The First 21st-Century Movement: Douglas Rushkoff on Occupy Wall Street and Reclaiming the Internet from Corporations
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A few months after that, after I had the funding to do this thing, then the Arab Spring happened, Facebook starts doing these evil things too, now we've got a global movement and now we have examples of what happens when you don't have this community: you have an Internet that can be flipped off with a switch, you have WikiLeaks, that can be defunded with one senator calling Amazon. The decentralized promise got flipped on its head.
I wrote this piece on CNN where I said “Let's scrap the Internet and build another one,” that led to all these people wanting to come to Contact who were doing all this anticensorship work.
And then Occupy Wall Street happened and those people tasked themselves with building stuff.
SJ: Very early on in my reporting on Occupy Wall Street, I spoke to activists who told me they knew they needed to build their own technology, that they had an Open Source working group very early to get around the corporate Web.
DR: I was always into “Let's build something else,” and then I go and see Ethan Zuckerman of GeekCorps do this talk and he says American activists are kind of detached, we keep trying to rebuild the wheel because we think there's a moral compromise in using Facebook. Rather than trying to be so pure, he says, use what's available until it stops working.
I don't know how I feel about that yet.
SJ: In your CNN piece on Occupy Wall Street, you called it the first 21st-century movement and compared it to the Internet. It's been interesting to see the tech/media people, like Jeff Jarvis, hardly a radical leftist, really get the movement while mainstream journalism struggles with it.
DR: Maybe even Malcolm Gladwell would get it better than some “good lefties.” In order to grok Occupy Wall Street you have to have the ability to tolerate open-endedness, you have to understand the infinite game.
The people purely from book culture only understand games in terms of competition of winning and losing. What's a game if there's not a winner? What an infinite game would be is where the object of the game is to keep the game going--someone who's played fantasy role-playing games would understand. We're trying to have the most fun, trying to keep the game going.
A 21st-century movement is not about winning and ending, it understands that life goes on, that what we're attempting to move toward is not an end-state with winners and losers but a sustainable scenario where we actually keep the world and ourselves going. That doesn't require a campaign as much as a slow steady movement toward a greater intelligence and new kinds of behaviors.
Rather than killing the disease, we strengthen the body. People are confused and they say “What's the disease, how do we kill it?” But it's about, “How do we build an economy and promote commerce that is consonant with human culture rather than destructive of it?”
SJ: You also pointed out that kids are showing up to these protests because it's fun, but once they get there they are doing a lot of hard work, cleaning the entire park last week, building a new community.
DR: It's a kind of mini-sustainable society of sharing, but we can't all live in parks. It's a debut, it's a galvanizing moment, but what it should inspire is how can we live sustainably in the community where we are.
They're being accused of laziness because they're sleeping, they're sleeping on the pavement, but everybody has to sleep sometime.