This is a process, not a button

“Oh my god, there’s so much to figure out!  Like, cloth or disposable diapers, and what school are they going to go to, that’s really important, and are you going to buy them a car when they turn 16?  ‘Cause that’s important, whether you do it or not, and then there’s college, and saving up to pay for it, it’s way, way expensive right now.  And there are just a thousand other things to think about when raising a child…so, what are your plans?”

“…Um…well, I’m not actually, ah, seeing anyone, at the moment…I mean, there was Todd, a couple times last month, but he’s back with his ex again, so it’s pretty much just me and the DVR most nights…I think there may be a few steps between here and there that you’re forgetting.”

I think it might be valuable to pause for a moment and reflect back upon some relevant history.  I’m going to try to leave out and/or replace some keywords that would probably trigger ingrained memories of elementary school history classes; the point here, and what’s important, is to review all of this as a real events and real people, not as overly-familiar fairy tales that have lost all resonance except with those seeking favorite-pillow-flavor solace.  And this isn’t for them.

So, there once were a bunch of farming collectives all up and down the coast.  They were generally independently operated, but were all ultimately owned by a foreign entity, one that had no real restrictions upon what they could and could not tell the collectives to do.

And as you do, when you’re working alongside people, engaged in largely the same or related tasks, you get together outside of the daily grind to hang out.  You talk a bit of shop, you talk a bit of life, you drink a tasty adult beverage, and life goes on.

And during some of these get-togethers, there’s like a bit of a bitch session, comparing the problems that everyone’s having and wondering how they might be fixed.  This isn’t a planning session, or a formal meeting:  this is after-dinner drinks and a “God, I absolutely hate when [problem happens]; I bet we could [course of action] and fix that once and for all!”  Followed by comments about which of the serving girls has the largest breasts.  As you do.

And these conversations go on, on a local and broader scale, for years.  Not days, or weeks:  years.

Until, at one of these get-togethers, as it’s becoming more and more obvious over the years that aside from the typical problems they all deal with as a matter of course in their work, there are some overriding problems that they all are being forced to deal with, ones that are largely out of their control, ones imposed by that foreign controlling interest, someone pipes in with an only somewhat-innocuous question:  “Hey…I wonder if the guys in that collective down south have the same problems we do?”

And this is discussed for a bit.  Some of the people who are there mention that they see some of the folk from the collective down south every couple of months, and they’re not quite as easy and comfortable with each other as we are here tonight, but it might be interesting to see if they have the same problems we do.

And so, those few people who deal with the other collectives for business bring a bit of the familiar bitch session conversation the next time they get together with that collective down south, and find that the southern collective has been having their own bitch sessions, and have ultimately been talking through some of the same problems that our original collective has.

And the curiosity—because, at this point, that’s all it is, curiosity—grows a bit, and at the semi-monthly get-togethers for collectives all up and down the coast, the conversation turns more and more to these overriding problems that they all seem to be dealing with.  Some people are pretty passionate about it, and are starting to actually question why they have to put up with all these problems; others really couldn’t care less, they’ve got a good life, and don’t want to waste time possibly upsetting things; and the rest fill in all the gaps in between, acknowledging that there are definitely some problems out there but not mentally going past that point.

Again, from the first moment that folks started discussing their problems with their neighbors, and the moment when folks up and down the coast started realizing that they were all dealing with the same problems:  years.

So, everyone goes on home, and a couple of people, they were a little inspired by realizing that they and all their neighbors, near and far, are dealing with the same problems.  And in that same dorm-room bullshitting-session spirit, they casually start thinking about what they might be able to do about it.  Nothing concrete, nothing formal, not really, not yet.  Just a bunch of “what if”s.  And this happens in most of the collectives, all up and down the coast.  Months pass, and the conversations progress, and several of the thinking dudes at the collectives reach a point where those courses of action aren’t just empty theories…the “what if”s move from courses of action to the consequences of those actions, and a more realistic weighing of what are starting to look like options.

And they send feelers out to the other collectives, and see that other groups of thinkers have been following similar lines of thought.

