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Whether consciously, through dim persistent memory or just similarity of disposition, the Occupy encampments showed some surprising similarities to another movement from over a century ago.

Cross posted from Pruning Shears

Last year I worked on a series of posts1 with a loose collection of bloggers, mostly from Corrente.  The general theme was arguing against the "diversity of tactics" approach being introduced at numerous Occupy encampments, Occupy Oakland in particular.  During this process one of our co-authors - jaspergregory - referenced "The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America" by Richard J. Ellis as providing a good examination of authoritarian impulses among progressives since roughly the 1830s.

I put the book in my queue and am just now getting to it (I work slowly, what can I say).  Having gone about a third of the way through I'd say it's a good read but not a must read.  On the plus side, I think liberals benefit from taking an unflinching look at the intolerance that has sometimes come from their own side.  This does not mean paying attention to manufactured outrage on the right, incidentally.

On the other hand, Ellis seems to have started from a contrarian impulse.  In his introduction he describes his reaction on reading a liberal author's book on right wing authoritarianism.  In Ellis' view such a book needed to be balanced by a similar one, by and for the left.  As his book proceeds he sometimes shoehorns his history into his thesis, and sometimes the poor fit shows.

For instance, Ellis' examples show exactly the kind of false equivalence liberals point out in MSM "both sides do it" narratives.  Right wing authoritarians have at times in American history prospered greatly.  When the environment is friendly, and it has been friendly numerous times, there seems to be no limit to how far a right wing authoritarian can go.

The same is not true for liberals.  Left wing authoritarians either marginalize themselves or are marginalized by political leadership.  They do not ascend to power the way right wing authoritarians can.  On the right you can point to Senator Joe McCarthy.  On the left is George Pickett, who is not even the most famous George Pickett.  See the difference?

Another weakness in Ellis' argument is his rather expansive definition of words like authoritarian.  In writing about Walt Whitman and his spiritual descendants, he repeatedly uses authoritarian terms to describe their longing for a charismaic leader to help bring the world they envision.  That doesn't strike me as authoritarian though.  It seems more messianic or prophetic, a way for a nonreligious movement to articulate a sort of mystical or transcendent vision.  That doesn't seem especially authoritarian though, and Ellis' book is least persuasive to me when he reaches like that.

What is really fascinating (and surprisingly relevant) is Ellis' coverage of utiopian communities that began to form in the late nineteenth century.  Inspired in part by proto-science fiction like Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, these communities withdrew from the larger society in an effort to construct the one they envisioned.  While the only separatist type impulses these days seem to be on the right, their governance had striking similarities to Occupy - including its weaknesses.  (I will include short clips here and longer excerpts in footnotes):2

These colonies were typically hyperdemocratic: "democracy with the lid off," in the words of one colony leader. Unlike in religious colonies where the leader could single-handedly expel dissenters, expulsion in these secular egalitarian colonies often required a near-unanimous vote of the general assembly. Within the general assembly, moreover, any man in the colony could speak for any amount of time on whatever issue.

The near-unanimous vote of the general assembly resembles the consensus model used by Occupy.  As our group noted last year, a consensus model eventually works to the advantage of those with the most time.  Getting 90% approval might represent the overwhelming view of the majority, but it might also might represent 90% of the handful left after an extended and frustrating filibuster.

When a tiny minority can block change like that, popular ideas and general sentiment cannot be codified; something like a formal commitment to nonviolence remains ever out of reach even if the vast majority approve.  When substantive action is ruled out, it becomes all about personalities:3

For instance, an attempt to write a constitution that would remedy some of the evident weaknesses in the colony's political structure foundered after getting bogged down in interminable arguments over details. The untempered egalitarianism of the General Assembly not only made collective decision making difficult, but it also tended to inflame personal jealousies and factional rivalries.

In California's Llano del Rio Colony this led to an extreme enforcement of loyalty under the charismatic leader George Pickett:4

Pickett responded to this challenge to his authority by having the organizers of the opposition movement expelled from the colony. He justified his actions by arguing that "there should be NO MINORITY in such an organization or enterprise as the colony, for the reason that IT ITSELF IS THE MINORITY" within the capitalist system. The threat posed by the external enemy required a "solid phalanx" and the "utmost loyalty" within the colony. Disloyalty in such critical times could not be tolerated; indeed it was treasonable since it threatened the future existence of the colony.

