Wednesday, January 4, 2012

OWS: Leaderless or Leaderful?

The “Theater of the Oppressed” did several theater games with Occupy Together (a gathering of Occupies from all over New England) last weekend. I want to tell you about them because they explain something about the Occupy Movement that has a lot of people confused.

They had all hundred of us stand in a circle with our eyes closed. The director walked all around the circle, and told us that she whoever she touched would be the leader. The leader’s job was to lead, but to do so subtly so the cops wouldn’t be able to pick them out. The rest of us were to mill about once we opened our eyes, and find and follow the leader.

After a few minutes of milling, we went back into our circle, closed our eyes, and the director walked around us again, selecting the leadership for the next round. This time, everyone behaved really differently, much more action and movement, and lots more touching and laughter.

When we got back in the circle, someone asked, “Who was the leader each time?”

“The first time,” the director said, “I didn’t pick anyone. The second time, I picked everyone.”

I was immediately struck by how “Occupified” these two choices were: on the one hand, Occupy has no leader. On the other, in the “participatory democracy” which is the form of governance in the Occupy Movement, everyone is empowered to lead.

Some people call this “leaderless”, but that isn’t really a good description of the way it feels or works. In the Men’s Movement of the 1970’s, we used to call this kind of governance: “Leaderful.”

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