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This was written before the celebration of Occupy Wall Street's one year anniversary. I chose to delay it, thinking it might be, um, contentious. But now that #S17 is over, it's introspection time again....

Horizontalism: The word itself is borrowed from a specific Argentinian experiment that ended quite a few years ago, but not before generating excitement in literally dozens of grad schools. Some experts will tell you (and tell you and tell you) all about the emotionally cathartic yet long lasting benefits, but most Argentinians are long past it. Let’s join them.

Keep in mind that various cultures have long familiarity with inclusivity, participatory democracy and consensus. But the insider-jargon word ‘Horizontalism’ alerts one to the presence of a fetish, where form precedes function, and where the only sure outcome is the departure of most participants.

Direct Actionism: There’s lots to be said for the phrase ‘direct action gets the goods.’ Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA) is a time honored and incredibly successful tactic used by protest movements around the world. In contrast, Direct Actionism is the knee jerk desire for public action that carries the sexy scent of danger and self-sacrifice. This can mean marching around without a permit playing cat and mouse with the cops, sweating inside giant puppets or screwing with the straights in short-lived lobby occupations.

But where NVDA starts with strategy and mass movements, Direct Actionism starts with tactics and what are often smallish groups of young, white, male leaders aching to recreate a certain scene from Les Mis.


99% Hypocrisy:
The economic crisis caused by financial elites hurt almost all of us, even if not quite 99%. But the meme itself, lifted from US Uncut/Agitpop, was a unifying call that resonated with a majority of Americans. In the name of this majority, Occupy crafted a movement seemingly designed to be accessible to the smallest sliver of the homeless/hardcore activist population. This started with the infamous ‘tortoise shell formation’ on day 1, when observers of the initial Zuccotti Park occupation were mostly exposed to the backs of people sitting in close-knit circles, trying to hear what was being said. It continued with hours long meetings that often accomplished little except to credential the unofficial leaders. Those who stayed until the end were often those who didn’t have a job or family expecting them at home.

The hypocrisy is presuming to speak for others attracted to your cause, but repelled by your organizing practices. When people show up and stay, listen to them. But if they leave and never come back, LISTEN TO THEM TOO.

Wacko Contamination: Well-meaning people from many backgrounds joined Occupy, hoping to lend their voices to a genuine people’s movement. Some of them suffer from psychiatric disorders that often lead to marginalization. Unfortunately, Occupy did not marginalize them as well. This means that folks obviously and transparently unable to behave appropriately in community were given the floor for misbehavior ranging from self-centered ramblings to physical violence. Repeatedly. And not just in formal, public meetings called to conduct business; such behavior took place in all sorts of situations (churches allowing occupiers to sleep overnight, smaller work group meetings, social events, daily distributions of metro cards, etc.).

This would be inappropriate at a methadone clinic, let alone a serious movement addressing the power and might of finance capital. But don’t blame the sympathetic victims of misaligned brain chemistry; blame everyone else for not demanding boundaries.

Elitism: One of the consequences of just how difficult and time consuming participating in the movement became is that key players stopped showing up. Well not exactly; they still showed up, but mostly for side conversations, informal gatherings, and the meetings that planned what would happen at the public meetings. Using social media and social capital, text messaging and chat software, they formed an invisible guiding hand that simultaneously got shit done, avoided accountability, and engaged in factional battles with each other.

This isn’t really very different than how powerful elites operate in the real world. But in the real world, leaders are less likely to talk about transparency and horizontalism, and more likely to have to stand for election, hold a title, or at least be subject to being written about. You know what’s worse than regular same-old elites? A barely visible elite that denies it is an elite and can’t ever be called to account.

Fear of Money: Movements need money. And that money needs organizations to flow through. Sadly, the fear of money and organization as the root of all evil paralyzed serious work while enabling some of the worst tendencies. An all-volunteer collective tried to manage the process only to be repeatedly accused of failing at it. The money that was raised was used in part for what seems today to be nonsensical – housing homeless people and giving away metro cards. What part of holding Wall St. accountable was that for?

A healthy movement would just do, as a matter or course, what other movements have done in the past – designate trusted people to raise funds, make decisions about budgets, and work closely with others doing the same. Using money is not the same thing as being taken over by the nonprofit-industrial complex. Our failure to handle money responsibly weakened Occupy considerably.

Pre-figuratism & the Church of Process: One of the hallmarks of OWS was how quickly supporters were willing to jump off the powerful, fast moving train for holding banksters accountable on to the creaky, dangerous fixie of building the new world in the shell of the old. It’s a noble idea – instead of dealing with billions of misused tax dollars, let’s farm, take over parks, and hold meetings where crazy people get equal time with everyone else. Because in the fyooture, listening to incoherent babbling at a business meeting will fill one’s heart with smug ‘aren’t we politically advanced!’ feelings.