Which seems quite similar to the "comrade" language that was especially popular at Occupy Oakland.  This line between voluntary solidarity and enforced unanimity is something both Occupy and the utopian colonies struggled with.  Ellis writes this about the demise of Llano, but it too has more contemporary echoes:5

Embedded in the ideal of a perfect unity is an invitation for one person to speak for all without considering their opinions or preferences. Recognizing that interests and values inevitably and legitimately clash is necessary to protect against the charismatic or authoritarian leader. Cooperation and harmonious relations are always nice, but they are worth precious little if they come at the expense of democracy and dissent.

Finally, a more general note.  Idealism can be dangerous when it causes people to compare the world they wish to come with the current one.  Frustration, impatience and even despair over the difference  can cause a jaded outlook and corrosive cynicism to creep in; abstract celebrations of the working class sour into denunciations of the crass and vulgar people who actually comprise it; the striving to create alternate political models makes it tempting to write off and boycott existing political structures as hopelessly corrupt.  Perhaps most importantly of all, an overly ideological outlook makes it easy to demonize others:6

The often rancorous character of debate in the Llano General Assembly must be put down in part to a worldview that made no allowance for legitimate conflict. Since Llano had eliminated conflict between rival interests, disagreements must reflect bad faith, sinister intent, or plain ignorance. Civility and respect become difficult when one construes opponents in terms of betrayal or benightedness. Put positively, recognition that different groups and individuals have interests can be a profoundly democratic and even egalitarian idea. In following the elusive grail of natural harmony and innate goodness, colonists subverted their own egalitarian and democratic ends.

Simply maintaining a belief in the existence of legitimate conflict, and making allowance for it even in the midst of a heated debate, is a very liberal sensibility.  It's worth claiming as our own and holding onto, even (especially) when it is most tempting to discard it.


NOTES

1.  In chronological order:


(Back)

2. Page 68:

Robert Hine, in his study of California's utopian colonies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, found that the colonies' egalitarian political arrangements, although constructed upon assumptions of altruism and harmony, often worked to exacerbate conflict. These colonies were typically hyperdemocratic: "democracy with the lid off," in the words of one colony leader. Unlike in religious colonies where the leader could single-handedly expel dissenters, expulsion in these secular egalitarian colonies often required a near-unanimous vote of the general assembly. Within the general assembly, moreover, any man in the colony could speak for any amount of time on whatever issue. "The minute books of Icaria and Kaweah and the newspapers of Llano and Altruria," reported Hine, "related interminable sessions airing personal disputes, questioning minor administrative decisions, or seeking individual dispensations." The inability of the general assembly to come to closure and make decisions meant either the colony rapidly unraveled, as in the case of Altruria, or, as at Kaweah, de facto power gradually devolved to the board of trustees as the executive body of the company.

(Back)

3. Page 70:

Having been incorporated, Llano was required by state law to have a board of directors, but the ultimate source of legislative power resided in the assembled members of the colony. The General Assembly was thoroughly egalitarian but not particularly well-suited for resolving disagreements or even reaching decisions. For instance, an attempt to write a constitution that would remedy some of the evident weaknesses in the colony's political structure foundered after getting bogged down in interminable arguments over details. The untempered egalitarianism of the General Assembly not only made collective decision making difficult, but it also tended to inflame personal jealousies and factional rivalries. The General Assembly, as one member later recalled, was "democracy rampant, belligerent, unrestricted,...an inquisition, a mental pillory, a madhouse of meddlesomeness..., a jumble of passions and idealism - and all in deadly earnest....It became a [monster] which threatened to destroy the colony."

(Back)

4. Page 71:

The key to Llano's longevity was one man, George Pickett. Llano was a dying, desperately poor colony until Pickett assumed almost complete control over the colony's policies in 1920. For the next two decades, Conkin reports, "everything in Llano revolved around the personality and politics of this one man." People either reviled or loved the charismatic Pickett; "he was either an inspired and self-sacrificing leader or an unfair dictator." The constitution consisted of only a brief and vague declaration of principles about cooperation, economic justice, and collective ownership. Its silence on questions of political organization left Pickett free to centralize political authority in the hands of the general manager (himself). Moreover, since the means of production were owned by the colony, Pickett controlled the important power of assigning workers to their jobs. Although Llano maintained democratic forms, it became for all practical purposes "a one-party affair" run by Pickett.

