Guest Post - Starhawk - What's Next for the Occupy Movement in 2012?

by: EJ on 01/13/2012
Posted in: Activism

This post is an excerpt from Starhawk's blog, Dirt Worship, posted December 28th and is reprinted here with permission.

Starhawk, author of The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups, is presently conducting Earth Activist Training, a two-week permaculture design certificate course with a focus on organizing and activism and a grounding in earth based spirituality, in Cazadero, California.  Earth Activist Training sessions are designed to, "Explore the strategies and organizing tools we need to make our visions real, and the daily practice, magic and rituals that can sustain our spirits."  She will be hosting another training session August 11-25.  Visit the Earth Activist Training website for details. 

More than troubles with the cops and city authorities, the biggest challenges the Occupy movement faces seem to be internal.  How do we make decisions together?  How do we resolve our own conflicts within our groups?  Once we’ve said “We are the 99%”, how do we set standards of behavior and say what is okay and what is not?  Once we’ve renounced force and coercion, how do we enforce those standards when we do set them? 

 None of these are easy questions to answer.  While many of them are addressed in my book, The Empowerment Manual —and thank you, Starhawk! for buckling down last spring, meeting your deadlines and getting it finished on time, otherwise you’d be kicking yourself in the butt right now, and you’re no longer limber enough to do so!—the Occupy movement poses them in a form more stark than I’ve ever encountered before, in four decades of horizontal organizing.  Sitting down in the public square to Occupy and protest an unjust system attracted the very people most impacted by the injustice, some of whom are badly wounded in ways that make it very hard to organize and live together.  When your own needs are overwhelming, and unfulfilled, its hard to see that other people might also have needs.  When you’ve had no voice, and somebody offers you a platform to speak and an audience, it can be hard to step back after your allotted two minutes and let others speak.  When you’ve dulled your pain for years with drink or drugs, you can’t easily go cold turkey and stop using.  And yet when you’re trying to create a new society in which everyone has a voice and power is shared, you need everyone to be willing and able to share both power and responsibility. 

Consensus is a challenging process at best—when most people are untrained, and even the facilitators don’t really understand how the process is supposed to work, and when the participants aren’t even in the same consensus reality,  Consensus is also a linear thinking process, designed for synthesizing issues into proposals and then making decisions.  It’s a tool, not a group structure nor a way of life. It requires someone with a linear thinking mind to facilitate, who can keep a kind of outline in their head of topics, subtopics, points A B C and D.”  When people come to it with the pent-up anger of years of disempowerment, it can simply compound frustration.  When the voices in your head compel you to tell the world about the impending arrival of the Space Brothers with the Mysterious Blue Geodes and you theory about how it all relates to the Mayan Calendar, being told you’re off topic just doesn’t cut it.

 Consensus is one tool—and used well it can be a powerful and empowering tool.  But it’s not the only tool or process we need.  There are other ways of coming together that open the heart or encourage participation in different ways.  Some of them are discussed in the free download on my website: “The Five-Fold Path of Productive Meetings”.

Whether you choose to educate yourself by reading Starhawk's book or by attending a training session, now is the time to consolidate your group's aims and objectives.  And it is not too late to access Starhawk's seasonal gift to you; a free download of The Five-Fold Path of Productive Meetings to help you on your way.



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