Thursday, October 27, 2011

Consider Settlement

This is what the Bishop of London has offered the Occupation:

"The time has come to change the setting. Now that St Paul's can function again, albeit on a limited basis, the cathedral wants to help recapture the serious issues.
If the protesters will disband peacefully, I will join the Dean and Chapter in organising a St Paul's Institute debate on the real issues here under the Dome.
We will convene a panel from across the political and business spectrum and will invite the protesters to be represented.
The Dean and I will be available on Sunday morning, outside St Paul's, to listen and engage. Our message will be simple: pack up your tents voluntarily and let us make you heard."

I think it could be a start.  If St. Pauls really is willing to align itself with the aims of the occupation, is willing to open itself up to support them, is willing to engage the leaders of England on the issues of economic justice preying upon all of us, then perhaps it is worth considering meeting their offer with a counter-offer, a very detailed proposal of what we need them to do to make us heard, what kind of panels they are talking about. This is their first settlement proposal and a lot more is probably on the table if we ask.

I think to be attractive to the Occupation, the offer of St. Paul's would have to be fleshed out and detailed, and planned.  If that work could happen before a single tent is moved, then work of the Occupation could move forward with a powerful ally.  I don't know everything about the camp and why the camp is necessary. The camp is a media flashpoint, of course.  But if in a settlement St. Paul's become that media flashpoint, inside and outside, then perhaps the desires of all the parties could be met.  Consider the following counter-offer:

1) The Occupation should have a permanent daily presence at St. Paul's, inside, perhaps, or at least with Tent City University and the information tent still outside and an exhibition on economic and social justice on the inside.

2)  St. Pauls should keep the food tent to feed the hungry.  Certainly this is within the clear remit of the church and could even be partially moved on to the Cathedral premises.  Inviting the hungry and the homeless in for warmth and a meal would be a truly Christian move on the part of St. Paul's and would allow the Occupation to have a living presence that actually increased traffic to the church.

3)  St. Paul's should go through the existing point in the Occupy LSX initial statement and say what specifically it can do to get the message across point by point.  This could take some time.  It could be worth it.   If their proposed agenda could be good enough, those who want to camp could Occupy Finsbury Square and those who were there to make a statement, to be heard, could then use St. Paul's to be heard. 

 Here's the reasoning:   St. Paul's should agree to these things both for their internal interest in being a business and their external or putative interest in serving the cause of Christ.  Opening the dialogue on the issues as Chartres suggests involves making that dialogue perpetual and real and requires a straightforward plan that can manage everyone's expectations. 

And as for the Occupation:  I am saying not that people should capitulate but that people should be realistic.  I have blogged several pages about the overwhelming work of the Occupation and how camping and manifesto and press can sap energy and time.  Fighting to keep a camp has almost become a distraction from the cause of justice behind the camp in the first place.  It is with a heavy heart that I report from the villages that regular people demonize the camp for impeding the progress to St. Paul's.  I don't know whether it is better to capitulate to that demonization in order to bring in the rest of the 99 or whether it is better to fight what are in the main, lies about the camp.  

I personally wish that the Occupation was not billed as virulently anti-capitalist.  Occupy Half Term was not anti-capitalist.  It was about witnessing the truth and heeding the calls of our own hearts for justice.  Whether this ultimately translates into a reform agenda or a revolutionary agenda is not something that we know right now.  If we could secure the good efforts of the church in creating a broader base of support for this movement, this movement could accomplish something, accomplish something nonviolent and real. 

St. Paul's would have to be very brave, however.  It seems to me that some of the points on the agenda would truly make its trustees (who are nothing less than the existing powers of the earth) mightily angered.  Will they really follow through on the call to beat swords into plowshares?  Could they?  Will they really support a national examination of the bloated place of consumerism in our collective souls and community life?  Could they really as shareholders  in many English companies question executive pay and tax status?  Would they?  Could they be that brave?  Yes? Then let's put it in a settlement agreement and begin the work.

Occupy Wall Street has a younger country and a cooler city and high approval ratings.  Occupy London has strictures OWS cannot imagine: strictures of class and ancient right, feudalism and monarchy.    But Occupy London has this massive strange twist that Occupy Wall Street never had. Somehow we are in the position of taking on the church.  And while they have proved an impressive enemy, it is clearly their lawyers who are at the fore right now, and the lawyers do not have to be at the fore forever. We can talk to those who want to represent the church of Christ.  And do you know why?  Because whether you are atheist or theist or Jewish or Muslim or Christian, Jesus was hoping that all of us would live in the Kingdom of Heaven, a just world, a world we could bring about.  If you can get St. Paul's Cathedral to start talking about that, then I promise you, you have a start.  Pack up your tents for Finsbury Square and gain this ally and gain the affection of the middle class and I do not think you will go wrong.

Remember the word of Jesus as recorded by Luke: "Woe unto you lawyers, for you load the people with burdens hard to bear, and you lift not a finger to help them."  The people are crying out for justice in the shadow of St. Paul's and the lawyers are about to load them with more burdens.  This lawsuit should not be filed, should not be filed a million times over from every conceivable angle.

When I first moved to Cambridge I used to stand in the back yard and wonder who the hell was this person who had moved to Cambridge, who owned this house, who lived in this place.  Now I feel the same sense of utter dislocation:  who is this person holding up signs and blogging late into the night?  Who is this person?  It is me.  It is me.  It is me and I do not represent some extreme strange faction, I represent the 99, the middle, the ones weeping for their children and the life they will have bloated by consumerism and devoid of freedom unless we step in.

I have been questioned by so many people:  why are you aligning yourself with the people in the tents?  I will tell you why:  because life does not give you perfect and convenient opportunities with clean and showered compatriots who are not camping anywhere illegal - in fact, life gives us this.  This is the opportunity that we all have to fight the terrible creep of powerful corporations into the fairness of our government and shape of our lives.  Opportunities must be seen and grasped.  This opportunity especially, and by all.  We have much to learn.  We have much to speak about with each other.  We have much to consider, especially if, in truth, we all consider our commonality, our need to talk and work things out, our communion in the cause of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.  This chance will not come again. Our children get older and older and justice is no nearer in the institutions that now shape our lives. Let's reconsider these institutions.  Let's reconsider them with St. Paul's, on the steps of St. Paul's, under an iron-clad settlement agreement.

Goodnight and much love.

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