Pickett's authoritarian rule was always justified by appeals to harmony, cooperation, and economic justice for the poor and oppressed. Those who periodically challenged his leadership were denounced for disrupting the harmony of the colony or condemned for lacking the spirit of cooperation. Pickett's hostility to competition and his identification with the weak take on a more sinister hue when one reflects upon his political authoritarianism. As Conkin explains, "He welcomed all disciples, and was happiest with children or with docile old folks. He would never tolerate those who challenged his power or defied his will. Pickett tended to view all the colonists as children, and himself as the great protector."

In 1932 a few younger, more rebellious colonists led an attempt to reestablish democracy in Llano. They tried to restore the general assembly and pushed for publication of the colony's financial reports, free speech, and a secret ballot. Pickett responded to this challenge to his authority by having the organizers of the opposition movement expelled from the colony. He justified his actions by arguing that "there should be NO MINORITY in such an organization or enterprise as the colony, for the reason that IT ITSELF IS THE MINORITY" within the capitalist system. The threat posed by the external enemy required a "solid phalanx" and the "utmost loyalty" within the colony. Disloyalty in such critical times could not be tolerated; indeed it was treasonable since it threatened the future existence of the colony.

(Back)

5. Page 72:

Llano was the last of the cooperative colonies that owed their inspiration to the utopian vision of Bellamy and other writers of the late nineteenth century. And a telling end point it is. For in Llano one sees in dramatic relief the authoritarianism and intolerance of dissent that may be justified in the name of harmony. The authoritarian, even dictatorial, leadership at Llano was not inevitable, of course, but nor was it a freakish, chance occurrence. The colony's authoritarianism, Like Bellamy's, stemmed from an exaggerated aversion to clashing interests and values, and from making a virtual fetish out of cooperation and harmony. Embedded in the ideal of a perfect unity is an invitation for one person to speak for all without considering their opinions or preferences. Recognizing that interests and values inevitably and legitimately clash is necessary to protect against the charismatic or authoritarian leader. Cooperation and harmonious relations are always nice, but they are worth precious little if they come at the expense of democracy and dissent.

(Back)

6. Page 70:

The often rancorous character of debate in the Llano General Assembly must be put down in part to a worldview that made no allowance for legitimate conflict. Since Llano had eliminated conflict between rival interests, disagreements must reflect bad faith, sinister intent, or plain ignorance. Civility and respect become difficult when one construes opponents in terms of betrayal or benightedness. Put positively, recognition that different groups and individuals have interests can be a profoundly democratic and even egalitarian idea. In following the elusive grail of natural harmony and innate goodness, colonists subverted their own egalitarian and democratic ends.

(Back)

Originally posted to danps on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 02:33 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting read. Whole lot of stuff here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    danps, Lily O Lady, Old Gardener

    that I knew nothing about...and lots more to look into.  Thanks.

    When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

    by Bisbonian on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:45:36 AM PST

    •  Most of this is inaccurate. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brown Thrasher

      Please try to broaden your reading on the topic rather than accept a single view. I commented in more depth below.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:44:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understand your point, but this diary resonates (0+ / 0-)

        very strongly with my own experiences with 3 different Occupies:

        In all 3 cases, there was constant, substantive attrition of those who embraced the ideals, but simply could not tolerate or find time for the interminable, often intractable and unfruitful decision-making processes. The decisions that were made, in most cases, were frequently made by the minority who were willing and had the time and patience to stick around. This condition worsened over time. By the end, each community existed of an exceptionally small group, relative to all those who had come to participate and contribute, of very like-minded people.

        Make no mistake, I love the fact that Occupy stood up to Wall Street with a directness and candor and honesty that no other grassroots organization has (and that includes the Democratic Party) and was glad to be a full-time participant in it. I also have great respect for the direct actions that were taken and are being taken, right up through Sandy relief, etc. AND I believe thoroughly that something like Occupy is the only way we will actually achieve the changes we need over the next decade. The challenge is that, IMHO, it needs to be much, much larger--which means it needs a much higher stickiness factor--and much more organized for identifying goals, prioritizing them, planning and execution. Take the Obama campaign machine, for example, double or triple its size, increase its efficiency and effectiveness by 20-30%, and sustain its passion and resolve indefinitely. Tall order, I know.

        The issues raised in this diary, for me, are important and reasonably accurate when it comes to working on a consensus model in groups of more than a few dozen on matters as large, complex and critical as standing up to Wall Street. That takes tremendous expertise and organization, and the Occupies I saw tended to be suspicious of expertise as elitist and struggled mightily with organization beyond basic camp functions.

        I admit I don't know how to resolve it. Hewing to the current ideals vis-a-vis participatory democracy and consensus as I experienced them, however, seems like it could take a millenia for civilization to evolve to the point where individuals would all have the necessary skills and society would be fully adapted to support the mechanisms involved.

        Pls know that I continue to hold you in regard and respect your views on these matters.

        The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

        by Words In Action on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 09:09:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Did you happen to read... (0+ / 0-)

          my various comments down thread?

          The 90% consensus model is possibly not workable for the rather large general assemblies found in some occupy camps. Consensus, I'm thinking, is meant for smaller affinity groups where people know each other, and have common goals and interests. Consensus works fine when these are factors. Imagine a group of peasants who are meeting to decide issues of land distribution and which crops will be grown, and how to share water, and how to set up schools for their children. The common interests, the history of exploitation, and various other forces at work in their lives drive them to consensus as a form of mutual aid and survival, whereas a group of people in New York, which includes people of all ideological stripes not always bound by the same goals, is a difficult group to bring together. Some want an electoral approach, some want to protest in streets, some want to support candidates nominated by the group, etc.

          In larger groups, especially when there are people present who don't really share common interests, consensus on that level may not work. This is why in Portland, which reportedly was for a while probably the largest such camp in the U.S., we began to use the spokes-council model I spoke of down thread. We experienced some of the issues you referenced, but tried to find a way to solve the problems, rather than simply give up. Also, voting was (reluctantly) introduced, although we still had the spirit of consensus in mind. This worked, and still preserved the horizontal approach. Sometimes people need to bend things a bit to fit their cultural experiences, and we need to remember that these assemblies of people need to have room to grow and evolve. Many people are not culturally ready for this kind of approach after centuries of hierarchy foisted upon us by one ruling class or another. They don't know any other way.

          Anyway, if you read my response down-thread, which I think answers your comment, and you still believe a hierarchical model is the solution, we will simply have to disagree. If the Spanish during the Spanish Civil War can successfully self mange a large population of millions with a non-hierarchical approach, and Occupy can't do that with relatively small numbers found at an occupy assembly, then something is wrong, and modifications are necessary.

          The concept that is missing, perhaps, is that of confederation of smaller groups which send mandated recallable delegates to larger assemblies, as was done in Spain.

          Down thread I delve into the reasons people are so fixated on hierarchy, and why they find the horizontal self management hard to tolerate. But frankly, I don't think there is a better way, in the long run, to socially organize. The alternative is back to letting elites (a description which doesn't at all imply actual superiority) dominate the rest of us, which I cannot accept. I'll never be a willing servant who effectively has little or no voice in my own life, although I certainly can be coerced (forced) through poverty and the resulting need to serve people higher up on their self serving pecking order. It doesn't matter to me who these elites may be, whether democrats or republicans, if their intent is relegating most people into a worshiping class of "supporters."

          I'm done with that. Perhaps that is why I was personally thrilled with Occupy, even with the problem of re-acculturating people to appreciating the freedom to self manage. I suppose it depends on which side you are coming from: The ruled, or the rulers. Maybe people used to being higher up on the social pecking order (whether in income or social status) just can't tolerate this approach.

          I believe in equality and mutual aid, and there have been many examples in history that indicate this works very well. It is no mystery to me that Americans don't find this approach workable, so instilled all of us truly are, even down to a subconscious level, with competition and individual struggle, and a hierarchical, class based society, where individual reward and punishment are the foundation of everyday existence, and which determine which rung of the ladder each individual must accept as destiny.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 12:55:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Good fodder for the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    danps

    International Communities Studies Association and Utopin Studies Society I'll be attending in Scotland this year.

    •  I would read more broadly about Occupy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brown Thrasher

      if you're interested in an informed view. This diary doesn't at all explore the real "roots" of Occupy, despite the misleading title.

