Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Does Occupation Work?

Much is being written about Occupy Wall Street and similar expressions of mass dissatisfaction about our financial system. In particular, many are giving advice on more practical alternatives to occupation, which misses the point:
"Occupy Wall Street is [a] leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants."
In other words, this is what people do when their faith in all the immediately practical alternatives is exhausted. 

But why? Does mass occupation 'work'? I mean, is Egypt now a better place? Wouldn't it be better to withdraw completely and assume the foetal position under your duvet? 
While I don't believe these protests have any causal connection with the changes that are democratising the financial markets, they are critical insofar as they represent a peak in our society's dissatisfaction with its financial institutions. I mean, this is not intended to shock or wake people up, like a strike or a noisy protest march, or an attempt to get the attention of law-makers outside Parliament. Quite the reverse: pitching your tent in the beating heart of a giant city is a sign of utter confidence that every rushing passerby, every person who reads the paper or watches the evening news will understand exactly why you're there.

For this reason, such occupations are a sign that the majority of us have rounded the change curve. It means we've moved beyond 'shock' at how broken things are, through 'denial' and beyond 'anger and blame' - even though that appears to be what all the signs are about. Those people wouldn't be there if they instinctively sense that we all understand the world has changed for the worse. That something has to be done. In fact, the reason they're gathering is to figure out what is to be done.

Ironically enough, these occupations mean we're moving on.

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