Back in the summer I was talking to ‘Nick the Greek’ about the Occupancy at St Paul’s and he said that ‘the powers that be’ were complaining that ‘they’ didn’t seem to know what they wanted. I had been up at St Paul’s the day before and I could understand this point of view and the frustration that went with it.
Seeing ramshackle democracy in action goes against the go-getting, goal-setting, business mind that is massively competent when it comes to articulating goals and pursuing and delivering outcomes. But then I came to understand that Occupancy was less about outcomes and more about process and a new way of thinking and interacting.
While up there, I experienced a ‘General Assembly’ where participants can have their say in the decision-making . A fair number of eccentric and challenging personalities got up to imperfectly express their frustration. There were also some heart-warming and powerful contributions. In fact a good cross-section of society.
It really did seem that the disenfranchised – ‘we are the 99%’ – had a chance to speak out and have some effect on the world around them. And it also provided a focus for wider society to take stock. In fact the lack of specific demands meant that everyone had to look inward and question what might be at the heart of the issue.
This unexpressed demand drew forth reactions that told us a lot more about what is at the heart of society; the good, the bad and the ugly. For example, Occupancy at St Paul’s challenged the Church and the Church was ultimately found wanting. Jesus would surely have been with the 99%.
I think we are all very positively challenged by the Occupancy movement and the space that it leaves for self expression. What will Occupancy do in the year ahead, how will we react, and what will we learn. Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it up nicely when he wrote: ‘People do not seem to realise that their opinion of the world is a confession of character’.