      Unless, that is, you're going to use the diary as a confirmation of your own biases.

      For a rebuttal, see my comment down thread.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:43:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is the game changed by social networking tools? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, annan

    You need look no further than the variety of conversations present here on DK.  Here in one "community", albeit online and geographically diverse, we have a very broad range of discussions, attitudes, etc.  While Markos has retained authoritarian powers (his site, after all), he has taken a rather Jeffersonian (...governs the least...) approach in practice, IMHO.

    Can a liberal society avoid the various pitfalls through the use of online collaborative tools (like posting diaries and comments, HR's and recommends)?  I'm not saying the system here works  smoothly, but there seems to be something qualitatively different at work due to the newly available tools.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by Jim Tietz on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 07:04:14 AM PST

  •  It is curious how much personal psychology- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    danps, Old Gardener, ZhenRen

    personal needs-- effects social movements.  In occupy, the need for people to have a meaningful place within the movement became paramount to the movement itself.  

    When the movement becomes the thing and the thing feeds the psychological needs, maybe then the movement is sustainable?

    "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

    by Publius2008 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 09:45:23 AM PST

    •  personal psych. probably drives the whole thing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Guyer, Brown Thrasher

      People need an identity, they need a tribe, and they need a cause: something to believe in and fight for.  Political movements along with clubs, religions, militaries, etc. all offer those things.  Individualism ironically weakens the individual by depriving them of support, and it's not as though people who belong to things are all mindless identical puppets of the leader.

      Collective action is not identical with democracy.  Successful movements, utopian or otherwise, tend to have a pretty clear goal and process for achieving that goal; you join because you want to be like them and do what they do, not because you think they need your unique brand of specialness.  They're not places where everyone sits around chilling and doing their own thing, expecting the sum of all self-interests to magically effect a common purpose.

      A large number of small, tightly focused groups that come together when they have a common purpose and split when they don't - and consequently don't need to agree on everything - might work better than one big mass movement trying to be all things to all people.

      Something's wrong when the bad guys are the utopian ones.

      by Visceral on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 10:22:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The problem is... (8+ / 0-)

      we've all become accustomed to hierarchical social and political models under centuries of feudalism, monarchism, and the representational "democracies" of modern capitalism, which causes some individuals to feel lost without a ruling body of some sort to give them a familiar hierarchical structure.

      A close examination of our history in the U.S. reveals an initial foundation of rather scarce democratic participation by most individuals, since in the beginning only the white males of the propertied owner class could vote, meaning that most individuals in society had no voice whatsoever. Even now, a close study reveals that most elected officials on the national level have net worths of several millions, indicating that wealth plays an enormous role in having a voice in matters of national policy.

      Thus, we're used to having very little direct voice in our own affairs, since these decisions are left up to officials of organizations, be it the church, government, academia, the military, and social organizations. This has become the accepted norm, and is expected and familiar, and hence rather unquestioned. Instead of examining their own cultural biases, people focus outwardly at the unfamiliar, and question that, instead.

      In other words, people are accustomed to being led if they've primarily functioned this way most of their lives. And of course, some will show up having histories of being leaders in activist groups, and these will often expect to rise into leadership positions, which can cause tension in an Occupy setting, when they aren't given such privileges. I've seen many such individuals storm off in anger rather than accept the more equal social status.

      This entire "psychology" can thus be reversed in the analysis, and rather than limit the examination to only Occupy, as if any setbacks fall always on inherent organizational flaws, the attendees must also be understood in the correct context as basically so accustomed to the inequities of our political system that they don't know how to behave and function in a more horizontal approach to self management of a community.

      The fact is horizontal, non-hierarchical communities have always existed down through the eons. In the societies of indigenous peoples can be found examples of participatory communities, which are much more horizontal in structure.

      During the Spanish Civil War, and the resulting vacuum of governmental leadership, the anarchists (anarcho-socialists) modeled their entire region on a direct democracy style of self management (similar to the approach in Occupy), involving some eight million people, and they found that incentive, innovation, and production increased. People were happier at the workplace because they had a voice in their own lives. Improvements in the workplace, more and better food, healthcare, education, all were improved beyond the previous capitalist, hierarchical management style. But among this community were many individuals who were well practiced at this style of decision making, and thus meetings tended to be shorter and more was accomplished than in Occupy. People were used to getting down to important business, and wasted little time with extraneous issues. It was more efficient.

