The Ecology of Occupy

March 2012 / Notes from the Field

Gary Hawke

Gary Hawke

Once the London Occupy Movement had set up camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral there was a decision made to work towards occupying the mind through community education. To achieve this aim the movement occupied an abandoned Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) building and created a community space known as The Bank of Ideas. The space was open to all and anyone could submit an event or workshop to take place at the bank. From November 2011 to January 2012 I ran a number of Integrally-informed workshops and One to One session.

In late January UBS succeeded in securing an injunction against London Occupy requiring the group to vacate the building. And so the bank closed its doors. With the closing of the bank I thought that it might be time to provide a reflection on the Integral work I did and inquire into how Integral Theory can support the development of the Occupy Movement.

The main question that I take away from my work at the bank is: what does the variety of parts that created the dynamic tension within the movement need to do so that a sustainable ecology can be created, that leads to the laying down of a new way of interacting with each other, a new life world that is comprehensive and yet recognises the developmental needs of individual and collectives as they flow and grow, whilst being aware that both individual and collectives have a right to remain not fixated at a level of growth but that their level of growth is seen as legitimate and authentic for them?

One thing that struck me was the interpretation versus fact of hierarchy, I had encountered this polarity twice whilst at the bank and both times it was clear that there was a need to process the tension between the two. No matter what society we create there would be a need to move through stages of development and each stage would need to be supported, if we want to ensure that there is adequate navigation leading to a positive transcend and include.

This will mean that those who are at a higher or deeper stream of consciousness support significant growth and development as a fourfold gesture. I feel that we are in violation of a human right if we share the idea that we are all equal. Yes, we are all equal as residents of the planet earth, and that as such we are part of the eco-noetic soul of the planet, but we are not all equal within our stage of development. This means that we have an obligation to support growth if we want to ensure that we are laying down positive habits of a new way of being.

I also wonder about the movement’s ability to maintain tension. What happens if you are following a consciousness wave that wants to embrace everyone as legitimate and authentic in their view of the world and yet this creates a degree of tension when you find yourself in the same public space. How do you process that tension? Here I am offering that tension is an energy of creative development.

It begins as a drive towards the anger of a pathological capitalism but soon expands to a movement that feels the impulse to something new. This commitment has such an intentionality that people are willing to Occupy the streets, not just for a few hours or days but for months. And this is all done in a peaceful and relatively well structured system. But the Occupy side of the movement brings it own problems such as exploring the many different life worlds that come together.

Those within the movement might be actively part of a growing world movement, but I am not sure if they are all members of the same hermeneutic circle. As has been shown, our activism can be part of a systemic interaction, but we interact through an egocentric, ethnocentric, and worldcentric space.

So the question is how do you maintain a closed system that is strong enough to hold the different streams of cultural subgroups, whilst at the same time ensuring the autopoetic growth of the movement, so that the environmental structure is open and self-renewing and allows a response to an evolutionary drive to a higher and more complex ordering of the world?

On the one hand there is a need for the movement to create consensual action, but this would suggest that there is a shared consensual meaning. We need to agree on a shared understanding. The alternative is to see this as too complex and thus create a systemic approach. This, of course, will be created by the dominant highest wave of development, which would mean a form of governing system where all are included and where there is a communicative agreement to ensure the structural ecology of the system of behaviour.

This is a form of governance that ties all interpersonal activity into a set of governing standards that we all agree that we are able to engage with. This then means that tension has been managed by creating a cooperative agreement to legitimate behaviour.

There is a danger here that the personal agency of the individual has been compromised in favour of the collective governance. Again, all well and good if the intra-personal intentionality is matched with the shared inter-personal intentionality of the group and that both the group and the individual are able to maintain the structural behaviour needed to follow the governance. By this, I mean, that individuals have the cognitive resources to handle the governing structure and that they are able to recognise how the systemically structured environment supports their own autopoetic regime.

So, there is possible performative contradiction within the movement, one of a dependency on governing systems to relieve tension. This would lead to no real meaningful dialogue within diversity of life worlds within the movement, so that there is a loss of­ – or no awareness of – the multiple perspectives that are being drawn into the movement.

