This last week I had a chance to listen in on a discussion with some of the leaders of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration happening in New York. Unlike many of my Facebook friends who have been quite vocal on the demonstrations, I have been a bit of a quite bystander on the sidelines not really understanding what to make the protests nor clear on who is exactly leading the viral movement or what it really stands for. Furthermore, I did not see how the Occupy Wall Street movement and the LOHAS intersect. By being a part of this conversation with those who not only were sleeping in the park but actually leaders of the NY Occupy group I hoped would bring some answers to these burning questions. The first thing that struck me about the representatives of the demonstration was how young, energetic and passionate they were for their cause. All were in their twenties and full of zeal. Each of them wore several hats of responsibility ranging from tactical to basic services. One was part of the kitchen/comfort team that provided infrastructure needs. Another was a recent grad who has large student loans and was on the communications team for outreach and press. Another was a facilitator of meetings and responsible for damage control. They gave the ground rules of how there were going to interact with the business audience that I was a part of and did so in an untypical way. For example if you liked something you waved your fingers up. If you didn’t, you waived them down. The business group asked them what their demands were and they replied that there were no demands right now as they recognized that this movement/demonstration was still evolving and they did not want to be compartmentalized to specific demands yet. They explained that the movement is open source movement that focuses on equality and sharing for all involved. They said they had been mentored by those involved in the recent Egyptian movement and recognized revolution theory and practice must work in parallel and not one after the other. I think this is one of the most difficult things to understand from the outside looking in. The fact that this movement is being created on a completely seperate set of standards and rules are a bit perplexing. This certainly is a fluid movement that we are witnessing ebb and flow before our eyes. The Occupy Wall Street representatives spoke of a new breed of activism they were creating and were preparing for a long haul. One interesting thing I noticed is that they were not seeking money from the business audience which I would expect they want. This was the SVN conference with many investors and socially responsible entrepreneurs who were already active participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement. I couldn't think of a better place to ask for cash. But they didn't see it that way. They said they had $500K in a fund and were afraid it would get too large and unruly to manage. Instead they were asking for gifts of service and hard goods rather than money. One said ‘Giving money does not provide control by the giver once the check is passed. This is the mode of the traditional economy which we are protesting against.’ They want to promote and develop a new form of economy - a gift economy. What they said they needed most were the gifts of hard goods like strong and warm tents for the winter, food and supplies, educational training and more action oriented people to join them. They also want a gift economy website and a new open source web that was not draconian dominated by large search engines like Google. I found this discussion to be quite informative and gave me a better understanding of the thinking of the leadership. The open source and evolving platform is definitely new and challenging for institutions to understand since there are no demands. It is also challenging to hear what they are for rather than see what is reported on the news and see the hand made signs of what they are against. Listening to this meeting helped me understand their thinking a bit more. For those who want more information The Occupy Wall Street general assembly has a call to action document online at www.nycga.net.
Save the dates
On November 5th Occupy Wall Street asking everyone to move their money from the large banks to credit unions and community banks. The large banks continue to thrive while many are starving. Everyone has a credit union near them even if they don’t know it. For a list of national credit unions visit - www.thecommunitybanker.com/cu_links
Another option is a community bank which is one that supports investments locally. www.findabetterbank.com/community_banks_credit_unions.html
On November 17th they are planning a large scale demonstration. They want to disrupt all the bridges in the U.S. This is meant to have the 1% feel the pain of disconnection and cut off as the other 99% feel. People feel like their lives are falling apart and they want others to get a taste of that.
What The Occupy Wall Street Movement is Asking
The representatives were clear that you don’t need to spend the night in the park although you are welcome to do so. This is not about just occupying a square but also occupying hearts and minds of people. They ask all who support their cause to be visible! The Occupy platform in new and is a new way to approach the current economic problems that is open source – use it! Participate!
To learn what events are happening and where go to www.occupytogether.org
To promote an event and needs of demonstrators go to www.occupywishlist.org/tos.html
One person in the business group asked about the potential anger and backlash from the Nov. 17th planned protest and disruption by those who are not part of the 1% yet are affected and caught off guard and in the crossfire. Their response was that the demonstrations need to be adjusted to various situations and reminded everyone that this is a work in progress and is open source. Another asked if there are there concerns with infiltrators. The Occupy representatives recognized that security is a challenge but also pointed out that it is difficult to penetrate a horizontal model with no top down leadership. If there were people planning to undermine initiatives it is easier to see who they are and point them out to everyone involved. A question was raised on the relations with the NYPD union and if they are backing the Occupy movement and the concerns with police brutality. The Occupy representatives replied that the union publicly does not support them but police individually do. However the New York correctional facility union is publicly backing Occupy and is providing food for those camping out. This is probably putting some pressure and scrutiny on the NYPD union for their position. The question of police brutality came up and what they are doing about it. They also acknowledged that both sides have been the facilitators of abuse and that educating protestors on how to behave was a high priority.
So how does LOHAS fit into this? A challenging question to say the least. LOHAS is not only about healthy living and environmentalism but also social justice. When someone sees injustices they are typically inclined to act whether it be fair labor practices with coffee, child labor, blood diamonds, animal testing and all other forms of injustice that so many LOHAS products promote that they are against. Clearly there are a lot of people in pain and there is a feeling of imbalance and pain which has people seeking answers to the very complex process that got us to where we are. LOHAS can help shape this movement and direct it. LOHAS is not just about the sale of products and services to the Whole Foods shopper. It can be used as an agent of change. Because this is open source movement it can be whatever we want it to be. I think we all agree that there is something quite interesting happening here and we are watching something happen in our country that we have not seen for a long time. We can’t put the genie back in the bottle. There is something going on. Those who believe in LOHAS principles needs to speak out but do so in a way that maintains balance in a situation that is ripe for polarity. If we do not we risk falling into the quarrels of black and white when everything is really grey. We must work on maintaining a voice to ensure there is a balance with in the movement. We must integrate both the qualities of defiance and protest with those qualities of bridging process and nurturing. It is easy to get caught up in our differences and overlook our similarities. We have become a country of residence instead of citizens who are active in our community and ensuring it improves for all. Our power must serve our purpose not the other way around. We aspire for that perfect life where all are equal, the environment is clean and we are at peace. But to have that happen we need to get involved. We must expand our way of thinking since our old methods of structure clearly need an upgrade. This is what I believe the Occupy Wall Street is demanding. So is this what we have been waiting for? I ask for those out there to participate in some form to help shape this in a LOHAS way. Initially it looks a bit fragmented and dysfunctional and perhaps it will dissipate as time goes one. But that is what they said in Egypt. Stay informed on the matters, talk about it with others and educate them on the details. If you choose to get involved more by moving your money or donate gifts of goods and services to the cause or camping out and being an active demonstrator I applaud you. Being active in a LOHAS way can assist in the transformation of our world into one that provides healthy living and sustainability for everyone.
Here is MSNBCs Ryan Ratigan losing his cool but he does have a point.
Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace. The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets. For more information on Ted visit www.tedning.com