A leader-full movement cannot be evicted…
…and an awakened giant cannot be put back to sleep.
Two words to Mayor Bloomberg and all other officials throughout the land who may be thinking they can evict their local Occupy encampment:
It’s too late because this is a movement full of leaders. You can’t lock up a key few and watch the others disperse. We are decentralized and answer to no one and nothing, save our own hearts and morals. We are all in this together. If you arrest a few hundred or a few thousand on Friday in Zuccotti Park, that will do nothing but make this movement more powerful and more resilient, as a limitless supply of leaders stands up to take the place of those removed.
I was at the opening day march and the start of the occupation of City Hall, Los Angeles. I wanted to see for myself. Who would turn out? Who would ‘lead’ the march? Which groups were behind it?
On that first Saturday, October 1, there was much milling about, people looking in each other’s faces for recognition, realizing what it may be like to find common voice with strangers. Without a person or group leading, there was a feeling of searching…for meaning, for friends, for a binding voice.
I returned to City Hall on Tuesday, October 4, and the scene had changed dramatically in a few short days.
Now this was a scene to make me cry…with tears of joy.
Every night the occupiers practice democracy. Really. There is a general assembly, where everyone can be heard. The group is operating by consensus, no easy feat for hundreds of people.
In four short days, there were already committees in place to handle all aspects of life in what was quickly becoming a small village.
We know deep in our hearts, that there is no shortage in this world. No shortage of energy. No shortage of food. No shortage of life. There is only a shortage of creativity in how we use and conserve our resources, how we harness our energy and how we distribute our largess.
The people have sensed for far too long that the deck has been stacked. That our monetary system does not reflect the values of the vast majority of us. But many of us suffered silently, believing that not enough others would stand with us, were we to speak out. Until finally, nearly unbelievably, the fear of standing alone gave way to the joy of standing together.
After standing with hundreds of friends not yet met that night, I took my turn to say a few words. It was past 10 p.m., deep into a meeting that had started at 7:30. I said, “Democracy is tiring. And oh, so beautiful.” I talked about the need to make sure everyone not on the steps of City Hall be made aware of the varied faces and stories in the crowd, and how important it is that we each see ourselves represented by those making the public stand. Everyone was allowed to speak. There is no charismatic leader running the show. There is no hidden agenda. There is no secret organization having its bidding done.
There are only people. Individuals united by a belief that a better world is possible.And knowledge that they may not have all the answers, but they are the ones asking the questions.
They are doing the asking respectfully. They are respectful of each other, respectful of the consensus process and respectful of the people who ordinarily inhabit that city hall space. I saw no militancy, simply people actively practicing a way of living that will usher in a new world.
The objectives they come up with are less relevant than the fact that a bunch of strangers can come together in a tent city and in a matter of days have objectives. You try it. Not so easy.
To all those who denigrate the occupiers, I say, there is no laziness evident there. There are people cooking, running a media center, administering first aid and staffing security needs. Industriousness is rampant. Imagine what will happen as we go further toward creating a world where such creativity is harnessed, rather than our current system where so many of our youth feel the need to use all they’ve got to simply live – in a system that isn’t looking out for them – no health care, no retirement, college debt for a lifetime, or maybe they can go fight a war on foreign soil.
And to those who say this looks like a leaderless movement, we say, look with slightly different eyes.
What you will see is a leader-full movement. Each person is waiting for nobody to tell her what to do. Rather, each is leading his own piece of the movement, and trusting that all the other pieces are handled by others, equal in their brand of leadership.
Whether in New York, Los Angeles, or any other occupied city, I say to those in elected office, in corporate office and in uniform, do nothing to hinder this people’s movement. The more you try to repress the will of the people, the stronger you make the collective – stronger in their resolve, stronger in their resilience, stronger in their beliefs that we are all one, and we will all be heard.
So arrest people at your own peril. But whatever you do, Mayor Bloomberg and others, if your intent is to put this wave of democracy, this awakened giant, back to sleep, sorry..
Francis DellaVecchia is the founder of the Joyful Activist movement, having coined the term to describe the volunteers who participated in his campaign to become the mayor of Los Angeles in 2001. His Joyful Activist Playbook: Transforming Outrage into Outrageous Fun is due to be published in Spring 2012. DellaVecchia uses inspiration, humor and joy to make a powerful and positive difference in all that he does. He also has considerable experience writing for newsweeklies, magazines, the stage and screen focusing largely on future trends and social activism. His articles have appeared in LA Weekly—the premiere Los Angeles newsweekly published by Village Voice Media, Urb magazine—a national monthly devoted to urban youth culture, Lotus magazine—a national monthly focusing on the electronic music scene, and Deep Style magazine—a national periodical of literary and topical interest.
Whether as speaker, writer, or media producer, DellaVecchia uses the tools at his disposal to activate the audience with whom he interacts. He believes that societal shift picks up speed as more people choose methods of connection over lives of separation, and his talks and playshops reinforce that notion through practical exercises. Francis maintains the website www.JoyfulActivist.com, offers Joyful Activist playshops and speaks about activism and social issues for numerous organizations, conferences and festivals. Visit his blog at www.JoyConspiracy.com.