Vision 02… Vision & the Status Quo


Moment for Wisdom…


A Moment for…


 “Dissatisfaction and discouragement
are not caused by the absence of things but the absence of vision.”


“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.”


Jonathan Swift

“Only those who can see the invisible can do the impossible.”

Machelle Small Wright











a Moment with Sharif…




When I started writing this, wondering what I was going to say as advice to “Occupy Together” (OT), once again a friend and collaborator came to my rescue!


This time, it is my friend, mentor and legendary activist, Grace Lee Boggs in Detroit.  My own activism for societal transformation started nearly 50 years ago – but I’m still a “kid” next to Grace, who has logged 70 years of tireless activism to transform our world.  Well into her 90’s, she’s just as sharp and focused as ever. (The last time I saw her, she said to me, “I may not have all my teeth, but I’ve still got all my marbles!”)


Please take two minutes to listen to this living legend, as Grace gives her Message to Occupy Wall Street. (If link doesn’t work, copy and paste this into your browser:


My comments follow and amplify hers…



The OT phenomenon is unlike any of the social movements of our past.  It is following a unique trajectory for unique times.Therefore, any attempts to corral it into a particular corner (political, economic…) are wrong-headed and should be resisted. 


On the other hand: OT is a lot like many other social movements of our past, and ought to be learning from people like Grace Boggs.  OT is not the Civil Rights movement or the Black Power movement – but we learned an awful lot about organizing, rallying, dealing with police agents… OT does not have to re-invent the wheel.



I have said, many times, that the only way a group of people can get anywhere is when they KNOW WHAT THEY WANT.  Not in the sense of “demands” or even “goals”, but in the sense of VISION.  As Seneca said:


“To the person who does not know where he wants to go,

there is no favorable wind.”


For all the folks holding up the signs saying “Smash Capitalism!”… I’ve got some weirdly bad news for you.  Capitalism is dying, and it’s dying faster than you could ever “smash” it.  (Sorry.)


And… “capitalism” isn’t even the problem (therefore, smashing it won’t be a solution).The real problem is status quo-ism – and that’s going to be a lot harder to “smash”, since we’re all complicit in it, to some degree or another.  It’s hard to take, but understanding the depth of the problem is a sign of maturity.  And, as Grace Boggs said in her video clip, the real problem is not the systems like the Fed or Congress… the problem lies at the roots of our culture and our consciousness.


Right now, the Internet and news media are buzzing with “recommendations” for OT, by people who have never given a single thought to societal transformation.  All of a sudden, the voices of the status quo have an awful lot to say about how to change the status quo.


Without a clear vision, OT is subject to the kinds of well-intentioned but misguided suggestions that have been growing like moss on an Oregon roof.  Here’s just one example that wandered into my inbox recently, by Eliot Spitzer: 


Could [OWS] launch a citizen petition demanding that a Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, or Paul Volcker be brought into government as a counterweight to or replacement for the establishment voice of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner? Maybe. Could OWS demand meetings with top—government officials? Could it demand answers to tough questions…

Click this link for the full Spitzer article, as it appeared in Slate Magazine.  (Or, copy and paste this link in your browser:


ALL of these suggestions, posed as questions, make an assumption: that we’re going to have basically “business as usual”.  Change which white guy in a suit sits at the top?  That’s called change?  Get the spark plugs of OT together for a sit-down with the President – let them be wowed in the White House? (Note: I’ve been in the “meeting with the President” before: the White House really isn’t all that impressive…)  “Demand answers”?  Is that really going to produce a fundamental change in society?


Once OT has and holds to a vision of “A World for All”, the participants can easily see what will lead to the vision and what won’t.


And… if you don’t like my articulation of vision, try this one: Grace Boggs speaks of turning crime/ drug/ violence/ poverty-plagued Detroit into “The Beloved Community”. That is an audacious vision!  As she says, “We have to love America enough to change it.Because, you can’t really change anything unless you love it.”


When love for ourselves, for each other, for our country and for our planet becomes the primary motivation for “Occupy Together”, the wind from that movement will sweep aside all dysfunctional systems and structures.  When visionary love becomes our rallying cry, we will be doing more than occupying a few square feet of ground.  We will be occupying our hearts, our minds and our spirits.







Vision Exercises:


If you have been following Monday’s exercise, and have been talking to others about your visions and asking them about theirs, by now you will be seeing a very interesting pattern.  Refine your questions/comments in alignment with this pattern.


And… if you haven’t done the exercises, you won’t know what I’m talking about!  This is a fine time start.  Refer back to Monday’s “Moment for Vision”.







All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.








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3 Responses to Vision 02… Vision & the Status Quo

  1. I love the vision of becoming a ‘beloved community’ and your comment about you can only change what you love…so let’s love each other!…Check out this video ‘the awareness party’ took at the Occupy Auckland first march on 15th october…it would be great to make sure all signs speak a VISION of what one is FOR -not for what one is against

  2. Shirlene says:

    I agree with Sally, focus on what you are for – not for what you are against……..after all we tend to get what we focus on!

  3. Katherine Howells says:

    Thank you, Sharif. I resonate deeply with Grace Lee Boggs message to Occupy Wall Street, when she speaks about the need to look beyond opposing Wall Street, and really look at our own values, and how we have bought in and are participating in the existing culture. I am looking carefully at where I am choosing to invest and consume. As people act more in alignment with their values, these companies will be forced to change or die.

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