The following is an interview with John Stubley on the Occupy Wall Street movement conducted by Hildegard Backhaus, and published, in the German-language newsletter ‘Transparenz,’ by Switzerland’s Freie Gemeinshaftsbank (gemeinschaftsbank.ch), December, 2011. The text is provided here for those who would like to read the full, English version.
- You have been attending “Occupy Wall Street” activities since the end of September. What, would you say, is the aim of the protest; what is it all about? Is there a common goal?
Any scan over the many signs present at Liberty Plaza, any attendance at one of many General Assemblies (GA’s) taking place across the city, or any reading of the many publications now emerging from the Occupation (including the GA endorsed ‘Declaration of the Occupation of New York City’) will begin to reveal certain themes. One of the central concerns is that business, wielding its vast economic power, has completely overtaken political life. Government is seen as nothing other than a kind of puppet for the interests of an elite few – the so-called 1% – who are able to exercise their economic might for their own personal gain. Political life in the USA (and elsewhere, of course) is saturated with the interests of economic power – from campaign financing to lobbying, from endorsements to the appointment of certain individuals into powerful and favourable positions.
At the same time, there is also concern that these same economic forces are either directly (through business) or indirectly (through government) influencing not only political life but all that is connected with what we might call spiritual-cultural activity. People connected to the Occupy movement are aware of the way in which business interests control such things as media, healthcare, social security, agriculture and, perhaps most importantly, education. The total debt of student loans in the USA now totals over $1 trillion. Many involved in the Student GA’s here are calling for the relief of student debt. They see that education has itself become a business. Economic forces are setting the curriculum for the spiritual and cultural development of human beings. One is either economically enslaved prior to education (through not being able to afford the schools one wishes to attend), during education (through a curriculum dictated consciously or otherwise by economic forces) or after education (through massive student debts).
Reading these symptoms on a deeper level it becomes clear that the Occupy movement is seeking for the disentangling of economic power from political and cultural life. Economic life has become like a giant oil slick spreading over all realms of society, suffocating the activities of both the political and cultural realms; suffocating, essentially, the human being.
- Are there any suggestions for a solution of the current crisis we are undergoing? What kind of perspectives do people have, what kind of concepts for the future?
The solutions that the Occupy movement is suggesting can be found within the activities of the movement itself. At the centre of the Occupation is the General Assembly with its modified consensus decision-making process. It is the heart organ of the movement. For so long, people in America have experienced extreme inequality. Their voices have not been heard. The GA process, on the other hand, allows for everybody’s voice to find amplification. People feel included in decision making processes – in the life of rights – in, essentially, political activity.
This process of equality has become a kind of heart-foundation for the movement, and is constantly evolving. A new (for Occupy Wall Street) process has now begun called the Spokes Council. No doubt such equality-forming processes will continue to develop. It is, in a way, only natural that such processes evolve as a kind of platform for the rest of the movement, and that they overcompensate, initially, for the inequalities experienced in wider society.
Such processes, however, are not appropriate for the recognition and formulation of aims, goals, visions, values, imagination, and so on. Equality in the life of rights is essential, and this is what the movement is currently announcing. What belongs to the next phase of the movement, however – the further and conscious articulation of what the social organism is itself asking for – can only be rooted in processed which ensure individual human freedom. Such free cultural activity, and the need for it, is already present in seed form within the movement. In continuing to develop such free and conscious spiritual-cultural processes in addition to equal political processes, the future development of the movement and society as a whole will grow ever clearer and stronger. Out of a conscious spiritual-cultural fabric, values, aims, goals and new ideas will continue to flow into the reshaping of both political and economic life, as well as the formation of society as a whole.
- What role does the question of money play in the movement? Are there any thoughts and concepts with regard to it?
There are numerous working groups focusing specifically on economic questions, including questions of alternative currencies. In looking at the movement itself in relation to money, however, we can again come to a degree of clarity not only in regards to what is being spoken about, but what is actually speaking.
The New York City General Assembly has received, to date, more than $500,000 in donations. This itself is an interesting financial observation. This money was not gained through the sale of goods and services. Nor has it been loaned to the movement. Rather, it has been gifted. As gift money it is not tied to that which has been produced in the past, nor is it loaned for something which has to take place now, but instead allows for future activities. Gift money has the quality of making a space for the future to emerge. Those who support the movement financially are those who invite something of the future, archetypal social organism to come into being.
