Monday, October 24, 2011

The New Model Revolution -- Sunday's Reformation

The explosive events of Saturday night's aborted General Assembly at OccupySacramento led to a remarkable level of reconsideration and recommitment to The Cause that took place Saturday night and into the morrow.

In talking to people on the scene and online -- quite a few who aren't in attendance in person are witness to the struggles thanks to Livestream -- it's clear they were dismayed, upset and angry at what happened, yet many understood that these explosions are a natural part of the development of this sort of Revolutionary effort. It's happened pretty much consistently throughout the movement during the early stages of development of each Occupation, including New York's.

And it's OK. Some would say it is necessary.

Because what happens afterwards is that Solidarity is reconfirmed. Yes, some of the angriest and loudest voices against what is going on may leave the Occupation and the Movement -- it's happened here, and it's happened elsewhere. It is to be expected. They may or may not come back after a suitable cooling off period. It's OK.

People have a right to their feelings and their emotions, and they have a right to make decisions for themselves. They have a right to be wrong. They have a right to their anger and to their pain.

Trying to suppress it or cover it up merely leads to greater difficulty down the road. Let. It. Out. And Let. It. Go.

It was obvious by yesterday that many, many people associated with OccupySacramento had done just that. I arrived at the Plaza just before 4:00p after spending most of the day preparing for a workshop on OWS General Assembly practices. There was a surprising number of people already there, engaged in all kinds of productive and nonviolent discussions and seminars and conversations and actively listening to one another. Ideas were popping, identifying and offering solutions to various problems was being hammered out. Focus was on particularly important issues and a growing disinterest in those issues that weren't so important.

For example, The Mayor and the City Council were no longer seen as a focal interest; they were peripheral at best, irrelevant to many participants. The internal problems of authority and transparency were being worked out as productively as possible in a large group that was tasking itself with finding solutions rather than piling on more layers of problems. I don't know what the result was because I had to go off to the OWS GA workshop, but from what I could tell, there was essentially no animosity involved in what they were doing; there was an active effort to come up with consensus solutions, and after that meeting broke up, there was no sign I could see of continuing animosity or anger at one another in the group.

In fact, cohesiveness was growing all over the Plaza as small groups and large ones explored how to rather than whether to move forward in collaboration and solidarity rather than try to continue to go forward in disharmony and rivalry leading to more and more anger and distrust.

What I saw happening was the process of learning to trust one another.

The OWS GA workshop was intended to provide information -- specifically for people interested in learning to facilitate GAs -- on how the process works in New York. It was a surprisingly large group, twice or three times the size expected, and all of them were intrigued to learn that there really is a way to do General Assemblies that works and works well on behalf of all the participants and the Occupation in general. It reinforced the general spirit that we will get through this difficult period and we will be stronger for it.

Sunday's General Assembly followed immediately after the workshop, and some of the principles and practices we had just discussed in workshop were presented to the GA for consideration and adoption on the spot; sure enough, they were so moved and adopted. This was out of order according to our previous practices, but it was realized through the workshop on OWS practices that there really is no ultimate rule book and that the GAs are quite capable of overriding previous practice by adopting new practice by consensus, and that's what happened.

To say that the transformation was immediate and startling is an understatement. It was remarkable -- and very rewarding -- to witness. The General Assembly became "owned" by Occupation as a whole, it was no longer some annoyance going on off on the side, run by "little dictators" and alienating its participants. There was intense discussion of proposals, yet always with respect for one another's positions. Remarkably innovative proposals were offered for development or adoption on the spot, and some were adopted. Others were sent back to the proposer -- respectfully -- for further development and resubmission. Everyone who had something to say about proposals under consideration was heard, respectfully, and new ideas were welcomed.

There were no blocks but not every proposal was adopted, nor should they have been. Nothing was discarded out of hand. Nothing was accepted mindlessly. People really thought about what they were doing and about the decisions they were making, and from my observations and talking to people afterwards, they felt that they were in charge for the first time. They weren't being led or forced or cajoled into doing something or adopting something that they didn't understand or that was potentially not in the interests of the Occupation. They decided based on their best assessment of the matter before them.

And that produced what used to be called "process buy in."

Some of us have been hoping for this to happen, but there is no way to force it. It has to happen organically. And it did. Some of those who have been so frustrated by the way things have devolved over the last few days were very moved to see the transformation.

Hizzoner is supposed to report back to the Assembly today. Whether he will show or not is unknown, but I doubt he will be allowed to hijack tonight. He won't be shouted down, but he won't be given the floor for more campaigning either. Should be interesting....

Also, finally, there is supposed to be a press conference this morning to announce the filing of a civil rights lawsuit on First Amendment grounds, though no details have yet been released.

Things should get very interesting indeed...

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