(Note: I'm all in favor of supporting traditionally oppressed groups; but that's not the same as putting the margins in the center.)

The abandonment of reality based politics in favor of individualist utopianism matches quite well to some occupiers personal utopia: small groups doing what they like to feel good about themselves. For those of us still aiming at Wall St., that utopian vision is a nightmare. It is "an opiate of the masses". Activists smoke it in a way that distracts them from the here and now. From winning.

Crazily, I think Occupy Wall Street was and should be about winning.

PS: This is written in a snarky style that some opponents of OWS will surely enjoy. I'm very active in OWS, primarily with Tech Ops, and expect to remain active in the future. But I think there's a way of bringing together like-minded folks inspired by OWS who favor a more... goal oriented or linear organizing model.

Originally posted to clenchner on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 07:53 AM PDT.

Also republished by New York State and Occupy Wall Street.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What scene are you referring (0+ / 0-)

    to? There are a lot of good scenes in that show.

  •  Interesting post (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SethRightmer, ZhenRen

    It's funny - you could almost rewrite some of it to be "The 7 Virtues of Occupy" as some of these items are strengths as well as weaknesses. The emphasis on process, the refusal to draw boundaries, and the fear of money all gave the movement room to grow and greater legitimacy at the outset. It might not have gotten off the ground otherwise.

  •  Occupy's biggest problem (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew C White, GoldnI, Albanius

    was or is their idea that they didn't want to be "co-opted". Because, I don't know, the resources and power of the Democrats, their natural ally, were just too grubby.

    The tea party, by contrast, now has their own Congressional caucus. Occupy, including my friends at ACT UP, is picketing the presidential debate in Hempstead, because they hate both candidates.

    Fuck me, it's a leprechaun.

    by MBNYC on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 09:00:15 AM PDT

    •  Somebody needs to hold the Dems to account (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jewlicious

      And stand on issues, instead of worrying where their next paycheck is coming from.  Occupy did this well, and would have failed at this if they allowed themselves to be co-opted. Occupy, and it's natural allies have a lot to gain from each other, and that can only happen if occupy keeps it's independent character.

      I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

      by Futuristic Dreamer on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 01:31:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bare assertions without support (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZhenRen

    Sorry, but you don't provide any good arguments supporting your positions.

    Horizontalism: As opposed to hierarchy, its a good thing. Hierarchy is bad, equality is good.

    Direct action works. Your ideas about movements are hierarchical. You think movements need leaders to tell the sheep like masses what to do. Insulting participants with demeaning stereotypes does not support your position.

    99% hypocrisy: This is mere opinion. Probably the worst part of this essay.

    Wacko contamination: I should really read the whole thing before making statements like "Probably the worst part of the essay." This is your own elitism showing.

    Elistism: Get your story straight, is occupy horizontal, or elitist? Does it have a problem with listening to too many "wackos," or not enough?

    Fear of money: I see. You are simply making things up, based on your own untrained assumptions about how a mass movement should work. And evidently, it should work like a corporation.

    Pre-figurat.. no. Wow is this dumb. And mean. You really despise the people who participated in Occupy, don't you?

    •  Dude (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Futuristic Dreamer

      It's all 'mere opinion.' Such is life after cultural studies. Most of the people I'm active with recognize the reality of these 'sins' even if they disagree with my analysis of them.

      •  Well I'm sure that makes them legit (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ZhenRen, Desi

        Your analysis of Occupy is coming from an old school, hierarchical, top down and elitist position. That's sort of the position Occupy is fighting against. I'm not surprised you dislike Occupy and disrespect the vast majority of participants.

        The difference between opinion and argument is that when constructing an argument, you show why your opinion is as it is. You don't do that here. And you don't state your opinions as opinions, you state them  as settled facts.

      •  I always wonder about these sort of diaries (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Desi

        You choose as your title

        "The seven sins of Occupy"?
        Really? That headline is helpful? And yet you claim to be a part of Occupy?

        And that wouldn't invite the reader to wonder if your entire purpose isn't just to provoke and cause discord from within the movement?

        I can't conceive of any real supporter of the movement using a headline like that, which serves to denigrate the entire concept of Occupy.
         

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

        by ZhenRen on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 10:18:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  A bitter and ignored part, perhaps? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Horace Boothroyd III, Desi

          I've seen quite a few professional organizers and "activists" who, getting paid to organize, think they are the end-all, be-all of activism. They go to Occupy, and can't understand why no one worships the ground they walk on, or even listens to them, for that matter.

