Vision 08… Occupy Together, with Discipline


a Moment for Wisdom…


A Moment for…


 “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.


“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable, procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.”

George Washington


“Discipline is remembering what you want.”

David Campbell


“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”

Gautama, the Buddha










a Moment with Sharif…




The second of the “3-Ds” of societal transformation is “DISCIPLINE”.  This is both the discipline of the self and the discipline of the group.


“Disciplined Nonconformists”

The MLK quote above captures both sides of the kind of spirit that we need in these times: the combination of nonconformity with the existing status quo, coupled with DISCIPLINE (both self-discipline and organizational or movement discipline). 


A Lesson in Discipline…

Here’s a story that happened to me when I had a lot of teenaged idealism and a lot less practical experience…


In the early days of the Black Power Movement, 20 or 30 of us were in the basement of a local community center in Camden, NJ… plotting revolution.  Most of us were teenagers, convinced that we would overthrow the “white power structure” and turn Camden into a “People’s Republic”.


We were particularly interested in getting opinions from the 4 or 5 Army veterans present, just returned from a place we had never heard of: Vietnam.  As I was talking about “the coming revolution”, one of the vets raised his hand and asked, “So, you think there’s going to be a revolution in America?”  To which I replied a resounding, “YES!”


He then asked, “Can you run 10 miles without stopping, wearing a full backpack?”  I said, “Huh? What’s that got to do with creating a revolution?”  He repeated his question.  I said, “Well, no, I can’t.”


He stood up, walked over to me and looked me in the eye. “Then, you don’t believe there’s going to be a revolution.”  He then walked out the door.


This was a powerful lesson.  The lesson is DISCIPLINE.  A revolution is the complete breakdown of systems and structures, a breakdown that I was NOT prepared to experience.


I think about this lesson every time I see a sign or bumper sticker saying “Smash Capitalism!” or something similar.  Okay… are you prepared to deal with the societal dislocations after “capitalism” is “smashed”?  (Important: I am NOT saying that we should “support capitalism” or anything like that.  I’m just suggesting that we have to be both CAREFUL and RESPONSIBLE for what we say, and for the logical consequences of our actions and our words.)


We have examples of what societies look like when their principal systems and structures fail.  We know what happens when the political structure of a society fails: look at the former USSR.  Overnight, with no preparation, they went from the world’s second-largest “superpower” to a Third World country.  This happened almost exactly 20 years ago… and they still haven’t recovered from the collapse.  (And, it was the brilliance and vision of Mikhail Gorbachev that kept the collapse from turning into a civil war… one with nuclear weapons on all sides.)


I was in Russia during this crisis.  I spoke to Victor, a veteran of the “Siege of Leningrad” during World War II.  He said, “During the Siege, we were eating our shoes, eating the wallpaper off of the walls, anything we thought might have protein.In schools, we would tie our children to their desks in the morning.  Not to punish them, but to protect them.  When
they would faint from hunger, they wouldn’t hit the floor and hurt themselves.”  He looked
thoughtful for a moment, then said, “We’re tying our children to their desks again.”


Are we prepared for political collapse in this country?


We know what happens when the economic system in a society fails: look at Argentina.  In 2001, all of the banks locked their doors, leaving the entire country in a state of chaos.  When I was there in 2003, I could still see thousands of formerly middle-class people, sifting through garbage cans, looking for something of value.  In the early months of the crisis, they were looking for something to eat.


Are we prepared for economic collapse in this country?


For those who so fervently call for us to “Smash Capitalism” – are you ready to be RESPONSIBLE for what happens next?  Do you have something to offer to people who are eating out of garbage cans?  When I was in Cuba, my friends there told me the things that they had to do to survive the collapse of their society, which included killing and eating their neighbors’ dogs.  (One friend said, “I couldn’t bear to kill my own dog.But I set it outside, knowing that my neighbor would kill it and eat it… as I had done to his.”)


Are we prepared for societal collapse in this country?


I have been saying the same thing for the past 20 years:  GET PREPARED.  I’ve written books about it, done countless speeches, workshops… I get lots of applause, almost no
opposition or criticism… but I also get few people willing to walk the path to a new society.


