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What is Occupy?

The Occupy movement, for a lack of a better term, is a looose association of individuals who believe that there has to be something better than the status quo right now. There are quite a few lessons that can be drawn to people who are coming to activism the first time when looking at the Occupy movement, and I’m going to list them here:

  1. Consensus actually works this way, and it works!! Despite the fact that the GA process is messy, it works. I've been to four GAs in Vancouver, and two down in SF. I've also been a volunteer at Spartacus for two years and with other consensus-based groups on-and-off for three years as well, and it's always the same. If you think this is bad, see how Roberts Rules of Order works, or Parliamentary procedure. I'm good at gaming Roberts Rules, and taking over meetings using them. I can't do this with consensus. Every process can be gamed by certain individuals, but all that can happen with consensus when it's being gamed is that it can get bogged down, which is a better defence mechanism than forcing a group to do something that it doesn't want to do.</li>
  2. Every Occupy is different: OccupySF is very different than OccupyVancouver. For example, the SFPD won't let them set up camp in front of the bank, while the VPD will watch and monitor the situation at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Some Occupations are like protests, and others, like Vancouver's Occupation, is like a festival. This is entirely a product of the community that runs it.</li>
  3. Consensus has to be explained at every meeting, and this will consume large chunks of the meeting: This was the case at OccupySF, and has been the case for OccupyVancouver at all the GAs that I've attended so far.</li>
  4. Despite some complaints, Human Mic is awesome: The thing with Human Mic is that it's active listening. You have to hear and repeat what was being said, which forces the person to remember parts of the conversation. This is critical when you want to understand what was being asked</li>
  5. You don't need to be there for EVERY decision: This is important, and is something most people haven't learned yet. The GAs are supposed to be where proposals from the committees are decided upon. The problem is that this is a new process, and a novelty, and people want to participate. This isn't a bad thing per-se, except that you have people taking up space talking about something that they may not give a shit about otherwise, which takes up everyone's time. You also have people who are taking up way too much space</li>
  6. Sometimes doing things is better than asking: I dropped off a large chunk of my personal collection at The People's Library at OccupyVancouver. I wasn't asked to do so, but since I'm not camping there, and I can't be there all the time, I figure that at least the books that formed a lot of my current beliefs can be there. They were accepted, and you can borrow those books from that library. I don't expect to get any of those books back, and I don't care if I do. I care about those books getting read! I also didn't ask for consensus for this, I did it. This is Do-ocracy! If something that needs to get doesn't appear like it's getting done, first ask who is doing it, then if nobody is doing it, GO DO IT! There are certain things that are bad, such as talking to the police, but if it's something like bringing more food to Food Not Bombs on the site, or setting up Internet, then go do it!</li> </ol> I feel kinda bad for missing out on the Occupy Vancouver activities for the day, but I know that I've given as much time as I could to Occupy that I have right now, and I think I've done some good there. I'm also confident that people who I share an affinity with are down there saying the things that I would be saying, and doing the things that I would be doing so that I don't have to be there 24/7. That's what being a part of a community with a shared set of values is about. I think there are many communities at OccupyVancouver learning to work together, which is far better than prior events where they just had to out-recruit or out-sell each other. Perhaps this is the answer to being more fair than the Anarchist Bookfair. As far as Occupy having a lasting impact, I think it definitely has achieved that, since it's mainstream. People at work know what it is, and people are talking about it on the bus, in restaurants and in other places. It'll be interesting to see what effect it has over the weeks, months and years ahead.