How would you define Occupy ?
There are numerous definitions of Occupy but what seemed strongest was the sense of outrage at the failures within the political economy. In the 3 years following the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the subprime crisis, which created the biggest transfer of wealth from people to banks and the already wealthy, little had changed to fix the systemic flaws in the financial system and we, the people, were paying (and continue to pay) the price of the ongoing crisis. That sense of outrage created the desire and momentum for genuine grassroots change. Occupy’s non-hierarchical organisational structure was key to its success but its focus on creating a mass movement is what undermined it. The General Assemblies were effective in managing the camp and organising actions but became a tyranny of consensus when complex, ideologically divisive issues were discussed. Everyone could agree on wanting a fairer, harmonious and prosperous world but couldn’t agree on either the reasons the world is in a mess or how to get out of it.
However, within working groups and other spin-off initiatives such as Tent City University and the Bank of Ideas, an organic network of self-organising communities evolved to pursue diverse goals. Those interested got involved: the network evolved by the law of two feet.
That was the strength and legacy of Occupy; that it empowered people to take responsibility for their world. It spawned millions of conversations and activities which alerted a growing audience to the dire state of humanity and our environment. It drew from a wide spectrum of society, from the most vulnerable to the relatively privileged. People who’d never been involved in activism, beyond the odd anti-war demonstration, leapt at the opportunity to play a small part in helping to create a better world.
What were you doing before Occupy ?
Apart from running two businesses to survive, I’d been researching how the political economy works and where power lies. In other words, who rules? By 2011, research into: 9/11; the sub-prime crisis; the banking and monetary system; and climate change had partially revealed the unaccountable cabal which controls all the levers of power, although at the time much of the evidence remained buried under layers of distraction and deception. Before Occupy, I’d come to the conclusion that this hidden cabal is too powerful and embedded to ever be dislodged. Every time anyone gets close to identifying or threatening their power, the individual or millions pay the ultimate price – JFK, two world wars, two revolutions (Russia and China) led to millions dying and have the cabal’s fingerprints all over them.
Apart from starting to write a book to share some of what I’d learned, I’d given up hope in a global, but not personal, context.
Why did you participate in Occupy?
What impact did Occupy have on your personal life?
Occupy transformed my life which had little purpose beyond surviving, enjoying my growing family (first grandchild) and various pursuits. I went, within a few months, from someone who took little interest in politics to being enthralled with the possibility of being able to help make a difference.
In December 2011, the first meeting of the Free University (which I happened across by accident) took place in the Bank of Ideas. I was seated in a circle with 30+ academics, many of whom had travelled long distances to be there. I learned of the frustrations and impediments to learning within universities. They described a new educational model of collaborative learning; dispensing with the notion of lecturers and students. At a second meeting that month, it was agreed that I would start a 40 week Critical Thinking “course” at the Free University, starting the Bank of Ideas on Tuesday 3rd January 2012. Critical Thinking has continued since with a growing number of collaborators and has built a library of resources, contributed by a diverse individuals and groups from around the world, drawing on contemporary and historical sources to interpret the world, answering three questions:
– Who rules?
– How did they get their power and how do they exercise it?
– How do we distribute power for the benefit of all human beings and the planet?
So, while I still enjoy all the things I did before Occupy, I have less time for them because what gets me out of bed in the morning and preoccupies most of my day is Critical Thinking’s work on the political economy.
Did Occupy change the ways you think, feel and interact with the world? If yes, how so? What do you feel that you learned (or unlearned) that was unique to Occupy?
Undoubtedly. Occupy transformed my world view which had already shifted markedly over the previous 15 years. Together, humanity can solve our problems. More than anything, Occupy created Critical Thinking which taught me that wisdom and understanding comes from collaborative co-creation among diverse groups and individuals; some of the most significant information has come via the most unlikely sources. It was the inclusiveness of Occupy which spawned this. Everyone has a part to play in changing the world, if we can dislodge the yoke of servitude in the struggle for survival.
In the very early days of Occupy, before egos and external agendas began to divide and distract, there was a glimpse of a possibility of what the world could be. It wasn’t elegant and neat but it was vibrant and alive with ideas, love and energy. It was intoxicating.
What impact do you think Occupy has had on the economic and political situation?
Significant. In the early days of Occupy, talks on banking and the monetary system, which included information on how banks create money out of nothing and why this gives them enormous power, was met with incredulity. Today, that banks create money from nothing is no longer controversial. Yet to be acknowledged is power of the web of central banks, a primary lever for those few in control. Similarly, land value tax is now on the agenda and the issue of the commons is now up for debate which was absent previously, as was citizen’s dividend.
Given the current political and economic situation, what is your view on what people can do to bring long lasting systemic change?
Occupy was a vital staging post in the evolution of human thought and taught us valuable lessons. Monolithic organisations (however constituted) are always subject to hidden agendas both within and from without and can be easily sabotaged. Many people today are fragile, damaged and emotional; one disruptor can wreak havoc. Critical Thinking’s research and analysis suggests that beneath the layers of deception, distraction and contrived complexity is a simple system of slavery. We are being farmed, from the day we are born until we die. Our birthright, the wealth of the commons and the means to life, have been denied us and what wealth we generate in order to survive is systematically stolen from us through the alchemy of usury (interest on money) and double entry bookkeeping. The world is controlled and contrived to appear much more complex than it really is.
Each of us, individually and collectively, needs to challenge all our cherished, ideological beliefs and relearn how the world works because once we do, we will reject negotiating with stolen oppressive authority and take responsibility for ourselves, our families, our communities and our fellow humans. We need to disengage, wherever we can, from the current abusive political economy and develop alternative structures.
A shift in human consciousness will transform humanity. That shift will happen when the global conversation switches from one of blaming “they” to why should there be a they? We are “they”.