Public Statement Regarding Occupying Beyond Divisions Panel

Written on:February 18, 2012
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On Wednesday February 15 RevolutionTruth produced its first “flash panel” (produced in a matter of days rather than months) and its second panel on Occupy. After resounding upset over Chris Hedges’ piece on black bloc, we felt it important to provide a platform for a deep discussion on some difficult topics. Unfortunately, the discussion failed to unfold as we had hoped. We had made it very clear to all panelists that we expect professional conduct on these panels. This means respect and civility for fellow panelists, and a commitment to engage in a manner that allows for sincere, non-threatening and rational exploration of very challenging, and sometimes emotional issues. Despite agreeing to these prerequisites, there were panelists who failed to uphold them. RevolutionTruth owes a public apology to Chris Hedges and our other panelists for this unfortunate departure from what we had planned. We should have early on removed people who refused to abide by these rules. It was a painful lesson learned.

We also had a chance to reflect on some of the deeper themes that inspired the subject of this panel in the first place: the “diversity of tactics” debates that have sprung up globally, the idea of “leaderlessness”, authority, strategy, cohesiveness, the nature and goals of the Occupy movement, and, critically, its diversity of people. RevolutionTruth is a small international organization dedicated to exploring paradigm shifts on a global scale. In the face of increasing assaults on civil liberties in the US and abroad, and as we witness the deep corruption inherent in global systems and spheres of power, we are committed to increasing access to the information, connections and strategies needed to engender genuine transformation in our world. We are an organization committed to the restoration of the rule of law, and to legitimate democratic governance. While our team has a broad range of opinions on the subject, as an organization we are committed to the pursuit of nonviolent change.

The majority of panelists, as well as our entire team, found this Occupy Beyond Divisions panel discussion deeply problematic, and symbolic of some of the most challenging problems arising out of the Occupy movement. For one thing, we are not necessarily all leaders. RevolutionTruth strongly encourages self-empowerment, and in fact, has built an intentional online community which encourages the empowerment of our members through a robust and respectful space for discussion. However, we are also intent on challenging fallacies and misrepresentation where we see them. Leadership requires deep self-discipline, respect for others’ viewpoints, the desire to unite rather than divide, and intense sacrifice and constant compromise, among many other things. It is dangerous to think that everyone is a “leader” while simultaneously, through an “anything goes” stance, absolving ourselves of the responsibility and maturity required to lead in our perilous times. We are grateful that so many people do embody these kinds of qualities, and we resonate with the instinctive imperative arising out of Occupy that encourages all of us to embody them as best we can.

Moreover, as an organization, we do not endorse nor oppose any one kind of democracy. We seek to understand the various democracies that have arisen throughout history, and to analyze current context and events while assessing which parts of governance systems work, and which do not. We seek to understand exaggerated dichotomies, and to bridge unnecessary or unpleasant divides that hinder our learning. This is because, at the heart of the work we do, we are a group of people from around the world who, like most people who have been attracted to Occupy, believe we all need and deserve better. It is up to each of us, to all of us, to change not just our systems, but how we treat each other – if we expect to change our world.

Much was learned from the Occupy Beyond Divisions panel and we’re excited to continue our series featuring panelists who address some of the most important issues of our times. We’ll always do our best to provide a professional, respectful, and thoughtful space to do so.

12 Comments add one

  1. Yubian says:

    A “commitment to decreasing oppression, increasing liberty and ensuring just and equitable systems” but you’re using Facebook and Twitter, tools of the master. Hmmmm. To break free, you’ll have to do better than this. Revolution is about more than just rhetoric.

    How about Diaspora* and Identi.ca instead?

  2. Tangerine Bolen says:

    Sure, we are willing to migrate to other platforms. I hope you are willing to do more than criticize people who are working very hard to build a place for intelligent public discourse.

  3. Atiq Zabinski says:

    Was the panel recorded? Can it be viewed or downloaded?

    Are you going to name names concerning who behaved badly, or who represented Occupy?

    In advance of the event, I wrote you a letter of protest concerning one of the panelists allegedly slated to represent Occupy. If she was one of the people you’re complaining about here, I’m going to have to say “I tried to warn you.”

