Power: how we reclaim it
By Melanie Strickland
Many people, probably the majority of citizens, would agree with Occupy, that the economic system we live under is unjust, undemocratic and unsustainable. What is actually stopping us from coming together and collectively demanding that the status quo is changed in favour of the 99% and long term planetary wellbeing? Alice Walker, author and American civil rights activist once said that the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they do not have any. There’s a lot in this. Many conversations I’ve had with ordinary people on the street have ended up along the lines of ‘I agree with you, but you won’t make any difference. The people in power, the politicians, won’t change anything.’
Looking back through history, this pessimism seems unfounded. Great change comes from below, from ordinary people working hard in their communities and building networks outwards. Think of what it must have seemed like to the abolitionists, fighting against slavery when the economic system at the time depended on it, when powerful vested interests were opposed to change. And to the suffragettes, who fought for female emancipation at a time when women were considered ‘property’. Both campaigns lasted decades, and whilst the achievements were enormous, there is still work to be done since we have now a modern form of economic slavery and women are still fighting for equality.
My heart sinks at this point as we do not have decades. Life on Earth cannot take decades more of business as usual extraction and destruction, of what business types call ‘natural resources’ – by which they mean the trees, plants, the minerals in the Earth… our natural heritage that belongs to all. But of course Occupy wasn’t the first movement for radical economic, social and environmental justice. Occupy was able to emerge, to some large extent, thanks to the experiences, successes and networks built by people involved in previous and continuing movements.
So, I’m asking again, what is stopping us from coming together – now – and collectively forcing a change in the status quo? I know many people good, capable people and organisations that can articulate compelling, workable alternative models to the status quo. For example, one compelling alternative to the energy corporatocracy by the ‘big six’ energy companies has been set out comprehensively by the Centre for Alternative Technology. CAT re-launched its Zero Carbon Britain report in July 2013. Zero carbon Britain is possible by 2030 without ‘extreme energy’ like fracking, and without new build fossil fuel plants at a time when we desperately need to ‘power down’, and without nuclear power.
If the main reason we’re being held back is as Alice Walker expressed, then we need to rediscover our power, fast. All political power is inherent in the people. One tangible way you can express that power and build your confidence with other activists, is by participating in the Reclaim the Power action camp this August 16th – 20th. The camp is organised by a collaboration of groups and is at West Burton Power Station, Nottinghamshire (nearest station is Retford, shuttle buses will take you to the site).
More information on Reclaim the Power: http://www.nodashforgas.org.uk/
An Occupy assembly on Reclaim the Power and a Fun-raiser are taking place on 1 and 2 August in London – check out these links: