Monthly Archive for October, 2011

catharsis/revolution

for some time I have thought, without awareness, that revolutionary moments are cathartic – that it helps to release the anger and the pain and the unspent hope into some flash of a moment, some container.

now i am coming into awareness, and starting to invert that thought. what if catharsis is actually just one part, one absolutely necessary part, of revolution? the cleansing and purging that leaves the collective body free of toxins, ready to regain new power, new muscle memory for flexibility…ready to birth a new world?

i keep having all of these ideas, and wondering, how do i – as a writer, and as someone with somewhere between 5-8 part time movement gigs at any given point, someone with a full life, also trying to be sustainable and healthy and learn to have more balance – how do i participate in this revolutionary moment even more than I participated in the moment before this? do I have more to give?

i see it happening, i feel it. i can’t seem to stop writing about it or reading about it, every spare second i have i seek it out like a passionate crush.

i literally feel like:

hi revolution, um…hi.
giggle.
you’re amazing!
giggle.
i can’t stop looking at your pictures :)

and in that emotion, i feel myself being cleansed of hopelessness.

not yet hopeful, but creating a space in which hope and vision and new work can happen. cleansed by the existence of ongoing revolutions in the middle east, advanced revolutions in latin america and the caribbean, and budding revolution in the u.s.

there’s a time, after a broken heart, when you feel the first heat of interest and excitement in a new person begin to flame up inside, and you know that something is truly gone, some space is truly opened.

to be an american awakened to the economic realities of this moment is to walk with a broken heart. dreams are such a mystery, but i like to think they are the ultimate dialogue between the heart and the brain – love and lust and need and longing playing out in loops of possibility and vision and nightmare when we have no choice but to see it, subconscious, in the dark.

the american dream and the american nightmare are a breath apart from each other. the american heartbreak is constant, the fine line between the two – it is the unifying experience of the 99%.

and i am a purist, i think the 1% are just as heartbroken, trying to fill up their lonely chasms with trinkets and towers, using vicodin and viagra to fill the space of peace and passion.

so we all need this catharsis –
divest from the banks, divest from the schedules of life.
take the streets, the parks.
general strike until the majority of americans remember that this is our commons, our country.
cleanse, purge, wash, release, liberate your spirits, our souls, shake our souls loose so they can grow again. (for grace tells us these are the times to grow our souls, and I want to do that work.)

the catharsis clears the way for new practices. new practices that start small.

after the break-up, the new practices are often new eating habits, meditation, working out, deepening friendships.

after the first rush of revolution the new practices may include new ways of making decisions, new levels of shared responsibility, new definitions of leadership.

i still maintain that we cannot rush ourselves. everything is unfolding perfectly. the movement is building and not building as it supposed to.

I think, in this moment full of action, where the economy and what it means to be human are the content of dinner table conversations, when we are taking a collective assessment of our global condition, it is important to remember that the horizon is constant, always the same distance away as we move towards it.

what we are articulating now is like coming to the top of a mountain range, together. suddenly it seems we can see so far. but it is just us seeing the landscape anew – it has been here, and will be here.

it is not the whole world which must change – the break-up process is cathartic because after releasing the other, suddenly we are left with just ourselves, the true point of transformation. it is us, one by one and altogether, who must make ourselves into our dreams.

so I posit that every single thing you want to see in the world is already within you: just, liberated, collective, cooperative, deeply listening, small scale, decentralized, centered around love. you have to come into awareness around it, and then you have to take up the new practices which resonate most deeply with your internal sense of the righteous.

eventually.