  4. Tangerine Bolen says:

    Hi Atiq, yes it was, here is the podcast link: http://www.revolutiontruth.org/live/panels/occupying-beyond-divisions/

    Where did you send your letter? I did not see anything of such nature. Would you mind re-sending it for my own edification? tangerine.bolen@revolutiontruth.org.

    Thank you for commenting. Take care

    • Tangerine Bolen says:

      Sorry, to add, no we will not name names. We will let you decide for yourself. All the names of panelists are listed on that link, with their bios.

  5. Atiq Zabinski says:

    ROTFLMAO! 13:07 Cari Machet: “I’m not a violent person. I have never committed an act of violence. But I have my definition of violence, and you have yours.”

    Machet’s definition of violence apparently doesn’t include trying to knock a camera from a Livestreamer’s hands:

    http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/19212550 at 4:50

  6. The difference between academics and non-academics is interesting to see.

  7. I just listened to the whole exchange and I have to agree with Kevin that this is symptomatic of the kind of problem Occupy will have to overcome if it is to succeed in its mission. It reminds me much of the sixties when our initial idealism during the anti-war protests of 67 and 68 was rapidly inundated by various “more radical than thou” types who espoused a self-defeating violence. Movements such as this attract those who would use the movement for various personal agendas and who lack the broad concern for others that should be the animating spirit of the movement and that is exemplified so well by Chris, Kevin, Margaret and Tangerine. But, unfortunately, discussions such as this must be risked because without mistakes there’s no growth.

  8. Petro says:

    Well.

    I am a human being with no credentials whatsoever so, with apologies, I must present whatever credentials I can bestow upon myself. Briefly, I can generally be labeled as “non-violent.” Indeed, I adore Gandhi & King, I have written over at my place how I feel that violent action is counter to anarchist philosophy, and the ways in which property damage is ultimately indistinguishable from human assault (and yet I am against private property) – not going to go into it here, the arguments are nuanced and somewhat lengthy, and this comment is not about me anyway. You can click through my ID if you want all of that.

    Chris Hedges stepped in it with that article, and he knows it. His defensiveness since its publication, in writing and in interviews, is palpable. That said, I understand where he comes from – what he stirred up caused me to soften my rhetoric about violence. Again, this isn’t about me, but I want to say that his defensiveness, and the way in which Zeese and others are digging in on this question indicate a calcification on the issue that is disregarding some of the very, very good points that the “behaving badly” set were trying to put across.

    I would suggest that critics of those upset with how the discussion turned go back and give a hard and serious listen again to what Georgia Sagri was trying to say. I only wish Hedges would do the same. (Yes, I know that sounds like “educate yourself,” the epithet that was eventually thrown by each “side” in the debate – but I don’t mean it as an epithet.) Note that, after she left the discussion, Hedges did concede that “self-policing” against violence was a bad idea – though he salted it with the rather absurd suggestion that if violence appeared, the protest should be “shut down”… as if there would be a central control in an ideal #Occupy action.

    While Hedges’ experience with other movements’ success and failures is edifying, what is not grasped by his “classical” camp – and no offense is meant – is the sense, that I get from the #Occupy aspiration that I admire, that this is trying to be something “new.” In that sense, there has not yet been a successful revolution on this planet that has countered that brought about by the agriarian, and eventually techno/industrial, revolution that first altered the trajectory of our species. What has happened since have been reactionary modifications to a system that has merely moved the deck chairs of power from one agency to another.

    This is why it is so important to stress process and participation above planning, goals and results. And when I say participation, I am not talking about recruiting “the masses” – if you want to attract them, we all know that the Super Bowl will do. If winning becomes paramount, then get a guillotine and we’ll do this all over again in a hundred years. No, winning and success is SECONDARY to the revolution. That is why it so important to Georgia and other courageous people like her to continually bang that drum and prevent categorization and organization to overtake these baby steps.

