Thursday, 3 May 2012

On the Occupy movement and protesting

Occupy may not have clear or concise goals but the problems aren't simple, so why should the solutions be?

For decades governments have 'at war' with the drug trade. The cost of this is immense and the war is not one that will ever be won. People take drugs, therefore other people will supply them.

Most recently we are now 'at war' with the concept of terrorism. This is almost as stupid as establishing yourself as 'at war' with war (although I understand the subtle differences).

These are both examples of horrific cost and waste. If I don't want my tax money spent in a particular way I have the right to make a fuss about it.

On the 31st August 2011 I was made redundant as a direct result of international public funding cuts that weren't the fault of myself or faults of my colleagues. The fact that I have a new job is not an argument or testement to the fact that things are okay. Yes, problems are worse elsewhere in the world but that's also not an argument against kicking back at the system that thinks it's reasonable to seemingly raise and cut funding recklessly. We are still paying our armed forces salaries to fire bullets (we've paid for) overseas and, at the same time, our Police to storm the peaceful protests against this of, what the media is calling, middle-class hippies. Madness.

15 October 2011 and we took to the streets. We shouted, we waved banners, we directed a message of what we thought was wrong, why and what we wanted to change. The message wasn't always concise but it was one of freedom, liberty and equal rights. End corruption, make the rich pay for their mistakes and stop ignoring us. If it had ended there we would probably have been ignored. This time we had a strategy.

The initial plan was to enter the Paternoster Square, put up tents and stay. Keep the message strong, amplify our words with each day we stayed. A permanent reminder and constant presence right in the heart of the City's financial centre. However this was not possible due to Police and security protecting the entry points to the London Stock Exchange so the group gathered at St Paul's discussed alternatives and reached consensus. We would Occupy the site outside St Paul's cathedral. The rest is history, endless court cases fighting over ownership of what is essentially public land in order to formally serve an eviction. We were forced to leave but the seeds had been sown and we knew what was possible. A community can be formed and thrive on bare paving slabs.

On the 1st May I headed into the city to show my support on the first day of planned action from a number of trade unions, UKUNCUT, Annonymous, Occupy and other campaigns. Twitter was alive with suggestions of movement, where protests were happening, what was happening. Eventually I caught wind that a core of the original 15th October occupation were on their way to the London Stock Exchange! We made it! Tents up, megaphones with messages of hope in poetry, song and rap. The theme to 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air' blaring from somewhere and around twenty people singing along. One protester had somehow scaled the monument in the middle of the square WITH A TENT! Police showing up in small numbers, generally asking people to leave and chatting when we refused. The LSX security were amazing fun - really interesting conversation with everyone and a festival atmosphere. We'd done it! Although we all knew this wasn't going to last on that evening, we'd sent a message!

I'm not an unresonable person. I'm not aggressive and I think clearly. Something is very wrong when young working people can't afford more than small properties without affluent relatives dying. There's no longer a property 'ladder'. It was a concept that is currenly denying a generation reasonable prices on a basic human right. However, everyone seems to have the same attitude which generally runs something along the lines of, "Well, we're not going to change anything, so... dot dot dot.".

I can't be the only person to think that is utterly idiotic. This is our country. This is our world. We own it. We can change it.

Okay, I'm not going to change anything as a direct result of joining those that are sleeping outside in the various captial cities but what people seem to fail to understand is that this is a seed and it's not going away. We're not doing anything by Occupying, it's a tactic that gets us heard, allows us to organise and share. As one of the campaign slogans goes: 'You don't need a tent to OCCUPY'.

It's sick to strip pensions, health care, education and other public services from a population when headlines are annoucing, just days before, that the FTSE 100 CEOs have secured a 49% pay rise this year.
Very few involved want to 'topple capitalism'. There are generally reasonable, intelligent people. They are very worried and so are most of the people in the UK. There is no anarchy at #OccupyLSX. They don't want to take away your money, house or any of the other ridiculous claims like to convert the UK, Europe or anywhere else to communism.

I urge you, before you tell the world how misguided the activists are, to go to the nearest protest, meet the people and find out how consistant (however varied) the aims are and how much they depend on, and defend the way you live your life. Engage in the debate without forming your ideas based just on the media.
When banks are bailed out they should become national property - anything else encourages risk.
This is just the start of a better world for everyone. It hasn't worked before because mass communication wasn't in the hands of the people - we've seen massive change in the world recently. Don't be convinced your voice doesn't count.

On the 12th May join local action. Make a banner with your personal hopes and dreams. What do you want from the world? How would you change things?

Engage, meet people, enjoy, shout, discuss, share, love, believe and never give up.

I am very proud to be one of the 99%.

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