What do we want? Something!
This probably won’t come as a surprise but I’m not a big fan of camping. With the exception of a few nights in my friend’s garden when we were six, and a night in the Lake District in the Cubs, my experience of camping has been of there being no choice.
Filming the aftermath of an Indian earthquake, the Bosnian war, Orangemen camped at Drumcree, a South African slum – that sort of thing. Unpleasant (if fascinating) experiences, on the whole.
I’d rather be in a hotel. So I am full of admiration for people who camp on cold streets to protest.
Whether or not you agree with them the Greenham Common women, the anti-roads camps, Brian Haw and the rest had an admirable determination. I just wish I knew what this latest lot wanted, then we could work out whether or not we agree with them occupying things.
Anger, on the other hand, is something I thoroughly understand. More people should get more angry about things more often. I always tell students who ask what is the most defining thing about being a journalist that they should feel angry about something, preferably something different every day.
So I understand that people camping on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral are angry. But what about? Their taxes? Their wages? The riches of others? If I were them I’d be angry about not being allowed to camp on Paternoster Square outside the Stock Exchange. And not just because there are more coffee shops.
This is a coming together of lots of demands and everyone has their own, she explained, the key is they all reject the current system. That’s fine, as far as it goes. But it leaves many people a bit stumped as to what to do about it. And do they really reject the system or are they just cross they don’t have a bigger piece of it for themselves?
She also explained that the act of occupation is a demand in itself. I think I know what she means – it’s a symbolic demand I guess – but it’s not exactly world peace is it? And unless they spell out a philosophy that says there is no such thing as a land right and private property I am still just guessing. Or as I put it on the programme: it all seems a bit vague.
Rejecting the status quo is of course an important part of any change. So perhaps the Occupy movement will spend more time rejecting what we have, and gathering more people around that rejectionism, before it can come together around some objectives. It is certainly an interesting movement, and taps into a wider sense of frustration among all of us who are not the rulers of the world. Its relatively small size does not seem to me a reason to write it off just yet.
But in order to organise itself it may find it has to emulate some of the very political structures and rules that it seems to despise. Democracy and referenda require discipline, rules and compliance. This is clearly the protesters’ biggest challenge – otherwise they will simply be leaving the political response to the political class. And don’t hold your breath waiting for them (the political class ) to come up with anything very radical very quickly.
Follow Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Twitter: @krishgm