Anyone who has visited OccupyVancouver has heard their explanation of consensus. One of the things that they include with the consensus decision making process is the block. Their explanation of the block is that you block to prevent something from happening if you feel so strongly about something that you will “leave the movement”. This sounds very dramatic, and it’s meant to.
In my experience with consensus, it works when everyone has something at stake, or at least has an affinity with the group. The only time it doesn’t work is when this affinity breaks down. I’ve seen this happen numerous times, and it could be something completely fucking mundane, or it could be about something important. The thing with OccupySF and OccupyVancouver is that someone could just walk in and start affecting the process. When I was down at OccupySF, people would ask me what it was about, and I would have to tell them that I was Canadian and that I didn’t have a clue. What I did know how to do was participate in the consensus process, which I found actually interesting. At OccupyVancouver, I was easily able to derail the consensus process on the first day simply by knowing how to use the Human Mic better than most.
Am I part of the movement? I’ve donated books and supplies to OccupyVancouver, but I can’t camp there or even get down to the camp because of family obligations. I also work during the day and I can’t attend the General Assemblies. While I make much more than I used to, I’m still not part of the 1%, does the virtue of being part of the 99% make me part of the movement? If so, does that mean that I’d have to make over $400k to “leave the movement”??? If so, does this make blocking totally meaningless.
The fact is that leaving is supposed to signify a threat. If I go home and have nothing more to do with OccupyVancouver, that doesn’t mean anything, since I didn’t have anything at stake in that decision, and other than material goods and some advice, I haven’t contributed anything to OccupyVancouver.
Frankly, I think that OccupyVancouver is outliving its usefulness, as are many of the other occupations if they don’t find a way to engage people in their local communities. Vancouver, for example, is a series of diverse neighbourhoods, such as the West End, Commercial Drive/Grandview-Woodlands, Mount Pleasant, Kensington-Cedar Cottage, Marpole and of course the DTES. Other neighbourhoods need to learn what Grandview-Woodlands, Strathcona and the DTES have learned quite a while ago, which is how to get together as a community to actually affect change, and then how to actually get allies to work together for a cause. Right now, there is something that unites Marpole, Grandview-Woodlands, Kensington/Cedar Cottage, Mount Pleasant, Norquay as well as the DTES, and that is that the people in these neighbourhoods didn’t ask for a fucking skyscraper condo to be built in their back yards, and don’t want scumbag condo developers in their communities while there are people who are homeless and are on the street and in back alleys. Just because it’s the worst in the DTES doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in other parts of East Vancouver. In fact, the only place it doesn’t appear to exist is in the wealthy neighbourhoods.
Everyone is getting fucked over by condo speculation in this city, regardless of whether you own or rent. Most people in Vancouver are shocked when they hear that children are going to school without proper shoes and socks. The majority of Vancouverites want to see a solution to poverty in this city. However, the problem is that the people that Vancouver elects seem to be tied to corporate interests of the developers, the bankers, and the people who keep this status quo going on. For someone to be wealthy, there have to be those who are poor.
The only way I can see this changing is that you organize the GAs in the neighbourhood. You get these committees in the neighbourhood! You get people talking there, and you get people to go to other neighbourhoods to figure out how to make things work. That way you can actually fuck over city hall when everyone appears and tells the city this is how it’s going to be. If you’re going to take down the system, you have to have a better system, a more accountable and democratic system that can take down the current system.
If you block and leave that GA, that’s more important because you’re actually affecting your real neighbours, and you have a real stake in it instead of the curiosity that is Occupy Vancouver as it exists right now. I think OccupyVancouver is an awesome step, but until people take those lessons and apply them, I don’t see things changing, and I think that OccupyVancouver needs to exist until that change happens. That’s why I support it, even though I can’t stand the GA at times, and the statements made by some of the people make my skin fucking crawl.