back except when asked directly. Because I didn't want, in any way, as you wrote "co-opt their energy." My point was that I wanted to understand where the Occupy participants were coming and show them the respect they deserved for being participants by not "get[ting] the group to listen or value [my] experiences." I didn't have some dying need to be in control or be looked up to or anything of the sort.

            You say:

            Your remarks, in my view, support my statement, as least to me, and in my experience with Occupy. That you wanted Occupy to take a different approach is tantamount, in my views, as not understanding Occupy.
            • Having differences with the approach Occupy took is not the same as not understanding Occupy. The idea that one can only get it, can only really understand if one fully agrees with everything being done and the process by which it was arrived at would mean I don't really understand, say, fascists.

            • As for being in the weeds, really understanding Occupy or any movement requires going there, does it not? The failure to do so by the most visible critics of Occupy in the past week or so on this anniversary has led to their shallow analyses.

            Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

            by Meteor Blades on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 07:21:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, and regarding the "predilection for... (0+ / 0-)

          male voices" at the Occupy microphone, I've spoken at length with my female partner about this assertion, long ago, and she says that in Occupy Portland, she didn't observe this. In fact, some of the favorite facilitators at OP were women, and they were so much in popular demand and were so talented at facilitating along the horizontal approach that they finally had to take breaks to rest. Maybe Portland is different (and that wouldn't surprise me) but we didn't see the alleged racism and gender bias that has been said of New York, or other areas.

          The people in Occupy aren't perfect, and mistakes will be made, but frankly, with the horizontal system it is much more difficult than in such organizations as the Democratic party, congress, the senate, to discriminate.

          So... although there were some complaints in some areas, this would be far less a problem than it would be in the Democratic party.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 06:14:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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