How would you define Occupy ?
I would define Occupy as the first steps towards a wired and global movement for a new world free of the insanity of neoliberal capitalism and the embarrassment of an economic model based on infinite growth that relies on finite resources.
What were you doing before Occupy ?
Before Occupy I was a part time secondary school teacher and had just started working as a contributing editor for New Internationalist magazine.
Why did you participate in Occupy?
I participated in Occupy because the coverage of Occupy Wall Street and the background of the Arab Spring and Tahir Square sparked the hope that this would not be just another ‘political activist protest’ in the normal and largely ineffectual ways that events like that had become. This felt more like Reclaim The Streets or the anti Globalization movements had felt, a deeper, visceral and more joyous event that mainlined into our humanity.
What impact did Occupy have on your personal life?
My work suffered detrimentally. The constant pressure followed by the eventual evictions and the resulting fall out caused me to have burn out. I think that nothing can have prepared you for an experience like it and when it had gone, there was no way of knowing how to pick up the pieces and move on. In fact, you can’t move on. That was the point… The hope was real. The fact that this species can work together to make a better world was a daily experience. That will never go. “Occupy fucked me up because Occupy gave me hope” that was a line from Jimmy, a rough sleeper who had been living at St Paul’s before the camp had suddenly appeared. I’d agree with that. It was never a compelling political argument or clever piece of leftist rhetoric. It was nothing to do with politics and everything to do with humanity. It was a visceral thing. You felt it every day. And on a good day, you still can.
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 changed my understanding of what is achievable when people come together like that. I learned that there were plenty of wrong ways to go about working in large horizontal direct democracy movements for sure, and things were incredibly difficult and messy and painful and disorientating and heartbreaking and depressing at times but at the very wild heart of it all, I learned that we are greater than the sum of out parts. That was made redolently clear every day.
There were amazing people from all walks of life and they gelled in a way where they were able to share their skills and work together towards the same deep and burning vision, from the tranquility team, the kitchens, the shelter teams, Max doing the drains to the people running the amazing Tent City University, Joey and Venus doing recycling, the people in the tech tent and the media team, the people running the assemblies, the info tent, the volunteers at the welfare tent, Nafeesa on the Livestream… it was an army and everyone was integral. It was wild and ragged and insatiably alive. Out of such a messy, rough, rowdy cacophony of voices and faces, struggles and vices, trials and tribulations, a bright shared vision and understanding was emerging. We witnessed countless moments of generosity, love, compassion and courage. It was all wrapped up together and something powerful was coming from it but nobody was less or more responsible than anyone else for that taking place. We were much more than the sum of our parts and for a few months the country looked at us and we didn’t let them down, we shared that hope and stood up to all that tried to stop us.
You are left knowing what we are capable of, that we are an incredible species capable of being far better than we have currently managed! That’s effected the way I interact with the world and it seemed to be specially evident in the camps.
What impact do you think Occupy has had on the economic and political situation?
Occupy completely took the state by surprise and definitely the City of London Corporation! Plus it pulled the carpet from under the feet of the normal opinion shapers like the media commentators and PR spin merchants. Before they could devise their establishment responses we had already started a dialogue with the public by bringing to the fore a completely new issue that had immediate resonance. This was the simple outrage of a society being trashed by austerity to pay off the gambling debts of the financial elites who caused the economic collapse in the first place. A financial and corporate elite who not only got away with it untouched but continued to make vast fortunes. The 99. Our impact was to start that dialogue. And to have done it as a global movement of people, not a political party, and to have done that within four months, that is still resonating now. People are now more open to ideas that we can have system change. And that genuine grassroots movements of people, wired and global, has become an option for a new type of revolutionary movement.
Given the current political and economic situation, what is your view on what people can do to bring long lasting systemic change?
What people can do to bring long lasting change? Get out and stand in solidarity with Disabled People Against Cuts, show your solidarity with all people on the frontline of this destructive and punitive economic system, put your body in front of your convictions for all the causes that reach towards justice, welcome refugees, block the roads for the fracking trucks, start to follow non corporate media and develop your critical thinking skills, challenge yourself, reach out of your comfort zones and grapple with new ideas about economics, about digital democracies, about radical shifts in our understanding of what politics means, what it can be and how we can become the change we want to see by working together and by shifting away from the cult of consumerism and individualism. Be ready for the next one. Don’t hesitate to take part when the chance comes. The problem in the world right now is mass civil obedience. Do something about that.
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)
Are you still involved in activities related to the reasons why you participated in Occupy? (Activist groups, campaign groups, media platforms, volunteering, research, etc)
Are you still actively working or engaged with people that you met through Occupy?
What kind of activities are you doing together?