Wednesday, July 1, 2009

the seed

I wrote this letter in 2001 and didn't get anywhere with it until 2006, when i showed it to some friends and the ball started rolling. I'm posting this now because I just want to provide a little more of the thinking that was involved for anyone who might be interested...References to Bush II are obviously dated but I think most of the text still applies, and thus having a forum is still relevant, IMHO.

This idea springs from the idea that all men and women are created equal, the idea that America stands for liberty and justice for all. It is a vision for America in the new millennium, an America that more truly reflects the ideals upon which it was formed.

Call me pessimistic, but things aren’t really getting much better for people on planet earth broadly speaking. Of course, things are getting to be the “best” they’ve ever been for a lucky handful of individuals, especially with Dubya at the helm. But for the majority, the People, the largest socio-economic demographic of the human population, things aren’t really improving as we consider the recent past and future outlook. That’s my opinion, sure, but I wonder how many people would agree with me.

Now consider an all too common phenomenon in my life and I imagine many others across the land; I’m bored! I’m not interested in drinking, though I don’t have a whole lot against it. T.V. is mostly a huge mind waste. I go bike riding but I can’t do that all the time. Hobbies are fine but sometimes expensive. Plus, there’s that nagging feeling that nothing really matters and we’re missing something as a society.

So, I’ve been to rallies and protests, heard speeches and been to churches, read publications and seen shows, etc. usually to discover that most of the audience is the proverbial “choir” that is being preached to. Though these kinds of activities serve noble purposes, they are nevertheless limited, particularly in terms of generating a conversation, a debate, a bridge between opposing viewpoints to reach a greater understanding of the reality in which we exist. In fact, when only a single group gets together to hear ideas and issues that the group already agrees with, it serves to further separate that group from, well, everyone else. This is a systemic process, which has a tendency to get out of control sometimes with horrible consequences (e.g. Cults, dictatorships, etc.)


E PLURIBUS UNUM, indeed, but we haven’t shared and/or experienced the “UNUM” enough. And therein lies a new possibility for human existence on planet Earth.

The idea for Public Forum is to provide a context in terms of physical, psychological and social/societal space for the active clashing and mashing, the mixing and fixing of opposing viewpoints regarding issues of concern in order to more fully understand a particular issue, a debate and/or discussion of free-flowing form to perchance understand the fundamental differences that divide us, the People of America (Who, as we all know, are the people of the World). I believe that understanding our fundamental differences will serve to 1) make us realize how alike we all really are 2) bring us all closer together and 3) perhaps create a better world for everyone. (i.e. come up with better solutions for some of our problems) Too often we have seen how fear of differences leads to hate and disrespect and even violence, whereas understanding leads to respect, love, cooperation, and perhaps even consensus.

But alas, the future is becoming more and more uncertain even as we speak.

The goal of the idea is to develop, through the very process, a new mechanism that functions to bring people together physically and intellectually. A Human Interaction that requires a diversity of viewpoints in order to operate optimally. The output being more direct

participation in a society by, for and of all people, NOT JUST the elected officials, the D’s and
R’s, the specialists, the clergy, the academics, bureaucrats, the land-owners, the business
owners, the country club members, the union members, the unorganized workers, the environmentalists, the anarchists, the hippies, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Mormons, the Baptists, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Wiccans, the Pagans, the Taoists, the atheists, the agnostics, (you get the idea but I’ll go on) the Chicano Cultural Center, the Asian Cultural Center, the Black Cultural Center, the Longhouse, the LGBT club, the WASP club, the homeless, the migrant, The Department of Philosophy, the Dept. of Economics, the administration, the Hells Angels, the Tuesday Afternoon Club, whatever tiny splinter of society you have claimed as your preference or found yourself deposited for the bulk of your life. The idea is; everyone is invited, and indeed, the more viewpoints, the merrier. Not to see how many arguments will erupt but to see which ideas stand up and which are a bunch of bullshit, because lets face it, none of us knows everything there is to know. I don’t care if it’s the Pope or Ariel Sharon or certainly our Commander in Chief, George W., or even the Dalai Lama, Mohammed, or Jesus Christ of Nazareth himself. Although some of the aforementioned have or had a better grasp of the situation than average.

Listening will be practiced. Democracy will be practiced. Expression will be practiced. Creativity will be practiced. Oration will be practiced. Sign making will be practiced. Debate will be practiced. Learning will be practiced. Critical thinking will be practiced. Spirituality and Wisdom will be practiced…in real time, face to face with our neighbors and community members (as opposed to on a computer screen, in our “houses”, in seclusion).

