TIME Magazine chose the Protester as 2011 person of the year. This was the year of people’s uprising. All around the globe the legitimacy of governance was questioned and challenged. The critical agents for a new civil society are on the rise. It is not about a single person, group or ideology, but the empowerment of ordinary people around the world; Egyptians and Tunisians who risk their lives for the betterment of society; Occupiers in New York going viral around the globe, and hackers, free information advocates, online collectives like Anonymous and LulzSec, tirelessly working to bring checks and balance to the corruption of power.
A once apathetic and cynical youth is rising to the occasion. The civic arena that has been taken over by commercial interests is bypassed by a growing segment of the populace in favor of this new model that moves beyond the nation-state and the facade of modern representative Democracy.
The Arab Spring was noted as being a social media-led revolution. Anonymous is a model of social creativity that is a phenomenon of individual action in union (or legion, as they would say) around a shared idea. Occupiers swarm cities together through the uniting values of the 99%. The protagonists of this blossoming crowd-sourced civic life are claiming power as active agents in their own lives. This new movement reminds me of the complex social organization of the bees.
In recent years, bees have been disappearing all around the world. This has been an ominous harbinger of the environmental degradation and crisis of life on this planet. The arrival of the new social impulse feels like a comeback of the failing bee colonies, a symbol for a bustling and buzzing rebirth of civic power.
Anonymous and Occupy can be seen as an evolving hive mind, where anyone with a similar penchant for justice can enter into the colony and work to protect the Queen bee. The queen, all royal implications aside, is a metaphor that embodies an idea or guiding principle that cannot be killed. Some have noted the swarm as a working principle behind the Occupy Movement. Crowd sourcers activating social media are like bees passing on and distilling critical information (pollen) from the blossoming activism. Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner once said that if we want to understand ourselves we should look closely at the bees. In examining the nature of bees’ connection to the sky and flowers, he believed that “they serve as an important – and sacred – link between humanity and the heavenly realms”. 
My Vision for 2012
In 2012, I would like to see this awakened life of the bee swarm-like social model thrive and restore the health of society. Many amazing and courageous individuals have risen and worked hard in 2011 to lay the groundwork for this new civic force.
1) Love as a Driving Force for Work
Honey bees are notorious for their hard work. What is striking is that only small portions of their labor creating the high quality honey is needed to sustain themselves, while the other 90% is a kind of gift to the world. This is in addition to the critical pollinating role they play. This characteristic of bees might help us to imagine what it would be like to have a society where people find their motivation for work out of love, collaboration and giving.
Perhaps a close simile is found in Anonymous’s actions for the sake of the Lulz. Those engaged in collective Anonymous actions are said to be driven by various motives, but making money is definitely not one. Also, protesters who are willing to pitch tents and stay out in public despite harsh weather and police brutality are doing it for different reasons than the impulses that guided their lives when they were working for the man just to make ends meet.
There has been tremendous creativity that comes when individuals create free deeds that reshape, strengthen and diversify the domain of the commons. People from all walks of life are lending their skills to build community. They are photographers, bloggers, filmmakers, musicians, teachers, cooks and lawyers showing a new drive for work -simply doing something for the love of it or to build a better future.
This labor of love could become a new currency where collaboration and the open source principle of sharing can change how we look at money. It can lead to a new financial system that is not based on exploitative models, but collaborative and associative economics that is the healthy basis for any real capitalism.
2) New Balance of Power
The Western judicial system model was originally based on the idea of balance of power, intentionally developed in the US Constitution. It was to be a check on abuse of power by the executive or other branches. Yet, the system of balance when divorced from the foundation of civic power, uproots politics from the living organism of society as a whole. We have seen it in the corporate takeover of the two party system in the US and the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court and now the NDAA.
True balance of power acknowledges the vital role of citizens in making certain decisions about the course of their own society. Models for this are emerging around the world. In IRC chat rooms, direct egalitarian decision-making process are being used. People can enter into a conversation anonymously and vote for their ideals.
This online consensus process is being translated into physical space with the Occupy movement. One striking aspect of the Movement is how it is also an educational process. Through General Assembly, people are learning how to speak and listen to one another in a new way, in the spirit of collaboration and sharing.
Mic check and Anonymous Operations have quickly become a new form of check and balance, where people bypass the dead political system to directly challenge and assert power. I would like to see this trend expand and eventually create a powerful court of public opinion that could replace or transform a justice system that no longer works for justice.
3) Toward a Culture of Life
Finally, I would like to see a shift of culture from death to a culture of life. This change is symbolically seen as a move from the King or patriarchal power to the Queen, in working for others and in service to life.
The culture of death bases political economy on wars and exploitation of others for ever-increasing profits of the few. We can transform this and create a culture of life with an economy based on creativity and sustainability for seven generations into the future. In this regard, the Queen bee symbolizes the life principle. The primary task of her life is to lay eggs, to bring continuity of life. Metaphorically, the Queen is not a single person like a politician or leader enshrined in society. They are the aggregate of shared higher ideals that inspired the US Constitution and has actually guided humanity from generation to generation. Like worker bees that dedicate themselves to the whole, committed individuals working with like-minded people can bring life to a dying culture.
Concretely, I would like to see more creative operations forming independent infrastructure for every aspect of our lives. For instance, OccupySF created its local credit union, so moving money away from corporations. Occupiers in solidarity are now occupying foreclosed homes. Concerned citizens took initiative in creating a Citizen Media Guild, the world’s first journalism union to defend and promote the works of citizen journalists.
I see the tight community that emerged in Zuccotti Park Occupation as a model that could spread and spark recovery of society. Peoples kitchens feed, libraries and media inform, medics on site take care of others and people are beginning to live together as communities outside the imposed scenario of corporate control.
2011 saw the silent hive mind arise and awaken from the long winter of political corruption. Like bees working to create crown jewels of honey, people are connecting, finding each other and inaugurating a new way of life. My wish for 2012 is to see more of us join this great work of creation between the sky and flowers and build whole new communities on a local and global level that are based on these principles.
1. Altman, N. (2010). The honey prescription: The amazing power of honey as medicine. Vermont: Healing Arts Press. p. 37.