I think.

but for now, let’s stay in this cathartic moment. it’s been a dark age, this capitalist era. we are almost ready for something new, once the rage passes.

in labor, the moment before the birth is the most guttural, universal scream. I hear it all around me now, all the time.

push.

love song for oakland

i have often said a word or two
about the world
but the world has changed
is changing
i need new words to describe her…

*

has it always been so fast?
this knowing?
this all-of-us knowing,
all around the globe,
that we long for each other?

and we can make a world.

we can make it in
the same space
the same plaza
where we once exploded at each other
anguish and anger
the tentacles of our powerlessness

the great oak watched us
sip coffee and talk around
that unknown desire
for an other world

and now
we are all of us
overgrown with wilderness
a new country emerges
bursting forth
from the heart of things

an other way of being human
sprouts
under old branches
which remember for us

there,
a bright red lipstick mark
forbidden and free
on the face of every city
visible from the decision maker’s window

visible now
the whole world over
we watch each other rise up
and see ourselves in the masses
see ourselves,
righteous

see ourselves
and we are beautiful

we are in the heightened awareness
of our greatest self
unfurling, finally, some wingspan

we are not beginning
not ending
we are now, and next

in the echoes of we shall not be moved
we sing a new song:
we shall be
we shall be together
with our dreams
with our children
with our homes
with each other

try and watch us
watch the dandelion hoard grow
you cannot even see our wholeness
only watch us on the wind

shape shifting,
resilient
shouting our power
at the top of our lungs
becoming a multitude of one

the people
united

a hopi elder speaks (hopi eleventh hour prophecy)

posting the only thing that gets me through nights like tonight, when my first response is fear, and i have to be reminded that letting go of the shore is not a game – i have to be reminded to celebrate:

“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is THE HOUR.

And there are things to be considered…

Where are you living?

What are you doing?

What are your relationships?

Are you in right relation?

Where is your water?

Know your garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community.

Be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation

beyond capitalism mixtape, 2011-

tonight I went to see Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975. this is not a review of that film, which was a collection of some amazing footage woven into a questionable narrative. 

but watching it, and thinking again about the black power movement’s successes and shortcomings, left me with some big thoughts about what we are currently experiencing with the explosion of actions and encampments to unveil the corruption of wall street.

the biggest thought was a question: are we, the self-proclaimed 99%, ready to occupy a world beyond capitalism? 

that is, not to smash capitalism, not even necessarily to rise up in an all out armed class warfare, though the violent police and government responses may spark just that level of rebellion. but, as far as I can tell, on earth, we evolve out of the forms of the past. we build on top of ancient cities, feeding ourselves out of the soil that our ancestors were tucked into for the longest sleep.

so, are we ready to build on top of capitalism? to evolve beyond it? to redefine human economy in a way that gives us a chance at longevity?

Grace Lee Boggs talks about the shift from the agrarian to the industrial age, and how the cultural shift we are leaning into now is on that scale. 

I think we have come to a place where many of us feel we are awake to a new reality, or can at least sense/dream/imagine a new reality on the horizon. a reality in which we collectively realize capitalism cannot yield the societal norms we need in order to survive and thrive as a species. a reality where we begin to practice what’s next.

we have to deeply transform our way of thinking and being – away from profit, towards interdependence. 

we have to evolve something akin to legs, equivalent to the capacity to walk and make fire. the something, the capacity, is to truly measure success by the depth and authenticity of relationships, rather than the size of bank accounts, houses, lawns, cars, and over fed bodies…materials. 

we have to release the part of ourselves that picks up arms out of fear, out of greed, and destroys other human life over the materials we want – militarism. we have to evolve beyond militarism as a way of managing human conflict.

these seem like massive things, but I think it is actually a series of small things, lots of tiny personal and community sized shifts. and we need to learn to articulate and share these shifts, so we can be self-aware of our actual scale.

I am in the 99%, though I am not camped out in downtown detroit. I notice that it is a much smaller-than-99% percent that are actually in the camps, on the streets all over the country. but the percentage of people feeling united is much larger.

as with the movement in 1968, it appears to be a tipping point percentage…occupy wall street – both the original and the iterations – is the central topic of misinterpretation, assumption, inspiration, opinion and narrative from the news to the water cooler to the barbershop. 

it has gained the attention, respect, support and even love of people who may never join the camp or the march, but feel aligned in their hearts, and are willing to change the conversations they have with their families and communities. in that respect, it has succeeded already in changing the conversation. 

in this next phase, it will be important to think about our behavioral shift.

