Month: November 2011

Isn’t there another way to make a difference?

Two blogs on the same subject – sorry. I see both Finsbury Park and St. Pauls on the daily commute to work so it really interests me.

The people at Finsbury Square, St. Pauls and most recently the abandoned UBS buildings have a cause and a cause that at heart I really agree with. But is there not a more effective of making difference to the lives of those that need help the most? The takeover of UBS’s vacant offices has provided a rejuvenated focus on the ‘Occupy London’ movement, which in my opinion is much needed if this movement is to avoid sinking to below the press attention that it badly needs to sustain itself. But our planet is huge, and millions of people in Africa live in poverty far worse than the most disadvantaged in this country.

One of my biggest qualms is that the aims these people set out are so disjointed. It’s a group of people who have a likeminded aversion to inequality, but they don’t seem to have a realistic idea of what can be done by sitting in tents and protesting peacefully. David Cameron doesn’t really care; he has more important groups of people to please. The Metropolitan police do care, however. The protest movement unfortunately doesn’t really scratch the surface of the sheer workload all members of government have to put up with on a daily basis.

To make this even worse, they are camping outside a church in the centre of London, claiming that we as a nation need to reclaim public space. It would be satisfying to see one of the spokespeople say that instead of the ideological aim of ‘reclaiming public space from the state that oppresses us’, the aim is to gather as much publicity as possible. Plus, Parliament square has already been done. St Pauls is a good second place in terms of London Landmarks. Buckingham Palace? Naahhh…

This is what they need badly, they probably know it and they’ve also probably admitted it on TV or on the radio – I just don’t read the news enough. People who occupy hard-to-find public places are squatters – and I wholeheartedly agree with their cause (in most cases) because they are taking advantage of disused homing in a time where there is a significant lack of affordable housing. We get fed that line repeatedly by Mr Cameron and his bunch, so recent policy proposals that curtail the rights of squatters is a contradiction of policy, and one that must be fought.

And now to my biggest disagreement. Why would any serious person try and promote Marxism and overthrow the current (sorry state to be fair) of Capitalism? I’ve heard this first hand from more than one person talking at either Finsbury Square. This is unworkable, surely? I’m not going to go into it and write an essay – mainly because I would fail – but Capitalism seems to work well enough to fend off a group of crazed socialists completely rewriting the rules that has a part in governing nearly everything that humans do on this planet. Communism went wrong in a big way; I think it’s premature to advocate a return to an attempt to implement Marxism in the UK. It’s a recession, not a famine, and although I’m fully aware that the most disadvantaged in the country are finding it hard to even balance rent payments with food for their kids, that’s not the fault of Capitalism, it’s the fault of the past government, the present government and indirectly due to other deep financial problems in the Eurozone, the US and the fact people are used to spending their money in Western Countries, not saving it.

Like I said at the top of this post, I feel that the people at Finsbury Square, St Pauls and now the UBS buildings near Liverpool Street have a cause that needs to be championed. I thoroughly agree that things need to change, but I also think that the aims of their movement are not clear enough. The spokesmen for the St Pauls bunch said that it’s “about reclaiming public space.” Come on, mate. I mean, it’s all well and good to say that but it’s not going to help people who can’t feed their kids. I don’t believe any politician is going to see a cluster of tents outside a church and instantly think, “Crikey, let’s pull the troops out of Afghanistan and put the money into making sure the most vulnerable get the benefits they need so that we don’t have such a high child poverty rate! Quickly now Georgie!” It won’t happen, admit it. To make a difference you could work in a cafe for a year, save money and go to a country like Darfur, the Congo, the Gambia or even India and teach kids English. That’s making a difference. I’m being a slight* hypocrite in this post (I usually am), and I think the system is struggling. But I also think things will get better – I’m an optimist when it comes to this sort of thing.

Check out Ed Miliband’s policies. Capitalism can work, and this guy doesn’t look like a leader but watch this space. He’s an interesting and very articulate guy, but most importantly its obvious he has true values, values that include equality of opportunity, fairness and a more “responsible” and “gradual” capitalism. I know who I’m voting for when the time comes around.

