How would you define Occupy ?
A movement of people who were dissatisfied with the world as it currently existed, particularly Capitalism, and the effect that it was having on people and society. It had has its focus the inequality in society (99%), banks, banking system, money and debt creation and the crisis of 2008. It had a tactic of taking and occupying public space in cities, concentrating on financial centres. And it took as a starting point consensus decision making, using forms of public assembly which Occupy called General Assembly, which generally took place in the open, in very public spaces. There was no exteriority to Occupy, so that the people who came and occupied or attended assemblies were Occupy. An apparent defining activity of Occupy was the use of Working Groups who organised in defined areas, usually taking their mandate from the Assembly. Another apparent defining characteristic of Occupy was the particular form of consensus, essentially using the Starhawk and similar models, where one block meant there was no consensus. Most Occupy camps or movements had at their heart, education using the tactic of expert speakers, Workshops, and public discussion in small or one-to one groups out in public, available to any passer-by.
What were you doing before Occupy ?
I was and am a self-employed photographer. Mainly doing commercial photography for specialist Auctions. And live photography at Literary and other festivals. I was deeply involved with self-help groups for cult survivors, and learning how cults worked in general, not just the one I grew up in. I had spent 20 years as a practitioner of Re-evaluation Co-counselling, to understand myself and how people in general work. I am a father of four, so spent a lot of time and energy with family and family dynamics. I was an arch proponent of Capitalism, having left a Communal cult at age 19!
Why did you participate in Occupy?
I participated in Occupy because it did not seem to me that there were satisfactory answers to the problems of the world, and Occupy’s use of the GA and workgroups seemed like a good start, because it was predicated on not knowing what the answers were, and seeking by discussion and learning for possible answers. Or at least ways of finding some answers. I liked the openness of the assemblies. And the essentially co-operative nature of the endeavour. I like camping and stripped down living, but I had never done that in the Urban environment, so that was an interesting proposition in itself.
What impact did Occupy have on your personal life?
The impacts that Occupy had on my personal life were:
- Getting rid of non-nurturing friendships.
- Finding some perspective on both my Communal cult life, and subsequent Capitalist life.
- Seeing close up in quite a dynamic way how we humans behave in a challenging environment, where we don’t get to choose who we are in community with.
- Starting to understand how Capitalism works, especially in the Late period of Capitalism.
- Starting to understand Debt and money creation.
- Getting an understanding of the basic incorrectness of private ownership and rent-seeking.
- Losing most of my respect for and fear of the State and of the arms of the State such as the police.
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?
Occupy did change some of the ways that I think about the world. I look at private ownership in a different way as a non-useful system for social organisation. I got a clear grasp of the essential non-rationality of constant growth within a closed system. I changed some of the ways that I consume. I buy very little new stuff now. I switched banking to the Nationwide, and my energy supplier to Good Energy. I do more co-operative things often using exchange of labour or effort rather than money. I have ceased to differentiate between my own and others’ paid and unpaid activities. I learned that most people in the world have no idea how brainwashed we are and continue to be about most of what happens. I learned that most people in Occupy that I interacted with had no idea to what extent they were operating on the brainwashing of Late Capitalism. I learned that it is difficult to actually start from scratch in developing other ways to socially organise. And even more difficult to use rational methods for improving things in an iterative way. I learned that active listening is much harder to do well than I had thought, and much more productive when done well than I had thought. I learned that the idea that there would be jobs that people would not want to do in a communal setting, was essentially a flawed assumption. There was a queue for the job of toilet care for example. I noticed that even people who thought themselves free from prejudice about work status, still gave more weight to people who were doing perceived high status jobs like facilitating, or press work. If I was washing up I was treated differently from when I was facilitating. I learned that it is possible for quite large groups of people to work out how to do things in a consensual way. I learned that it is hard in our current system for people to think in ways that are different from the ways that the system instills in us. I learned that the current system is much more fragile than I ever thought and that most people think.
What impact do you think Occupy has had on the economic and political situation?
I think the main impact that Occupy has had on the economic and political situation is that it moved the public (and private) discourse forward to thinking in a very slightly more rational way about the current ways that the world is run. Occupy was and continues to be part of the discourse that has been going on for a long time. It has got some ideas into British and US public discourse that were not much there before: Inequality (99%), Citizen’s wage, Debt creation, Money creation, Public ownership. Who actually controls the world. Corporations run by a very few individuals rather than politicians.
Given the current political and economic situation, what is your view on what people can do to bring long lasting systemic change?
Change ourselves now to how we would like the world to be, so that we can usefully come together to make the world we want. Changing ourselves is not an academic exercise; it is a real, practical, sweaty, dirty, difficult enterprise. Figure out which things we want to say “yes” to as well as some things we want to say “no” to.
Before Occupy, were you involved in activities related to the reasons why you participated in Occupy? (Activist groups, campaign groups, media platforms, volunteering, research, etc)
Cult recovery, Advertising subversion,
Are you still involved in activities related to the reasons why you participated in Occupy? (Activist groups, campaign groups, media platforms, volunteering, research, etc)
Reclaim the Power, Green Gathering
Are you still actively working or engaged with people that you met through Occupy?
What kind of activities are you doing together?
Climate Change, Anti-Fracking, Green Energy, Community