already I am thrilled…beyond thrilled!!…at the way both consensus as a process and facilitation as a practice have been uplifted in these movement spaces. these are crucial post-capitalist necessities. 

we must learn (or perhaps more accurately resocialize ourselves) to make decisions collectively, and directly, in the interest of people and planet. in fact, as much as possible, we must release the concepts of I and mine, and lean into the concepts of we and ours – our planet, our decisions, our children, our lives. 

we must unlearn our instinct to look everywhere for leader-directors, and instead cultivate the skill of holding space for consensus, for change, for community, for conflict resolution. that is the art of facilitation. facilitation is not trying to sell anything, it is a method of growing ideas, alignment, community and ultimately society.

watching the film today I was struck again by how devastating it was to have beloved leaders, because the position was, and is, impossible to hold. the leader gets murdered, exiled, accused, tormented, isolated, egomaniacal, dismissed, disrespected, disconnected from people and sanity and reality…and then generations later might get a holiday, a stamp, a memorial.

we have never had the capacity to protect those who would lead us, especially if they truly love us.

but if we have no leaders, or rather, a massive multitude of leaders, sharing roles and work, sustainable and self-aware, accountable for being good participants and followers as well as holders of space – if we take responsibility for the direction of our communities, assuming our power to enact change, then we must only protect ourselves. 

which is no simple thing.

capitalism is deeply based on values which are visible, numbers you can add up to measure a person. we need to think of being the 99%, this beyond capitalism, as something we carry within us. even if the campers are carried away in police vans, or cycled off the mainstream news.

being part of the 99% succeeds when it alters our behavior in our every day lives. when it grows into something we must protect – our guiding principles.

then no one can annihilate us. 
then no one can infiltrate us. 

the new form i believe we are taking cannot be seen by capitalism, it is off the grid. the new behaviors we practice will not all be spectacles in city parks…it is day in and day out living and organizing, direct actions, shifting from big banks to credit unions. it is sharing decision making and leadership, listening deeply, seeking solutions at the community level instead of from corporations, doing the work needed in the community, rather than wasting precious energy on just getting a paycheck. 

what most terrifies the 1% is that we will realize we don’t need them, that we don’t need any form of dependence. that we can take care of ourselves and each other. that interdependence is the only sustainable societal experiment we can grow into from here, and we will not be controlled by those who won’t participate.

a stand out line in the movie is about the black panther breakfast program – that the panthers feeding their communities, the children, was more terrifying to 1968 american government than the guns. 

beyond capitalism, that is what we fear to name. and that is where we are going. 

my friend jodie posted an image on my page the other day which said: don’t fear change – change fear.    the only thing that will keep us from the future we know we need is fear, the kind of fear that keeps us in abusive relationships because they are familiar. we deserve better, the world deserves better.

let go. 

Jill Scott, a luscious satyagraha

this is a super brief review of Jill Scott’s album The Light of the Sun. I first heard the album when a dear friend of mine emailed me, with no comment, a link to the video for the single Hear My Call. in the video Jill is stark, gorgeous, praying weeping mourning and wailing in…

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one step in building the ‘occupy/unify’ movement in detroit

(posted this earlier on my facebook page, thought i would post here as well for easy sharing)

as detroit began having conversations around what occupy efforts could look like here, it sparked conversations and self-reflection about our distinctions of movement and community. this letter was drafted on a pirate pad and collectively edited and signed onto by tons of detroiters – it is a living document which continues to be tweaked.

as the process continues to unfold, and unity continues to develop in the movement here, i feel that this is a powerful touchstone of the values being cultivated in detroit, and could potentially be a useful model for folks working to articulate their unique iteration of this international phenomenon, rooting it in history and current events at the most local level.

thanks to yusef shakur and jenny lee for taking the first steps on this!

—-

To the first General Assembly of Occupy Detroit,

We are inspired by the actions of Occupy Wall Street and the opportunity it has given so many people to stand up and get involved in shaping the fate of this country.

We are inspired by the protocol of consensus decision-making and inclusivity being used on Wall Street, where anyone who shows up is asked: “what can you contribute to this movement?” In return, participants are supported to bring their best selves to the work of creating a new world. We propose that Detroit embrace that same protocol.

In the spirit of bringing our best selves to this process, we offer this background knowledge, which anyone attempting to organize in Detroit must first understand before taking any action that aims to speak for Detroit. We all have a lot to learn from each other. Nothing said here should be taken as a claim to “know more” or “better” than anyone else. As just mentioned it’s about all of us bringing our best selves to this historic uprising, and doing it creatively, nonviolently and together.

Detroit is a Movement City. Detroiters have been organizing resistance to corporate greed, violence and oppression for nearly a century; from the birth of the labor movement here in the 1920s to the radical black workers movements of the ’60s to the current poor people campaigns against utility shutoffs that allow dozens of people to die each year. We have organized resistance to racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, ableism, and the criminalization of youth, to the systematic destruction of the environment in poor communities of color, to the dehumanization of people with disabilities, and so many other injustices — as they manifest in our daily lives and are reflected in practices that dictate access and distribution of resources, as well as policies at the local, state and national levels.

Detroit is moving beyond just protest. Because we have survived the most thorough disinvestment of capital than any major U.S. city has ever seen; because we have survived “white flight” and “middle class flight,” state-takeovers, corruption and the dismantling of our public institutions; because the people who remained in Detroit are resilient and ingenious, Detroiters have redefined what “revolution” looks like.

Detroit is modeling life AFTER capitalism. In Detroit, “revolution” means “putting the neighbor back in the hood” through direct actions that restore community. It means maintaining public welfare programs for residents who are without income which protect said low income families from facing utility shut offs and homelessness. It means outlawing poverty in any form since the resources to prevent such a condition remain abundantly available to this state. It means Peace Zones for Life that help us solve conflict in our neighborhoods without the use of police, reducing opportunities for police violence. It means food justice and digital justice networks across the city supporting self-determination and community empowerment. It means youth leadership programs and paradigm-shifting education models that transform the stale debate between charter schools and public schools. It means “eviction reversals” that put people back in their homes and community safety networks that prevent people being snatched up by border patrol. It means artists who facilitate processes of community visioning and transformation, and organizers who approach social change as a work of art. In Detroit, the meaning of “revolution” continues to evolve and grow.

Detroit will not be “occupied” in the same sense as Wall Street: The language of “occupation” makes sense for the occupation of the privately-owned Zuccotti Park on Wall Street. But this language of “occupation” will not inspire participation in Detroit and does not make sense for Detroit. From the original theft of Detroit’s land by French settlers from Indigenous nations, to the connotations of “occupation” for Detroit’s Arab communities, to the current gentrification of Detroit neighborhoods and its related violence — “Occupation” is not what we need more of. We will however participate in creating anew out of what remains in Detroit today.

Detroit’s participation in the “Occupy Together” actions must grow out of Detroit’s own rich soil. It cannot be transplanted from another city’s context. We recognize that “Occupy Detroit” has attracted the participation of people from across the state of Michigan. This is a good thing, IF people take the time to understand the unique history and current work of Detroit’s social movements, this letter aims to be a starting point in that process. The reimagined work of activists is to confront and take down systems of oppressive power, on the one hand, while building a new and just world on the other. Let’s do it. Together. Now.

let it breathe

moved to write more…

just home from occupy Oakland, and hearing reports from the first general assembly meeting in Detroit. last night I heard from folks who had gone to check out occupy sf, and i am following the budding of several cities in their parallel efforts.

in each instance there are various levels of excitement and disappointment.

there is such urgency in the multitude of crises we face, it can make it hard to remember that in fact it is urgency thinking (urgent constant unsustainable growth) that got us to this point, and that our potential success lies in doing deep, slow, intentional work.

we need to go beyond having a critique/counter analysis/alternate systemic plan for society – we have to actually DO everything differently, aligned with a different set of core principles for existence.

especially our movement building.

how do we LIVE compassion, justice, love, accessibility, in alignment with this planet and with the people on it? how do we live our values?

