Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Decentralized Communitarian Disruption: The #Occupy Movement

Now over two months old, the #Occupy Movement still mystifies observers because of its amorphous nature. As Dave Roberts from Grist puts it, "We still don't know what it is."  The movement continues to receive criticism for having no leader, no coherent message, and no demands. While most occupations have issues some form of a declaration, very few have created policy proposals. People are not fighting for or against something concrete. Instead, they have been slowly building community, pointing out the flaws within our current system, and attempting to create a small-scale model of a better society.

One of the most remarkable parts of the #Occupy Movement is its commitment to the consensus decision making process. During general assemblies, everyone present must accept an idea before the group can move forward. While this process can be a very tedious, it allows for everyone’s voice to be heard. Occupiers describe the movement as “leaderful” because everyone’s contribution matters; without volunteers consistently stepping up to facilitate conversations, run committees, or coordinate logistics, none of the occupations would exist.

The video below explains the direct democracy process of consensus used by the #Occupy Movement:

The #Occupy Movement is a new type of social movement: decentralized communitarian disruption. Will it yield any sustainable change? No one knows, but it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Folks in colder cities will soon hunker down for the winter, but after the success of the #N17 national day of action, momentum for the movement is still strong. Next up is the Alternative Day of Action on December 10, which coincides with the United Nations Human Rights Day. Online organizers have created an international forum to brainstorm creative demonstrations, such as floating tents with helium balloons or expanding the use of large-scale 99% projections. Who knows what ideas will emerge from this collaborative effort?

Eventually, the #Occupy Movement needs to produce some clear policy ideas. It needs to “evolve” from spirited tent cities into something larger to create lasting social change. But that won’t happen unless everyone who feels connected to the movement contributes in some way. There is space for everyone: liberals and libertarians, environmentalists and labor union members, human rights activists and small business owners, the poor and the rich. Fundamentally, we share the same dreams: a life filled with dignity, a peaceful and just society, and future filled with hope rather than despair.

If we choose to engage and unite at this crucial moment, we can give birth to a new progressive era. But the current occupiers can’t do it alone. It is up to all of us that feel inspired by the movement to take its energy and make it our own. It doesn’t matter if you protest, write a letter to the editor, engage in work in your community, or do something else creative; the important thing is to build a shared narrative centered around the #Occupy Movement. We are the 99%, and it is up to us to take back the power to determine our future.

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