Vision 03… Occupying the Occupiers

a Moment for Wisdom…


A Moment for…


 “Vision without a task is only a dream. A task without a vision is but drudgery. But vision with a task is a dream fulfilled.”


“Vision without execution is hallucination.”


Thomas Edison









a Moment with Sharif…






In her article, Miki Kashtan recommended “multiple forms of action”, the physical occupation of space being one of them. (If link doesn’t work, copy and paste this into your browser window:


I strongly agree.

OT must find many, many ways for people to get involved, to feel that they are a part of a multifaceted movement, one that spans many different forms of expression.


In my observation of “Occupy LA”, I noticed that there were a handful of people working their tails off, doing security, media, communications, interface with police…  Then, I noticed a larger group, that was doing… nothing much. Not talking, not reading, not marching, just sitting. 


Engagement: Internal and External…

In creating a movement, it is critically important to keep the participants both engaged and informed.  That can and should take the form of internal actions (work details, camp organization, nascent systems and structures like sanitation, energy generation, etc).  And, most importantly, engagement can and should be externalized.


What kind of external work?  Work that is engaging for more than the “Occupation” group. For example: How can a busy working mother feel that she’s contributing to a global phenomenon – without leaving her job or family?  In both Portland and Los Angeles, I’ve heard many “Occupiers” implore people “come down here and support us”.  For this
phenomenon to mature and sustain itself, that must change to “Let’s go out there and create/support the LARGER Occupation!”

In my work with Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka, we developed several different tools to support my small army of “Truth-Seekers” in developing and disseminating the People’s “Vision Declaration” across the island.  In doing this, we were able to bypass the government-controlled media – we became our own media!  The Truth-Seekers’ strategies included:


·        Conducting thousands of surveys (Individual, group and “person on the street” interviews). Surveys are very powerful instruments, especially when it is necessary to by-pass the “official” version of events and opinions.

·        Facilitating scores of group dialogs (100-200 person “People’s Forums” held throughout the island).  These brought people from all walks of life into face to face dialog.  They realized that, when the dialog was not being controlled by those who wanted separation, people could come to powerful consensus with each other.

·        Conducting leaflet and poster campaigns in major cities.

·        Enlisting support from all religious groups in spreading the word (“Truth-Seekers” ate and slept in churches, temples, mosques and kovils across the island).

·        Conducting direct village campaigns (taking the Vision Declaration to hundreds of village elders, in both Government and Tamil Tiger held areas).

·        Informal “street theaters” to dramatize the issues and visions.

·        “Wild cards”: using opportunities presented by evolving conditions to spread the word.  For example: turning long-distance buses into “moving dialog groups”; and using each military checkpoint as an opportunity for education.


By taking our campaign out into society, we were able to engage and enlist the support of hundreds of thousands of people, from all walks of life.  All of our actions were non-violent, positive and demonstrated the nature of the society that we intended to create.


What can the “Occupiers” do to expand the “Occupation” front?  I think all of the actions of Sarvodaya’s “Truth-Seekers” are available, in each “OT” city.


In addition: I think that OT is approaching the time for “direct action” vision implementation.  Protests only go so far: to be effective, it is necessary to show people what the change in society, the change in POWER, looks like.


This is what Gandhi did with the Salt March.  An act that was highly illegal AND highly moral.  This is what the Civil Rights demonstrators did with the lunch counter sit-ins.  Highly illegal and highly moral.


A Lesson from Argentina…

This is what my friends down in Argentina did.  While visiting my friend Juana’s ranch, one of her guests told me about how they stopped a rash of foreclosures when their economy tanked in 2000.  “I didn’t know what to do”, the friend said, during an outdoor meal held at the ranch some years ago.  “I had nowhere to turn.  Finally, I went to the radio station and they put me on the air. I was crying, asking people to come to the auction of my family’s ranch the next day.”


The next day, hundreds of her neighbors, mainly women, showed up at the auction.  “None of us knew what to do.  The auctioneers had hired armed guards to prevent us from doing anything.  We didn’t know what to do, so when the auction started, we just fell to our knees and started praying.  Loudly.  VERY, VERY LOUDLY!  So loud, that the auctioneers couldn’t see or hear any of the bidders!  They had to call the auction off!”


“The next day, even MORE people came out.  And, the auctioneers hired more guns.  They would reach under their jackets and wave their guns at us (as she demonstrates in the photo).  We were very, very afraid, but we never stopped praying.  And, they were never able to foreclose – on ANY of us!”


It’s really hard to claim the moral high ground when you’re threatening to shoot a bunch of unarmed, praying women.  And, once the moral high ground is lost, the campaign is over. YOU’VE WON!


Next Steps for “The Occupation”…

What’s the lesson for OT? An effective “vision implementation” campaign has to have a number of factors:


  • Very positive
  • Non-violent
  • Highly illegal, and
  • Highly moral

 I’ve seen OT posters asking President Obama to declare a moratorium on foreclosures.
Fat chance of that. However, there’s nothing to stop OT from “foreclosing on the foreclosures”.  Pray-ins, foreclosure theaters, bidding with Monopoly money, campaigns to withdraw funds from banks that carry forward foreclosures… the possibilities are endless.  One bank could be chosen as a target (the way the sit-ins took place primarily at Woolworth’s lunch counters). Different OT cities could try different tactics, to see what’s the most effective. 


Remember: the goal of “vision implementation” is not just to stop a foreclosure.  Our goal
is clearing and developing our own character, understanding and strengthening our own spirit.  As the motto from Sarvodaya states: “We build the road, but the road builds us.”  Stopping injustice in the world requires us to understand and remove the injustices within our own hearts.


Let’s begin.














All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.








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One Response to Vision 03… Occupying the Occupiers

  1. Holly Wells says:

    Good stuff! I like the idea of “externalizing” the Occupation, but it sounds way too big for me right now. Do you have plans to get on the “stack” to speak at Occupy Portland and start a working group to suggest some special actions to the GA? E.g., a sit in at a foreclosure, etc., instead of a march.

    This could truly be a moment for your ideas and experience–to add the “soupcon” that can transform all of the Portland/Vancouver area into an example of what’s possible at this incredible historic moment.

    I’m thinking about trying to start a group to work on using more “Wise Democracy”-related techniques in the GA. But need to spend more time there first, to see and feel how things really happen, which I plan to do next week (minor eye surgery used up this week).

    Love and blessings to all. I’ve been holding high watch for all Occupiers as often as I think about them–and for all the people they are hoping to bless (even if they may not use that word!). Does anyone know if there is a daily time for meditation at Occupy Portland? (I understand that there is in New York.)

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