          People like this are left with two possible explanations for their failure to receive due deference: "Maybe I'm not as awesome as I think I am" or "Occupy sucks." Guess which explanation most choose?

          •  I don't know (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Futuristic Dreamer

            Any serious occupiers who aren't bitter and frustrated at least some of the time. I don't know any non-serious occupiers who aren't bitter and frustrated at least some of the time. I don't know that having a background as a professional organizer represents any sort of dividing line here.

            Methinks you might be bitter and frustrated with past experiences you've had with professional organizers. But you know what? Assuming motives and experiences about people you've never met is a highly inexact science.

            •  Not exactly mere assumptions (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              SethRightmer, Desi

              You've left a lot of clues about your intent, as well as your disposition.

              Your title, in particular, speaks volumes.

              I saw many old timers who seemed to be movement activists who essentially couldn't get used to being equal to everyone else. They felt as if they'd been demoted. That loss of status was what allowed many members to experience having a voice that for the first time was heard.

              In the hierarchical model, status that members accrue come at the expense of status to someone else, just as in capitalism, wealth that some members accrue come at the expense of wealth to others.

              You speak of bitterness and frustration as if that is universally experienced in Occupy, but leave out the joy of camaraderie and the feeling of empowerment that is truly a big part of the movement.

              If bitterness is all you saw, you missed out a lot. And you certainly can't speak here for all of Occupy (and that is the whole point, isn't it? That no one person speaks for all?).

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

              by ZhenRen on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 11:30:34 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Telling (0+ / 0-)

                It is telling that you seek to focus on who is speaking instead on what is said.
                and
                This is a post about crappy negative stuff. Why would anyone think that is all there is? Of course it's not a complete picture.

                •  The fact is, I have focused on what you've said. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  SethRightmer

                  I'm pointing out that it is a distortion of Occupy. The title, especially, distorts the picture. We live in a headline society, where many will never get past the words in big bold letters, The Seven Sins of Occupy.

                  From the standpoint of a smear, it makes sense. What other purpose could that serve?

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

                  by ZhenRen on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 11:52:33 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It's constructive criticism (0+ / 0-)

                    A lot of us who've been deeply involved with occupy are trying to move forward from how the movement started, and create something more sustainable. Introspection, and discussing what the movement did wrong is important in that context.

                    This diary has important lessons for activists far into the future.

                    I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

                    by Futuristic Dreamer on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 01:40:22 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  But presentation IS important. (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      ZhenRen, clenchner, Desi

                      So the choice in title is not ideal.

                      Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

                      by Horace Boothroyd III on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 02:22:23 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  I don't agree (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Desi

                      The diarist misses the point and draws incorrect conclusions. And seems to not mind giving Occupy a black eye of a headline. That isn't constructive.

                      And as to lessons, it isn't the kind of lesson many of us took away from Occupy.

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

                      by ZhenRen on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 02:44:45 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I've spent the last year living & breathing Occupy (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        clenchner

                        And these issues have come up in many conversations, especially lately.

                        One of Occupy's values, right or wrong, is to deal with our problems in the open instead of hiding them because it's better press. This diary holds true to that spirit of Occupy. The headline does much less to give Occupy a black eye than numerous ill advised livestreams, which I've begrudgingly learned to tolerate.

                        It's healthy for us to examine what Occupy did wrong, and what can be done better in the future.

                        I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

                        by Futuristic Dreamer on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 04:30:39 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Dealing with problems in the open (0+ / 0-)

                          doesn't include a title that doesn't inform, but rather smears and misinforms. Occupy has never tolerated smears of its message. And it has never tolerated sabotage, and has always tried to identify provocateurs.

                          Brandishing your "credentials" of having been "breathing" Occupy does not inspire me to shrink from my criticisms of the motives and intent of the author.

                          The denigration is obviously a deliberate intent in this blatant hit piece, and I can only wonder what sort of "occupier" would indulge in this behavior, much less support it.

                          I have no idea who either of you are.

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

                          by ZhenRen on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 10:15:52 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  This is no hit peice (0+ / 0-)

                            I've heard it all in GA before.  You need to look beyond the title. None of the things listed here are things Occupy denies. Just different opinions on the way Occupy deals with some things, and the way the writer thinks Occupy should deal with those things better.  Mistakes were made. Let's be open about that, and move forward learning from them.

                            I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

                            by Futuristic Dreamer on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 02:27:43 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Nonsense (0+ / 0-)

                            The hyperbolic title, and the rather caustic rhetoric of the diary, all give the sense of a hit piece.

                            Go back and read it.  The tone is pretty obvious.

                            Sorry, not buying this. The whole notion of this being a sincere, constructive criticism is ludicrous.

