A Love Supreme


We the peopl
e
of the global Occupy movement embody and enact a deep democratic awakening with genuine joy and fierce determination. Our movement — leaderless and leaderful — is a soulful expression of a moral outrage at the ugly corporate greed that pushes our society and world to the brink of catastrophe. We are aware that our actions have inaugurated a radical enlightenment in a moment of undeniable distrust and disgust with oligarchic economies, corrupt politicians, arbitrary rule of law and corporate media weapons of mass distraction. And we intend to sustain our momentum by nurturing our bonds of trust, fortifying our bodies, hearts and minds and sticking together through hell or high water in order to create a better world through a deep democratic revolution.

We refuse to be mere echoes of the vicious lies that support an illegitimate status quo. Our deep democratic awakening takes the form of we everyday people raising our individual and collective voices to tell the painful truths about unjust systems and unfair structures that yield unnecessary social misery. The past thirty years of a top-down, one-sided class war on precious poor and working people — with the greatest transfer of wealth from bottom to top in human history — have taught us that we either fight together in the name of truth and justice or we lose our livelihoods and sacred honor. In this sense, the movement is already victorious: our organizing and mobilizing have shifted public discourses toward truth and justice — towards a focus on corporate greed, wealth inequality, escalating poverty, obscene levels of unemployment, the role of big money in politics, and abusive military and police power. But we have work ahead of us yet.

The full-scale bankruptcy of the neoliberal order — of deregulated markets, unaccountable oligarchs, bribed politicians — is now an established fact of life and history. Its age is coming to an end. Our deep democratic enlightenment must break us out of our narrow intellectual frameworks and our parochial cultural habitus. Like the inventors of jazz, we must be open-minded, flexible, fluid, inclusive, transparent, courageous, self-critical, compassionate and visionary. We must recast old notions of empire, class, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and nature into new ways of thinking and being. Our movement is a precious, sublime, messy and funky form of incubation. Again like jazz, we must embody and enact a loving embrace of the art of our collaborative creations. We must embody a universal embrace of all those in the human family, and sentient beings, and consolidate an unstoppable fortitude in the face of systems of oppression and structures of domination. We will suffer, shudder and struggle together with smiles on our faces and a love supreme in our souls. Just as justice is what love looks like in public and tenderness is what love feels like in private, deep democratic revolution is what justice looks like in practice.

Revolution may scare some people because of its connotation of violence. And this is understandable in light of many past revolutions, such as the American revolutions against monarchy in 1776 or against slavery in 1861. But the revolution in our time — against oligarchy and plutocracy — need not be an ugly and violent one. The rich legacies of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, and recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, have taught us that we can deal with our social catastrophes with social compassion and that we can transform unjust societies with courageous visions and nonviolent strategies. If we equip ourselves with truthful systemic analyses of power in our minds, moral commitments of steel in our backs and a genuine joy in serving others in our hearts, then our dream of a nascent justice spread across the globe may be no mere illusion.

We are prisoners of a blood-stained, tear-soaked hope. This means we are free to imagine and create a more deeply democratic world than we have yet witnessed in history.


This article was published in our fifth print issue on November 18, 2011.

This post is also available in: Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil)

  • Spencer Resnick

    Dr. West speaks with a wisdom that never ceases to inspire. I feel like we are taking back an Emersonian and participatory culture of democracy that represents the best in America. I think we are in the midst of the beginnings of a democratic revolution. We cannot be fooled by reform, what we need to fundamentally alter the inequalities of power in our economic, political, and social life. We need “structural transformation,” as Dr. King would call it. We need to move towards democratic socialism, a movement that exacts equality from below, makes as all agents of change, and reinvigorates our lifeless democracy.

    In order to do this, I think we need to move beyond horizontality and consensus based decision making. Not because the democratic will cannot be trusted, but because these systems do not best facilitate the democratic will. First, they do not include everyone, because low-income and working people are too busy to take enough time to fully participate in the long, arduous process of making decisions by consensus. Secondly, consensus allows a minority of (usually privileged) voices to hijack the will of the group toward selfish ends. And lastly, because we need to fight dynamic capitalist power with power of our own. This means we need to think on our feet and have organization muscle. To go beyond horizontality and consensus we must embrace a system of democratic participation, a system of councils in our public spaces, workplaces, and schools. These councils can incorporate consensus, majority rule, accountable leadership, and respect for marginalized groups. We should organize citizens, workers, and students into these councils and create an organized council system. We should take our educating, agitating, and organizing muscle into different neighborhoods, cities, nations, as well as our unions, workplaces, and educational institutions. We should build democracy from below. This model will better engage working, low-income, and socially marginalized people. Let us all become organizers for a truly democratic world.

    We want structures that serve people, not people serving structures

    We will beg for nothing. We will ask for nothing. We will take, we will occupy.

    When we occupy from below, the 1% will have no one left to stand on, and democracy will be ours.

    • Daniel Butler

      I wholeheartedly agree. It can be isolating in a/the workplace to be one of few voices speaking out about OWS. I work in food service, and i’m one of two people who can articulate and understand the movement well enough to spell it out to my co-workers. The thing about this movement so far is that folks are talking about it, but they’re not beginning to articulate how this affects them outside of their job and entertainment. In many ways, life under capitalism is same ol’, same ol’. I would love to see how folks can grasp the movement for themselves as opposed to being simply observers…

      I’m replying to your post because with your permission, I would like to quote you word for word on my Facebook and in emails. I think it would help with what i’d like to do about outreaching. Would this be permissible for you?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1252145572 John Erik Hanson

    Keep your hope in invisible things.

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  • Greenpagan

    I was at the Nov 2nd 2011 Oakland General Strike. It was inspiring & exhilarating. Nothing like it since the great antiwar & civil rights protests of bygone years. My only regret is that it didn’t last permanently & go global. The world can be changed but not without serious organization & commitment. Revolution isn’t a tea-party or a music festival. The point is for workers worldwide to take control of production & services & reorient the oppressors, bankers, landlords, corporatist robber barons, else turn them to fertilizer. If we fail the future is slavery & extermination for many if not most of the 99%.