” Occupy Wall Street” has become synonymous with a movement that is currently sweeping across the globe: a leaderless, fearless, purposeful expression of the human desire for equality.
What the #ows movement does in particular, is to empower people to create real change from the bottom up. It works by sharing of information, education and consensus. It is reminding everyone that they are not powerless and they are leading the way by example. One of the most fascinating phenomena is the decision making process by assembly, as a model for democratic assemblies.
The General Assembly is a gathering of people committed to making decision based upon a collective agreement or “consensus.” There is no single leader or governing body of the General Assembly – everyone’s voice is equal. Anyone is free to propose an idea or express an opinion as part of the General Assembly. Each proposal follows the same basic format – an individual shares what is being proposed, why it is being proposed, and, if there is enough agreement, how it can be carried out. The assembly will express its opinion for each proposal through a series of hand gestures.
The direct democratic process adopted by Occupy Wall Street has deep roots in American radical history. It was widely employed in the civil rights movement and by the Students for a Democratic Society. But its current form has developed from within movements like feminism and even spiritual traditions (both Quaker and Native American) as much as from within anarchism itself. The reason direct, consensus-based democracy has been so firmly embraced by and identified with anarchism is because it embodies what is perhaps anarchism’s most fundamental principle: that in the same way human beings treated like children will tend to act like children, the way to encourage human beings to act like mature and responsible adults is to treat them as if they already are. (Enacting the Impossible (On Consensus Decision Making)