                            And since you're okay with telling me what I "need" to do, perhaps you should go read about the underpinnings of the foundation of the Occupy movement, the consensus model, horizontalism, non-hierarchical approaches to decision making, etc.

                            I don't have a lot of time at the moment to respond to the diary point by point, but it is way off base about just about everything that is asserted.

                            Yep, I'm one of those with the "fetish" (the description used by the diarist) of wanting the people to lead themselves, without the need for rulers and leaders to tell us all how to think.

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

                            by ZhenRen on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 06:03:33 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That came off a bit more (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Futuristic Dreamer

                            abrupt than I had intended. I should have taken the time from the outset to answer more cogently my differences with the points made in the diary.

                            I'm familiar with the issues raised, and yes, they have been much discussed at occupy gatherings, but what is striking about this diary is the diarist just happens to dislike just about every approach used by Occupy.

                            After this list of grievances, one is left wondering if the diarist liked anything about Occupy.

                            The pattern he weaves with his rhetoric tells the story. Reread the diary. Look at the overall pattern.

                            I realize that many people share the diarists criticisms. I've heard them all before, as well.  The problem is, the solutions to these criticisms would be to revert back to the approaches used by more mainstream groups, which in the last several decades have failed to accomplish any goals. We're still heading inexorably toward that crevasse, if we can't turn back this stampede to ruin. Many of us see these more conventional approaches as having failed.

                            If we adopt a hierarchical model, elect OWS leaders, and pursue such things as electoral goals and fielding of candidates, I could easily turn the tables and launch into a plethora of criticisms of THAT approach. It works both ways.

                            For example, it has been noted by scholars of the worker's movement of the early 20th century that when the workers became highly organized and elected leaders, and created hierarchy in their ranks, which diverted attention to the electoral process within the unions, that they accomplished less than in the movement's early beginnings when its direct action protests and strikes were more spontaneous and coming from the grassroots of the worker's own membership, collectively. Diverting all attention to electoral politics is not always the path to success. One could argue that getting everyone working for candidates is a good way to get attention away from direct action, precisely because direct action works.

                            Which is why I'm a bit skeptical when people show up telling OWS to do exactly that: Get back into line and work within the system.

                            I'm not so naive as to ignore the history of the wealthy class using this ploy in past eras. They understand ways to manipulate activists far better than most of us understand.

                            OWS may not be to everyone's liking. It never pretended to be universally appealing (for that, you must turn to the Democratic party which opposes such things as torture on one hand while tacitly endorsing it on the other.)

                            There's a lot more to say about this, but I've spent too much time already. Got to go.

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

                            by ZhenRen on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 10:09:50 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Occupy goes too far in one direction, (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            clenchner

                            and it's not effective.

                            I don't think we should work "in the system", or try to recreate the system, but I would like to see an alternative that functions better than Occupy does.

                            Leadership happens naturally, instead of accepting natural leadership when it occurred, the culture at Occupy actively suppressed that natural tendency instead of embracing it.  We don't need a definitive hierarchy, but it wouldn't hurt to allow people who earn the trust and respect of the community to make some decisions instead of having multi-hour meetings about details.  

                            The lack of even informal leadership lead to a lack of accountability and discipline (mainly self-discipline) among many participants. It's hard for people who would naturally take up a leadership position not have the ability to make decisions that need to made, and it's hard to find a way to tell your friends that they need to do what they said they would do, or to get people to do work instead of goofing off, without being in a position where the community sanctions your right to do that.  It's hard to find the self-discipline to do work that needs to be done, when others don't seem to care if you do it or don't do it, especially in the midst of constant distractions.

                            I love the way Occupy involved many people from all walks of life, but there were a lot of people who joined, without contributing anything, who harassed other participants and disrupted meetings. As a smaller woman I'm particularly aware of this. While I believe we should be an open movement that involves everyone, we need a way to deal with people who aren't there for the cause, who are disruptive, and make those of us who are there for the cause feel unsafe.

                            Failure to address these things on ideological grounds is a big part of why Occupy wasn't more effective as a mass political movement. There has to be a better way than absolute equality, where no consideration is given to what you've done, and traditional hierarchy. The labour movements you speak of had unofficial leaders, as did most effective historical movements. Very few, if any, effective historical movements placed the value on horizontalism and inclusiveness that Occupy does. Maybe we should look to them for a better model?

                            I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

                            by Futuristic Dreamer on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 12:46:16 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Well... (0+ / 0-)

                            In my area, Portland, Oregon, which purportedly had at one time the largest occupy camp in the nation, there were people who often were disproportionally up in front of the group facilitating, and guiding us along. I think many of us recognized that some had a talent for certain activities, and there was a tacit allowance of that. The difference is such "leaders" are recallable at any time the group decides they aren't acting responsibly to the group.

