Lawrence Lessig has noticed a very important practice that is emerging from the #occupy movement. It is the principle and the practice of non-contradiction:
In this movement, we need a similar strategy. Of course a commitment to non-violence. But also a commitment to non-contradiction: We need to build and define this movement not by contradicting the loudest and clearest anger on the Right, but instead, by finding the common ground in our demands for reform.
This is a a very useful contribution to the tools that are emerging from the #occupy movement. It is edgy because in traditional social activism you are defined by what you stand against, and opposing things is the means to ending them.
But one of the implications of “we are the 99%” is that no one is more 99% than anyone else. That is a big tent, and it is powerful as long as we can practice true diversity within it. This is a massive challenge. The 99% contains every kind of person, friend and ally and loathsome enemy. That is the nature of a huge complex human community. So practicing non-contradiction is like practicing non-violence in that it requires us to be in relationship with those we do not like.
Even though I practice non violence as much as I can I bet there is a limit to that. My job as a peaceful human being is to stretch myself beyond my own limits in practicing peace. Sometimes non-violence gets tagged as “compliance” but it isn’t that really. It is a commitment to a new world and a new way of being.
It is similar with non-contradiction. There are things in the world that probably need contradicting, and I am sure there are limits to this principle in my own practice and capabilities. But for this movement, and for this new world, we need conversational space and space is opened by engagement and being non-contradictory. If you believe that we truly interdependent, then we have to work to see that one person’s racism is my problem too. That I participate in the conditions that perpetuate those things that I would otherwise stand in contradiction to.
Let’s track this modality. Election seasons, protests and events can all benefit from this practice. It is a high calling to call yourself a practitioner of non-contradiction, but is it essential to a world of interconnection, interdependence and mutual benefit.