29 Dec 2011

OCCUPY-where now?

I don't think we can pretend that the "Occupy" movement is analogous to the Arab Spring- although there are obvious common strands.Westerners in the UK and US are not being repressed by dictatorial and violent regimes- however loosely you define our present situation. Arabs in Egypt, Tunisia, Lybia etc were fired by hatred, fear and loathing of their rulers-and they had nothing to lose. "Occupy" supporters by and large have plenty to lose and don't have the massive popular support to rely on. So, whilst there may well be a majority who are angry at the greed of the banksters- this in itself doesn't provide a comprehensive enough agenda to base a long term campaign on. And, of course, the main protagonists are reluctant to widen or specify a larger manifesto for fear of dissipating support. But its hard to visualise Occupy maintaining momentum for much longer without a major new strategy.Like it or not, the media has a very short attention span- as does the average viewer, and once scenes of tents surrounding cathedrals or city parks have been aired a few times,with the occasional police intervention, the novelty wears off pretty quick.
Charles Eisenstein has suggested some possible ways forward-- http://www.realitysandwich.com/where_next_occupy   He suggests we need to think big first, then get practical. He also observes that none of us are merely victims of an unfair and broke system but we are also its perpetuators and enforcers. This latter characteristic is an important distinction from Arab Spring- yes, we have common enemies, but we, in the West cannot escape our burden of complicity. Charles suggests that one way forward for Occupy may be to "get active"- and perhaps "occupy" libraries and other symbols of civic support that are threatened with closure- this wouldn't be a squat- but an attempt to provide the social service that has been removed. Similarly, activists could collect waste food and distribute it and set up and operate local currencies.
I think Charles has a fair point- although I would add that many campaigners are already doing these very things. So I think Occupy needs to demonstrate both practical and philosophical involvement and make the connections. Politics in the UK and US has been represented by brain-deadening, unending coverage of party politics and a dearth of genuine consideration of the fundamental issues. Lets talk about the nature of money, the effects of globalisation on North and South, food security, meaningful work, land rights, and much much more. Occupy could fill a vital gap by providing meeting points for all of us to flesh out a "road map" out of our present crumbling society and towards a fairer system in balance with nature and genuinely sustainable.

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