OCCUPIED WITH THEMSELVES


The OccupyLSX protesters have lost sight of their original objectives, says law graduate blogger the Training Contract Hawk, AKA Krish Nair

Let me tell you about an old schoolmate, Mitch (not his real name). Mitch was that guy in class with the shabby hair and intentionally oversized uniform who ‘played’ acoustic guitar. I bumped into Mitch a month ago — the first time I’d seen him in a number of years. That he ended up a (self-proclaimed) hippy is less a testament to my clairvoyance than to predictability. Today, Mitch trots the globe in search of things to rebel against and people to scorn. He told me why he was doing it: “things need to change”, he said. I didn’t listen too closely to his response — possibly awed by details of his capricious lifestyle and his loud bandana — but I agreed with him.

I came across Mitch again last week at OccupyLSX outside St Paul’s Cathedral. It was a warm evening but dark, verging on depressing. But Mitch and Co. were at hand to brighten things up. Mitch — 6’2” with unearthly shocks of brown hair, beard to match — doesn’t smile but his demeanour is otherwise one of acceptance and generosity. He offers me a homemade pierogi. I decline. I ask him why he is here. “People are losing their jobs and the banks are raking it in”. That’s all he says.

There is a perception about folk like Mitch; bandwagoning layabouts with little else to do, spurred by a pretence of purpose rather than real purpose. It’s hardly significant that this stereotype is perhaps deceptive or even that the camp has few of the Mitch ilk. A campaign of this kind relies in part on media attention for its impact and the media directs its focus how and on who it wants; be it the hardened life-long campaigner, the preppy girl who abandons her tent at night for home comforts, or indeed Mitch.

Added to this are reports of confused clergymen, notably Giles Fraser and Graeme Knowles, who, some might argue, struggled to reconcile the name of the Church with the word of #Occupy. Both are now jobless and humiliated — the only tangible resultant of OccupyLSX thus far. The fact there’s so much talk of churches, given that this is a protest against bankers, is itself bizarre.

Together, these factors have left sections of the public alienated. OccupyLSX has become about not social justice and legislative change but the protesters themselves. Campaigners now talk about their rights, their freedoms, with designs of challenging the financial system, an afterthought (it’s been a good couple of weeks since I heard uttered the words ‘bank’ or ‘bankers’). So far, OccupyLSX can only be described as a muddle for which I suspect the St Paul’s fiasco is more a highlight than a cause.

There is still an academic, passionate air about #Occupy. But the issues — who knows what they are anymore? — are being trivialised, hollowed out by over-used slogans, posturing and frivolous ‘zombie bank runs’. This plays directly into the hands of those OccupyLSX sought to confront.

Is there a better way, or will persistence pay off?

Krish Nair is an LPC graduate currently working as a citizens advice bureau adviser. He blogs at the Training Contract Hawk.

3 Responses to “OCCUPIED WITH THEMSELVES”

  1. Abel

    Great piece. I agree as well. And why is it they’re talking about THEIR right to occupy. I’M a citizen with rights too. They’re blocking a public walk-way which I have the right to walk on!!!!!

    Reply
  2. Pierogi

    “Giles Fraser and Graeme Knowles are… jobless and humiliated.”

    I would strongly disagree with the inference here. They are jobless because they resigned of their own volition. They are far from humiliated – they stood up for what they thought was the right course of action, the moral course of action. That surely earns them respect, even if you don’t share their opinions.

    Nor is it correct to “argue” that these gentlemen “struggled to reconcile the name of the Church with the word [sic] of #Occupy.” The objection was to the legal action (and potential force used) to oust the protesters, not against the Occupy movement:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/27/giles-fraser-resignation-dale-farm

    As a final note, is the author championing the Occupy movement and urging more effective cohesion? Or is he perpetuating a pointless, negative “hippie” stereotype of the protesters? I am left more in a muddle about the point of this article, than the purpose of the Occupy movement.

    Reply
  3. mech

    Frankly ,to pirrogi, I think you’ve missed what the poster is talking about. The fact is 2 men are without a job (resigned). This simply wouldn’t have happened if #Occupy wasn’t there. What ever rights they were standing up for they certainly have been humiliated – talk of ‘the canon screwing up’ and fellow clergy saying ‘they’ve made a hash’ of it is in abundance. Granted, they could’ve gone about it differently- but why are they faced with this crap in the first place?

    Secondly, I don’t see how the poster is perpetuating the hippie stereotype. He outlined the stereotype in order to describe how the MEDIA perpetuates it. And tbh, hearing people at work, you do get the feeling that the masses munch up what the media feeds them. ‘Crazy left wingers, unwashed youngsters’ etc etc. this is what i hear day in day out, as untrue as it is.

    I’m not sure why you’re so muddled. The poster clearly agrees with the cause, but likely disagrees with the action. These are issues we all care deeply about! But has Occupy London ‘trivialised’ them? Absolutely.

    Reply

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