                            This is the difference that people on all sides of this fail to understand. People can be appointed by consensus to fulfill certain positions and responsibilities, but they don't have fixed terms making them a dictator by contract for given periods of time. In larger groups, there is no workable way to manage affairs except by smaller working groups or affinity groups, etc., appointing a spokesperson who stands in for the group for which he/she is acting as a spoke. Every decision can't be micromanaged by a large group. But the important decisions should be a group decision.

                            People who are part of an affinity group would make decisions that involve the expertise of that perticualr group. For example, I'm active as a beekeeper. If there were an affinity group that met to discuss beekeeping, that group would make decisions based on the expertise of the group. A group of computer engineers wouldn't likely have any input to a beekeeping affinity group, other than, say, to decide that bees are important to society, or not. But they wouldn't have much to say about, for example, what kind of hive design to use, or what strain of queen to use as stock. But a beekeeping affinity group would report to the larger group of their activities, of which larger, important decision regarding the role of bees in a society would be subject to review and agreement.

                            This is my understanding of how this could function. Its just a matter of working things out in the practical world, while keeping in mind, always, that no one person should have some sort of authority over another person's life that isn't justified as necessary by everyone involved. And of course, there is a need for balance in all of this to make it workable.  

                            But such spokespeople do not get to make major decisions that affect an entire people with impunity. They must confer with the group, and must act in accordance with the decisions that come from the group. Smaller, everyday activities and decisions would be allowed by people in these positions, but only with complete transparency.

                            The one thing that makes this sort of relationship different is all such appointees would be recallable when the group decides it is necessary. There would be no exceptions to this.

                            The problem with implementing a system like this is most people aren't familiar with it. So. of course it would take time to build up experience with this until it becomes comfortable.

                            I agree that there is a kind of "soft" leadership where people whose talents are best for certain positions naturally surface. But they don't have power that comes from the position. They serve at the will of the people, and not the other way around.

                            This is completely workable, if people have the will to do it. The problem is people have far more experience with the prevalent model of hierarchy, and just can't envision any other way.

                            But given the current state of the world, obviously this model isn't working, even if it seems more effective and convenient.

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

                            by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 03:31:51 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Oh boy... (0+ / 0-)

                            My browser is acting up, and just posted this before I'd edited... before I'd finished.

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

                            by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 03:34:47 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That's how things were supposed to work (0+ / 0-)

                            But that's not how things worked. People second guessed decisions made in other groups without understanding how those decisions were made.  People were encouraged to step back when their natural leadership talents came out. People who disagreed about little decisions had five hour meetings with the whole group.  The people who had the initiative and self discipline to get things done got a bunch of crap from people who disagreed with minor decisions they made.  Things didn't get done. Some decisions that needed to be made (especially those involving money) never got made.

                            When people did get things done they did it behind closed doors, without transparency, because the large group's process was too cumbersome to let things get done. The instance on absolute horizontalism, transparency, and inclusiveness failed, and ended up being none of those things. All the real work happened in closed groups and in private, without the groups even having good communication because bringing things to the large group meant spending a lot of time arguing and little being accomplished.

                            This is how I think things should work, "All such appointees would be recallable when the group decides it is necessary. There would be no exceptions to this." But that's not how things worked. We were so obsessed with horizontalism that we didn't have appointees to hold accountable.  Moving forward we need to chose appointees, give them specific privileges and responsibilities, and then hold them accountable.

                            I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

                            by Futuristic Dreamer on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 04:57:22 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Well, of course! (0+ / 0-)

                            These were people figuring all of this out as they went along. Think of the achievement if we could all make this work.

                            Portland is still going strong with spokes-councils, and is still active, and still planning, using the model. I've had to pull away only because of my horrible economic situation. I can't afford to go into town anymore, having pretty much lost everything, my home, my employment and I'm living on very low income.

                            If it weren't for that, I'll still be active. I still try to get to the bigger events, and these are still occurring.

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

                            by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 05:50:26 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Wish I'd seen what Portland was doing right (0+ / 0-)

                            earlier, as the two Occupies I've worked with have pretty much entirely dissolved due to internal issues such as the ones described in this diary.

                            If Portland has appointees that are replaceable at will, no wonder they still exist when many other Occupies are gone or nearly so.

                            I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

                            by Futuristic Dreamer on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 06:47:12 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Portland has had its share of problems. (0+ / 0-)

                            It seems that enough people have stayed with it that it has survived. There are a lot of people in Portland who really seem to "get" what this is supposed to be all about. No one can say this has been easy... but at times it has been truly wonderful, and a good group has formed.

