The Occupy movement has been in everyone’s political periphery for the past five months. A reported forty percent of people worldwide know of the movement and of those people eighty percent say they are sympathetic towards it. The movement has become a modern cornerstone for the expression of political and economic discontent. The group of protesters occupying the area outside St Paul’s cathedral were evicted last week. While this may seem like the end of the British movement for some, the protestors have something else in mind; they have just moved down the road to Finsbury Square. Second only to the Wall Street protests, the occupation of St Paul’s is one of the longest and most media-grabbing of all the worldwide protests. The evictions ran mostly with ease and twenty were arrested, but both sides have shown regret at the use of forceful and aggressive actions. So does this mean the end for Occupy London? Of course not. This eviction is only fuel to a fire. Awareness is of high concern to the protesters.
The tent cities of London and the world are not just places of civil unrest. Elements of community and organization are key to the success of this movement in the long run. In fact, outside the entrance to the Finsbury Square camp is a sign showing the fire escape routes.
The Occupy movement is subject to ambiguity, and rightly so. The protesters have gained the attention they wanted but they do not seem to have given a definitive message. A collage of liberal political ideas have been churned out religiously by various spokespeople but it has not been enough for the public to be able to string together into a meaningful ideology. So what do the protesters want? It would appear the answer would be some reformation of the modern Western capitalist society; a freer one. Many lists of objectives have been given out but none have been widely accepted. An additional problem of this whole concept is the immediate question of how to create a political and economic model that is universally fair but maintains a free market.
So already things are looking down again for the revolutionaries of tomorrow. But let’s not give up hope yet – there has been a surprise turn of events for the movement; in the USA Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (of Ben & Jerry’s fame) have been collecting money to help sustain the cause, and have raised a reported $300,000 so far and are aiming for just under two million in the future. So far these funds have been allocated to a permanent New York office to run the logistics, individual projects and grants, and most controversially, an undisclosed amount as a payment scheme for key activists. So it looks like Occupy Wall Street has found its feet again. The fact there is no actual space occupied does not matter; many activists agree it is most likely a waste of efforts to live in a tent city for the sake of small worth. With campaigns in the USA becoming funded and organised, where does that leave the UK? This is meant to be an international revolution after all. I feel that if anything comes of the States’ first funded effort then the UK will follow its lead.
What should we expect from this new wave of activity? Hopefully a strongly formed manifesto of sorts. But protesting is one thing; there is still the nagging question of what alternatives are possible. I see two, and would guess if any form of reform is to be demanded it would be close to either of the following.
The first is the rather repulsively named anarcho-capitalism. This is mightily unheard of. I’ll try to put it simply (for it is not a simple thing). As implied by the name, it is an ungoverned form of capitalism – a truly free market. Before you object vigorously to this however, consider this: with no government comes no taxation. Every man would be responsible for himself and could only do as much with himself as he could with his freedom. This all sounds rather daunting but I urge you to look into it privately. Any demand resembling this would be that of less political intervention into the personal and more into the economic. The government would have a stronger presence in finance and less in our domestic lives.
The second alternative is more attractive, perhaps as it is a less alien concept, and that is that we reform our current way of business so it is more fitting with something which has been tagged as Buddhist Economics. This is essentially the workings of an economist called Schumacher, who prophetically noted that we as a nation do business as if growth is infinite, and treat our natural capital (the Earth) in a similar fashion. He also theorized that we should practice commerce differently; rather than trying to invade markets we should work with them so as to allow for equal monetary dispersal and ultimately equality of opportunity and life. In this circumstance greed is not a valid option. This whole way of doing things is comparable to living a Buddhist life of the Middle Path. Once again, I urge you to read up for yourself and not just take my word. This system would likely be demanded on the reasonable terms of allowing for negotiation on matters such as salaries and sub-prime debt allowance.
What all this means for the activists is that there might well be a more favourable future in sight, and with a clear and strong manifesto this could really travel. There is already awareness – all that is needed is assertion, and it looks like it’s coming. Regardless of your opinion on the matter one thing is true: change is needed. But what change will come?