Compelled to write, by Liz Beech
I have been involved with Occupy since October 2011.
I think in those early days of the occupation, at St. Paul’s, when literally hundreds of people came to the camp every day and participated in huge lunchtime General Assemblies I thought, not for the first time, that the change I wanted to see was just around the corner.
For years I had felt that the way economics are, and have been, since the neo-liberal agenda took hold in the 80’s, was completely unsustainable. For me, the sale of council houses was the first warning bell – many more were to follow –the introduction of higher education fees with accompanying student loans, the ease with which people on low incomes could obtain overdrafts and credit cards, the increasingly ‘I want it now’ mentality that began to pervade, until by now we have all but ceased to be citizens, we have become consumers, enthralled to social media and all sorts of passive forms of ‘entertainment’.
Conversations about this and many other topics took place at St. Paul’s every day, both within Tent City University, in conversations in the Info tent and in the plethora of posters and texts which appeared on the pillars of the colonnade to the west of the camp.
Then, just a few months later the camp was evicted , and we started meeting in a variety of venues to keep the flame of Occupy alive.
I say ‘we’ but ‘we’ are no longer hundreds of people, we probably number around 40 fully active participants (interestingly the same number that camped around the perimeter fence of Greenham Common nuclear weapons base in the 1980’s). Is it enough?
Well no, not really, not enough to give the current government a sleepless night.
That said we’re not sitting around woefully. We’re getting on with the job of preparing the ground for the moment you do feel inclined to join us, the moment when you too have had enough.
We’re planning a big action in October – the next phase of the (r)evolution . The same one Russell Brand talked about, that enthused so many of you. If you listened carefully and, more importantly, read what he has written, he wasn’t talking about some exciting derring-do activity. He was talking about the hard work of taking personal responsibility with integrity and self-discipline, not manning the barricades and being on the front page of the tabloids. Russell Brand knows more than most people about the dangers of celebrity, excess and carelessness.
This ®evolution will happen when enough of us come together to make the changes we want to see. When we accept that in order to do so we need to be willing to make a change within ourselves, agree that anger is not going to make the difference we want. For sure, many things that are done in my name – the war in Iraq, the arms trade, the systematic humiliation of women across the world make me enraged and persuade me that I want to speak up and do something to make a change, but I need to do so in the awareness that everything is being scrutinised, not just by the state and its agencies, including the press, but by my fellow activists and ordinary people. In its own way its an exciting and exhilarating journey that I hope you will want to undertake.
Keep an eye on the website. Consider coming to an event or a General Assembly.
A general election is only a year away. This is your opportunity, your once every five years, to speak out, speak up and be heard.
Liz Beech (artist/activist)