So, at some point, one of the more gregarious of the thinkers decides, “You know, we should all just get together and talk through this stuff, see if there’s any meat on these bones.”  And the discussions turn immediately to where, and when.  Can’t do it in the fall, that’s harvest time, and winter’s unsuitable for travel, so it’d have to wait until next spring at the earliest.  And which city has the best pubs and brothels?  That’s a serious point of contention.

Until, finally, the invitations are sent out, and some collectives get all formal, choosing as a group the best people to go and represent them in this bizarre brainstorming session, and for others the choice is obvious, there’s only been a couple of people moving their local discussion along, of course those guys should go, and for others they don’t really care, they’re not really interested in discussing their problems, let alone the hint of discussing possible solutions, but hey, pubs and brothels, so they’re in at least for the off-campus stuff.

And they all get together, and the first order of business is to talk through their problems, identifying which are serious, which are common, and which are probably more suitable for discussing a different time.  (“Yeah, I know, I hate ‘em too, but we should probably hold off on planning a mosquito apocalypse until later in the session, maybe.”)

And they spend time refining that list of problems down to a list of problems that affects all of them, and then more time getting granular.  “Taxes are too high, and that sucks,” is, in fact, a true statement, but doesn’t really get us anywhere.

After that, they start brainstorming possible courses of action, things that they might be able to do that would fix those problems.  Some people come with ideas they’ve already discussed and hashed out back home, and some are new to the conversation here and now.  This inevitably leads to a discussion of consequences, good and bad, which leads to more actions that would need to be taken…it’s not a clear cause-and-effect bit of arithmetic, more of a fluid and fluctuating mutli-variable calculus.

And at some point in the discussion, it becomes evident to most of the folks there:  this isn’t theory anymore.  We’re discussing real, tangible possible courses of action to take.  Our problems are real, and we want to change things so that the problems go away.  And we’re getting closer and closer to seeing a way to make that happen, and once we do see that, it’s going to be very hard to not turn words into actions.

So they keep refining these ideas, these actions and the consequences of them, until a plan begins to take shape, and someone jumps in, all of a sudden, and says, “Guys, this is all really interesting, but it really might be a good idea if we all took a step back, went home and discussed this with our neighbors?  Bob, it’s great that you’re giving a big thumbs up to all this, but the folks back home are likely to lynch you—whether they’re in agreement or not—if you show up and tell them you committed them to something without even asking them first.”

And the conversations moved back to the collectives, those who’d gone to the big meeting and pub/brothel-crawl in the city returning home to brief all the other folks in the collective as to what had been discussed, and what courses of action were now looming on the horizon, with a simple question:  do we do this?  Talk is fine, talk is cheap, but at some point, we’re going to have to actually act on it or all go home and pretend like nothing happened.

You should all know the story from there:  the delegates returned, and voted, and a couple of brilliant writers summed up their discussion in a document that they all signed, and thus was born the Declaration of Independence, literally years and years after the first conversations about the problems the colonists were facing started.

And that document, the result of all those years of discussion and debate, said absolutely nothing about what shape, structure, form or path the resulting nation would take.

It was a very basic “We’re mad as hell, this is why, and we’re not going to take it anymore,” piece of work.  Everything beyond that was a big shrug.  It took even more years—this time with intense, daily discussions and debates—to hammer out the Federal Constitution, and Bill of Rights, and state constitutions…you know, the framework for how things were actually going to work and progress forward.

So please, for god’s sake…Occupy isn’t confused, isn’t aimless…or rather, they are, a little, but that’s part of the process.  It takes time—a lot of time—to move from “something’s wrong” to “here’s what we’re going to do about it” to “here’s what comes after”.  You’re upset because they don’t have their trip planned to take their kid around to visit colleges, they’re still trying to figure out what shoes to wear on their second date with the person that they may or may not, months or years from now, marry and have kids with.

This is a process, not a button.

What you’re seeing now is not addle-headed kids unable to put together coherent thoughts.  It is, quite possibly, the sperm-and-egg-stage flirtations of a Second Constitutional Congress.


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  1. #1 by Marcia on November 23, 2011 - 10:38 AM

    Oh yah!

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