Saturday, 29 October 2011

Wait, I'm in charge?

I decided to go to the Art Gallery over lunch, my second time ever visiting.

I went for the 1:00 Open Forum.  It was raining heavily, and people were milling around in little groups under a few giant tarps that had been hung up to keep the rain off.  I sidled over and I talked to a few people for a while.  The start time came and went.  Time passed.  Knowing that I'd have to go to back to work eventually, I wondered when this was going to get started.  Who's in charge, here?

I think someone dropped the ball, or was called away on an emergency basis.  Maybe it was just that a lot of the regulars were kept away by the rain.  The implications of there being no formal leadership slowly sank in for me.  If someone needs to do something, that someone may be you.  In this case, me.

I asked the people I was talking with if they wanted to start and got a slightly confused maybe.  Good enough.  Then I went over to another little knot of people, asked if they were here for the meeting (yes) and said that those guys over there are ready to start.  A bit passive aggressive, but it worked.  The little knots of people slowly rolled up Katamari-style into one big circle.

I somehow I became the facilitator after a while.  This was the second meeting I'd ever attended -- I didn't even know all the hand signs.  I was scatterbrained and overapologetic.  Possibly too shy and too brash at the same time.  I hope I did the right thing stepping up.  I kept trying to give the job away.

Anyhow, there was some good conversation in spite of evrything.  No one was taking minutes.  My notes below might be the best record there is.

Notes from memory on the Oct. 28 Occupy Vancouver Open Forum, as I saw it
(you may notice that I'm terrible with names - I would have included them if I could remember them)

We started with a bit of a trainwreck.  Some people were talking about the world being transformed when seen from a spiritual perspective, etc.  Another person, speaking from what I think was a new-Atheist perspective, said that he was interested in the real world.  It was a bit more pointed than we usually like, and there was a need for them to get back to common ground.  A gentleman intervened and became extremely upset about this, seizing the floor and raising his voice.  This was particularly a problem because he was our facilitator at the time.  He said he had been disrespected.  I sought consensus to take over as facilitator to mediate.  There was consensus on that without objections, and I thanked the gentleman.   mediate, I was made facilitator, and I tried to show respect for him by hearing how he had been disrespected.  He pointedly insisted on having new-atheist guy leave with him for a private conversation.  New-atheist guy was quite alarmed.   In the end, the gentleman left abruptly.*  The rest of us were a bit stunned.  Three points of ceasefire consensus:
1) Inequity is real problem in the world that doesn't go away if you stop looking
2) Coming to see the world from a new perspective can be transformative
3) Let's not talk about theism/atheism/spiritual things for the next hour

Everyone had the chance to talk about why they came and what they hope to see.  The cheerfulness was infectious.  People have wildly different and possibly irreconcilable things in mind, but they're working together. The common ground is there.  People want to get from the common ground to action.

A note about the law: there was a claim from a seemingly well-informed guy that the law about the tents is more ambiguous than it might seem.  If it's said that bylaws are being broken at the Art Gallery, we should question which bylaws specifically we're talking about.  Not something I'm clear on.

There was discussion about disruptive behaviour and how it discredits us.  There was consensus on an idea to be proposed to the General Assembly (GA). The idea was that GA should provide to the media a daily list of those activities which have consensus support from the GA.  Those and only those events are being done in our name.  By taking responsibility for the activities we agree on with full consensus, it becomes easier to say to the media that we are not responsible for disruptive behaviour that we never agreed upon or have condemned.  People who appropriate the Occupy name without building consensus at the GA are misrepresenting themselves.

[note: those of us present at this open forum may not be close enough to the relevant committee members to be in synch with their strategy on this point]

When things were winding down, we dissolved the Forum into informal discussion by consensus.

* Sir, if you should happen to read this I would very much like to speak more with you about what went wrong.
Comments would be appreciated on what went wrong/right

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