Friday, November 4, 2011

Over to you, middle class, academia, churches, unions and activists

 It has been a complete rollercoaster of a week, I started brainstorming litigation strategy and ended up talking to a Rabbi.  It is so exhausting to think so hard about something, especially something as formless and new as our movement, the Occupation.  But now that there is a reprieve from a physical threat on the camp, it is time to plan our exit, or if the plan is never to exit, the plan must be to build bridges, wide and strong and beautiful, bridges that span St. Paul's Square and the Corporation of the City of London, that span out from the camp throughout London and all of England, Wales and Scotland, and maybe build bridges to every part of the world.

Occupy London has a special relationship with Occupy Wall Street, it does.  But our story is different from their story - our Occupation should span the EU and all the people of all the countries that need our aid.  Our Occupation is born from Madrid and Tahrir Square and even more ancient rebellions and has a different sort of feeling, our Occupation for reasons unknown to us now finds the Church of England a powerful ally.

The Occupation will only be successful if we enter into this new relationship with the Church of England and even the Corporation of the City of London with love and understanding.  We are in this together and we can work for the common good together. 

Somehow we must make new friends and build new bonds.  The Occupation is not the people at the camp, it is all of us.  If it is just the people at the camp, it is some kind of "them" who may be dismissed, who may succeed or fail without us.  But if we don't want them to fail, and I don't think any of us do, then we must consider them as us.  We all want more justice.  We all want the ills of the earth to be cured.  We don't want our loved ones to die violent deaths.  We want people not to suffer for lack of life's basic necessities.  We all want our governments to be sacred spaces full of extraordinary people devoted to service and not personal gain.  And all of us in our hearts would like to leave the world better for our children, not worse.  We can continue that work to meet these needs, or we can watch those other people get cold this winter. 

And you know what, the Corporation of the City of London actually already backs what some people think is ingenius environmental reform.  (It's called Contraction and Convergence)  They gave an award to Aubrey Mayer about this.

And St. Paul's is also doing all that work about the City anyway.  We can agree on things and work together.  But for that we need our churches and governments know that we would like to support the Occupation. 

A mum from my son's school gave me this book called Transforming Capitalism from Within written by  Jonathan Rushworth and Michael Schluter.  I am telling you, this book is simple and elegant and true.  It proposes ( could be stronger but a wonderful proposal) to run corporations on a relational model where the economic value of the corporation becomes tied to the wellbeing of its customers, employees, suppliers and environment.  And this guy who wrote it is some kind of Christian who goes to her church.  Look, we all are concerned already.  We are concerned but we are apart.  We need to get together and talk.  Ideas are out there.  I think that this book is really trying to run corporations along biblical principles, but I have to say, I don't really care where the good ideas come from if they are good ideas and neither should you.  A lot of people in a lot of churches in Britain care a lot about social justice and we should issue them a special invitation to St. Paul's - now that St. Paul's is open, we should ask them to have a Christmas conference in conjunction with the camp.   


I keep spouting these ideas, sorry, I wanted to write about how exhausting I find this.  I feel like the Grinch when his heart grew three sizes, but it is very tiring.  I mean, I had never really let myself think that the government had become immoral until I had a conversation with a man who has come to be the great John from the Media Tent.  He said that, and it resonated with all my frustration and rage and judgment.  Of course it was true and of course I believed it, but I had never admitted it to myself.  And that is when I began to open my heart, to occupy my own heart as suggested in that crucial Wall Street communication.  I didn't do it by choice.  But I began to let myself feel a little rage.  Injustice angers me.  I see it everywhere.  I see it as almost a byproduct of the bloat of consumerism, of the need for corporations to always show a material return.  And then it really was like I had swallowed the red pill in The Matrix.  THe fact that banks were advertising sweet choral numbers to my children enraged me.  The Liam Fox affair enraged me.  The reaction of the government to the riots enraged me.  And what that rage gave me was a thirst for justice, and I think a lot of people have it.  A lot of people are thirsty for justice.  But we have been lulled into a position where we feel powerless to act on that.  That consumer coma has got to go. And it is not just corporations and banks that need reform.  Inefficiency is in my estimation the biggest enemy of the euro.  And inefficiency is resident in labor and labor unions and needs to be transformed.  So what could happen and what needs to happen for this movement to move the earth to a better place is a constantly evolving set of ideas and feelings and this amazing new freedom in my imagination is pretty great.

I hope you all can join me.  I hope the Universities can join me.  I think the silence of our Universities with respect to the Occupation is truly a betrayal of their highest and best values.  These places, which are supposed to be citadels and guardians of truth of all varieties, have basically become corporate lapdogs, begging money from companies, tailoring their research priorities accordingly.  I went to hear the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge speak recently and he said that Universities aid society.  Really?  Because the last time I checked society wasn't doing that great.  I don't think that the average soldier in Afghanistan or rioter really feels Oxbridge is helping them with anything in their lives.  I think Universities should be bold and independent voices for truth and as such they need to report to Tent City University as soon as possible and share the highest and best learning on what needs to be done to heal the earth and reform the markets.

Why won't the London School of Economics provide a slate of reform proposals?  Or at least offered its considerable resources?  Why are the Universities pretend this isn't happening?  And when there is a consensus- for instance on the immediate application of the Tobin Tax - why is the government ignoring that? 

Well, one reason I have determined is stasis.  I have learned that protest in England has, well, a protest culture rather than a movement culture, and the protest culture is happily ignored by the powerful.  And then the protest culture becomes, just like the church and the government and every corporation, about sustaining itself rather than serving the people.  I could use nasty words like ghettoized in this respect, but it is not only the problem with the culture, there is a problem with the actions of the people in the culture right now. There is a percentage of hard core activists in the UK who are standing back rather than joining in.  And in part they are standing back because their thinking about their institutions and relationships really should be questioned as closely as we look at any bank.  There is stasis, there is status quo and therefore security.  But the most insecure position we can take for ourselves and our children in the coming years is to stay with the status quo.  So all these activists need to stand up.

But this takes such time and energy (trust me to complain always).  Time and energy that we need to keep up our income and parent our children.  I personally have never been so exhausted in my life.  It's not even that I am doing that much.  I am just trying to understand what is happening, what can happen and what should happen.  I want to keep this hope I feel alive.  I am in love with this idea that it is not too late for our generation.  I am very lucky to be working with Jeffrey Newman in the time I can devote to this, who runs the Earth Charter.  He is the one who pointed out to me the extraordinary connections in this post.



I have been responding to some criticism that the Occupation is useless because it does not have an agenda.  And today read the Occupation - which is now officially a movement and no longer a protest, interestingly - does not deserve our support because it is not global. I have an overwhelming respect for this speaker, Vinay Guptha.  But let me tell you, these guys at the camps kind of have a LOT going on.  These guys would love to be global.  In fact, many discussions about regulating banks and money express a concern that a remedy for global finance likely needs to be global.  They need people like you to help figure out how that could happen.  This guy Vinay has an amazing take on the issues.  He points out that to be in the 1% in this world of seven billion people you need only make $34,000 a year - £26,000. Suck on that.  It seems to me that if we want justice in the world we need to feed the hungry. 


I read a blog post about how narcissistic and ineffective blogging is as a thing.  That person may be right.  But that is what I have to offer, only these exhortations, only the electric thrill of my hope.  I hope it is something.

2 comments:

  1. Full support for this brilliant blog!! Will take these ideas to the relevant working groups. But too busy to read any books. Perhaps you have the details of the authors and we can get them to talk down here? Best. Jamie

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  2. Support that support - and in recognition: -
    http://www.gci.org.uk/Occupy_2.html

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