Olsoweir

*I’ve worked for a month in an orphanage in Madagascar, so I’m not that much of a hypocrite!

Protesting against a concrete Bloc

It’s been ages since I’ve written a new post but I’ve been really busy at work – I’ve got a job! Finally, the system has given me an entry level job at the place I’ve been interning at.

But it’s this system I want to talk about. For the past several weeks, all over the world anti-capitalist demonstrators have set up camp in urban centres: protesting against bankers, McDonalds, tuition fees and bike shops that charge you to replace an inner tube. In London, a large camp has blossomed outside St. Pauls Cathedral, and for the most part people aren’t that displeased with it. A couple had to exit through the side door after their wedding, a religious leader at the catheral has resigned, and a few U-turns from the clergy at St. Pauls have been seen. Personally, I don’t care in the slightest if peaceful people decide to camp on bare concrete on a noisy street to voice their concerns about how badly the Government treats a large section of the population. Better them than me, anyway.

I’m currently living near the other camp in London – Finsbury Square. I went down there on Sunday to see what was going on – what it was all about and what people wanted. I was eager to find out what demands people occupying the square could articulate. I really embarrassed myself in the process, but we’ll get to that.

As I arrived, I looked at a board that listed the values of the protest movement. I was then approached by a middle aged man, who asked me where the bike repair station was. Confused, I pointed to the bike shop down the road and said he could probably get it done there. He then said, “no, don’t you guys do it for free here?” Realising that I was dressed as a 23 year old that could easily be roughing it in one of the tents laid out in front of me, I explained that I was just a visitor.

Intrigued, I walked onto the square and immediately saw a bloke repairing a bike. I went up to him and asked him what he was doing. His name was Ace McCloud, and he works as a night time liaison officer and does part time work where he can find it during the day. This was where the middle aged man had come to get his bike fixed. Ace works full time on site at Finsbury square fixing peoples bikes for free – partly because he wants to help the protest movement but mainly because he believes cycling is great because its free, it keeps you fit, its faster than the bus and it doesn’t spit CO2 into the atmosphere. I completely agreed, and let him know.

“The other week, right, this bloke comes up to me with a Boris Bike and asks me to fix his puncture. I said no, because his bikes got f***ing Barclays Bank plastered all over it!”

Fair enough. I liked Ace, because I like people with principles, and I loved the fact that he was dedicated to bikes.

Looking over to the other side of the Square, I could see a group of people all looking at an animated looking twenty-something, gesticulating and talking passionately about democracy and how it had gone to the dogs. Her name was Hannah, and she was a second year student. At the end we were allowed to ask questions and debate. I wanted to know what she actually wanted from the Government. She said she didn’t want anything from the Government. I didn’t want to embarrass myself further in this particular area, particularly since the people there were all presumably against the idea of a capitalist government.

Thinking that I could perhaps redeem myself (so self-conscious, I know), I asked her whether she agreed that we should withdraw our troops from Afghanistan so we could perhaps spend it on better education or free education. She frowned at me, and then said in a patronising tone: “You’re not getting it. It’s not about money, man. We need to RE-SOCIALISE. I don’t want to ban iPhones, I want every kid in the world to have one.” This confused me and faintly amused me. I listened to a bit more of her raving and then left.

Well, I don’t like it when bankers screw the country but I don’t know much about economics. I also think Marx and Engels were an incredibly intelligent duo, but it’s too late for Marxism. The world has developed the way it has and we have to make the best of it. More to the point, the protesters at St. Pauls and Finsbury Square, not to mention the rest of the world are a minority and their protests are valid, but I think pointless. A financial crisis is not enough to change the workings of the world – something far worse is needed. Climate change could do it – but not before a huge number of people in the developing world die from starvation. Its bleak but the rich need a kick up the bottom – but this inevitably means that the poor will get a bigger kick. When the water starts to run out in Australia, Greece and Italy become deserts, and parts of coastal European cities start to flood maybe our governments will start to change.

Olsoweir [has a job :D]