Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and participatory decision-making

Yesterday on Morning Edition, there was a story called Occupy Wall Street: Where Everybody Has a Say in Everything. It described the decisionmaking process of the Occupy Wall Street movement. There are working groups for the various areas that need to be worked on, and those groups decide how to organize themselves. Every evening, there's a general assembly where everyone meets to discuss things. Anyone who wants to speak takes a turn speaking. They have no megaphones or sound system, so the way they carry the sound is that the crowd repeats each thing the speaker says, so that all can hear. When people are done speaking, they vote by waving their hands.

I want to be part of a community based on participatory decision-making. This is fundamental to my values. This is a very Quaker thing. Quakers believe that there is that of God in everyone. They allow everyone a chance to speak. Decisions are made by the community, by consensus.

Yesterday evening on Marketplace, I heard the story Movement on the March. They found an expert on social movements who declared that "the movement has to find leaders, create a structure and identify villains." It seems to me that is a very establishment point of view. The establishment says things have to be a certain way. A movement is something that shows they don't have to be that way.

I want to live in a world where you don't need leaders, structure, and villains. I want to live in a world where we all work together to make this better.

This is my ideal. In practice, I know it can result in a lot of disagreement and indecision. In practice, I don't think I really like to be haggling with people all the time about how things should be. But in spite of those practical concerns, I think this ideal is my fundamental value.

This is what I want to do with my life, to be part of a community that show its respect for all its members by including them in decision-making. Every time I go to my job, I put myself into a community that violates this value. I have applied to jobs at places that are consistent with this value. They have not wanted me. So, until one of those communities wants me, I am stuck here. What can I do where I am?

You can't turn an apple into an elephant, so you may as well not die trying. I am not going to overhaul the entire culture where I work. But in my corner, I can live according to my values. I can treat the people around me with respect, and ask them for their input. When I notice people who are a positive force, I can lend my support to them. And I can get involved with others who do share my values outside of work -- the Quaker Meeting, and the Transition group.

That's the ambitious version. But there's another factor. There's the reality that I'm tired, sick, and antisocial. Sure probably a bit of that comes from the fact that the negativity of my situation drains my vitality, so it would be alleviated as I did more positive things. But it wouldn't be alleviated that much. Tired, sick and antisocial are a reality of who I am. For years, I have been coming up with ambitious plans about what I want to do with my life, but the plans ignore this reality. As a result, the plans don't get carried out. So yes, I can seek ways to live out my values. It's something to remind myself of as I go through each day. But I also have to remember what is actually realistic.

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