Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mom, Apple Pie, and Transparency

Occupy Nashville is about to consider a proposal from a "transparency caucus" that purports to be about the need for transparency and inclusiveness in the working groups that are part of ON.  While there can be no doubt about the need for improvement in the Occupy Nashville movement in the areas of transparency and inclusiveness, I hope you'll agree by the time you read this that this proposal not only doesn't provide solutions to those problems, the proposal itself is an exercise borne of the desire to perpetuate the opacity and exclusionary tactics that have plagued some ON working groups for over two months.

Posts made early yesterday morning on ON's website forum and facebook page announced that a proposal would be introduced at the General Assembly scheduled for today at 1 p.m.  That post was as follows: 

whereas occupy nashville opposes the opaque nature of government and dicisions made for people without their knowledge or consent....
whereas occupy nashville is a direct democracy, all inclusive of all people.....
whereas occupy nashville intends to provide a platform for all people's voices to be heard and included in the decision making process.....
whereas secracy divides and transparency is an invitation to participate.....
occupy nashcille decrees that from this day on......

1) all working group meetings times and places be posted on the calender 48 hours before meeting time, and
2) that no meeting which has not been announced may make the claim that it is an occupy nashville meeting nor make any policy statement on behalf of occupy nashville. and
3) that every working group be open to all who wish to attend at all times. and
4) that all official occupy group meetings be required to post minutes, or notes from every meeting on the web site. and
5) that every working group send at least one representative to every general assembly meeting to report back on the groups activities. and
6) that all working groups support the other working groups in achieving the stated goals of occupy nashville, occupy wallstreet and the occupy global movement.

this will be presented at saturday's general assembly meeting dec 24

If you're new to the story, you might be wondering why there's any controversy about this.  Isn't a proposal in support of transparency and inclusiveness a good thing?  Sounds close enough to Mom and apple pie to get the desired response from some, as comments in early response to the proposal weigh in on chat and the forum.  So far, it's looking like people think if you don't agree this is a good idea, you're probably also drowning kittens in your spare time. 

Unfortunately, you're going to need to do some more reading in order to understand what's really going on here.  I'm going to ask you to take time to read the minutes of the GAs held on both October 16th and October 17th, posted on the ON site forum.  You need to read the comments posted for each too, in order to understand that 1) we're over two months past the time when the meat of what's being proposed now was already provided for in a proposal for which consensus was reached by GA, and 2) the problem is not a lack of guidelines; it's the apparent unwillingness on the part of some people to implement ON consensus because they disagree with it.  Check it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

The truth is that issues of transparency and inclusiveness were addressed and consensus reached two months ago in GA that Occupy Nashville working groups are to be open to all who want to participate, working group meetings need to be announced in advance so people know about them and can attend, minutes of those meetings are to be recorded and posted, and there is supposed to be representation from each working group in attendance at General Assemblies.

A couple of other things in the proposal currently being considered can fairly easily be dismissed as attempts to control the working group process unnecessarily.  That's a problem, of course, but the larger problem with some of this is that, if passed, it would hamstring working group operations to the point of ineffectiveness.  For example, a 48 hour notice is not always feasible when things are moving as quickly as they sometimes do on the plaza.  Further, if meetings had any sort of regular schedule or even if the next meeting time was simply decided at the end of each meeting and then immediately posted on the plaza, ON's online calendar, and social media, the issue of notice would be addressed without a specious "rule" that potentially disallows as invalid all meetings that take place via email, phone, etc.  It is 2011, after all.  It's been decades since meetings needed to be in a physical space in order to happen or for work to be done.

What you don't see mentioned in this proposal, but you do hear about in the discussions going on in both email chains and in chat, is the soon to be reality of a second live stream team being organized in an effort to give Occupy Nashville more choice in how it gets news about what's going on with the movement.  And that, my friends, is what this proposal is really about.  More to the point, this proposal is an attempt to stop a group of Occupy Nashville people from going online with a stream that isn't controlled by those on the tech/stream teams currently in place.  After months of not being willing to implement what was decided upon by consensus in General Assembly, the tech/team crew is making a desperate and dishonest attempt to stop another group of Occupy Nashville people from attempting to put up a stream that says it will.

Now, the worst part of it all, as if it wasn't bad enough already...The campaign to push this proposal is following the same pattern that's been the standard way of responding to any attempt to get accountability from tech/stream.  Email chains are full of personal attacks on those who want to do another stream and scant little attention is paid to the real issues at hand.  Rather than any honest discussion about why what was agreed to over two months ago is still not in place, what we have instead are hysterical and pious statements about how much those who don't agree with them either don't understand the issues or ridiculous assertions that question even their loyalty to Occupy Nashville.  Team members are using the current stream chat to rally support for their cause, all the while proclaiming how tired they all are of the "drama."  Heavy sighs are accompanied by references to man-hating and "vendettas" and one almost expects them to break out into strains of Kumbaya as they declare repeatedly how ready they are to "move on." Let's be clear here.  Moving on may, in fact, be an excellent idea, if you're going to continue to disregard whatever consensus comes out of General Assembly because you disagree with it.

After some people (myself included) contacted the person who posted this proposal and suggested that a Christmas Eve afternoon GA in the middle of the Bible Belt at a time when many people have family obligations was not a good idea if the goal was solid consensus on a serious proposal about transparency and inclusiveness, it was posted that the proposal would be simply announced at GA today, but no attempt to reach consensus will be made until the GA scheduled for either December 27th or January 3rd.  Between now and then, word needs to get out about the whole story behind this proposal and people need to be making plans to be at the GA when this is brought up for consensus.  It would be great if the chant, "This is what democracy looks like" isn't necessarily changed to "This is what hypocrisy looks like."

Facilitator explains hand signals at GA meeting in October.