We have had an absolutely miraculous 20 year head start on the crisis that now looms before us.We had 20 years to switch to renewable energy, to rid ourselves of debt (personal and national), to start growing our own food, to switch our investments and banking… we had 20 years to disconnect from the Breaker Society.If I can sum up the various excuses I’ve heard over 20 years, it comes down to this: “I’m busy”. (See “Note” below…) 


Busy doing what?


This is Not a Game…

Recently, while at a local restaurant, I was listening to a group of 20 to 30 somethings, engaged in intense conversation about a struggle in which they were all deeply involved.  It took awhile for me to realize that I was listening to people talking about playing an online game.  They were talking with passion and dedication – and DISCIPLINE.They were demonstrating tremendous discipline toward something that did not exist, not in our three-dimensional shared reality.  From the way they talked, they each had spent hours in the game environment that week, to achieve goals that no one else in the restaurant could even see.


This is not a game.I have seen too much of the suffering of the world, with my own eyes.  I have heard my friends’ stories of desperation, of real pain, when the systems and structures of society come crashing down.  Thinking that it cannot happen in America is wishful thinking – it’s ALREADY happening.


But, paradoxically, our societal transformation CAN be play.  Our changes can be joyous, can be uplifting.  For that to happen, we must decide to let go of denial, go beyond blaming others and/or waiting for others to fix our problems. When we apply discipline, vision and Spirit, what happens next will be a moment for joy.








Many people have said to me, “I want to change things, but I don’t know where to start, I don’t know what to do.”


If you had the opportunity, would you participate in a “Socio-Spiritual Healing Center”?
Would you participate in a place to join together with others (including those who are different from you), to map out a common path, one local to your community, which addresses positive, uplifting, visionary actions?   


Would you participate in a network of such Centers, joined together by a common vision – a world that works for all – and a common Spirit – one that honors yet goes beyond existing “religions”.


If your answer to the above questions is affirmative (or even just curious), stay tuned for more information on…









All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.

Sharif Abdullah photo by Peg Owen








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7 Responses to Vision 08… Occupy Together, with Discipline

  1. Shirlene says:

    Yes, I would participate – lead the way, Sharif!

  2. Lois says:

    I agree. I am not sure I have the required life force to change the system but I am willing to meet in the Commonway Lab and see what we can do together.

  3. Carolyn says:

    This sounds like a vision I have had for a long time. I am definitely interested.

  4. All well said my friend. I’m teaching negotiation at Cal Berkeley Law School. We began last week and tonight we continue negotiating Occupy with students play various interest groups. I may facilitate tonight’s session which will be mostly about “solution” development. Best,


    • Sharif says:

      Sounds good. Let me know how it turns out!

      Do you have students playing the roles of sociopaths? Mentally challenged? Undercover police agents? The “Occupy” folks have to deal with all that, and more. (For example: did you see the video of me that was shot at “Occupy L.A.”? Did you notice the guy with the braids who was circling me with his handheld camera? Well, right after I finished talking, he grabs the microphone and starts extolling my virtues! “Dr. Abdullah is the greatest teacher of our times!” When the organizers tried to get the microphone from him, he starts screaming, “They’re trying to silence me! They don’t want Dr. Abdullah’s message to be heard!” Took them 5 minutes to get the mike back. And that guy’s my SUPPORTER!)

      And: You should try to see if your students can distinguish between “problem-driven” solutions and “vision-driven” solutions. Could make for an interesting discussion.



  5. Jayson says:

    Count me in Sherif. I apologize for not being in better communication, being in the trenches of a revolution is time consuming and taxing. For all of you out there interested in cocreative media opportunities, check out:

    Sherif, I will post your video I took at Occupy LA soon 🙂 I promise. Thanks for your support, your vision and your clarity.

  6. Chuck Willis says:

    As always, I’m in. Our strength, as Lois points to above, is in our numbers. We need ideas – a common vision and commitment – yes, but we need more than that. To take meaningful action, we need resources. I “give away” thousands of dollars each year (as taxes) to support a governmental system that is archaic and fails to meet my needs and those of my friends and neighbors, a federal government that spends trillions on war and local governments that spend millions on, among other things, teachers, buildings, and busses when the internet could be used to teach most (but not all) children at a fraction of the associated cost. Why? Because I don’t want to go to jail. They can easily make an example of me and put me in jail, but they can’t put ALL OF US in jail! What vision do we have together? What can we agree, and commit, to do as non-conformists together? When and where does that laboratory meet!

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