As a movement which is not political nor economic in power, but cultural, the true way in which its activities must be funded is through money which allows its future-based visions and goals to be realised – money which is freely gifted, with no strings attached. Here we have activity which greater society should pay attention to if all cultural and spiritual activities (such as education, the media, healthcare, social security etc), as well as the human being, are to have a free space in which to develop their unique capacities and gifts.
How this money is allocated is proposed through the working groups, as well as the General Assembly, in such a way that modified consensus must be reached before the money is made available. All processes are open and transparent. Here money comes directly into the field in which it belongs; namely, the field of agreements that people make with one another as human beings – as a document of the rights life. In addition, only the best ideas are given financial support – ideas and initiatives which, flowing from spiritual-cultural activity, are able to serve the community as a whole in the best possible way.
- How do you judge this movement in face of the present condition of humanity? What kind of thoughts do you have from a greater perspective?
It is clear that this movement is a large wave emerging from a greater ‘swell’ taking place in the social oceans of the world. The Occupy movement is not economic in essence, nor political. Its power is cultural. Even though the content of its conversations are primarily political and economic, the place from out of which it speaks is cultural. It is a civil society movement wielding cultural power, which has the potential to reshape society as a whole. The Occupy movement itself is, however consciously, currently its own demands. Namely, a spiritual-cultural life based on the freedom of each human being; a political-rights life based on the equality of all human beings; and an economic life which does not meet the needs of only a powerful few, but an economic life based on co-operation in order to meet the needs of all human beings.
The question is whether or not this cultural power can be recognised and worked with consciously. Each human being is responsible in this sense. Each human being is a microcosm of society. How do I need to be in order that I may allow new ideas to flow from cultural realms – from spiritual life – into the agreements I make with others, as well as how I contribute towards meeting the needs of my brothers and sisters?
The Occupy movement is itself a wave that is emerging out of a spiritual groundswell sweeping across the earth. The true spirit of our time – the true spirit of progress of our time – is announcing itself in the activities of human beings prepared to put themselves in free service of world becoming. In these deeds – in the deeds of individual human beings putting themselves in service of the spirit – we can see the efforts towards a creation of the right kind of vessel – the right kind of chariot in order that the spiritual champion of our time may ride truly into the world. This chariot is a social organism that is consciously threefolded – with civil society representing a free cultural spiritual life, government representing an equal rights life, and business representing co-operative economic life – and where all three realms come together in the right way: autonomously yet interdependently. This exists in seed form in Liberty Plaza, albeit mostly unconsciously, and belongs to the future task not only of the Occupy movement, but of all such waves upon this vast sea-swell of spiritual-cultural life.
Only if these pictures are further developed in a conscious way will we be truly able to clean the currently stifling and, indeed, evil oil slick that exists not only in social life but within our own souls. Only in this way will we create the conditions necessary for the right kind of ‘rising sea levels’ to flow over the world – a rising sea of spiritual activity which will itself ‘break up’ and clean the world of the evil and polluted oil slick we currently experience, and create the further necessary conditions for the true sprit of progress to take up its rightful place at the front wave – at the high water mark – of human and world evolution through the free deeds of spiritually striving human beings.
The following is an interview with John Stubley about his recent article on the riots in England (click here to read the article). The interview was conducted by Iranian journalist Mohammad Farajian, and can be found, in Persian, on the website of the Borhan News Agency: www.borhan.ir (published August 24, 2011). The text is provided here for those who would like to read the full, English version.
1. When and where and why did the recent unrest in England start?
Externally, the recent rioting in England was sparked by the fatal shooting by police of a man in the London area of Tottenham. Yet it is clear from the events that followed that extreme unrest had been simmering below the social crust of the country for some time. The shooting was a catalyst for bringing to the surface, though not necessarily in a conceptually clear way, the social subjugation, inequality and competition that many individuals have been experiencing for many years, not only in London but all over the world.
2. What are protesters looking for?
One must be careful to distinguish that which the protesters appear to be looking for on first glance, and that which may drive them on a deeper, and possibly more unconscious, level. If a protester/rioter says that they are doing what they are doing ‘just for fun,’ for example, then one must try to get behind such things. In reading their statements, especially the greater collective ‘statement’ made by their actions, we must be careful not just to read individual words, or sentences, but to live into the whole content of what is being expressed. In what kind of a society, for instance, would people seek to do such things for mere ‘fun’? Viewed more clearly, the overall ‘speaking’ of the protesters tells the larger story of a society in which there is no longer any real possibility to locate the human being – to find one’s own true self.
