Occupy Cardiff – A Cause without a Cause?
It’s nice to see an occupy movement settle in under the shadow of Cardiff Castle. We in Wales never like to be left out of a good global movement, and the Occupy movement has certainly managed to unite people in major cities across the planet. As the foul winter weather appears for one night only (come the weekend all will be sunny and fine for the protestors), those hardy enough to have arrived will warm each other with their collective sense of self satisfaction, that they, and no one else, is standing up against the…, well, what is it exactly they are standing up against?
The Occupy movement is a bit of an oddity in many respects. While we are all being encouraged to show sympathies to the cause of the protestors in the valiant attempts to keep their tent cities intact in the face of political, police and, in some cases, religious opposition, one wonders what it is exactly that so many people are uniting, globally, against? Is it bankers, austerity measures, oppression, exploitation? In some cases there have been complaints levied against bus companies for raising prices, in others arguments have been levied against high taxation – while some voices within the same movement argue for increased taxation, just so long as it’s coming from the pockets of the ‘right’ people.
Watching the Occupy London news coverage the most distinctive thing about the scene in the background of the endless live reports, were the confusing mismatch of banners and placards. ‘Screw bankers’ some shout, ‘the end is nigh’ cry others, while some shout with conviction to ‘free Palestine’. Am I missing something, would the freedom of Palestine help the global financial problems (funny if it would eh)? Indeed, would taxes on the banks solve everything? Would cheaper bus rates perk everyone up? Maybe, but probably not.
The greatest irony of so many of these occupy movements, is that they are in most cases located in the heart of major spending zones, and it’s not spending by bankers. Come down to Newport, South Wales for instance, and you will see no shortage of people on weekdays ambling up and down the high street with bags of loot aplenty – while we complain so much about the condition of the country, it doesn’t actually seem to be stopping us from spending, our pockets remain lined with coin, yet we complain so much about our inability to pay for things (before quenching out thirst with a £3 Starbuck excuse for a hot beverage).
I suppose the thing that fails to inspire about the Occupy movement is that so much of it relies on finger pointing. Everyone has a finger to point at someone, someone else is responsible and someone else should take the punishments of austerity. My sympathies are limited. Yes, bankers are bad, most of the country (and world) would conclude that bankers have played their part in fucking things up for the rest of us (many bankers included), but whacking banks with taxes and fines is not going to change the world – the change must come from the mindset of the people, to give more and take less, bankers and protesters alike. Yes, a subsection of society is more responsible for this than others, but making that same subsection carry the can will not actually fix anything, like it or not, we are in this together.
Perhaps that should be the message of the Occupy movement, ‘we are all in this together, so let’s all tighten the belts’. That, or any coherent message would be good, something to clearly unify people. As things stand, ask one Occupy protester what they are protesting about and it will be a message very different from that provided by the next protester you speak to. So, while it is nice to see the politically active community who are pissed off about the state of things in Wales, speak up and join the ‘sit in a tent’ party, one can’t help but conclude that without a greater sense of cohesion, a clear single message, that this, as with so many of the other branches of the protest, although it will continue to whatever is seen as its ultimate end, will largely be ignored. As the storms close in over south Wales, and sympathies grow for those sticking it out outside Cardiff castle tonight, minds can’t help but be drawn to the Chartist movement, where a portion of those who put their name to the Newport rising, failed to show up due to soggy conditions and a warmer place to be had in the pub. The Chartists, in their unity, stand as a historical precedent for the potential success of a nationwide politically driven movement that stands in the face of political opposition and local authority oppression. The Chartist cause though stood successful in the long run, and much of this stood on a clear message, manifest in the People’s Charter, the points demanded by the Chartists for the reform of the nation. The Occupy movement would do well to follow their example, if this is ever be anything more than a small collection of plucky souls sticking it out against the weather and diminishing media coverage.
Fight for the cause, but make that cause clear to all who might follow.