as we are, so it (our work, our movement) will be.

for the majority of us, myself included, this means VAST ongoing transformation from how we are currently living and being. and as we transform, we see more things that need transformation, within ourselves and the world.

it is so important to cultivate our patience, our thoughtfulness, our willingness to slow down and seek the wisdom of those not already part of our movements – not to get them in step with our point of view, but because we need their lived experiential wisdom to shape solutions that will work for the majority of living beings.

it is imperative to regenerate our curiosity, our genuine interest in different opinions, and in people we don’t know yet – can we see them as part of ourselves, and maintain curiosity, especially when we want to constrict and critique?

can we each take our little spark from the fire that has started and truly let it breathe enough to grow?

occupy wall street didn’t start off as big as it is now, it started small and built community, cultural norms and communication…and it’s still building.

the challenge in other cities is that we are all starting off with a lot more people at the table with ideas and directions and agendas to push.

that means time spent on getting a clear decision making process in place will be worth every second in the long run.

that means facilitators skilled in consensus and synthesis have an important role to play.

that means that individuals and organized bodies with all variety of experiences are showing up, and we have to humble ourselves to value all contributions, from the newest people to the most organized professionalized folks.

that means our socialized practices to control each other and compete are going to emerge, and we have to be attentive and accountable as we try to open ourselves to something larger than our particular formation or analysis.

that means we can do, be, and create whatever we want to see, knowing ours is one effort in the midst of many, and the multitude is where our power lies.

before joining occupy oakland folks today, I got to witness two incredible presentations on movement and network building at the engage community of practice gathering I am facilitating.

one of them offered a key metaphor that is used at allied media projects: the role of organizers in an ecosystem is to be earthworms, processing and aerating soil, making fertile ground out of the nutrients of sunlight, water, and everything that dies, to nurture the next cycle of life.

all that has come before is in the soil which now yields the movement to counter wall street and the systems of capitalism and create a new economy of relationships, a new society of care and respect.

in that paradigm there is no failure. everything we attempt, everything we DO, is either growing up as its roots go deeper, or it’s decomposing, leaving its lessons in the soil for the next attempt.

another lesson I observed from the people’s mic experience at occupy wall street…if someone called for the mic, they were granted it. but if people weren’t feeling the statement, eventually they stopped repeating it.

I shared that observation with Jenny Lee from allied media, and she observed that in a way, twitter has prepped us for this succinct and self-selected rebroadcasting of each other.

and just like with the people’s mic, and our social media efforts, what we pay attention to grows. let’s cultivate the movement we want, and leave space for others to do the same.

there’s room. let it breathe.

from liberty plaza

yesterday I got to liberty plaza, finally.

since it came to my attention I have been making my way towards it, wanting to see it and feel it myself, though with some trepidation. I tend to roll with a critical crowd, and I have to work hard sometimes to keep my heart open when there are lots of critical questions sitting there for me to ask:

is it a bunch of privileged white kids?
is it stinky dropouts?
is it a mash-up of wingnut messaging?
is it our tame tahrir square?

or…
is it the decentralized movement we have been awaiting?
is it safe for queer people, people of color, for me?
is it rooted with existing movements for economic justice?

I had to know.

so I went. getting off the train at wall street there is immediately a little hand written taped up piece of paper pointing towards zuccotti park. first I walked around the perimeter, lined with people facing outward with signs, taking in the love, admiration, disrespect, insults, and ignorance of the passersby with a generally curious and calm presence.

