The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session "Occupy as Form" on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Cheryl Meeker, artist, activist, art writer and co-founder of stretcher.org.
Taking an axis as a keystone, the Occupy groups utilize an organizing form that is diametrically perpendicular to, if not opposed to the vertical hierarchies employed by corporations, institutions, the academy, the church, and the patriarchal nuclear family. As an artist that has worked in a variety of collectives and collaborations, coming up against the embedded habit of top-down hierarchy has always worn me down. What happens to the discontent that remains from not being heard under majority rule? Relief from the stunting affects of vertical hierarchy can be found in groups that operate on the basis of consensus.
The Socratic method and the dialectic owe something to the horizontal, while the wisdom of the massive mycelium (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wzBPSbTGYM&feature=player_embedded ) growing under forests spreads horizontally, as does the thin atmosphere coating the surface of the planet. These systems embody the connectedness of all life. Horizontal organizing acknowledges the importance of a space for each body and a time for each voice to be heard, as well as an understanding and appreciation of the process itself. Paul Stametz says we need to understand the organisms that sustain life on earth or we will destroy life on earth and ourselves in the process… that we “need a paradigm shift in our consciousness -- what will it take to achieve that?” Perhaps horizontal consensus based organizing can help us understand interconnectedness by subjectively changing us in the process. General assemblies and working groups are open to the public and Occupy can benefit from the contribution of each individual.
I am interested in how the methods of Occupy can be used in the broader social/political/economic field to support the 99% and find the possibility for saving as many species as possible in the coming years. I am also interested to find out if those who feel more comfortable with vertical hierarchies will choose to involve themselves, in order to experience another way first hand.