    And yes, the statement that “violence and non-violence” cannot coexist is an absurd one. And please don’t cast me as tolerant of violence because I make that statement. I don’t mean to throw koans at you just because they sound pretty, but intolerance of violence IS violence. Life is violence – we are… I’m sorry… *I* am opposed to the sort of violence that is used to prop injustice. This is a delicate distinction that I cannot explore in this limited space, and certainly one I would not care to make as a monologue – it requires careful dialogue to bear any real fruit.

    I agree with the moderator that this discussion was definitely not a waste of time. I personally enjoyed listening to the tap, tap, tapping on the crack of the Cosmic Egg…

  9. Tangerine Bolen says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply Petro. You make a lot of good points, and bring up plenty to think about further. Per my comment at the end – I was thrown at that stage and mis-spoke. What I was aiming for was violent tactics and nonviolent tactics can’t really co-exist in the same protests. Every single time violence seems to trumps nonviolence. It immediately becomes the focus and the angle, whether warranted or not. Hedges addressed this in his piece and I tend to agree. So for those who call for a diversity of tactics, as a euphemism for violent tactics, to respect their right to employ those tactics in the same time and space is ludicrous. It is, to me, demanding respect while engaging in something that disrespects the majority. That is what I was going to try to say. It did not come out that way, obviously. I would have been happy to hear a debate on that point and on everything you brought up. None of that was going to happen in this conversation. It is what it is, and it was a great lesson in many ways. I don’t regret it. I hope Chris Hedges can get to the same place.

  10. The panel was not a failure in the least and I think that the moderator was too close to the thing to get an objective take on it. Has anyone asked what Cari and Georgia thought? Or have any of the other panelists weighed in in retrospect? If the same people did it all over again, I think more progress would be made on the actual strategy of black bloc. You can bet something was learned from that panel. It is what it is and it was what it was and in that it was very informative. As stated above, process and participation at this point is more important than expecting proper protocols of courtesy or hammering out any hard policies. No one was overtly rude or disrespectful and if anything it only exposed the underlying nerve of insecurity of how occupy finds its identity. Process and participation and inclusion are so important. Can violent and non-violent co-exist on the head of a pin? I don’t know, but I do know that there was a whole lotta good that came form this panel discussion and I don’t think that the organizers should kick themselves and I think that Hedges should bring his mensa basketball back to the court and realize that process and participation, idea formation, consensus and dissension is all part of this soft contact sport.

  11. AB says:

    Although it was frustrating to listen to, I found the conversation very illuminating on several points. First, that the people and leaders (they are different) of Occupy have a fundamental disagreement. That disagreement is whether to permit physically violent tactics which cause property damage or are likely to result in physical harm, to be a part of Occupy demonstrations. Second, that fundamental disagreement exposed deeper disagreements about power, authority, and the meaning of violence to Occupiers and the Occupy Movement. Third, the focus on defining tactics and strategy has completely muddled the group’s broader goals to the general public, and some in Occupy don’t seem to notice. Fourth, one side in this “debate” did not seem to care that Occupy’s broader goals are being lost on the general public because of the current infighting and perceived risk of physical violence at Occupy demonstrations.

    From this, I question whether those who care little about the general public’s perception of the Occupy movement are truly capable of incorporating and empowering the 99% in order to attain greater equality for all across the nation.

    This talk, and Occupy itself, may be an important illustration that we should not confuse our collaborators with our allies. Thus, if this “coalition of collaborators” which makes up Occupy cannot be maintained because of these disagreements, the coalition should be dissolved and the collaborators should go their separate ways. This would allow me and the many others on the sideline to make the choice of who we want to stand with. For me, I did stand with Occupy and attended GAs and demonstrations early on. However, I saw the more militant, derisive, and angry voices begin to outweigh others. Games of one-upsmanship seemed to be happening all the time, and I felt like I was getting pushed around to do things(violence?). This caused me to become disheartened and disinterested.

    I do not stand with anyone willing to commit purposeful physical violence against another’s person or property, and the risk of those types of people being present at Occupy gatherings is part of what now keeps me away. How can the renunciation of violence be such a controversial thing? Tangerine was right – for the people who want to keep violence as a possible tactic, they and I speak completely different languages.

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