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

                            by ZhenRen on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 09:41:11 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I've seen awsome groups form in other places, (0+ / 0-)

                            but in many cases those groups are looking for new ways to do things because they're frustrated with the failures in Occupys methods.

                            One of the most common new structures I've seen is horizontal style meetings where only certain people are invited.  That destroys accountability & transparency (creates the elitism the author complains about), but allows things to get done. There has to be a better way.

                            I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

                            by Futuristic Dreamer on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 12:01:05 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                •  I'm in my 50s. (0+ / 0-)

                  I felt a bit ignored a few times, but I was treated with great respect by the younger crowd. The sense of the group, the "vibe" as it were, was one of allowing all comers to have the opportunity to voice their thoughts, and these kids were tired of older people who've basically fucked up their futures, their entire world, coming in to a movement to take charge, yet again, and push their voices down.

                  I saw that right away.

                  Here's a narrative of one of my experiences with Occupy:

                  http://www.dailykos.com/...

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

                  by ZhenRen on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 12:07:02 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  I've been a professional organizer (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ZhenRen, Desi

              But one of the lessons I learned was that I am not the White Knight, come to save the ignorant peasants. I am the one who listens to people, who makes them feel empowered to solve their own problems.

              I don't know you, but I do know White Knights, and the things they say sound a lot like the things you say here. And I know that, despite your protestations about assuming motives and experiences, that is exactly what you do in this essay.

              But the insider-jargon word ‘Horizontalism’ alerts one to the presence of a fetish, where form precedes function, and where the only sure outcome is the departure of most participants.
              Fetish? Assuming motives and experiences.
              But where NVDA starts with strategy and mass movements, Direct Actionism starts with tactics and what are often smallish groups of young, white, male leaders aching to recreate a certain scene from Les Mis.
              Christ on a Crutch. What are you doing here? Assuming motives and experiences.

              Look, pretty much all you do in this essay is assume motives and experiences you know nothing about. That, and construct straw men, poison the well, and whine about how nobody let you into the special elite Occupy inner circle.

          •  They do not understand the concept (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ZhenRen, Desi

            of Democracy. Pure and simple.

            They go to Occupy, and can't understand why no one worships the ground they walk on, or even listens to them, for that matter.

            Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

            by Horace Boothroyd III on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 02:21:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  More mean about it than I needed to be (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Futuristic Dreamer

              I just don't like the stench of elitism, whether from the left or the right. The citizens of this country are not sheep, they are not simple, they do not need to be led by the hand to the promised land. We are a country of brave, ambitious, intelligent people, most of whom are descended from those who had the courage to leave everything they've known to make a better life for themselves in a foreign land.

              Democracy is slower than autocracy. It can be frustrating. It means letting even the idiots speak. Occupy it is both a means and an end: it is the re linking of citizens to their political power. It is a crash course in participatory democracy, an example of how joyful and empowering being politically involved can be.

              White Knight or Savior Syndrome is common on the left. It's really one of the least offensive forms of paternalism and hierarchy. The problem isn't that it's terribly offensive and condescending, it's that it is not effective.

        •  Not in the least. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZhenRen, Desi
          That headline is helpful?
          But for the sake of discussion I'm letting them vent. If they become a problem we are paying attention and will act if the poster wanders further from civility.

          Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

          by Horace Boothroyd III on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 02:19:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  No it is not (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Futuristic Dreamer
        'mere opinion.'
        We have a vast history of social movements to examine and learn from both their successes and failures.

        We can embrace what works for the moment and discard it for possible later use when it no longer is effective.

        That is what has happened to the Occupy encampments. It created a negative drag on our effectiveness to fight that battle so we refocused our efforts towards groups such as yours. Working on specific issues for the greater good.

        Factionalism is inherent and we at this point are actually doing the right thing in regards to factionalism in allowing the flexibility for them to exist. Is it ideal? Obviously. no. Appearance of a united front is important in many endeavors.

        But do you for one moment doubt that our factions will not all band together to fight the common enemy of oppression? That is our greatest strength. That is what Occupy was in the first place as well. Think of the groups we saw at the encampments Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, ACT-UP, Anon Medics...

        All with different agendas, all came together in a united front.

        It is also terribly difficult for me to think outside the box as well but Occupy is like Chaos Theory in action. Including an evolution in social construction.

        Feel free to discuss your opinion of how you perceive the strengths and weaknesses. I understand you are only trying to problem solve. As am I.

        Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

        by Horace Boothroyd III on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 02:16:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I was not involved in Occupy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    clenchner, Albanius, Captain C

    though I know many participants and followed what was going on to some degree from the outside.

    What I saw from the outside looked like the sort of well intentioned utopianism that you describe. it appeared that they actually did fairly well with it for awhile but that its natural tendency to collapse happened and that they, like other utopians before them, were unable to make the adjustments necessary to sustain it.

