Rock of Ages


Written by guest blogger Betsy Garrold
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A hhh! Spring!! With it comes the birds, the bees, the blooms, oh, and the work. As soon as the garden plot dries out from this latest rain the work of turning and seeding will begin. As the old saying goes: the first crop a Maine farmer picks is rocks. Thanks to the glaciers that transversed our state over many millennia farms in Maine have a fresh crop of rocks to pick in their fields each spring. As my sweetheart likes to say”If you can pick it up it’s a pretty little stone, if you can’t it’s a goddamn boulder.”

It is the same with the societal problems that we face. When they are small or not in our own personal way then they are just a pebble in our shoe. Easy to deal with and not much of a hindrance. But when they multiply, or when those who care nothing for the suffering of mankind get their hands on them, they can become like the glacial boulders strewn around the Maine landscape. My sweetheart’s favorite way to deal with rocks who fall into the goddamn boulder category is to get out his trusty rock drill and quarry it up into smaller, much more manageable pieces. I think we can do the same thing with our societal problems. Keep breaking them down into manageable pieces and then deal with those pieces one at a time. This is one of the many reasons I have such high hopes for the Occupy Movement. The entire movement is based on the premise that we can divide and conquer. The belief that all the ills of the world can be divvied up into smaller problems. Then the people who want to deal with each smaller issue can have at it, doing what they can to solve it.

There is proof that this works. The Occupy Wall Street Movement was founded by a group of young people who suddenly realized they had gotten the shaft. They had done everything that society told them to do: go to school, get a good education, go to work and contribute to society. What happened? They got their education but when they went out to get a job and contribute to society they discovered there were no jobs. Or at least none paying a wage that would allow them to pay back their student loans and still afford the rent. So the kids took to the streets. They developed a movement that was horizontal and inclusive. They stuck it out in the face of overwhelming odds and they created their generation’s version of the Civil Rights Movement or the Anti-War Movement. And how do I know it had an impact? President Obama has been talking to college students recently. What about? About helping them repay their college loans. That’s right. This unorganized, unfocused, band of rabble calling themselves the Occupy Movement has moved one of their main issues to front and center in the 2012 Presidential race!

The Occupy movement works as well as it does in large part because of its organizational structure. Best encapsulated in the tenets of the Open Space Meeting Philosophy:

  • Whoever shows up are the right people.
  • Whenever it starts is the right time.
  • Whatever happens are the only things that could have happened.
  • Whenever it's over it's over

" Do what you can, when you can and share the results with others who might become inspired to emulate your action or create one of their own."This radical approach to organizing has attracted many folks who would not otherwise be interested in activism. In my experience many of the old hippie activists from my generation are stuck in negativity and inertia. They seem unable to make any progress. They are so busy “building consensus” they seldom actually achieve much in the way of action. By moving into an open organizing construct we can shake things up a bit and use more energy to produce results and less energy discussing whether we are going to discuss discussing something.

I love the Occupy meetings I have been to. Working groups form around various topics and then they actually get down to work. Having permission to come when you are able, leave when you want to and accomplish whatever gets accomplished without any guilt is very freeing. Horizontal organization works. No more hierarchical: we’re all going to do this, on this day, at this time and every one has to be there or else. Do what you can, when you can and share the results with others who might become inspired to emulate your action or create one of their own. It makes those goddamn social boulders seem much more like tiny little pebbles, easy to move and a breeze to deal with constructively.

author About the author
Betsy Garrold
Betsy is an executive farmer at The Shire and has her own blog The Populist Farmer

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