Social Impact

Buckyfy Wall Street!

Consistently ahead of his time, Buckminster Fuller deeply believed in humanity’s capacity to overcome obstacles and succeed. By virtue of his study of the world, his life’s work has become deeply influential, his reputation legendary. Unsurprisingly, he continues to demonstrate relevance in our day to day, and provides us an alternative lens through which we can understand modern society, even Occupy Wall Street. For us, his enthusiasts, it is hard not to find connections to Bucky in just about everything. Its also comforting because that is exactly what we have come to expect from the man who conceived of anticipatory comprehensiveness as a discipline in itself.

His emphasis in observation and study was his formula for innovation. But innovation has the power to surprise us. This year, the Arab Spring demonstrated the power of innovation in social media and technology as significant organizing enablers. OWS has brought the surprise to the U.S., and I can’t help but see the movement as a rekindling of the grievances expressed by Bucky in his book “Grunch of Giants.”

The very survival of OWS depends on its disarticulated cohesion, built simultaneously on individuals and groups coming together voluntarily. By leveraging social media and technology, the movement has shown itself a master of adaptation and shifting tactics. While not directly endorsing the current form of civil disobedience, Bucky predicted its tactics by stating that “networking is apolitical and amorphous, it has no “cells” to be attacked…. The fearful sovereign nation politicos will find that trying to arrest networking is like trying to arrest the waves of the ocean.”

In the book, Bucky coins the word Grunch (Gross Universe Cash Heist) to describe the profit motive, a huge annual payout of trillions of dollars. The check is to be made to the Giants, which he defines as “supranational corporations controlled by the invisible human owners of invisible Swiss bank account code numbers.” Candidly echoed by the “1% vs. 99%” discussion that has spawned from the OWS movement, the slogan is now rippling like a wave through civil society thanks to the network effect.

The book tracks the creation of the corporate empires and the correlation that it has with policy and people. He questions the role of corporations and goes as far as saying that “they are socioeconomic ploys — legally enacted game-playing — agreed upon only between overwhelmingly powerful socioeconomic individuals and by them imposed upon human society and its all unwitting members.” He meticulously demonstrates how Giant influenced policy inevitably leads to deficit and how the Giant influences how people live, consume and even how much energy they use.

Abstention from making political demands has become OWS’ trademark, but they must recognize that bringing Democracy back to America puts them at odds with the ‘market forces’, which Bucky describes throughout the book as the only force capable of more destruction than governments. The reality is that OWS has decided to face a sea of troubles, and has chosen to bring the battle to the Giants doorstep. The odds are wildly stacked against them.

Occupy Wall Street is an important catalyst for America to rediscover its own values and beliefs about democracy. Like Bucky’s Geodesic dome, as it grows it becomes stronger; but it must not loose sight that the Giant has the upper hand. For success, they must innovate, and would be well served to learn about the Giant from Bucky. After all, he did predict almost 3 decades ago that “eventually the US taxpayers will be asked to make “free-of-risk” bail-outs of “private” enterprises.” Who knows what other hidden facts about the future lay hidden in his texts, waiting to illuminate the future. I can’t wait to see the realization of his vision of humanity’s success in providing for all because the current paradigm’s failure to do so is the very reason that OWS is becoming a global movement.