Mic Check

I’m watching the livestream of the Minneapolis #OccupyMN at http://www.livestream.com/occupymn. They are trying to figure out 1) what they’re doing there 2) how to do it 3) how to make sure that people’s voices are heard 4) how to make sure that the whole process doesn’t get bogged down. So far they are mostly using the “Mic Check” technique from Occupy Wall Street. Combined with voting. But there’s also a voice being picked up right by the microphone which is questioning the process quietly, to someone else — it’s hard to hear — but I’m sure that they don’t know that they’re being broadcast.  The voice just asked quietly, “Is this a General Assembly?”

The group is trying — they are really trying — to deal with issues of privilege and power up front. How voices are heard. Who speaks, and who facilitates.  I’m not sure that it has occurred to them to truly turn over the facilitation to a non-white or non-male person, but there’s something hopeful about having a young white man acknowledge that he is white and male.  Who would have thought of that 30 years ago?

They’re now trying to figure out whether and how to set an agenda. The two side-voices are definitely trying to figure out whether this is a General Assembly. Finally asking aloud to the group: “Is this a General Assembly, or is this a meeting to develop a General Assembly? We were told one thing at the beginning of the meeting, and now it seems to be moving abruptly to the other.”

And on the side of the page, a written comment-stream from a few people — at least one each from Michigan and Canada, and I’m here in upstate NY. (I have a great deal of family in Minneapolis, and I’m rather excited that there are 64 people sgned up on-line, which is way many more than many places elsewhere. So I thought I’d go look. I don’t know why the others are tuned in.)

When I tuned into the comment stream, two people were having a conversation about ojibwa and lakota/dakota words. (They were using lower-case, perhaps just typing speedily — I suppose I should use caps here, but it looks weird when they weren’t.) How to say “sacred” — it depended, in ojibwa, on whether it was an animate or inanimate object. I think that the question was how to name the General Assembly, perhaps as a “sacred gathering.”

Meanwhile, someone else was posting the same comments over and over about US monetary policy. All of this intertwined, as those things happen on these comment streams adjacent to live video.

There’s been some discussion on the comment stream about politics, good fishing, micro-broadcasting the General Assemblies on an FM radio station. The person from the Ojibwa nation asked what all the chanting was about — I jumped in to answer that one. Someone commented that they hope that they get a turnout big enough to need The People’s Mic.

Meanwhile the Minneapolis meeting seems to have decided what they’re doing tonight, and at least the next step from here, and people working with various committees are speaking up about the needs of their areas and the plans for tomorrow. The first was education — they need people to learn, and people to teach, and have plans. I’m excited to hear that they are proactive about learning.

Watching this is inspiring. It’s hard to get organized. It’s hard to facilitate. It’s hard to make sure that everybody’s voice is heard. It’s hard to go slowly when you think that you know what direction to go. And it’s hard not to get swept up in the feeling of the crowd, or directed by the facilitator.

But I’m watching them figure it out, slowly. Yes, it’s young white people, mostly but not entirely. (And a big fluffy white dog.)

And finally, someone asked how many cities in the US have Occupy movements in them, and I was able to jump in with the link to occupytogether.org, and mentioned that that’s why I’m watching from upstate NY.  And just for the fun of it, I mentioned that Occupy Wall Street was the subject of my Yom Kippur sermon last night.  To which the poster who’d been trying to figure out whether s/he could bring home-cooked meals down to the MN encampment responded “RebDeb — cool!  And g’mar chatimah tovah.”  (The YK greeting, meaning something like “may you end up with a good inscription” — the metaphor is being inscribed in the book of life.  I’ve been translating it this Yom Kippur as “When the dust settles, whenever that is, may we find ourselves somewhere good, and may that last for a while.”  At least till next Yom Kippur.)  So I got to have the fun of typing גמר חתימה טובה back to him/her, and the Hebrew came out properly in the comment stream.

Time to rest.  It was an amazing Yom Kippur.  I’ll post my sermon soon.