The Evolution of Revolution

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

The whole globe is shook up, so what are you going to do

when things are falling apart? You’re either going to become

more fundamentalist and try to hold things together or you’re

going to forsake the old ambitions and goals and live life as an

experiment, making it up as you go along.

-Pema Chödrön

I’m blown away by #occupywallstreet.  And I am thrilled by the conversation it has unleashed – sometimes amused, sometimes frustrated and often moved.  I’ll be at Liberty Plaza this Friday.

I’m appreciating the political discussion, the strategic questions, the desire for racial inclusion in this emergent process.  However this turns out, it is way bigger than a protest.  Something is changing, Kevin Kelly points to it:

[M]ore important than the technology which is embraced are the mind-habits, the framework, the ideology of the technology, which the protesters are trying to migrate into non-electronic situations… You can’t spend all day in an open-sourced, all-sharing, peer-to-peer network and not begin to think that the rest of your world should also operate in the same way.

I’ve been making a similar argument for a while.

Stowe Boyd similarly argues:  “[L]iquid media are so low-cost, ubiquitous, and social, that resistance movements will take on the shape of the tools that inform them.”

More importantly, Boyd argues that:

The organizations that these activists oppose won’t adopt social tools to rally their supporters. They will use conventional media and communications. The establishment organizations are massively solid, and threatened by the apparently anarchic resistance that is popping up. But it will be like a bear trying to fight a swarm of bees.

And I’m wondering where we are?  We might be progressive, but how many of us are more like these establishment organizations relying on conventional media and communications?  Look – it’s complex.  Evolution “transcends and includes,” it’s not about yes to one and no to the other, but let’s not loose sight of what’s happening here.  And let’s allow ourselves to wonder where we fall.

Both Kelly and Boyd refer to Nicholas Kulish’s excellent piece in the New York Times:  As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe. Something has already shifted.  We don’t have to like it, but it has already happened. Traditional levers for change are breaking down and something else is emergent.  It has a different logic.  And it is definitely not perfect.  But neither is what have – let’s be very clear about that.

Seth’s blog today is titled: The forever recession (and the coming revolution).  More marketer than progressive, the author of one of the net’s most read blogs says:

Job creation is a false idol. The future is about gigs and assets and art and an ever-shifting series of partnerships and projects. It will change the fabric of our society along the way. No one is demanding that we like the change, but the sooner we see it and set out to become an irreplaceable linchpin, the faster the pain will fade, as we get down to the work that needs to be (and now can be) done.

This revolution is at least as big as the last one, and the last one changed everything.

This is more bad news for those without the privilege to play in the world of “gigs and assets and art and an ever-shifting series of partnerships and projects.”  But this massive paradigm shift is also a time that allows us to reclaim the impossible.  Everything is up for grabs, and the sooner we can release our attachments to “the way things are,” and to what we’ve become good at doing – the faster we can loosen these binds, the more free that we will be to give shape to what comes next.

Ron Heifetz talks about technical change vs. adaptive change.  Those of us who thirst for justice might be coming to the limits of our technical change toolkit.  Adaptive change demands a shift in values, beliefs and assumptions.  It requires more heat.  It includes the dissonant voice.  Our friends occupying Wall Street are providing us with both.

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  • Melinda says:

    I love it Gibran! Thanks for this post. I feel your energy around this, and more importantly the growing energy of dissent, unrest, protest and activism that this and several other moves around the country (even in Boston – the Take Back Boston Rally and March by the Right to the City Alliance). Definitely let us know what you see feel and experience coming out of Liberty Plaza on Friday on this thread….and I will do the same. Im going to try my best to make it there next week while in NYC, after coming from a day or two at the http://www.rebuildthedream.com conference in D.C. this Monday. There is something brewing, indeed. Let the change begin (rather, continua!).

  • Curtis says:

    Awesome (and I mean that in the real sense of the word) post, Gibran. I heard Elizabeth Alexander interviewed the other day and she spoke of the failure of “official language” and old forms that deaden. We crave radiance, she says, something else that shimmers, the light through the cracks of these old teetering facades. As I read your post I also thought of these words from Alfred North Whitehead – ““It must be admitted that there is a degree of instability which is inconsistent with civilization. But on the whole the great ages have been unstable ages.”

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