      With Occupy, the participants were young, often, and were becoming familiar with something entirely new and thus there was a tremendous period of adjustment, and some individuals simply lacked the patience and the knowledge to make this work.  

      In Portland, Oregon, the Occupy movement refined the consensus model by encouraging the formation of smaller affinity groups, which would make plans and decisions about the smaller group's projects and goals, and then elect a mandated, recallable delegate (the spoke) which would be sent to a larger spokes-council assembly, wherein each spoke of the smaller groups had a vote in decisions. But these delegates weren't leaders in the traditional sense, because they were mandated to follow their individual group's instructions, and could be removed at any time, thus preserving the horizontalism, but improving efficiency.

      This was found to work better since most of the haggling over ideas was worked out in the smaller groups, so that the larger council could more easily get down to business.

      The model works, and unfortunately far too many, like the diarist, have given up in frustration and rather than have a willingness to make direct democracy work, they began to demand a return to the familiar lack of democracy and hierarchical subservience with which we're all far more familiar.

      Our authoritarian-based society tends to produce authoritarian personalities that either want to be led, or want to do the leading, and the notion of actually giving each person some of the leadership responsibility may frustrate and even disorient some individuals.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 11:35:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  On the other hand, insight, skills and experience (0+ / 0-)

        are qualities that can't be diminished.  Does deferring to people who have deeper insights, skills and more experience mean hierarchy?

        "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

        by Publius2008 on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 12:21:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  People with special skills (5+ / 0-)

          were respected in this approach. When expertise existed within the community, those individuals were welcome and even expected to come forward. The difference is that no one had "command" due to expertise, but rather were able to lead according to the group's desire and consensus.

          In the planning I witnessed, expertise in specific areas of action was always valued, and more than welcomed.

          So, there is a kind of "soft" leadership, in that natural talents tend to get recognized and allowed to move the group forward. People with expertise influenced the direction of the group, and could be allowed to take the lead, so to speak. But they didn't have terms of service that were inviolable, could thus be removed and replaced at any time.

          The real beauty of this is talents which often get ignored in traditional hierarchical organizations were able to be heard. The American corporate model is well known to shove brilliant minds to the bottom, while the louder, aggressive, voices of the owner class achieve total control.

          That is one of the flaws of hierarchy. Talent is often ignored and pushed away as if a threat to the power of people in control. And often the credit of the ideas from people at the bottom go to people at the top.

          It is odd that people think skill and expertise tend to be more recognized in a hierarchical society, when the opposite is often the case.

          For example, Einstein was thought to be sub-average by his teachers. He was ignored in his workplace. It took him years to become recognized. He had no lab in which to develop his ideas. Only through perseverance did he eventually succeed in attaining recognition. Hierarchical organization almost deprived us of his great intellect.  

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 12:40:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  In other words (0+ / 0-)

          what is being guarded against is the ever present tendency for elites in power to become seduced into thinking they (with their real or imagined abilities, insights, intelligence, training, experience) are indispensable to the community, thus closing off people from access to power over their own lives.

          Anyone who thinks the world just can't get along well without his/her place at the top of the hill is a threat to the autocracy of people to self-manage their own existence, which is their right. Humans have managed to survive for millions of years of evolution without being pawns to a class of elites.  

          And the laughable thing I haven't yet mentioned is that most often it isn't the knowledgeable people who wind up in charge, but rather it is the moneyed class, and their enablers -- a group which hardly qualifies, for the most part, as superior in wisdom and intelligence.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 09:00:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  The spokescouncils (7+ / 0-)

        referred to in my first comment were enjoyable, liberating, amazing experiences for me.

        Another detail about how these worked: The entire body of Occupy participants were welcome to attend, but it was preferred that they were participating in one of the spokes-groups so that they would have some knowledge of the way this approach worked. But anyone could attend.

        This way, the affinity groups could attend the larger spokes council assembly, and the delegates could return to their respective groups during the assembly to confer and work out consensus, then return to the larger group. The larger group would frequently take a break to let the affinity groups discuss issues and to instruct their delegates, after which the larger group would reconvene and discuss and reach consensus, or vote, to arrive at decisions.

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 12:22:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting, I'll comment later (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:30:31 PM PST

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