Occupy: How about Councils of Elders everywhere?

The following post reminds me of the Iroquois Nation, originally a confederation of five tribes in the northeastern part of Turtle Island, which still lives on as “the oldest living participatory democracy on earth.”

Back in the early ’80s, I was living in an experimental community which, to me, was tempted to turn authoritarian. One day, burning with frustration, I was thrilled to come across the Iroquois Nation at the local library. During my one afternoon researching it there, I discovered that at least some people think its governmental structure as a representative democracy with three separate but equal governmental branches — executive, judicial and legislative — directly influenced our own Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Remembering that afternoon, what struck me at the time and still does, was how our government did not adopt a further aspect of the governmental structure of the Iroquois Nation, and that was a Council of Elders (actually the Clan Mothers) who were above all the other branches, and who could depose anyone who was not working in the interests of the people.

Would that Councils of Elders would spring up everywhere on Earth. The wisdom gleaned from their experience as long-time caring thinkers and activists would help enrich, support and shape the flow of the already miraculous Occupy movement. We need everybody in the 100%, young, old, and in between, a rich soup blending each generation’s beautiful talents and skills and world-views with all the others.

Thanks to occupywallst.org.

Letter from Council of Elders to Trinity Church

December 16, 2011
Dear Rev. Dr. James Cooper,

We are veterans of the Civil Rights, Women’s, Peace, Environmental, LGBTQ, Immigrant Justice, labor rights and other movements of the last 60 years. Many of us have been or continue to be leaders of religious congregations and organizations, so we are deeply understanding of the need to protect the spaces and buildings that generations of the faithful have transmitted to us.

We are also deeply committed to using the share of God’s abundance that has been entrusted to us for the help and healing of those “least of these” – the poor, the humiliated, the hungry, the homeless, the dis-empowered – whom God has called us to protect.

We have special understandings of both of those commitments because as leaders of the social-change movements of the 20th century we have been called to deploy resources for the sake of racial and social justice and the cause of peace. Today we see the Occupy movement as efforts by a new generation of (mostly young) people to move forward as we did toward fuller justice and democracy for the diverse peoples in our nation.

We are concerned to hear that Occupy Wall Street has asked Trinity Church for use of the Lent-Space on 6th and Canal to gather, and has been refused.

We are especially moved to hear that the Episcopal Cathedral of Boston has invited the Occupy movement there to gather in its space.

We know that some question the need for Occupy to continue to occupy physical space but we have witnessed the impact of communal, inspirational, face-to-face contact in which people can be visible to the world and to one another. We have also been challenged to respond to the question from Occupy, Where can you go if you don’t own something? Does a public even exist if it has no space? And finally, like visionaries before them, many Occupiers have chosen to give up everything to invest in a future that does not exist except in their dreams and visions. In a world where the majority of our nation is oppressed by economic and racial inequality, experiencing isolation and dehumanization at every turn, the Occupy movement in its public presence has provided hope and purpose and a pressing challenge to us all.

We urge you to reexamine the possibilities in the light of the importance of Occupy Wall Street as a spark of God’s “Burning Bush” in this moment of deep social crisis. We urge you to approve the use of this sacred space for a sacred purpose – the pursuit of justice in America.

With blessings,
Organizing Committee
Council of Elders
cc Vestry Members

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One Response to Occupy: How about Councils of Elders everywhere?

  1. claudia kimball says:

    yes. I would like to explore the idea of an anonymous council of elders.
    Our culture is riddled with personality exposure and exploitation which
    I believe creates too loud a noise for contemplation. It supports the
    perception of hierarchy and creates ego distraction which we fall into.
    From which, much of the time, we do not have the resources to defend ourselves.

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