So St Paul's will open again as the health and safety issues have been dealt with apparently by moving a couple of bikes and re-siting a handful of tents. It's good that this grand Wren landmark will reopen for people to marvel at the space.
But let's not confuse this building with the Christian faith. As its outgoing canon chancellor, Giles Fraser, so aptly put it yesterday: "Ironically the church is a church of the incarnation. That means it has to address things to do with everyday life, including money. Christopher Wren's forte was not 'Jesus born in a stable'. What the camp does is challenge the church with the problem of the incarnation – that you have God who is grand and almighty, who gets born in a stable. St Paul was a tent maker. If you tried to recreate where Jesus would have been born, for me I could imagine Jesus being born in the camp."
Its reopening will coincide with the publication of the protesters' demands. Interestingly, they have to do with bringing democracy to the City of London. The manifesto has not made to the Occupy London website yet but details of the demands can be found here.
They seem to be a pretty coherent agenda for change. Maurice Glassman, the labour peer behind the blue labour initiative welcomed the proposals, saying: "By declaring that the point of their protest is the democratisation of London the meaning of the occupation is transformed. It opens a prospect for civic renewal and the challenging of unaccountable power elites.The protesters have stumbled upon the source of financial power within the British state. This could get interesting,"
I think his last statement is the one that resonates with me. This could get interesting. In a world dominated by soundbite politics, people have been critical of the protesters for being against everything and for nothing. Many of their spokespeople have been sadly inarticulate when appearing before the cameras with news people demanding a 30 second soundbite that sums up their reason for being there. This, linked with criticism that they tweet and drink lattes, indicating that they take capitalism's goodies while rejecting its ethos, has made people dismiss them as middle class slackers.
Now we are beginning to see some interesting thinking emerging from the tented village. These are ideas that the political establishment ought to discuss with those putting them up. As Giles Fraser says "A great many people think that something has gone wrong in the City of London and that the wealth generated by the City does not exist for the benefit of us all."
The trouble is that the establishment just wants to man the barricades, clear the embarrassing blot off our streets and return to business as usual. The trouble is that on the day when it's revealed that the remuneration packages of the FTSE 100 companies have risen by an average of 49% at a time when their work forces are seeing real incomes fall, business as usual is just not acceptable.
Yesterday figures from the US revealed that the richest 1% have seen their wealth grow considerably over the past year while the 99% have seen theirs fall. It is clear that there is something broken at the heart of our system.
What is quite encouraging is that there are a number of business people and thinkers who are seeing this. Umair Huque (and others blogging at the Harvard Business School) argues for an end to trading and raiding and a return to creating and building. People at the heart of capitalism recognise that it is in crisis, failing to deliver for the majority what it has increasingly hoarded for a tiny minority. The trouble is that the financial crisis of the last three years demonstrates that the costs of this to everyone else is far too high.
So today is the day when the protests get interesting. The Corporation of London should save the money it will be shelling out on lawyers seeking injunctions and spend it instead on coffee and muffins to fuel proper conversations with those camped on their streets.
If democracy means anything, it surely means that we need to find mechanisms for hearing the voices of everyone; that those voices are listened to, ideas weighed, new thinking allowed to emerge. If it is rule of the people, by the people, for the people, then decisions need to be made by more than just a coterie of the great and the good being rubber stamped by their hangers-on in Parliament.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Approaching the heart of the matter in the camp at St Paul's
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"People at the heart of capitalism recognise that it is in crisis, failing to deliver for the majority what it has increasingly hoarded for a tiny minority. "
If that were true over a time period x, then the majority of people in capitalist countries would
have to had no improvement in their living standards.
That of course is easily verifable. Is it true? Or does this statement something else?
Of course somethings in the UK have got worse.
a) pensions have become less generous although is probably due to tax changes that Gordon Brown and Nigel Lawson made plus people living long as much as a failure of capitalism
b)housing is less affordable that of course is partly due to Government policy. I know people who have got off a plane and be given free housing. Any country that does that and restricts house building will have a housing shortage. Also of course giving pro single mums free housing
means that workers have to pay for their housing and someone else's.
In both cases the problem is not captialism but other things. (Like our crazy benefits system).
If democracy means anything, it surely means that we need to find mechanisms for hearing the voices of everyone; that those voices are listened to, ideas weighed, new thinking allowed to emerge."
I think you find the way to do that is in Switzerland.
A) Have government as local as possible. The canton system sounds wonderful
"the cantons are responsible for healthcare, welfare, law enforcement and public education; they also retain the power of taxation. "
B) Let the citizens vote directly on things important to them. Direct democracy.
Sadly no political party wants (A) and only UKIP wants (B).
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