Communities Change Fierce Civility
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Joe Weston

Preparing for a 21st century LASTING peace movement – #4, Occupy and business

Here is an email I sent to someone who contacted me and shared his concern about my involvement with the Occupy movement. He is a businessman in downtown Oakland who is frustrated by the effect the movment is having on his business and the local economy. I am glad that I am having great discussions with people around the world. We are all looking for ways to make sense of our current situation:
Hey C.,
Thank you for your great email.
I agree with much of what you say. And I love your idea of an Info Center instead of a tent city. I believe fully that being on the streets to exchange ideas and information is the solution. In our current world where we all isolate, I believe that this is the most effective way of getting us all to wake up out of our numbness and the brainwashing of the media and big business. That’s why I support the Occupy movement.
However, I too have my concerns and doubts. For instance, I don’t think it should start with “occupying” Wall Street. That is just more of the same old way of doing things that have caused all of the problems. I would rather see a movement that is called “Educate Wall Street” or “Evolve Wall Street”.
My involvement at Occupy Oakland has always been on the periphery. When I am in town, I have been going every day to meditate as a way to weave peace, wisdom, loving kindness, inclusiveness and respect into this emerging movement. I spoke with leaders of the camp and offered my skills in Respectful Confrontation. I have not marched or demonstrated at any time where the result was violence. I believe it is possible to confront without violence and get our needs met and find new creative solutions to the mess we are in if we choose to listen. Like you, I am also concerned about the anarchists and upstarts that this movement is attracting. Here is something I wrote in one of my latest blog posts:
I am very inspired by what is unfolding. This movement is helping break through the apathy and inertia, the confusion and cynicism, the fear and paralysis of those who know that things have gotten out of hand. I don’t think anarchy and revolution are the way to have a lasting positive effect. We have seen in history how that has only created temporary relief.
I believe that we are at the threshold of new possibilities, where we can sit down and confront – speak our truth, hear the truth of others and TOGETHER come up with new evolved solutions. These solutions can only come when both sides – the rich and the poor, the CEO and the public school teacher  – can find a way to collaborate and be creative.
We don’t need a REVOLUTION, we need an EVOLUTION!!! Let’s learn the skills of Respectful Confrontation and make this global shift happen.
I’m sorry to hear that you and your business are suffering. I would imagine that isn’t the intention of the movement. I don’t believe violence and destruction is necessary, but I do believe that things have to get uncomfortable before they can get better. Here is an image that comes to mind: imagine a small town along a beachfront where, after years of wear and tear, the tide is rising and if nothing is done, the waters will flow over into the town and wipe out the town. Yet, no one is doing anything and the situation is getting critical. Suddenly, some people come in and start doing construction to build a new system that will prevent the full destruction of the town. This of course causes inconvenience to the residents and financial strain on the business owners. Everyone is complaining. The business owners have a choice – deal with the current temporary struggle in order to avoid the total wipe out of everyone, or make the construction stop and ignore the imminent doom. I believe we no longer have a choice. Something has to change.
You use the words “civil disobedience” in your email. I’m not sure what your opinion is of this term. When I think of civil disobedience I think of the American Revolution. If the rebels didn’t speak up and stir things up, the world would be a very different place. Don’t you think? I’m sure there were many business owners who did there best to dissuade the rebels from continuing what they believed in. Times were very tough for the Colonials.
I wonder if there is some way to open a dialogue between the occupyers and the local business owners. I have actually been asked to possibly sit in on talks with Oakland occupyers and the mayor’s office as a mediator and to bring diplomacy to the occupyers’ message and communication. Perhaps that could also happen with local businesses.
Once again, thank you for your thoughts. I believe the most effective way to heal, grow and evolve is through respectful discourse, especially with those who have differing viewpoints. And the best way to connect with people you don’t know and who share different perspectives is in the streets. That is where lasting change can happen. That is why I go and meditate daily and stay engaged in my own way – peaceful and inclusive.
From the heart,
With this blog, I will offer tips, practices, provocative contemplations, and new perspectives to address the fear, confusion, cynicism, isolation and disempowerment that seem to cripple many of the individuals and institutions that value cooperation, diversity, peace, economic balance and integrity, environmental health and care for the poor and the under-privileged.

It is possible for each of us to develop the skills and courage to make a significant peaceful impact on ourselves, those around us and on society. It is possible to open to new solutions to our current problems. It is my intention to empower and encourage the creative social activist, the peaceful renegade, the openhearted warrior and those ready to join me play a part in the unfolding of our global evolution.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but if you are interested and intrigued, stay engaged, and let’s explore this together!


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