By Contributor on February 02, 2012

By Stephan Said

In the wake of Occupy Oakland’s violent confrontation with police, many people are writing about non-violence and Occupy but missing the point. Occupy has been very successful in awakening an invigorated debate across the country while remaining largely non-violent.

But, to this point, Occupy has primarily defined itself through the politics of opposition, as its name even implies. Against Wall St., against Citizens United, against money in politics, against income inequality, against the G8.

To be both effective and sustainable, great movements, like those for Women’s Suffrage and Indian Independence, have to transform themselves beyond a start-up oppositional phase, into one in which they are defined not by what they are against, but by what they are for.

Great movements lift a moral vision high above the political dialogue that reaches into peoples’ hearts. When a moral vision precedes a movement, the necessary actions against oppressive policies and the diversity of tactics protestors autonomously undertake are fortified and the PR battle is more easily won.

The Civil Rights Movement may have been catalyzed by the bus boycott, but it had to move beyond that and claim itself as a movement for equality to capture the imagination of the world. The boycotts didn’t stop. But the movement could more effectively take on everything from segregation to voting rights in the context of the claim to equality.

We are living in the first era in which a global movement for economic and social equality, the great dream humankind has hoped for thousands of years, has become imperative for international security and the survival of our planet. That dream is alive in the hearts of people from Cairo to LA, Athens to Santiago, and with the tools at our disposal, it is achievable.

It’s time for Occupy to define that universal vision and unite with people worldwide to create that movement. True non-violence derives its power from a universal vision. When civil disobedience is tied to the inalienable claim to equality, it becomes impervious to smears and able to incorporate a diversity of tactics.

This was the key to the Salt March and to the Selma-Montgomery Marches. In an effective non-violent strategy, protestors don’t ask for dignity; they claim it as a birthright, victorious before they walk.

This was the spirit of the #J15 Worldwide Candlelight Vigil, Occupy’s biggest action so far this year. #J15 was a test-run for a global “Salt March,” with people of all ages and ethnicities engaging in a single non-violent act, lighting candles to demand a more equitable global economic system.

#J15 went viral because people all over the world wanted a positive message that gave them hope, empowering and dignifying them, and because they know that our message must be global to succeed.

In less than 3 weeks, the vision of a global movement for economic and social equality spread from Brisbane to Cairo, Manchester to New Orleans. It gained the support of religious and civil rights leaders, the African American community and Arab Spring activists, and resulted in Occupy’s biggest cultural event yet, a packed celebration at New York City’s historic Riverside Church.

Likewise, Occupy Foreclosed Homes and Occupy The Board of Education are examples in which an inarguable claim to equal rights and benevolence preceded the confrontational nature of the direct actions, resulting in powerful statements.

There will always be a diversity of tactics. The autonomous nature of today’s movements is one of their most powerful characteristics. But if we want to rise above public perception as a din of disconnected actions, we have to elevate our message. We can do this by uniting Occupy, the Arab Spring and their sister movements in a global movement for equality.

While we prepare for May Day, Chicago and the G8, the claim to a positive dream will dignify people, connect our myriad struggles from unfair trade to income inequality and campaign finance, and move us beyond a leaderless movement into one in which everyone is the leader.

We need that great movement today. The dream of a more equal world is now being advocated by the world’s top economists and intellectuals, development institutions, as well as our interfaith and social change organizations.

The stage is set for a vision far greater and more powerful than a movement against Wall Street or the G8, one that lifts our spirits high above politics and into the global imagination, dignifying us on the road to victory. A non-violent global movement for a more equal world is the way forward.

Stephan Said, Occupy and J15 Organizer, Musician, is the founder of difrent.org. You can follow him on twitter @stephansaid, facebook at http://www.facebook.com/stephan.said or email him at stephansaid.com.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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