The Future: Revolution or Evolution?

Some reflections to mark the 10th anniversary of Occupy

A woman in jeans and a black coat and black and white scarf sitting on a concrete bench at Occupy Wall Street, with a blue tarp in the background. She is holding a sign that reads “Stand together for change! Those say it can not be done should not interrupt the people doing it. Join us!”
A member of the Occupy movement. Photo: Debra M. Gaines, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Four people in winter hats and coats holding a white banner that reads “climate change needs climate leadership”. There are two speakers on stands in the foreground, and a light dusting of snow on the concrete ground.
Four people dressed in winter coats, warm hats and gloves at an outdoor protest. One is holding a sign that reads “Canadian climate policy” and pictures the shadow of a figure punching the Earth like it’s a punching ball.
A climate change vigil. At -30 degrees C. I don’t particularly recommend it.

If we want to change the world, we need to start by returning to the most basic driver of human behaviour and culture — story.

The idea of actually setting up camp and occupying an area that has come to be a cultural symbol of unchecked greed, irresponsible investing, and the birthplace of several wide-reaching financial crashes that have impacted on millions of lives represented an evolution of thought that was powerful, poignant, and available to anyone.

It was a revolutionary evolution in the way that activists organised around collective action. Not just there to shout and wave placards with clever slogans, the members of the movement created social operating procedures to overcome barriers in communication that come with scale. Given that New York city regulations ban any amplified sound without a permit, the movement made use of the “people’s microphone” technique. Large groups made decisions about day to day actions together by using hand signals. People talked not only about the problems, but about possible solutions and a makeshift library of over 5,000 books was set up to share knowledge.

A makeshift library at Occupy Wall Street inside a white tube tent structure. There is a white woman in a beige coat looking outwards and a white man in dark clothing browsing books. There is a colourful sign at the top that says “Library”
A makeshift library at Occupy Wall Street inside a white tube tent structure. There is a white woman in a beige coat looking outwards and a white man in dark clothing browsing books. There is a colourful sign at the top that says “Library”
The people’s library at Occupy Wall Street. Photo: David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Storytelling | Narrative | Systems Change | Spoken Word | Author of “A Future Untold”, a book on story & narrative to change the world | www.afutureuntold.com