    The group dynamics of the human beast generally requires some amount of hierarchical structure and leadership. Likewise, some people have natural abilities and charisma that makes them leaders while other are vastly better at following the leader and actually making sure shit gets done. My experience is that really good leaders generally don't get shit done themselves but they do work to create and environment that empowers the people that don't lead but do get shit done.

    Too much hierarchy impedes this while too much horizontalism impedes leaders from being able to make decisions that create the structure in which shit gets done.

    And in a worst case scenario it creates the hypocrisy you describe in which the leaders step out of the movement to make the decisions then step back into it in order to manipulate it into following the pre-determined decisions. And you highlighted the real problem with that which is lack of accountability.

    I've seen this sort of thing in play in smaller venues and it sure looked like it was happening on a larger scale in Occupy from where I was sitting.

    The older I get the more I understand that life is about balancing competing ideas and working in the tension spots between them to actually make progress. Taking any ideology to an extreme doesn't work. They always self-destruct. Balancing the strengths of each against each other is the way to go.

    Peace,

    Andrew

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 09:22:37 AM PDT

  •  Its not easy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SethRightmer, Desi

    to craft a movement that tries to promote equality in relationships, rather than the more familiar type of relationship based on unequal power that is almost universally found in capitalistic society and in conventional political groups. Most people are not used to having a more level playing field, and it frustrates those who would rather proceed as usual, especially if they were on the "greater power" side of the equation in their relationships outside of OWS. The louder voices are used to getting their way, and they would stomp off and go home when they couldn't quickly and easily exert more influence than that obvious "wacko" sitting next to them.

    What I saw was that in time, these issues got sorted out. Ways were devised to manage time better, using spokes council models, with people acting as spokes of the wheel. Affinity groups would discuss issues, then by consensus appoint a spoke to represent the groups decisions, and then the spokes would be part of the council. This worked well, was better focused, and one didn't see as much of the problems that you point out.

    But if one reviews the lack of progress over the last several decades made by the alternative hierarchical model of having elite leaders who dictate the path forward, dominate the group, crowding out new ideas and creativity, and even control who gets promoted in the hierarchy, with an army of dutiful servants in the rank and file enacting their whims and proposals, it isn't exactly what I would want to go back to.

    You mentioned those who leave an OWS group in frstration, and don't return, and that they, too, should be listened to, but you ignore the fact that most of the people at OWS had tried the conventional methods, and left those groups, and they weren't exactly "listened to" in that model. You can't really have it both ways. In the hierarchical model, few people in the rank and file are ever "listened too." But all that listening takes time. The spokescouncil model solves most of these problems. It really is just a matter of working together to find workable ways to move forward that promote sharing of power.

    The idea that you label as "pre-figuratism" is about not waiting for some long off future to start living and organizing based on egalitarian ideas. Considering that the conventional approaches have not worked, this seems like a good idea to me. I may never see that future where our goals are manifested in full, but that doesn't mean I can't get a taste of what is possible in the here and now. And given the intransigence of American political scene, this idea of praxis
    may be the only way to make any real difference that isn't left to some far off vision.

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

    by ZhenRen on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 09:40:53 AM PDT

  •  And: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    clenchner, turn blue, Desi

    8. Coping with snark from Woozles and Pooties.

    Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

    by dadadata on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 10:02:17 AM PDT

  •  T+R to promote discussion. nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    clenchner

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 11:13:43 AM PDT

  •  I agree with a lot, and would like add one (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    clenchner

    Things I'd add...
    The Transparency Obsession: Everything didn't have to be online all the time. The obsession with transparency made strategic organizing next to impossible. Occupy participants privacy was disrespected in many cases. Strategically we shouldn't enable the surveillance state and give ammunition to our enemies. Morally, a world where privacy is nonexistent is not the world I'd like to see.

    Lack of Sustainability: Those who did fully dedicate themselves to the movement found themselves living in physically and physiologically unhealthy situations (partly do to what you mention about Wacko Contamination), causing them to make bad decisions and/or leave the movement. Those who didn't fully dedicate themselves to the movement had a lot of trouble balancing their involvement with their life. Occupy needs more ways for people to live in safe and healthy environments while giving 110% to the cause.

    Thing I disagree with...
    99% Hypocrisy / Elitism: Respect among peers naturally follows a person's contributions to the movement. Where people had other obligations, it's only natural they had less say in the movement, while people who dedicated their lives to the movement, and put their blood, sweat, and tears into it had more respect and unofficial authority.  A big part of being effective is allowing people to be involved on their own level, but not necessarily giving everyone an equal voice when some people are doing a lot more than others. This goes back to what you said about horizontalism that I whole heartily agree with. Instead of having unofficial leaders, officially recognize the people who fully dedicate themselves to the movement and earn the trust and respect of their peers. Let them make decisions and hold them accountable.

