Monday, November 7, 2011

What is Victory?

Today I occupied Occupy DC for a little while, but I am not a whole lot closer to knowing what the movement really hopes to gain. The effort seems to mean entirely different things to different people. I sat in on the General Assembly which began just after 6 PM on November 7,  in McPherson Square.  Serving as co-facilitator with a young lady named Heather, a gentleman by the name of Sam let us know that tonight's was the 35th General Assembly meeting of the occupation. Translation: people and their leashed cats have been living in the tents on that square for 35 days now.

Through a show of hands it was discovered that quite a few of the 40-60 people in attendance had never participated before in consensus building discussion.  So we got a briefing in the rules and the signals. Followers of this blog will know that up twinkles means agreement, and down twinkles doesn't. You can also cross your arms across your chest, but not tonight. A block is not ever used during general discussion. Apparently.

First up: we were to turn to our neighbor and discuss "what victory looks like". In other words, how will Occupy Wall Street know when the goal has been achieved, so they can stop occupying?  I of course would have no answer for that, but a sweet young man named Austin sitting next to me in the dark wanted to talk. So we did.

General Assembly at Occupy DC
This was Austin's first time at the occupation. He described himself as a "young professional" working with progressive causes. He develops online strategies for progressive non-profits, through a consulting firm. I am not sure which organizations he consults for, but when it is time to bring out a huge number of people for a progressive protest, Austin may be in the background, orchestrating some of that. He did not really know what he thought victory would look like though.  He only came because his friends thought it would be cool to check it out. Some of the people who did have ideas about victory, however, shared their ideas with the entire group. One man rambled and rambled, and ended up saying that victory would be achieved with debt reduction, and when we "lift people up and help them". Other people I had spoken to throughout the evening had entirely different ideas ranging from reaching a state of universal health care, to living in anarchy, which is a system with no hierarchy. 

Behind me, a vocal man had a crystal clear idea of what he is looking for; he shouted it out with gusto. Victory looks like "flipping the system on its ass." And from the crowd? No groans. No complaints. No down twinkles.

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