It’s The Consensus, Stupid

It is bewildering how many really smart, well-formed, progressive thinkers seem to have not yet achieved a critical shift in perception concerning the worldwide struggle for freedom and democracy.

Naomi Wolf recently wrote in The Guardian that Occupy needs to avoid getting “bogged down in consensus decision-making” and instead should focus on “media exposure, a clear message, smart soundbites, clearly stated demands, and, most importantly, tasked, empowered negotiators working on the inside in concert with mass disrupters applying pressure from without.” She cites some excellent examples of effective political advocacy from the past, including the work of Act Up in gaining fast-track approval for AIDS drugs that have since saved millions of lives.

This sort of “get to the point” criticism of the Occupy Movement has been raised from many quarters nearly ad nauseam since the very start – and it completely misses the point. Consensus decision-making is, in this movement, not a means to another end. It’s not about which method is most effective in building the movement or in achieving political goals. It is the goal.

Our current economic and governmental systems are pushing up against the natural physical limits of sustainability. They are, without a single solitary doubt, coming to an end – and quite soon, I think. The question is not whether the old order will fall, the question is what sort of new order will take its place.

As I see it, there are only two alternatives: slavery or community. Either we will drift increasingly toward a system that is dominated by ever more repressive governments at the service of multi-national corporations (that will continue to plunder and exploit until nothing is left), or we will find ways to create local, self-governing, non-coercive associations where people willingly work together to ensure that everyone has the basic necessities of life and the opportunity to develop their true human potential.

The Occupy Movement is creating and demonstrating that model. Making decisions by consensus is the entire point. If that process is abandoned for the sake of “efficiency” – or even “effectiveness” – the battle will have already been lost.

It is a waste of precious time and energy to tinker around at the edges in a quest for political influence over systems that are already crumbling. It is time to create the new society within the shell of the old.

The “leaderless movement” is leading the way.