The Occupy Wall Street movement more effectively addresses the cause of the financial crisis than economists and discussions in the mainstream press. Further, this movement embodies democratic solutions for a way beyond the crisis. This essay focuses on Occupy Wall Street’s facilitating of political action from disparate, heterogeneous partisans; increasing of transparency and participation in decision-making; and relying upon both human-scaled and participatory technologies. Through these processes, the Occupy Wall Street micro-community embodies a vision for a pluralistic, direct democratic society and demonstrates it through practice. (more…)

6 Responses to “The Crisis and The Way Out Of It: What We Can Learn From Occupy Wall Street”

  1. Reb Deb Gordon

    This is fascinating. I’ve been struggling to explain the importance of both analysis and process — others have said it, but I haven’t been able to capture the words, so it’s important to me that you’ve written it. I participated tonight in the comment stream while watching #OccupyMN start to get organized. Some folks were quite wary of the People’s Mic technique; I love Naomi Klein’s characterization of it! Others, quite clearly, were frustrated with the amount of time and wanted to “get something done.” Thank you for pointing out why it’s important not to jump there, for several reasons.

  2. Ben Brucato

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. The concerns for the people’s mic is that:

    1) It “seems cultish” or “fascoid.” I heard someone compare it to the borg (Star Trek).
    2) It slows things down.

    On the first item, I couldn’t disagree more. Perhaps this concern is coming from many who haven’t participated in the people’s mic yet. (I have.) Imagine personally engaging in speaking the positions of all the many people and all their varied ideas – in fact, saying many things you disagree with, but also things you’ve never fully considered before. Most people repeating statements are “twinkling” (giving hand gestures involving holding both hands up and waving all fingers, indicating approval or support) or by showing disapproval (waving fingers downward). This is an amazing exercise in active listening. I would imagine any educational psychologist would be impressed by this practice.

    On the second item, I think that when slowness is integrated into actual procedures that it’s almost always a good thing. It allows more time for reflection – emotionally and rationally – and give more opportunity for people to think about whether they have something helpful to contribute to the conversation or not. It also encourages people to chose their words more wisely. It additionally makes the effects of speech much more explicit, uncovering its power – for better or worse. Slowness challenges our notion that more and bigger and more complicated is better. Slowness encourages less, smallness, and the simple. As a big fan of the work of E.F. Schumacher, Ivan Illich and the direction given by appropriate technology, as well as Kirkpatrick Sale’s discussion of the human-scale, I deeply appreciate this latter approach. The people’s mic is a human-scaled appropriate technology.

    In an online discussion with a longtime friend and radical in Phoenix who is involved in organizing Occupy Phoenix, he mentioned his hope that they would have amplified sound precisely because he doesn’t like the people’s mic. The reason is because there is a developing ‘leadership’ in the organizing who indicate both inexperience and some politically problematic positions (i.e. they are working directly with the police, condemning as violent anyone who gets arrested, and making statements as concensed by the group without votes). I think the people’s mic – as opposed to amplification – actually helps prevent the ability of leaderships developing. When these people try to dominate others by forcing their speech on them, the megaphone or microphone helps make this possible. But when you are people-powering the communication of someone who is attempting to dominate and control the movement, you can pull your participation and disempower those who have utilized softer forms of power (charisma, discipline, etc.) to elevate themselves.

    The danger in this last point is that unpopular ideas will be disempowered as well. However, access to a microphone is easier to control and keep particular people from accessing it. It’s a definitive gateway that’s easy to maintain.

    Thanks so much for your comments and your contribution to the movement. Best of luck to you and yours in your community.


  3. Josh

    Ben, to elaborate on the human mic that breaks up the codes of non-communication:

    The mass-media working to produce non-communication: transmitter-message-receiver, or encoder-message-decoder.

