Democracy

Occupy Wall Street, The New School and The Flying Seminar

The Flying Seminar is taking off! At the teach-in yesterday, Elzbieta Matynia and I presented our idea (described in my last post) to a group of Occupy Wall Street activists and New School colleagues. It was received with strong support and also with creativity. We are already working to turn the idea into a reality.

We want to create a setting for making intellectual and political connections. We recognize that OWS presents something unique. We hope to learn from it, and we also think that experiences “past and present,” and “from here and elsewhere,” can not only inform our understanding of the world wide occupation movement, it can also help the occupation and other social movements act in an informed fashion. Our seminar is dedicated to this learning and informed action.

Elzbieta and I worked together once on such an activity in East and Central Europe, the Democracy Seminar, which she describes in her book Performative Democracy and which is also described briefly in my bio here. The comparison excited great interest yesterday from OWS activists and New School students, as did other comparisons that were discussed around the room.

One seemed particularly pressing and interesting. Kei Nakagawa, a graduate student at The New School from Japan, informed us that a number of prominent Japanese activists from Shiroto no Ran are now in New York to observe and support OWS, and that they will be here until the middle of next week. Shiroto no Ran is a leaderless, network oriented social movement organization, which focuses especially on anti-nuclear issues, responding to the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. By using the tactics of sound demonstration and non-violent action, the movement successfully mobilized people, especially young citizens, who have never previously participated in political demonstrations. On September 11th, the half-year anniversary of the disaster, Shiroto no Ran played a key role in mobilizing more than 25,000 participants in Tokyo marking that fateful day.

Nakagawa suggested that the visiting activists would be particularly interested in a sustained exchange with participants in OWS. We were all intrigued by the fact that such a meeting might be arranged. Amazingly through the dedicated action of Matynia and her colleagues at The New School’s Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, and the engagement of Nakagawa, a the first meeting of The Flying Seminar has been put together, less than a day after our preliminary meeting.

I am happy to report that this meeting of The Flying Seminar will take place this Tuesday evening at 8:00 at The New School, exact location to be announced. Jonathan Schell, the distinguished activist and writer on non-violent action and nuclear power has agreed to moderate the meeting.

This is a good beginning. We at Deliberately Considered will report on the first session of the seminar and will provide a platform for serious deliberate discussion of the issues raised in this meeting and future meetings of The Flying Seminar. Also upcoming, Matynia’s reflections on Occupy Wall Street, presented at our meeting yesterday, and New School sociology student and OWS activist, Harrison Schultz’s reflections from Zuccotti Park.