I wound my way through the inner park, taking in all the systems and offerings and community there, as well as hundreds of others like myself, come to see and feel this massive cultural happening. I saw a few folks I knew, but they were also there seeing how to plug in. that excited me.

what I felt there was a resounding yes, yes to all of my questions, and many more.

more precisely, what I felt was the surge of energy I used to get at a march, realizing that there were so many people wanting change, people who had walked completely different pathways to reach the same conclusion that they were willing to give their precious lifeforce to changing the systems of our time.

this has the potential to be deeper, because it feels less fleeting, less temporary, less spectacle. marches have left me feeling so unheard for so long.

here, i noticed the wingnut messaging, and the whiteness…and yet I felt close to tears a few times, seeing unexpected diversity in the crowd, seeing the self-organized systems emerging for creation of art, sharing of information, health and wellness. there was even a table of ‘coaches’ to help people figure out what their role in the movement could be.

no one is special, and everyone is needed.

to speak to the whiteness of the crowd, I actually felt moved to see so many white people, very normal looking white people, standing around the edges of this park looking liberated themselves, holding up signs that criticize capitalism.

some were speaking from their privilege, and others from their own economic struggles. but to have masses of white people in the streets talking about the economy with a progressive decentralized grassroots perspective, and have it not be the tea party, is a tipping point signal.

the crises are becoming clear even to those not being directly oppressed, or those directly organizing. and people are ready to stand up and dream of something different.

and yes of course it would be amazing to see even more people of color there.

my sense was that we need only show up, in whatever capacity we can, and there we will be. there is also a case to be made for white privileged folks sleeping in the park to hold space for people of color and poor folks who may not have the luxury to drop work and do so, but are in alignment. solidarity can look so many different ways.

it’s movement.

I have been in movement spaces for a long time, and we have a way of doing things which is so steeped in critique that I have often wondered if we would strangle movement before it could blossom. sometimes I think we put up the critiques to excuse ourselves from getting involved, and sometimes I think we do it to protect our hearts from getting broken if it doesn’t work out. critique, alone, can keep us from having to pick up the responsibility of figuring out solutions. sometimes I think we need to liberate ourselves from critique, both internal and external, to truly give change a chance.

the major critique I have heard of this effort is the lack of demands, and multitude of messages.

my thought so far is, humans have a multitude of cares, of passions…trying to lockstep us into one predictable way of being is the essential desire of corporations, because if you can predict what people will want and do, then you can profit off of coming up with appropriate products and activities for them. this movement is instead making it as easy as possible to enter, no matter what passion brought you to the square.

and in terms of the demands, it seems the central demand is to build and expand a conversation that is long overdue in this country, a conversation which doesn’t have simple cut and dry demands. we are realizing that we must become the systems we need – no government, political party or corporation is going to care for us, so we have to remember how to care for each other.

and that will take time, and commitment, a willingness to step outside of the comfort of the current and lean into the unknown, together. to listen to each other across all real and perceived divides.

I have heard stories of folks having issues, bringing them to general assembly, and being able to shift the process, even as newcomers. I have seen random people call for the people’s microphone, and others – including myself – jump in to spread the message, regardless of the message.

the whole thing seems so utterly not produced, not micromanaged, and not acting from a place of crisis which excuses top down elitist decision making processes – not rushing itself.

I see this as a natural evolution from conversations and gatherings and organizing that has been building for years, call and response across time from the battle in seattle, the street forums that take analysis beyond the choir.

it’s taken a long time to get to this place. now it’s time to let the fruit burst on our tongues and savor the flavor of something tangible that we grew with our courage to hold the line against the inhumanity of corporate greed. let’s spend less time on the imperfection of the process, and more time articulating and crystalizing our lessons.

liberty square is important, the call to occupy wall street is important.

and like any anti-Zionist American with an analysis of imperialism here at home and abroad, I am not a fan of the proliferation of events that are naming themselves “occupy ‘insert city'”. I get it. we are going to occupy America with justice, to take up the space of being in this country, in these cities and in these banks, be vocal occupants of this place, reshaping it to something that yields solidarity in place of shame.

I love the other options I am hearing: “decolonize ‘insert city'”, “occupy within” and “foreclose ‘insert institution'”.

it feels spacious. it feels like something you can do, no matter where you are, by authentically applying yourself to the changes you wish to see. at liberty plaza it is a physical occupation. in Detroit it may be a massive redistribution of food and shelter resources heading into the winter. tomorrow I will get to see what it looks like in Oakland.

don’t sit this out. it has room for you. find out, start, or help shape what is happening in your town.