Potential violence is certainly an issue to consider. Most people are extremely passionate about the views and beliefs they hold. They don’t like being challenged. Therefore it is CRUCIAL to make it clear that violence will not be tolerated and will be dealt with most severely and swiftly. Also, that all individuals are equally respectable and worthy of consideration must be made clear. The implication is that disruptive behavior, disrespecting a person, will not be tolerated (by the entire assemblage.) We should develop a response from the group that discourages such behavior in a non-condemning way. Perhaps having an authority such as the Corvallis Police Department or the County Sheriff, strictly in a violence prevention role, would serve greatly to legitimate and secure the process. Nevertheless, feathers need to be ruffled because things are getting funky up in here!

I am doing this because it is something that I have been looking for, for a while and haven’t been able to find yet. I have heard and seen examples, the radio show, Talk of the Nation, on NPR, for example, which is limited in the degree of human interaction and inclusion of viewpoints. Sometimes I think it is too radical and it will never work. People won’t be able to control their passions when provoked, what have you. But then I counter those thoughts with the fact that it boils down to a simple personal choice, that if we simply choose to follow the rules it can and will work. I hope to see something good develop but I think the details, such as what issues should be discussed and the format of the event/space, should be left up to the participants (or a group of organizers). The goal is to create only the context. I welcome any support and/or criticism, questions, comments, etc. Email me at tkn317071 at or call me at__.

In other words…A marketplace for ideas. A place for unity. A place for community. A credible disorder for an ailing system (see Bella, David. 2000). Something new, cool, interesting, important, challenging, Something we can do as a body of people that doesn’t cost anything but our own time, interest and effort.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Forum this Saturday

Why not? Its supposed to be a gorgeous day and it might help facilitate a transition to others who've expressed interest. See you there!

Riverfront park under the medium sized oak tree at NOON, Sat.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Please assist

I still think the basic concept is relevant. That people, ordinary and all people, should get together and share ideas and thoughts in an immediate, personal setting.

And its amazing to meet people on the street who have been to a forum or two and have them mention it or inquire as to its continuity.

Giving people an opportunity for expression, ie your attention is empowering...I think.

So here's the situation. We've lost essentially three co-organizers (Jomo hasn't made it official) and the remaining two (Carl and I) have been taking time off. Its been over a month since the last forum happened and if any amount of momentum was built up through the dry/outdoor season, its probably gone by now. But I'm still thinking about it and I just called the owner of the Underground, the basement of the Madison? building there where Starbucks is, about having the forum there.

Or should I just go solo under the bridge? with some flyering and publicity of course.

Should the format be tweaked? Should the guidelines be amended? What can we do to attract more people? Will you show up? When is a good time? Help. Leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

COF on winter hiatus

Efforts are being made to find an indoor location until then, keep checking in.

Friday, October 24, 2008

no forum (formally) this week

fyi: I will be out of town and it looks like we don't have enough support to pick up the slack. Organizers are frustrated and losing steam and this might be it for our little experiment. Its too soon to say for sure, I'm not ready to throw in the towel but the way things are headed it doesn't look good. will keep you posted. Thanks!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Corvallis Open Forum Begins its 3rd Season

On April 19th, the sporadic, windy storms came through, followed by sunshine, then more storms. Most Farmers' Market and Earth Faire attendees ran for cover while the Corvallis Open Forum held its own, rain, shine or hail. Co-organizer Joe Mogus showed what a free speech trooper is all about.

We had a few passers-by drop in, but only momentarily. Most folk were too wrapped up in the festivities of the parade and the Market, even as Joe tried to convince them to come to the Forum.

Our first speaker was a young girl who spoke about the ills and dangers of HIV.

Other past regulars such as Joe Magner and Cosmo came to speak, drawing crowds that tended to ebb and flow continuously.

The Forum meets between the market and the Riverfront each Saturday from 11-1. I know we are still relatively comfortable as a society. No food riots or widespread chaos as of yet, but many of us recognize the danger of escalating complacency. One symptom of this is a lack of civil discourse and the abandonment of our First Amendment right. The Corvallis Open Forum hopes to alleviate this and other ills of an isolated, decreasingly communicative society.

Friday, April 11, 2008

COF to resume April 19

We will be sprouting up again on the Riverfront (next to the Farmer's Market) at 11:00am April 19 and every week thereafter, until weather drives us back inside. JoMo and I discussed the lapse this winter and we will be working on finding a suitable location for next winter, possibly on campus.

This season should be especially exciting what with the election year and all. Hope to see you there.