By Tim Hardy
The struggle of humanity against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
Our lives are based on forgetting.
We forget the misery of low-wage work in the UK when we casually spend more than the cashier’s hourly wages on a sandwich and a coffee then get angry because they did not smile.
When we applaud the athletes preparing for the Paralympics, we forget the disabled people driven to suicide as their benefits are wrongly stopped by a cruelly stupid system created and administered by the company sponsoring the Games.
We marvel at our shiny new gadgets and the glittering icons distract us from the plight of those who labour in inhuman conditions to make these devices.
All is not for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Our riches are built on the misery of others and too many of our good causes are used to whitewash the evil done by those with wealth and power.
We are encouraged not to think of these and countless other injustices every day. It makes life easier to do so. The occupation is our refusal to forget.
Our libraries are closing, our universities are stripped of funding, our health service is being offered up for sale. Wages are frozen while the cost of everything goes through the roof. The poorest are attacked and threatened with homelessness. And over and over again a small clique of obscenely rich men and women sneer and tell us that we’re all in this together as they use a crisis caused by those that fund them as an opportunity to further increase their wealth.
We all know how convenient are the friendships between ministers and editors and senior police officers and the wealthy heads of transnational corporations. They’re not going to change anything without pressure. They’ve never had it so good.
This is why people occupy.
Some people don’t come because they think the occupation is too radical, others stay away because they don’t think it is radical at all.
Those who have already made up their minds as to what the answer is to the current crisis struggle to come to terms with the occupation. Too many turn away when people are not ready to instantly fall behind their flag.
The claims made about the occupiers are many. The occupation has many voices, many faces. This makes it almost impossible to understand. Outside commentators pick the voices that fit their prejudices and pretend that these views alone are what it is really about.
Some here want celebrity endorsements, others are sick of rich people cashing in on their fame. When some will be happy to walk away when asked to go, others insist that they will have to be dragged kicking and screaming away when the time comes.
Some are upset to be called anti-capitalists while others are outraged by calls to remove the “Capitalism is Crisis” banner.
A few at St Paul’s are in open communication with the police and have stated they would be willing to hand over others “to save the occupation”. Others view such behaviour with total disgust.
There is something here for everyone to hate, there is something here for everyone to love. It is maddening, frustrating, slow and messy. And it is beautiful.
The occupation is many things, one thing it can never be is harmonious. If the majority the movement terms “the 99%” all agreed, then those called “the 1%” would never be able to maintain their hold.
Can such manifestly different points of view ever be reconciled into a set of demands on which all can agree?
The occupation is a chance to experience politics as lived experience, as a self-determining body of people living together and engaged in discussing both the things that affect our immediate existence, like food, shelter, health and sanitation, but also to discuss the possibilities of applying the lessons learned here to the larger world.
It is not an economic blockade. It is not direct action. It is not an attempt to create a position of counterpower from which to negotiate with power. This is what people mean when they say the occupation is its own demand. These are its weaknesses in the eyes of some.
Even if there is no consensus here as to what should replace the global system of systemic inequality whose latest crisis has provoked this and countless other protests worldwide, the occupation is still a collective “No” to those in power. It is a refusal to forget that the solutions proposed by politicians are more of the same things that caused the crisis in the first place.
The occupation is the beginning of a conversation the whole world needs.
Representative democracy is failing us. Free market capitalism is failing us. Some persist in thinking capitalism can be reformed, others demand more radical solutions.
While politicians from the main three parties in the UK differ only in the degree to which they want to turn the knob marked “shock”, people are here, standing up and demanding that it is time for their voices to be heard not the voices of corporate lobbyists working for the rich and powerful.
A government that ignores its people and represents only the interests of the rich is tyranny.
Whatever we might eventually decide should replace the current system, nobody is sleeping on the cold London streets because they think the chance to vote for the usual suspects in a few years time is going to solve anything.
As the establishment slowly prepares for the future eviction of the occupation, using a compliant state media to repeat half-truths that will justify the eventual act of police aggression that will inevitably come, we need to prepare to remember.
The occupation will continue long after the physical encampments have gone. The contacts we make, the techniques we learn, the experiences we share and the conversations we take away with us and will continue to have long after will be our collective memory and our refusal to forget.
Whatever happens, we cannot rest until we have built a world based on mutual respect for all in which no one is forgotten.