How would you define Occupy ?
Inspiring, chaotic, fun, social, challenging, educative, powerful, eye-opening, feared, paranoid, criticised, naive, self-destructive, insular, and ultimately obsessed with adherence to a single tactic (occupation), not developing demands coupled with a model for social change.
What were you doing before Occupy ?
Before Occupy I was working in Australia and NZ as an environmental planning consultant on infrastructure projects, having moved back to Sydney in 2009 after the crash wiped out work in the UK planning sector.
In 2011, I came back to London in July after a several months backpacking through South America expecting the job situation to have improved.
I arrived back in London just before the August riots and Occupy kicked off – and the Eurozone plunged into crisis.
Why did you participate in Occupy?
Before Occupy LSX, I passed through the USA in NYC for a friend’s wedding. I had heard about the arrests on Brooklyn bridge & witnessed the growing occupation in Zuccotti Park in solidarity with uprisings across the Middle East. So upon returning to London, when I heard of plans to occupy the London Stock Exchange – I was fascinated to see what would happen in London – especially with controversial figures like Julian Assange on the list of speakers.
People too quickly forget the raw taste of anger that lingered in the years following the 2008 crash, a sense of collective struggle against a failing neoliberal economic model and the solidarity that flowed from Tahrir Square in Egypt to the Squares of Europe and North America.
Coming together to build a movement with hundreds of complete strangers to plan actions as the Occupy protests spread worldwide was electrifying – and it felt like being on the cusp of sweeping social change.
What impact did Occupy have on your personal life?
Occupy was chaotic, and immersive and it dragged you in, often demanding all you could give, and then some. You lived years within weeks, and made a lot of new friends in the process.
Those who got it and were open to critical thinking, inspirational new ideas and social change were inspired and captivated by Occupy in a way I have never witnessed before or since.
But most people stuck in regular jobs neither had the time, nor the inclination to get fully involved – and were mostly informed about the movement through the mainstream media or second hand observations.
I think most people involved in Occupy who committed time and energy to the movement probably have stories of friends or family who questioned what you were doing, who disagreed with your politics.
Occupy forced uncomfortable relationships into the open and prompted people to debate them, whether face to face, or increasingly over a Facebook feed or Twitter stream.
Occupy strained relationships strained along class, and political lines and in a few cases, it severed them. I definitely found it harder to relate to people who were not politically conscious or could not see other perspectives – and of course, you made a lot of new friends
Upon reflection – I think some of the people who pulled away during Occupy were the ones who knew the score, but chose to look the other way and ignore it even though they knew things were wrong.
Sometimes, people don’t want to be confronted with the choices they have made.
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 the way I though about systemic problems, and broke a lot of complex issues out of their silos where they could be debated and engaged with – and ultimately understood.
People learned about complexities in the corporate financial, political and energy systems, and how they were inter-related and that the corporate media was a filter protecting moneyed interests and power.
What impact do you think Occupy has had on the economic and political situation?
Occupy mainstreamed the narrative of the 99% and has helped put issues of tax justice and the dysfunction in our political system on the map.
Listen to a Bernie Sanders speech attacking criminal Wall Street Banks in the States, or hear Jeremy Corbyn attack corporate abuses, austerity and inequality in the UK, and the impact the Occupy movement has had on the the political narrative is clear.
Neoliberal economics has recently come under criticism from the IMF, and banks and bankers compete with journalists and politicians for the least trusted and most despised among the professions.
Given the current political and economic situation, what is your view on what people can do to bring long lasting systemic change?
Build a new media based on cooperative and collaborative social networks – not corporate media hegemony
Disrupt and the reduce the size and power of the financial system over politics and society.
Confront the military industrial complex which locks us into resource wars and expansionary foreign conflicts
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)
Greenpeace, environmental and climate activism, Iraq anti-war marches, Palestinian solidarity 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)
Move Your Money, Debt Resistance UK, Fossil Fuel Divestment
Are you still actively working or engaged with people that you met through Occupy?
What kind of activities are you doing together?