A Moment of Awakening

The camp has grown since people dropped their tents on Saturday evening, amidst a hail of police batons and riot shields.  By Wednesday, you could count well over 100 tents outside St Paul’s Cathedral.  ‘People’s Assemblies’ are conducted on a daily basis, where suggestions for improvements are put forward.  Khalil Gibran, Jeremy Scahill and George Orwell line the shelves of a ‘people’s library’.  The kitchen, covered by a spacious, white gazebo, is full of fruit, sandwiches, tea, coffee and, occasionally, a huge pot of hot curry.  People are busy online inside the media tent, and happy to answer any technical questions.  Home-made signs, stuck to walls around St. Paul’s Courtyard, display the messages of this embryonic movement.  “We are not going away.  This is not a protest.  This is resistance.”

On Saturday, 15th October, people took to the streets in 951 cities, in 82 countries across the world, to demonstrate against global capitalism and corporate greed.  “Enough!” was the call in Rome, Madrid, Chicago, Frankfurt, New York and London . . . all the way to Hong Kong and Melbourne, occupations sprung up across the globe.  Not colonialist occupations, as in Palestine, or occupations-by-proxy, as in Libya, but occupations of the people.

“Some people saying that change will never come,” raps Marcel Cartier, on the Agent of Change-produced “99 to 1”, “but what if revolution’s already begun?”  Music lies at the heart of the movement, and on the same day as anti-capitalist demonstrations spread across the globe, hip-hop artist Lowkey reached number one in the iTunes hip-hop chart, and number six in the overall album chart, with the groundbreaking Soundtrack to the Struggle.

“When ordinary people wake up”, says Cornel West, who was arrested on the streets of the Supreme Court at a demonstration in Washington D.C., “elites begin to tremble in their boots.”  Since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt overthrew puppets Ben Ali and Mubarak, the response of those elites has been swift, cleverly planned, and fiercely executed.  Today, in Libya, a country is in turmoil.  The towns of Sirte and Bani Walid, amongst others, have felt the brunt of NATO’s bombs, and the bullets of the “National Transitional Council”, for almost a month without reprieve.  All because the people there say they prefer the last government to the current situation.  This is political persecution on a murderous scale.

In Syria, the United States and Europe call for sanctions and regime change in another sovereign nation.  Their arrogance and hypocrisy knows no bounds.  When unarmed civilians take to the streets of England, the condemnation is immediate.  When this takes the form of a spontaneous, violent outburst, as in the case of the summer riots, people call for the government to send in the army, and the courts are kept open twenty-four hours per day in a bid to fast-track punishment for the perpetrators.  When it takes the form of planned, non-violent direct action, riot police are sent instead, and the victims of their violence are blamed for “causing a nuisance”.  Simultaneously, crowds that include well-armed groups who shoot and kill police in Syria are lauded as “democracy activists”, and are wholly worthy of our support.  Indeed, they will soon become the “sole representative of the Syrian people”, as with the NTC in Libya.

The British government, that great bastion of democracy and honesty, spends millions of pounds evicting a community of travellers’ at Dale Farm, and complains about a lack of money.  The travellers own the land, and have lived there for many years, but these are irrelevant facts.  The state have labelled the travellers as “illegal”, and nothing will stand in their way.

Sometimes you have to wonder, if this is the kind of world we want to build for our children to be born into?  For many people, it is clear, the status quo is unacceptable.  “This is a world battle that transcends all frontiers,” said Camila Vallejo, a Chilean student leader who has played a crucial role in a struggle that has engulfed Chile for the last six months.  The youth of the country have demonstrated in their hundreds of thousands, and 37 marches have been organised since May.  It seems like the Chilean people have grasped a fact that we need to place at the forefront of our minds: a revolution is not born in a day.

“This is the end-game,” said hip-hop artist Talib Kweli, during a visit to Occupy Wall Street in New York.  It is easy to bear the flag of rebellion whilst the cause is popular, or greeted with the flashing lights of the media, but it is of even greater importance to be there when no-one else cares.  Now is a time to build, to educate each other and ourselves, and to set the foundations of a movement that can provide a real alternative to an ideology of consumerism.  If we are privileged enough to one day see the fruits of our labour, we will be able to look back and tell our children that we were there at the start.

Jody McIntyre is a journalist and political activist.  This article was first published in his blog Life on Wheels on 20 October 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.

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