Posts Tagged ‘ occupy ’

Pepper on the Pavements.

Plenty of cuttings of the UC pepper spraying going on at the moment, with ample examples of indignant ‘how could they’ style sentiments accompanying, often countered by a fair share of ‘they got what they deserved’ style responses. Divisive stuff indeed, and whatever side of the argument you fall on, it seems likely that this, and occasions like it, are probably going to do far more for the cause of encouraging the sympathetic white middle classes to down tools and sit in tents in order to show support the whatever myriad range of causes are currently represented by the Occupy movement.

However much you may like/dislike the students protesters/jobless malingerers (delete as appropriate for your respective viewpoints), it’s hard to interpret the video footage as anything more than a fairly hefty overreaction. Students sat down in a line does not seem to offer the most violent of threats to the general public, while any claims that the students were blocking access is somewhat undermined by the police officers themselves stepping over those in the way with relative ease. Granted, wheelchair users would have faced a struggle here, and I’m sure the vocal right wing politicos are lamenting the lack of footage of the ignorant protesters refusing to move for, and subsequently flashing two fingers to the poor crippled undergraduate prevented from wheeling herself, it would have to be a female student for the story to have maximum impact, no, let’s make that a black female student in a wheelchair, to her classes, for which she has to hold down three manual labour jobs to sustain. As much as such a scene would be an anti Occupy wetdream, it does not exist. Anyway, whatever the threat level/inconvenience level, the use of burning chemical sprays at point blank range seems at the very least a touch over the top.   

While law enforcement figures have supported the action by describing the scenes as ‘standard procedure’, the use of such regular social control mechanisms will surely only serve as an encouragement to those sat on the floor, and the thousands around the world greedily copying the images as a burning flag of injustice to wave back in the faces of those who stand against them. Really, if those who are justifying the actions think that this will in anyway discourage protest activities, or indeed discourage current non activists from joining the respective causes, they would be highly misguided.

As things stand, the Occupy protests and their various hangers on, are a vocal, largely peaceful group, undermined by their own lofty ambitions which cause their message to be almost unintelligible to the 99% they purport to represent. More scenes like this though have the power to turn this into something far more focused and aggressive. After all, perceived police brutality and the suppression of free speech, is something that is far more accessible for the masses than any effort to reform global financial policies (not the most sexy of protest themes after all), and the response to such concerns, historically at least, is not usually manifest by diligent sit downs around tents in the parks. There are a lot of very frustrated people in the world at the moment, it won’t take too many more incidents like this to turn them into angry people, and the angrier people get, the less prone they become to rational peaceful protest. If the authorities are spoiling for a fight, they would do well to keep up control measures like these.

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.

The Parable of St Paul and the Protester.

St Paul’s Cathedral is certainly attracting some attention in recent days. Fingered as the biblical little bitch of the economic beasts that reside nearby, the protests that began as part of the ‘occupy’ campaigns that are scattered across the globe directed at big business, government and those that hold the purse strings of the world economies, seems to have descended (or ascended depending on your perspective) into a full blown assault on the Cathedral and its management itself. Following the wider media coverage at the moment, you would be forgiven for thinking that St Paul’s and those who huddle inside are actually those solely responsible for the economic crises and social hardships faced by those camped outside (though of course there are no shortage of well off middle class semi retirees in the crowd who can afford to take the time off from their oh so pressured lifestyles to go on holiday in central London, who realistically have very little to complain about in the real world, and have no tangible grasp on the concept of ‘social hardship’, but that’s something to rant about on another day).

Of course, in no way can St Paul’s take the direct responsibility for many of the ills upon which the Occupy protest is speaking out against, but equally it does little to cover its own back. Big business partners have been cited, the Cathedral for instance being firmly in bed with the financial devil thanks to the support it is offered by its friends in the commerce district. Yet people speak out in its defence, ‘this is a place of worship’ they cry, a place for prayer and reflection, not a place for the disgruntled mob of this generations political protesters to make a mess of with their candles and their placards and their tent tether ropes. Should a place of worship be singled out for what is made out to be such a disruptive protest (though how a group of people camping out next to, not in front of, and certainly not in front of the doors, can disrupt anyone from praying is beyond me)?

Again, St Paul’s does little to cover itself in glory. This ‘temple of worship’, this ‘place of god’, is hardly the most welcoming of institutions. After all, anyone can come into St Paul’s, anyone can come and admire of that which was inspired by God…so long as you have a spare £14.50 to give for the privilege. No shortage of signs outside the Cathedral ask ‘what would Jesus do?’ Well, one imagines the very first thing he would do is tear down the ticket office and chastise and humiliate the person responsible for putting a charge on the door of God’s house. Come to west Wales good pilgrims, come to St David’s Cathedral instead. Here you will be able to enter God’s house for free. Donations are requested, but that is your choice, your free will to decide if, and only then, how much should be parted with to gain entrance to such a sanctuary.

Put simply, St Paul’s has long been symptomatic of the problems seen in London, and many places elsewhere. It is a commercial enterprise; in practice its spiritual core, its ethical centre, has been eroded to make a profit. No doubt they in the Cathedral will speak of the need for such fees for the maintenance of the building. Well St Paul’s, plenty of other Cathedrals manage just fine without ripping off the pockets of those who wish to look upon the inspiration of God, why can’t you?

St Paul’s and its direct affiliates may not be responsible for the economic crises and all of its implications, but it has put itself in bed with the devil of the coin. In entrance fees and its financial partners, this institution has very firmly turned its back upon the principals of its foundation, and stood up to be counted with all that goes against that what it preaches to stand for. St Paul’s is not responsible, but it is certainly due its share of the blame. So cheers to the protesters, give ‘em hell, because due to the decisions made by the hierarchy of the Cathedral, they have committed themselves on a path in that direction already.