This governance feels like it relies on the expectation that the individual is able to select the right behaviour based on a personal history of appropriate social behaviour selection. This within itself feels like a hidden hierarchy, one that recognises that there must have been a previous transcend and include of the right ethical social action. And this ranking is further developed by assuming that all individuals within the movement are able to make the right behavioural decisions.

I also wonder how much the movement could become a kind of dominating governance, where the collective is more powerful than the individual.

The Ecology of Occupy is contingent on the member’s intersection in the cultural life worlds being able to extract the relevant meaning from the social system governance. If not, there is a breakdown in the social structure of the movement. At the moment, this has not taken place on any large scale due to the constant shifting of the environments that Occupy are engaging with. As long as Occupy are responding to the environment of pathological capitalism there is no space to construct the deep structural ecological support for the movement to grow.

The movement then has a horizontal development as its mass and size increases, coupled with the expression of a movement without a hierarchy leading to little vertical development. Therefore, there is little if any need to deal with the tensions as different life worlds establish and enact different means/behaviours/communicational forms around the governing structure.

This then brings us to what underlines the Ecology of Occupy.   Let’s assume that –

a) Individuals hold a general stream of consciousness development…

b) Which links to a stage of cognitive (neurological) growth…

c) This stage is supported by the social system behaviours that are mediated through governance and the individuals’ communication acts in response to the tension of governance…

d) Which is linked to how the individuals’ interactions make them members of certain communities that support meaning making and that in turn…

e) Supports the growth of the individuals’ general wave of consciousness development.

f) And around we go again.

All this takes place within the holistic horizon of perspectives – I/We see the world this way You/Them see the world that way. Each perspective horizon sees and interprets the world differently and this impacts on the interlocking of a culturally shared lifeworld.

The Ecology of Occupy is built on the necessity of being able to enter each perspectival horizon environment and thus openly experience the others perspective. This enables the movement to become better informed as to how it draws up the governing structure, how it supports it’s members in their interpretation of the structures, and how it builds a more coherent shared meaning that is truly inclusive. This involves not only recognising the individuals view as legitimate at their level of development, but it is also recognising the need to manage the multiple streams and levels within the movement.

There are three points that we have to use as ecological predicates that will assist in maintaining an ecological sound movement.


What is being communicated, how is it being communicated, and why is it being communicated to ensure that…


…the information is being communicated in a way that it can be decoded at the level of meaning making of the listener(s) and to demonstrate how  the amount of inference can be minimised so as to ensure..


What checks are there in place to ensure that legitimate understanding has taken place within the horizontal perspective of the Individual and the Collective, leading to an authenticity in communication.

There are a tremendous variety of voices within Occupy and as I have indicated there are many songs being sung. As one Occupy member said, it’s about occupying minds. Also as a friend of mine is working on, it’s about Occupy the heart. But it is also about taking occupancy of the way in which we want the world to be, to ensure those who are infringing the human ecology and through their action cause suffering are made accountable for their actions. It’s about occupying a politic public sphere, and following such movements as SIMPOL and it’s about recognising the common space we share.

And it is about evolving, recognising that my view is partial and that for You and I to become a We, there is a need to create wholeness. I must feel and understand your view.

“What,” Nicholas asked, “is the alternative?” “Only connect!” replied the owl. “The alternative is to see that none of these ideals is worth anything without the others. Only then will you create a world fit for humans, and also,” he added as if as an after thought, “for owls.”

The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat: A Novel of Ideas, Steven Lukes

We must Occupy a shared experience leading to a greater degree of shared knowledge, and we must Occupy the wisdom to recognise that we are both part of and wholly are the eco-noetic soul of the World.

 About the Author

Gary Hawke is a Core Integral Professional, a licensed teacher, and HPC Drama therapist, currently working in Central London with teenagers attending a school exclusion programme and young adults attending a learning difficulties and disabilities programme. Gary has been running ILP sessions and for over 6 years. He recently ran a 6 months experimental London ILP group and has run ILP sessions in Boulder Colorado. Gary is developing ILP into Integral Alive and offers both groups and one to one therapeutic coaching using the Integral Alive Model. He can be contacted at