Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What are the #occupy camps?

The Occupation camps across the world are not just protest sites. They are not just new political spaces. They are in fact embryos of the emergent new world.

They are emergent cities
If you go to the nearest camp you'll find in there everything you'd need to survive, even during a Canadian winter. For example, only two days after it's initiation the Montreal camp had already a health center, a kitchen that fed easily over 500 people the very first evening, a center of communication and coordination, an information and donation center, a political space (where the assemblies take place), a cultural space (where people play drums, dance, paint...), and obviously a housing space. Believe it or not, we even have the protection of the militia (the Quebecois patriots), who put their tent across the street from the main camp, having great visibility over the area.

The kitchen, first day

During the first hours of the encampment I joined the kitchen and I experienced first-hand how a very complex food processing system self-organized in no time. The other centers were also keeping the pace. It was cold and very windy. While the kitchen was continuously serving all kinds of snacks, beverages, fresh fruits and vegetables, while we were reinforcing the tent to withstand the strong wind, transporting water from a nearby hotel, processing garbage, washing dishes, by 5:30pm we were ready to receive the hungry wave of protesters with hot meals. They formed a huge line and in an orderly fashion they came, one-by-one, with a big smile on their tired faces to get their bowl of rice with spicy potato curry and coconut milk, and baked pumpkin. And soon it was dark. Flashlights just appeared from nowhere, and by the end of the night the entire kitchen was illuminated by construction lights connected to a large power supply. The kitchen staid open around the clock, and still operates 24 hours per day. ... Did I mentioned that there was no boss? 

Yesterday I passed by the camp and I was again surprised by how fast the infrastructure of this emergent city was growing. Toilets are coming, a large power generator was already there waiting to be connected, the WiFi infrastructure was only waiting for power, the kitchen had a very large tank of water, gas burners, a BBQ and a new large shelf for storage (food is never a problem). Let me tell you something, the occupiers are getting ready for the winter! But again, this new city within the city has no mayor. Its governance is decentralized, distributed.

They are embryos of the new world
The camps are incubators for new systems of governance (watch the Concensus movie), for open and decentralized economical systems with alternative channels of value exchange (currencies), for a new culture, for new education systems... These new institutions are taking shape in these spaces and are now starting to diffuse throughout society. It is a global phenomena. The world is going through a profound metamorphoses process.

Yes,... some people may think that we can't apply this to the entire society. They are dead wrong. The new technology enables the scaling of these systems, this is in fact the essence of what we've been saying form the beginning.

By AllOfUs


  1. It is also fascinating how wiki structures and occupy structures relate - I suppose that is the self-organizing at work :-)

  2. Who paid for the food and electricity?

    It is beautiful and encouraging, but is it really sustainable?

    How many years can they live like this?

    Where will the food come from? If I cannot do some of that work on shared property, then I cannot secure my basic needs.

    How can we extend this drive into buying some land and beginning to co-own the agriculture we must have before I can be sure my wife and children would not die.

  3. Lord AGNUcius this is a great question!

    Until now, the occupy camp in Montreal, viewed from within, is a gift economy. From the outside it can mistakenly be seen as an entity surviving on welfare. It is true that all the resources within the camp come from outside the camp as donations. The camps is NOT self-sustainable. But it is not a parasitic entity for the city neither. There is an economic exchange between the camp and a portion of the population in the city: the camp offers a potential for change in exchange for food, clothing, etc. And there is more, most camp members also participate in the city's economy, and donate not only their time to the occupation camp, but also their money and materials.

    I saw other elements in the Wall Street camp: they offer services to the population passing by, prints on T-shirts, in exchange for donations, which moves the camp's economy a step closer to self-sustainability.

    But I agree that the camp needs to grow its economy, internally to move beyond the gift economy, and seen from outside, to be able to produce value that can be exchanged with other camps, and even with the rest of the local society. The idea is to see the camps outgrowing their cities. This is the metamorphosis process we are expecting. This is in fact the process of change!

    Camps need to focus internally, NOT to fight the system. They need to focus on their sustainability, on their growth, feeding themselves at the beginning from their present-old local economy, while developing their own mechanisms for self-reliance.

    Multitude Project is taking an active role in shaping the economy of occupation camps. We'll use our experience with SENSORICA, a pilot project for the new economy.