Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is Reclaiming the Commons

The traditional understanding of "the commons" refers to forests, rivers, grazing lands and such that are shared, used and enjoyed by all. The commons is another word for the "public square," a place that is open and accessible to all. The Occupy Wall Street movement is literally and figuratively reclaiming this old understanding of "the commons."

There are a number of related words in our language like "community," "commune," and even "communism." During the Middle Ages 1% of the population were nobles, while 99% were "commoners." In the formation of the British system of government a "House of Commons" was established as a counter- balance to the "House of Lords." Other old words and concepts that come from the same "common" root include "communication," the "common good," "commonwealth," which derived from "common weal" or "well-being."

The Occupy Wall Street movement is bringing all of these old words and concepts back into our awareness and our vocabulary. By establishing common ground upon which we can all come together and enter into dialogue with one another, we are making important connections, we are weaving together a populist tapestry, a matrix of alternative consciousness which will develop into the social fabric of a new order. We are creating an alternative to the elitist, trickle-down, societal infrastructure in which wealth is supposedly materialized out of thin air by "job creators," magician-marketers who seduce us into measuring our happiness in term of our ability to feed artificial appetites; an alternative to "voodoo economics" in which speculative bubbles blown up and popped leaving our nest eggs and pensions in shreds; and alternative to the old infrastructure that irrationally requires ever-expanding growth in a world of increasing scarcity; an alternative to an economy which is overseen by those who look down upon the masses from on high, while the commoners place their hopes in the over-flowing excess of the 1%; a hope that some of that excess will descend to the 99% in sufficient dribs and drabs. We will create a new counter-cultural infrastructure in which we generate wealth among ourselves, spreading it out in an ever-widening pool of plenty, a new order in which the common weal will be sustained and shared within our common humanity for the common good.

This is happening because we have reached the tipping point. We are in crisis and it has become clear that our survival depends upon creating a new system. Necessity is the mother of invention, and change has become a necessity. The occupy wall street is not happening because of a lofty philosophical awakening. It has come about because our survival instincts are kicking in. We are faced with a choice between continuing to trust the 1% , or to take matters into our own hands and begin crafting a new social order which will give us a chance to survive the impending collapse of the false economy.

This transformation will happen because it must happen, and because it can happen. The people who are coming together in the commons have skill sets from the counter-culture of the 60s, merging with the tech-savvy, network-conscious new generation which lives within a new egalitarian paradigm. We have come to a point in our evolution where elections, majority-rule and representative governments are becoming secondary to inclusive dialogue, direct democracy and consensus decision-making are technologically and psychologically possible.

As we come together in the commons we will be making critical connections among the thousands of isolated groups which have been keeping the flames of democracy alive over these decades of decline. As we occupy the commons all of the small, under-funded, struggling groups that have, for half a century been doing all sorts of good things, will discover one-another in common cause and become forged into a united front.

Instead of accepting the false dilemma of our two-party system, choosing between the Democratic and Republican political parties, we will come together around common values, things like equal opportunity for all; things like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; things like the common welfare of all in health care, food, shelter and education. Instead of being driven into opposing camps by ideology we will rediscover one another in the urgency of our common concerns. We have all been driven into the same common situation by ever-widening economic disparity as the United States finds itself with the highest poverty rate in 52 years.

As we listen to each other, carefully communicating of our common concerns, we will formulate our common goals. We will emerge speaking with a common voice that will to be heard above the sponsored talking heads of the main stream media. We will become a human megaphone, amplifying our shared concerns until our voices penetrate the halls of power and are heard by our elected representative who are barraged by the reality that "money talks." By speaking in unison the volume of our small voices will rise to counter the influence of the big money that has, for too long drowned out the "voice of the people."

We will increasing reclaim ownership as the common stewards of our resources, the care-takers of the blessings which have been bestowed upon us by our creator, to be shared and enjoyed in common. We will reinvent the commons by crafting together a transformative process which is decentralized, horizontal; not vertical; not trickling down, but a rising tide which becomes increasingly strong and wide and inclusive.

As we take time to have an authentic dialogue together we will develop a common process; not an agenda that is set by a self-appointed elite or a purchased inner-circle, but an inclusive process from which a common agenda emerges; an agenda that is not hurried, but is cultured and aged until ripe.

We will move forward as a new society of common purpose; not the polarized old order of opposing extremes. The 99% are somewhere between the extreme poles. We will develop a way of being together in common cause that honors the formative process of dynamic tensions and synergy.