How would you define “Occupy”?
Gatherings of peoples concerned about the reality and mechanisms of unfairness and exploitation, constricting human potential and threatening decent survival on the planet.
Why did you participate in Occupy?
The energy and concern to learn and change things from a group of (somewhat) kindred spirits.
What were you doing before Occupy?
I’d just thrown in my salaried job to study systems theory, maths and popular science and reflect for a while. Doing a bit of tutoring and consultancy while being Secretary of the Cybernetics Society.
What impact did Occupy have on your personal life?
Pretty much full on involvement at the St Paul’s camp most of my waking hours for the first month. Various previous friendships & relationships on hold for a while – but exhilarating.
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?
It continued my re-education in economics, widening the links with say government and ecology. Strengthened my faith in the submerged wisdom among the 99%, notwithstanding the grandstanding & intellectual and emotional indulgence that the norms for tolerance in Occupy sometimes failed to constrain.
What impact do you think Occupy has had on the economic and political situation?
Norms have changed when Bill Gates etc. can acknowledge that inequality is a problem. We are at least going to hell more slowly than we would have been without Occupy. Lip service is paid to parts of our agenda even by right wing politicians. The ground has been ploughed, some seeds sown, but not enough have germinated yet. There is a kind of Occupy ‘diaspora’ of groups sprung from Occupy members (for myself New Putney Debates and Debt Resistance UK) and pre-existing groups have been strengthened by members who have learned from the Occupy experience.
What, in your view, were the strengths and weaknesses of Occupy?
Strengths: Bringing together a pretty wide demographic to talk and learn from each other. Advancing our grasp of things. An amber warning to the Establishment. Brother & sisterly love.
Weaknesses: Incapacity to deal with the number of dysfunctional victims shunted in to us or just attracted to us. Too slow a rate of learning of how to have functional dialogues. Too great a reliance on formal procedure which ‘experts’ learned to game for their own influence brokering & emotional aggrandisement. Failure to pay attention to the progress and agreements we had made & so repeating the early mantra of ‘we have no solutions (yet)’ when we had pretty good answers agreed. Prioritizing our own emotional and social bonding and ‘feel-goods’ over the need for an intellectually coherent and compelling challenge to diverse aspects of the status quo. Despite our efforts, at least unconsciously, stereotypes operated and some voices were heard with more respect on the basis of their created social plausibility than the quality of their actual content.
In the early weeks we could have linked up with Occupies around the world on specific economic demands but there wasn’t the will.
Given the current political and economic situation, what is your view on what people can do to bring long-lasting systemic change?
Learn more radical economics and talk with people outside your demographic about it (in queues, on public transport, neighbours, stands & door knocking, etc. but gently & subtly – starting from their situation) & improve your answers from their replies – a billion conversations. Hopefully join the Labour Party – being active but understanding & patient (hard). (OK there’s great people in the Greens etc.)
If you were participating in an Occupy general assembly now, what would you say?
Almost every day talk with someone outside your comfort zone about how you & they see the world & how to make it better. Only connect.
Before Occupy, were you involved in activities that were related to the reasons why you participated in Occupy (activist groups, campaign groups, media platforms, research etc.)?
Periodically e.g. UK Uncut, Labour Party, Free Tibet, SERA, FoE, Brentford Community Relations Council
BPS, CybSoc, reconceptualising Economics, peripheral academic stuff
Are you still actively working or engaged with people that you met through Occupy?
If so, what kind of activities are you doing together?
New Putney Debates is currently spreading awareness of the upcoming 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest and how its embedded philosophy points to solutions today. + Debt Resistance UK (DRUK)
Frequently meet Occupiers at other meetings.