3. In your opinion, what is the main reason behind this unrest?
The main reason behind the unrest is the tension which can be experienced between that which in reality lives within one’s-self as a human being of body soul and spirit, and that which one encounters upon meeting the rigid, sclerotic, frozen structures of the social world today. In looking out upon the world, one is unable to find a home for one’s self – to find anything written on the book of society that speaks to us of the mystery of our own selves. We find instead a kind of horror story in which the misunderstandings which have arisen about our own nature come to life and attack us from the outside. We are thereby devoured in complete confusion and powerlessness.
4. How did violent social structures lead to a violent social unrest in England?
In encountering a social world which is not sympathetic but rather destructive to the inner nature of the human being, something in us is compelled to rise up in a kind of inner protest – the place from which all outer protest emerges. It may only live in us as a kind of dim feeling, or it may swell to a full-blown and blinding rage, depending upon our own constitution and that which confronts us from outside. A fire which may have only been coals or embers at one points is thereby fanned, growing, potentially, into a raging bushfire. This is the real fire that burnt through England recently.
The challenge, however, lies in controlling the fire that lives within us – in using fire creatively, rather than destructively. This can only come about when such feelings and will impulses are brought into the full light of thinking consciousness – to clear conceptual clarity.
5. What do the protesters mean by their actions?
If we are to see the situation in its full light, we can say that those involved in the London riots are expressing the fact that they no longer wish to be devoured by the monster that social life of today has become. They no longer wish to find their very selves devoured by a world that is inhospitable to the human being. They seek to fight against this with all that is rising up within them. And so they strike out against it.
And yet, there still remains a lack of clear concepts and pictures for the kind of world which they would prefer to see. The challenge then becomes to arm ourselves not with bricks and knives and guns, but with thoroughly thought-permeated pictures of a world worthy of the human being.
6. What do you mean by underlying systematic problems as you described it necessary to view the situation in its totality?
If we look at society in England and elsewhere today, as well as what is carried all over the world through the practice of elite globalisation, then what we can clearly see is a society in which economic activity has completely overshadowed political and cultural-spiritual life. Economic activity has overstepped its economically and socially lawful borders, and has completely consumed political and cultural life. It confronts the human being today as a kind of mechanical beast – a mechanical monster or dragon, plundering not only the treasures of polity, culture and social life as a whole, but the greatest treasure we ourselves possess – our humanity. The dragon need not necessarily take such treasures back to its lair, for society and even we ourselves have become that lair. We ourselves have become the walking lairs of a now-hidden-from-us treasure, and perform thereby, wherever we are, the bidding of the dragon – the bidding that seeks to further annihilate the human spirit.
7. You said that people turn to violence in order to be heard. Why doesn’t the government want to hear them?
The government cannot hear them because the fingers of the dragon are firmly inserted in its ears, and its wings are over its eyes. The government has thereby become asleep to its true nature and its true task, which is to ensure the equality of all people; equality of all before the law, and equality of all in the creation of laws. It has become a kind of Sleeping Beauty waiting for its princely kiss to awaken it – a kiss that will only come through an enlivened spiritual-cultural life, both in terms of the cultural sphere, as well as the spiritual capacities of all individuals, no matter what sphere of society they may find themselves active in.
Business is also asleep to its true economic task, of course – that is, working associatively/co-operatively to ensure that the genuine needs of all human beings are met. Tragically, cultural life is also, at times, sleeping in the midst of its own task – to create spaces for the unfolding, in freedom, of the spiritual capacities and gifts of the human being, and to contribute the fruits of such unfolding – namely, new thoughts, spiritually conceived – to flow throughout and benefit society as a whole, including economic and political life.
Instead of freedom, equality and co-operation in social life, however, we encounter their monstrous shadow sides: Subjugation, inequality and competition.
Only when cultural life and individual human beings wake up to their role as the rightful and lawful princes and princesses of this world, sealing a waking kiss upon the three spheres of society, as well as their own unique and individual human contribution to social life as a whole, will the dragon – the unlawful ‘prince of this world’ – be conquered.
8. Why can’t economic austerity be the solution to the economic problems?
We cannot find in economic austerity the solution to economic problems any more than we can find a solution for obesity solely by focussing on the metabolic-limb system. The human being is an organism just as society is an organism – the social organism. One cannot focus on one single part of the organism in a healthy way, without looking at it as a wholeness. A problem may manifest in the economic realm, but that does not mean to say that that is where it originates, or where its solution may be found (communism has taught us hard lessons in this direction, and we must find within ourselves the courage with which to learn them).