    Baudrillard’s essay ‘Requiem for the Media’ responds to this equation:
    “The message itself being structure by its code and determined by the context. ..This structure is based on the same arbitrariness as signification: two terms are artificially isolated and artificially reunited by an objectivized content called a message. There is no reciprocal relation nor presence of one to the other of these terms, since both are determined in isolation in their relation to the message and the code, an inter-medium which maintains both of them in a respective situation, distanced from one another, a distance which comes to fulfill the full automated ‘value’ of the message (in fact: its exchange value). This ‘scientific’ construction institutes a model of simulation of communication for which reciprocity, the antagonism of the partners, or the ambivalence of their exchange is immediately excluded.” p. 87, Utopia Deferred.

    The abstract bipolarity of the terms of communication. The mega-system of centralized control is a myth – it doesn’t need to play itself out in Orwellianism, accordingly “the is censorship in their [mass-medias] operation itself; they don’t need a mega-structure. They never cease from being totalitarian: they realize in some way the ideal of what we can call a decentralized totalitarianism.”

    And the mass-media have attempted to insert a ‘reversibility’ into their circuits – through public opinion polls, televised voting, letters from readers, call-ins, etc.) whilst simtaneously still leaving room for speech without response – that is, without changing the discrimination of the roles. The communicative simulation.

    On this note, perhaps the human mic is a means of symbolic-exchange, since by exchanging messages on the human-to-human basis it allows for feedback and perhaps (why not?) collapses ‘distances’ between the people.

    Baudrillard cites Umberto Eco ‘ changing the contents of messages changes nothing, one must modify the reading codes, impose other reading codes.

    From the same article, speaking on May 68 graffiti, “It’s transgressive not because it substitutes another content, another discourse, but because it responds, there, in place, and breaks the fundamental rule of all media, non-response.” & “it simply breaks the code. It does not offer itself as a text to be deciphered alongside the advertising discourse: it lets itself be seen as transgressinon.”

    May one hypothesize that the human mic works in a similar way? The charm of symbolic exchange is the gift: the one who gives in implicated in the gift. I think the human mic works like this — when you speak you are implicated in the gift of speech. Perhaps the human mic breaks the technology of speech coded on exchange-value?

  4. Josh

    lots of spelling mistakes in the above, apologies !

  5. John Jarowski

    Wow! This was an insightful read. I stumbled upon it today because I was looking to see if anyone else had made a connection between OWS and Day’s work. I have written about this myself on my own blog:

    Keep up the great work!

  6. Jolly Rodjer

    My hope for this emerging movement the 99% occupy all, is for it to rally the disenchanted who now can only elect media and money promoted goons to carry out the work of the elite control of finiance methods that fail due to overspeculation and greed hurting others & not themselves.
    When enough people can understand that the taxpayer/worker provides the foundation for all wealthy elite that has positioned itself as the know it all of civilizations progress so long as they can keep bleeding the serf/worker/ provider.
    Today this elite can not solve the clean available water problem, the clean energy problem, the money problem,the job problem mostly due to not being able to allow cheaper, cleaner, technologies they have yet not got control of so a blackout on the wide range of solutions individuals have come up with exists.
    The elite opperate a false system of money supply treating it as a comodity rather than a means of supplying goods and services, the speculation and the expansion of our money system is proven false every time banks fail and turn belly up with no money and grabbing at what the taxpayer has left after being robbed beforehand.
    Today the people are fed up and need a new method of governing themselves bypassing the elite selected goons we now call government this can be set up so that people can develop issues, vote on them as well as choosing who will do our will in the implementation of the public will, this can be extended to hiring and firing those we place our trust in as well.
    The old guard have got into place laws that allow fractional reserve banking that gets its reserves small as they are compared to advances from such things as “government securities” “treasury bonds” and even other debts most of which are backed by the hard pressed taxpayer, laws like this that allow interest to be charged on the portion of a loan that had a tiny fraction of assett would be changed if the public decided they were benifiting only the 1% of the public if they had direct democracy without all the money promoted fanfare provided for selected goons as it is today lets make 2012 a year for a better world let us all think of how this can be achieved by joining in the development of ideas in the forums of the 99% & occupy groups.

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