“The Quakers read the Bible like Jesus intended, shared it with Tolstoy, who inspired Gandhi, who set the state for Dr. King. We’ve got a tradition and we all gotta learn it, study it, and walk in it all our days.” – The Dandelion Insurrection by Rivera Sun

George Lakey with granddaughter at OccupyPhilly. Photo by Ingrid Lakey

George Lakey with granddaughter at OccupyPhilly. Photo by Ingrid Lakey
George was interviewed by Rivera Sun and David Geitgey Sierralupe on Occupy Radio. To listen to the broadcast tune in on Wednesday Nov 6th at 7pm PST/10pm EST http://kwva.uoregon.edu/listen-live/

George Lakey was first arrested in the Civil Rights Movement and most recently arrested two weeks ago at a Earth Quaker Action Team demonstration to end mountaintop removal. The irrepressible twinkle in his voice suggests that between those two bookends lies a thick volume of adventures that span his seventy-five vibrant years on this planet.

In the lineage of nonviolent struggle, this man is a living torchbearer. A co-founder of the Movement for a New Society, crafter of the Five Stages of a Living Revolution, author of several books, and a fifteen year veteran director of Training For Change, George claims he is now retired . . . but he certainly hasn’t sat back from stirring up what some call beautiful trouble. It was his article in Waging Nonviolence on the Occupy Movement that caught my eye.

Like many others, I was caught up in the “pre-Occupied” bubble of my busy life until the movement swept into my small town and ripped my lazy compassion off the couch. Suddenly on the street, grappling with the consensus process, and floundering over my head in activism, Occupy’s crash course in engaged awareness cracked a few truths through my skull.

1. I am not apathetic, I deeply care about our world.

2. The problems are huge and real.

3. There are ways to address them.

4. I don’t know what they are.

Thus began a quest for knowledge that sent me to the Albert Einstein Institution and the work of Gene Sharp, Thich Nhat Hahn’s essays on engaged Buddhism, Joanna Macy’s work on The Great Turning, the writings of Gandhi, the speeches of Dr. King, and currently has me exploring the websites of Popular Resistance, Training for Change, Waging Nonviolence, and the Metta Center. Gems of wisdom are found each day. Friendships emerge. Discussions on practical revolution abound. Living treasures, like George Lakey, are approachable, affable, and often very willing to share their experienced wisdom . . . which is how I came to be interviewing him for the Occupy Radio show that I cohost.

In a Strategy For A Living Revolution, George created a framework to understand social change as a living, emergent phenomenon. Like an ecosystem, a tree, a Living Revolution ebbs and flows, grows, collapses, gains momentum and pushes forward until the flower of a new society blossoms. The Occupy Movement erupted from the mounting pressures of injustice like a crocus in the spring, trying to blossom in the harsh, icy reality of police repression. Occupations are powerful forms of nonviolent action, but they are vulnerable to arrests and police brutality.  It is not the place to sit around discussing philosophy and long range plans. Fortunately, for both plants and the Occupy Movement, the Living Revolution says that movements may pass through the early phases of visioning, organizing, and confrontation many times before blossoming into the final stages of mass noncooperation followed by establishing the institutions of a new society.

George speaks and writes with an air of excitement as if revolution were not only possible . . . it is already fomenting in the fertile crumbling of our industrial growth society. His days with Training For Change sent him buzzing around the world “like a hummingbird,” he says, collecting the sweet nectar of solidarity and cross-pollinating movements with ideas and training. When asked what he thinks in needed in the United States, his reply is immediate.


Then he laughs and qualifies the statement: cohesive vision. Vision is the soil form which movements collect their nourishment. Without good soil, plants – and movements – cannot endure. From George’s perspective, we are fortunate. We have many visionary people in this country. Everybody has ideas of what a better world might look like and many are already working to manifest those ideas. It is the big picture – the grand vision – that needs to be pulled from our hearts and articulated.

When I ask George if we could use multi-nodal, local groups to generate concepts of such a vision, then cross-pollinate the drafts by sharing them with other groups via the Internet, George lights up with enthusiasm.

“Yes! Exactly!”

So, my friends, perhaps it is time to Occupy again. But this time, let’s occupy square one, the foundation of revolutions, the ground from which change grows: Let’s gather in groups and Occupy Vision.

Forget tents in icy parks, let’s bake some cookies, pull up by a warm fire this winter, and hold Occupy Visioning Sessions. The lineage that precedes us has left us a tremendous toolbox for such processes. I recommend Popular Resistance’s Strategize Page as a resource, although there are many, many more. The following websites have compiled their visions for the future and can be used as inspiration for your own ideas. Of course, the real beauty of this process emerges in interconnection with others, so reach out, connect, and share your thoughts. This is not an original concept . . . it is how all revolutions begin.


Author/Actress Rivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to her most recent novel, The Dandelion Insurrection, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength.  Her novels and other writings can be found at http://www.risingsundancetheater.com/wpblog/

George Lakey was interviewed by Rivera Sun and David Geitgey Sierralupe on Occupy Radio.  To listen to the broadcast tune in on Wednesday Nov 6th at 7pm PST/10pm EST http://kwva.uoregon.edu/listen-live/ or catch the podcast version on Sat Nov 9th at  http://occupythemedia.podomatic.com/entry/2013-11-08T22_24_04-08_00


Websites offering visions:

The Metta Center http://mettacenter.org/roadmap/roadmap-description/

Popular Resistance http://www.popularresistance.org/category/create/


Websites offering tools for strategy and resistance:

Waging Nonviolence: http://wagingnonviolence.org

Popular Resistance http://www.popularresistance.org

Metta Center http://mettacenter.org

Albert Einstein Institution (the work of Gene Sharp) http://www.aeinstein.org

Training for Change http://www.trainingforchange.org


Articles cited in this article:

The Earth Quaker Action Team http://greenpnc.org

Strategy for A Living Revolution



Thich Nhat Hahn’s essays on engaged Buddhism http://viewonbuddhism.org/resources/14_precepts.html

Joanna Macy’s work on The Great Turning