May 22, 2012

How the Occupy Movement Can Deal with Conflict.

Photo: Andrea de Keijzer

This is a transcript from Michael’s talk at Occupy Vancouver, November 15th, 2011.

Mic check! With enthusiasm! Mic check! Mic check.

My name is Micheal Stone. I’ve come here from Toronto, New Mexico, Montreal and Occupy Wall Street. I want to talk a little bit about what I’ve seen in some of the other Occupy movements, what I’ve learned, and about some of my fears and concerns, about the next stage of this movement.

The next stage of this movement is going to be how we deal with conflict. Internal conflict and the repression that will certainly come when the people in these buildings and the police become uptight. First of all—this is not a protest. One thing I’ve learned in this process is that this is not a protest. This is a movement.

It is hard for the media to articulate what this movement is because we don’t have demands. But movements don’t operate with demands. Movements operate with process. Instead of making demands that will be negotiated for years with elected politicians—which we’ve already tried for years—we are trying to demonstrate our values and articulate something much bigger than demands.

We are failing in our culture from a lack of imagination. What we are achieving here is a space for imagination. This is not just a revolution. It’s a collective movement to collectively pull a handbrake, an emergency brake. This capitalist, growth based economy can only survive with growth at three percent a year. In twenty-four years, the size of this economy will double. Our waterways, our fish, our forests, our young people cannot tolerate that kind of growth. So this is a crisis of growth. The shadow side of our economic system is ecological degradation.

This is movement because it is diverse. In order to be diverse, we have to communicate with people outside and beyond what we know. We have to communicate with those we don’t now—we have to listen. Listening is hard work. And it is the work worth doing. So this Occupy Movement has to learn to listen to other views in order to cultivate imagination again. This movement is going to win because it isn’t hierarchical. You can’t meet hierarchy with hierarchy. You have to meet hierarchy with creativity. The energy of creativity is anger.When you are angry, you can’t be creative because you think someone else is wrong and you are right. The one percent do not deserve our hatred. The one percent deserves our compassion. Our hatred will burn us out. What we’ve achieved so far is a space where we are slowing down. It is too early to make demands. Instead, we have to stop and wait for our imagination to collectively come together and articulate a way of living based on the values of interdependence, compassion and diversity.

Photo: Andrea de Keijzer

When you are angry—don’t do anything, don’t say anything. Find your breath, practice yoga and find out what you feel. Underneath what you feel is creativity. But don’t put up the invisible, idealistic Ghandi shield—which when it is only philosophical, gets nothing done. Anger is not bad. You need to take the momentum of your anger because the momentum of your anger gets things done. And it only works if the energy of your anger is merged with creativity.

We need the momentum of anger because the next stage of this movement is going to be demonstrating that when we meet viewpoints opposed to our viewpoints, anger arises. We need to show that we can meet that anger—and opposing viewpoints—with creativity. That creativity will demonstrate our values. This isn’t about making demands. It’s about creating a space. We’ve accomplished that.

Yesterday evening I was here when a young woman died. This is tragic. Please don’t turn her into a symbol. She is not a metaphor. Camping here is not a metaphor. It is being human. We want the One Percent to become human again, to remain human.

When the buddha started assembling a community, he told them to go and find discarded material and make robes out of it. If the material had been thrown away, you should take it and make robes out of it. Whether you like the buddha or not, this is a wonderful practice.To take what is discarded and bring it into your heart.

When there is diversity we have to take parts of our community that we have discarded because there are people that we treat like garbage. There are parts of ourselves that we treat like garbage. We have to take the pieces of ourselves that we have compartmentalized and bring them into this space. That’s how imagination happens. And that’s how we’ll win. It’s not philosophical. It’s not ideological. It’s about showing and demonstrating simple living. Interdependence. Knowing how to take care of your anger and not meet anger with anger. Is it even possible? We are showing it!

The media doesn’t know how to report on this because the media needs demands and they need violence. We won’t give them demands or violence because we are articulating a much bigger dream. And we won’t give them violence because we are taking care of our anger.

Photo: Andrea de Keijzer

Those of you who live here, those of you who are supportive. You are undertaking a major responsibility to become peace makers. Not this absurd idea of a “peace keeper,” but making peace internally, and making peace externally. That’s why this is also spiritual movement. Creating a new kind of military. To make peace in all directions. We don’t need to articulate this with lists and demands. We need to show it.

Don’t be afraid to talk about love. Don’t be afraid to talk about kindness. When we loose something—someone we love, when we finish an exhale or an old paradigm, we are always so quick to find a new lover, a new paradigm. It never works. While one night stands are kind of fun, they don’t last. When we let go, or pull the brake, we have to allow a space. Out of that space we can articulate, imagine and sow the seeds of a different way of living. So don’t feel under pressure to articulate demands. We need to enter the space that is only achieved when we pull the handbrake, all the while showing in our bodies and in the camp that this movement is organized.

You can have structure without hierarchy! You can have structure and creativity without oppression, without sexism, without classicism.

What I worry about is that you will leave here, and you will forget that this movement transcends this park. Occupy is 1980 cities. Thank-you for listening. I’ve been to many Occupies. They all have trouble—and they are all winning because they are working it out. And that’s really hard work. But it’s the work worth doing.

Thank you.

Big thanks to Shelley Whitehead for offering up this transcription!


Editor: Brianna Bemel

Like enlightened society on Facebook.

Read 3 Comments and Reply

Read 3 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Michael Stone (Centre of Gravity)  |  Contribution: 4,600