Liberty, Democracy and Occupy

Thu, 08 Mar 2012 02:37:00 PST

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Audio Transcription

Hello again. It’s Foster here and I want to take a few minutes today to share some reflections on a profound conversation that’s emerging in both the Occupy and Thrive movements and other ones all across the globe. It has to do with Liberty and Democracy. I’ll give you a little background…

I’ve just returned recently from the Occupy Solidarity Social Forum in Olympia, Washington where I was invited to participate and share Thrive and our Solutions Model and to join in numerous workshops that happened over 2-1/2 days. There were representatives from Occupy sites all over the country and from all walks of life. There were disillusioned business executives and there were homeless street musicians. There were moms, mystics, curious filmmakers. You name it.

What we all seemed to share in common, I would say, is that we were energized and we were committed to figuring out how to be effective in making a world that works for everyone. There was a beautiful spirit of “observe without judging” and “listen to everyone”. There were problems discussed. Particularly, there were heated conversations about the recent vandalism in Oakland and the alienation that that’s caused. There were productive discussions and a powerful stand taken for non-destructive non-violence.

I would say that the major themes that were emerging (which are the same in the Thrive Movement) were, first of all, “What’s really going on in the world?” Secondly, “How can we organize effectively to transform this situation, especially with so many issues going in so many directions at once?” And finally, “Around what principles can we organize?” and that’s particularly what I want to address today.

I would say that most of the Occupy activists that I talked with were for operating beyond the old Left/Right political polarity that has obviously not worked. So, the question is, “Will Occupy be able to move beyond this box?” They’re certainly giving it an admirable try and this is where it gets particularly interesting to me. How do we navigate the radical next step on the path that got us here? We’ve come from royalty to feudalism to socialist/communist/fascist dictatorship into democracy and it’s clear to most people that democracy is the best for the most people so far on a trajectory toward liberty and justice for all. But, we’re not fully there yet.

One of the most crowded and energized workshops at the conference was a debate scheduled between a young socialist and a young Ron Paul supporter. What was surfacing in that very split audience (which was very energized and pouring out into the hallways) is that the answers are not Republican and Democrat. They’re not conservative and liberal.

And here’s the main point I want to offer in this conversation: principles are not the same as politics and liberty is not the same as democracy. We’re taught in school and by our government that the highest ideal for relating is democracy. But, what if that’s actually a very dangerous misunderstanding? I believe that we have to start with liberty.

There’s an old saying that democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner and that liberty is a well-armed sheep disputing the vote. And there’s a lot in that. Liberty involves human beings governing themselves, being sovereign citizens. Democracy, on the other hand, is a method by which decisions are reached within groups. I think in a just society where freedom is primary, then democracy is strictly limited. The reason for that is that free men and women may not be intruded on even if the majority of the group would decide to do so. If democracy trumps liberty, then the seed of tyranny is sewn and so-called democracy will eventually, as it has historically, destroyed both liberty and democracy.

When I left the conference, I came away with a feeling that if the powers that want to be think that Occupy fizzled when it got cold, they’re in for a big surprise. Wisely, many of these activists have just gone indoors and spent their time studying and organizing. I think what we’re about to experience is the American or (more likely) the Global Spring and I think it’s going to be very thrilling.

Check out the links at the bottom of this blog on One of them is an article on Democracy vs. Liberty. Another is a new document from a couple of very profound freedom fighters called “The Universal Declaration of Independence” that takes the old one to another level. Also, a number folks have been asking for more detail on the Goldman Sachs takeover briefs that I referred to in my last video blog. There are a couple of short videos by wonderful investigative reporters that explain all that in more detail.

So, until next time, remember, be informed, be non-violent, and be relentless. See you soon.


"We are not aimless; we simply speak a different language – a language of mutual respect, participation, self-management, and action.  We make our demands in this language that screams we are here for the long-run, that our goal is not merely reform, that our vision is deep and radical, that we will not be bought off or co-opted, and that we are prepared to struggle in order to win not only those gains we can pronounce but also those we can’t even fully articulate yet.”

                                                            - Yotam Maron, OWS activist, October 13, 2011



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