I’ve never been camping before. Crazy, then, that the first time I’m camping out, I’m doing it on a sidewalk in Los Angeles. The things I do for a cause I believe in.
I participated in Day 2/Day 3 of Occupy L.A. spending the night on the sidewalk in front of City Hall on Sunday night. Got there just in time to catch the middle of the daily General Assembly meeting where everyone discusses the issues that matter to them and decide how the group is going to move forward. It was my first experience with Collective Thinking and People’s Assemblies, and it was really interesting. There are different committees that have formed based on things that need to be taken care of – Logistics, Action, Media, Print, etc – and each committee chooses representatives to report to the collective and takes turns making announcements. There’s an Open Mic for anyone who wants to to make proposals to the group. And everything is voted on by the entire group. Time consuming? Sure. Fraught with tension? No doubt – but so’s any decision-making process that involves, you know, human beings with different personalities. However, I was impressed by how well it actually works. Kinks are still being worked out – it was only Day 2 when I arrived, after all – but this is a decision making process that can and is working. Proceedings are run, and votes are taken, using hand signals: Agree/Support (jazz hands in the air!), Disagree (hand waved in front of your face), Hard Block (not only disagree, but this is funamentally antithetical to solidarity and the good of the occupation), You’re Repeating Yourself (move your index fingers in circles around each other), and We’ve Gotta Move On (waving arms in the air). It’s highly visual, and whenever there are Hard Blocks, the issue is tabled for another time. This way, no decision is made that any member of the group is totally against. Minor disagreements are worked through. More people are heard, and everything is done in the open, so there’s transparency. People have been skeptical about the lack of leadership in the occupation, but when everyone’s head is in the same place, there’s no need for one leader.
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