    Direct Actionism: There are a lot of angry young people out there. Anger is power, the left should embrace it. The traditional left has been ignoring this source of power, and using increasingly low risk and ineffective methods to get ideas across. One of the best things occupy did is provide a productive outlet for young people's anger at the system.

    I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

    by Futuristic Dreamer on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 02:28:55 PM PDT

  •  While I loved what Occupy stood for, I couldn't (0+ / 0-)

    bring myself to actually support it with anything other than positive words.  I work approximately 50 hrs a week in a midwestern city that Occupy never really captured.  From the outside, it seemed unorganized and somewhat "out of control".  I didn't like the damage to property and the tepid response from Occupy to the few that were creating the dangerous situations.

    I wanted to support something (someone) that spoke out against the corrupt nature of politics and "Wall Street".  But I never saw something (or someone) within Occupy to latch onto and feel that it would make a difference.

    I'll accept the response that "I just don't get it".  That is probably true.  But I wanted to (and still do).  I've just turned 40 and  never felt a connection to those who were 'a face' of Occupy.  And I couldn't see how the Occupy model (as it was being explained at the time) could sustain itself.  A revolution takes some type of organization with some type of overreaching goal to obtain.  I could never figure out how Occupy would ever know when it accomplished a goal. How would it know when to move on; to continue forward? And how could it reach out to those working in the many cities and towns across America that weren't in the few big cities Occupy chose to make a stand?  I also never understood why Washington DC wasn't a bigger focus for a "protest city".

    Again, I get that that these issues are more about me than Occupy, but if they could lose me so quickly (and I honestly haven't heard anyone talking about this with any passion in months), then how do they hope to facilitate any of the positive changes they have proposed?

  •  What happened was incredible. (0+ / 0-)

    All this hand wringing.  What for?

    "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

    by Publius2008 on Thu Sep 20, 2012 at 11:44:25 PM PDT

    •  You call it hand-wringing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Futuristic Dreamer

      For those of us in the thick of it, it's a way of identifying the issues so we can address them constructively.

      •  I'm more in the "thick of it" than you might think (0+ / 0-)

        The fact you mention not once police brutality or the organized destruction of the encampments indicates to me that you are hardly addressing the issues honestly and that you might not be so much in the "thick of it" as you suggest.  Indeed, I've hardly ever seen you here before in any occupy diaries.

        "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

        by Publius2008 on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 08:39:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How is police brutality a sin of OWS? (0+ / 0-)

          I don't get it. This is a post about self-defeating behaviors of OWS. Where exactly do you fit in police brutality? A sin called 'hitting your head against NYPD fists?"

          That said, let's be clear. If this post becomes valid because of who I am, then fuck it. It ain't valid. Ignore it! True to form in the movement, a thing isn't valid or not because it is meaningful, but because of who says it, right?

  •  Haven't been here since last February. (0+ / 0-)

    Someone linked to this on twitter and here I am back at dkos after an Occupy hiatus from online punditry.
    One observation:
    This place still hasn't overcome its pure silliness of dialectic.
    And they like to use the phrase "reality based" here. Ha!

    Put up a banner headline so called "hit piece" and  out trots the counterpoints in perfect counterpoint.  Funny this place.

    Your diary was entertaining to read and hit on all salient points from my six months of daily experience of Occupy in my town.
    I disagree with some of it but, hey, it's a diary.

    One thing to add:
    Chris Hedges made a fine point the other day in debate with the black bloc anarchists: Occupy WAS a tactic itself. Meaning that the movement is actually much bigger than we presumed and that Occupy is merely one manifestation of that movement to confront the ISSUE.

    For me that clarifies much. Occupy itself should not become the fetish and that the next wave might be an entirely different structured environment away from certain anarchist hobby horses.

    NO CE/CW. NO UNION BUSTING

    by Aeolos on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:11:48 AM PDT

    •  The structure is a problem too (0+ / 0-)

      Too many professional organisers will never let their volunteers make decisions.  In the structured models people who care are just numbers in a database, and fuck that.

      The best part of occupies model is that we were real flesh and blood human being's in eachother's eyes. We saw eachother cry, bleed, eat, sleep, laugh, and play. We radically disconnected for our electronic environment, and experienced human connection in a way we rarely do in the 21st century.  Whatever comes next must keep that.

      It's like we're re-inventing the wheel when it comes to living in a community.  Learning to accept some leadership is a part of that.

      I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

      by Futuristic Dreamer on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:44:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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