Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Out of the garden now: a night with #ows

I get a call from Jason asking me to come down. There are two meetings going on simultaneously. One has to do with making plans/rules for living together at West-Park. The other is the Spokescouncil meeting. Jason and Diego have come under fire for excluding four disruptive persons. Work had become impossible.This has led to hours of debate. 
Some believe that if you listen  hard enough to where someone’s pain is coming from, you can help heal them. That just giving voice to people can be healing. Others have gotten to the point where enough is enough. That allowing four individuals to dominate is abusive, even violent. 
One older white haired woman had taken someone into her home. It had ended badly. She’s one who feels violated by individuals taking up so much time. 
I go outside for a break. A young man is yelling loudly, making threatening noises. Something about a friend who went inside while he was excluded. I don’t have a good feeling about this. His friend comes out. More threats. Dan is getting into it verbally from the sidelines. Fists start to fly.
Rafael the security guy quickly gets Dan and anyone else extaneous out of the way. Then pushes the guy’s friend away. Then in a blink of an eye, wraps him up, takes him gently to the ground, immobilizing the guy. I’m watching, wondering. All the time, he’s talking to him.  Within a few minutes, he lets him up, they’re sitting on the sidewalk together, Rafael’s arm around him.  By the time the police come and ask, What’s going on here? The answer is nothing, absolutely nothing. 
I talk with Rafael. Tell him I’m impressed. Ask him how he does it,he says, look I have five boys, and laughs. First, people look at me and never expect me, a big Lation guy,  to move fast, I’ve got that going. And then you have to engage, to deescalate, then get the person out, away from the situation. I knew if they left him alone,he’d burn out..just had to give him the space to do that...for his own good.
The fighter is sitting alone, soon falling asleep...
Back inside, I have to explain that no, I didn’t say to exclude anyone. What I did say was that I am trying to build a community of communities, that I have obligations to all those communities. That each and everyone who walks in here has to feel safe and secure. And that if in order for that to happen, some people need not to be here, then that must be. And that who and how is not my decsision. But I will support those who make that happen. For the good of the whole.
Later, I will have to make that same speech downstairs as well. Some want to only create rules as they live into the experience. But that won’t work for me. 
I talk with Jason outside. You guys are discovering what my business calls original sin, the human condition. You’re really out of the garden now. You have to figure out how to live as responsible adults,responsible to each other. 
He nods. You know, it was really beautiful, back in Zucotti, for awhile. Everything just worked. And then...
It’s like that Leonard Cohen song, I say, tonight will be fine......for awhile. 
People leaving the meeting talk about how hard it is, but how beautiful it is. Trying to practice radical acceptance. Making sure that every voice is heard. Some voices that have never been heard.  Sensitive to charges of racism, there's a conscious effort to rotate the facilitator role through black, white, brown, male, female....
I feel like they feel like they’ve aready won the revolution and are now trying to figure out how to build a society. Wondering what Hugo would have to say to them, having actually done that once. Those who feel that some disrupters may be undercover NYPD or Homeland Security are more than likely right.
It’s not a bad vision, radical acceptance, every voice counting. All equal. The church had a vision like that once. 

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