One must be able to transform our whole thinking activity in order to overcome something such as obesity. Economic activity has become far too overweight. Only through a spiritually-enlivened cultural life can the economy begin to approach something that may in truth be called healthy. Only if human thinking activity is able to push through to a field of objective spiritual insight – seeing through to the wholeness of phenomena – can we begin to approach a healthy interaction with this world. And such health must be striven for – it is of far more importance to strive, today, for health, than it is to deem something right or wrong. We must develop within ourselves a sense organ for health. If we are able to do so, the truth of social life, as well as our observation or the observations of others in relation to it, will be far more clear than the understandings we currently possess.
Seeing through to the essential and objective spiritual nature of phenomena, including social life, must come more and more to the fore today. In essence, this must become the guiding star of scientific activity in our time. No longer can we remain complacent with external, material observations that stop short of the inner lawfulness of the outer world and of the human being. We must have the courage to acknowledge this as part of reality, and then push through to the remaining aspects – the inner, guiding impulses that drive the evolution of the human being and the world. What we do with such insights – what we create out of them – shall then bear the mark of healthy, and truly artistic activity.
That is, society must become a work of art.
9. Who are responsible for the social structures which created such unliveable conditions for the human being around the world?
It is clear that the economic capital of the earth is ending up in the hands of a smaller and smaller group of elite individuals. Such individuals may well be consciously working hand in claw with the dragon that lives behind elite globalisation, but in the end, the dragon will suffer no colleagues. If such activity continues, it will emerge as they only true victor of the earth. Such a dragon is at home in, and gives birth to, a one-sided intellectual thinking activity that sees only the material aspects of reality. It is a thinking capable of only a mirrored reflection of the earth. In taking up residence within the human being over the last few centuries, the dragon has made a lair for itself around the whole world. It lives happily within the human being and the earth, right behind the eyes of our looking. It looks, in a way, through our own eyes, making it necessary for us to develop a new set of eyes with which to see it – new organs of perception capable of penetrating to the reality of any situation. And if we are able to do this we will in fact see how narrow the field of activity and possibility is for this dragon. It is powerful, yes, but limited in its scope.
The force by which we are able to get behind our own looking in order to see the dragon as it is – as it lives in the world and in our own selves – is the force capable of slaying the dragon. This force is the one in us capable of putting the dragon at the end of a sword – the sword that arises as consequence of our own enlivened thinking activity.
So who is responsible for the social structures which created such unliveable conditions for the human being? – none other than the dragon as it lives in us and in the world. And yet the time has more than come for us to transform society into one that is liveable. The responsibility for the situation carrying on far longer than it needs to now rests with each individual human being, as do the means by which the situation may be transformed.
10. How can a human world be created out of the freezing structural violence and the burning reactionary violence?
We must each one of us have the courage to see things in their completeness, and in the full light of day. If we do not, society will continue to freeze – and us with it – even as it begins to shatter and crumble. If, on the other hand, we give ourselves blindly to unconceptualised, and therefore spiritually un-grasped, feelings of anger and fear arising as a result of this situation, then we will burn not only the world, but our own selves.
The only truly healthy, human and social path available to us today lies in the transformation, through will-filled activity, of our own thinking life – to enliven it in order that we may see the world, including the social world, in its totality. If we do so we will come to the right insights and pictures necessary for the transformation of society wherever we may find ourselves, in relationship to the global social organism. The impulses we receive from such activity can then flow through the rest of our organism, as well as the social organism, regulated by a balanced feeling life in us, and a balanced political-rights life in society. We will then create a society that is healthy and worthy of the human being, precisely because we will be able to find our own selves within it.
Business must recognise its task as the flag bearer of co-operative economic life where producer, distributor and consumer work together to meet genuine human needs, with excess profit capital flowing as free gifts to spiritual-cultural life (such as education, healthcare and the media, for example). Government must recognise its task as the representative of a political-rights life based on the equality of all human beings, and civil society must recognise its own cultural power (based on freedom) and put its insights in service of a society which so desperately needs them. All three realms must be separated and brought back together again in the right way – in the same autonomous yet interdependent manner in which the systems of a healthy human organism relate to one another.
Every human being – and what takes place between human beings – has now become the building site of new civilisation. May we have the courage to awaken to our own tasks, in whatever sphere of social life we find ourselves, and work together to create, in communities of free individuals, the world that is longing to be made, with the one in us who is longing to make it.
 See the Germanic fairy tale ‘Sleeping Beauty /Briar Rose’ from the Brothers Grimm.