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The Trouble With Occupy

The Occupy Movement is inspiring to many of us who have long awaited a new dynamic into our dysfunctional political system. It is a powerful cultural force, engaging citizen activists to promote substantive change to an unfair system. It has already reshaped political conversations with its focus on the corporate elitism and government collusion that has led to a system that profits the 1%. The Occupy Movement has also shown us that we don’t need to be perfectly organized or to have perfect messaging to have an effect. We just need to be active citizens, to raise our voices and to stand for our principles. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Of course ‘The Trouble With Occupy’ depends on the context. A police officer with orders to pepper spray or remove peaceful protesters may find such orders troublesome. Politicians are finding trouble in having to address the financial imbalance of the 1% vs. the 99%. Financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo are certain finding trouble with Occupy as the movement applies pressure to the status quo through any number of actions. But that’s not what this article is about.

This article is about ‘The Trouble with Occupy’ from the perspective of someone thoroughly inspired by The Occupy Movement, and active with Occupy Cincinnati.

To begin, Occupy starts with an us versus them mindset, the 99% against the 1%. This is curious in that we clearly want a cultural system based on inclusiveness, diversity and an appreciation of the reality that we are all here together in this moment. The core problem is not the 1%, as they are our brothers and sisters, the problem is they represent the corruption rampant in the current cultural system. I do not imagine even the 1% waking each day thinking on how they can destroy human rights, wreck the planet and further undermine prosperity and democracy for the rest of us. They are ingrained with elitism, and hence need to learn the truth of our common humanity. Occupy fails to make this clear.

Second, The Occupy Movement makes a great deal of noise about what it is against, understandable when its very existence was a response to a broken system. And yet again there is a lack of clarity. We generate any number of actions, but many are futile in the larger scheme. Marches, protests and similar disruptions to the existing structure are limited in their ability to create substantive change.

Implicit in OWS is that we want honestly and integrity, stronger local communities and a healthier ecosystem for Planet Earth. We want abundance and prosperity. We want an end to war, to be treated like the citizens we are instead of being identified as ‘consumers’ by business and government. We want a cultural operating system based on peace and love, not the corruptive power of money. And yet Occupy has not defined any of this in a cohesive manner.

Another trouble with Occupy is its finicky relationship with words. Terms like ‘leader’ are eschewed, as an early document described the movement as ‘leaderless.’ Let’s be clear, leaders are not inherently bad, it’s just that bad leaders are prolific in a broken system such as we have today. And of course Occupy is anything but leaderless, yet resistance to the idea like leadership has hampered our organizational efforts. Let’s not confuse leadership with the unnecessary concentration of power.

A great irony, of course, is that while terms like ‘leader’ may be scorned within the movement, the term ‘Occupy’ itself is loaded with negative connotations. If one resides in Palestine, Afghanistan or Iraq, I do not imagine ‘Occupy Palestine’ sounds very promising. Being ‘Occupied’ is not considered a good thing in nation-state dynamics, especially if it’s been your reality for any number of years.

Occupy has other troubles as well. People lose energy, burn out and step back. General Assemblies can be tedious and unproductive. Infiltrators make efforts to sabotage us. Our organization is minimal and diffuse. These issues, however, are more easily addressed if we find our footing, so to speak, with the troubles mentioned above.

Now here’s something interesting. There’s a term that exists that describes this new cultural operating system that we seek. A term that acknowledges our inherent unity and the imperative to heal our broken system. A term that supports community and the need for a just and fair system. A term that stands for abundance over greed. A term that demands an end to war and suggests the template for creating a cultural system based on peace and love.

This term is World 5.0. I’m well familiar with it as founder of the idea and author of the book, “World 5.0 – Healing Ourselves, Our Earth and Our Life Together.” For seven years I’ve been noodling, gnawing and meditating on this idea, and it aligns with Occupy and the host of other progressive movements and interests that abound these days. As someone remarked at the CoreChange Summit [held in Cincinnati] last weekend, “It’s the Convergence!” a term that means ‘the act of everything coming together.’

Curious. On the one hand, we see blatant corporatism, the clueless Republican presidential field, the instability of our financial underpinnings, Global Warming, the great disparities between rich and poor, and on and on – very depressing stuff. At the same time, however, we see unprecedented efforts toward building community, restoring the Earth and unprecedented growth in non-profits and charities. We see a burgeoning movement toward organic, local food production and sustainable energy systems. We see a great effort to restore our democracy, spearheaded by The Occupy Movement.

The old system is crumbling under the weight of its own corruption, as Occupy, The Arab Spring, the ongoing financial crisis and a host of other factors and influences come to a head here, in 2012. We must admit these are no ordinary times. Calling it ‘The Convergence” seems an appropriate term, in light of all these wild goings on. And The Convergence has a name – World 5.0.

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