This weekend, I’ve had the great pleasure of staying in London, at a fantastic hotel round the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral. So while walking to and fro from the Underground station, I had several occasions to pass the current Occupy LSX (London Stock Exchange) protests and try and understand what it’s all about.
For those who are unfamiliar with the protests (such as my Mum!) it is a copy of a similar protest in New York where protesters are gathered around Wall Street. The basic thrust appears to be anger with the greed and apparently inhumanity of the activities and the trading at the Stock Exchange. Indeed, one of the taglines of this event is “the 99% fighting against the 1%” that seemingly control our lives and pocket the phone number salaries.
Firstly, a comment on the protest itself. One thing that struck me about the Occupy LSX protest was how well organised and respectful it seemed. There was a first aid tent and a tent for prayer and meditation, and the cooking tents have been moved well away from the entrance to the Cathedral, seemingly in an attempt to allow it to re-open. Clearly the protesters aren’t planning on moving themselves anytime soon, and are trying to allow their neighbour to carry on business as normal.
They’re grateful to the Cathedral; one (of many) posters I saw on the walls and pillars around the site read “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses St Paul’s.”
As for the protest itself, it seems to be a spectrum of views – some want an end to capitalism, or corporatilism, others simply want better corporate governance and regulation on businesses and banks. What certainly unifies them is their belief and resolve that the current system has failed, and only by making their voice heard will things ever change.
Measured against that benchmark, they have clearly succeeded.
Whether you believe that capitalism has failed, or that politicians can’t be trusted because they’ve been corrupted by business, or that the protesters are simply bonkers, one has to admire how they’ve succeeded in making their point in a mostly peaceful manner.
So what will it take to make them happy? Now that’s more tricky. An overarching reform of our political or social system seems unlikely, there is simply not enough social pressure, especially if you compare us to recent successful social revolutions, a la Egypt and Libya.
One could argue that change will have to happen inevitably due to Western society’s debts and that control will soon go to China. I doubt the protesters will see that as “success”.
I rather suspect this will end when resources end and support from those providing food etc cease. And the protesters will go home, tail between their legs, with the images of bankers laughing their heads off.
But I feel that no matter what happens, unless the protests turn violent, that they can hold their head up high. People have taken notice, and maybe, just maybe, the seeds for change are beginning to be sown.
We just have no idea what the new plant will look like.