How would you define Occupy ?
I guess for me Occupy would be defined as the place where I met a whole lot of other people, some who were like-minded, some not, but where we all had one thing in common, and that was an anger about how the governments had bailed out the banks, with what seemed like absolutely no accountability being put onto the banks, and no-one being arrested and charged, when the banks had committed a global fraud on an unprecedented scale. The individuals within the banks were simply never held accountable or prosecuted, and moreover the publicly funded bank bailouts were not even expected to be paid back, never-mind with interest. In addition, the public were and are still paying for this crime through ‘austerity’ measures. Within months the banks were back to business as it always was, with taxpayers money having bailed them out, they were once again paying their vast and obscene salaries and bonuses, but this time with the bailout money that is and was publicly funded by taxpayers. There were lots of questions that weren’t being answered for me and that is what drew me to Occupy.
What were you doing before Occupy ?
I am a teacher, but I had had a tumour in my spinal canal that was paralysing me, so had to have surgery to remove the tumour in November of 2009. I had been recovering from the surgery, but had complications with muscle tension that left me in a lot of pain, so as the time I was not working. Since my recovery, and after Occupy, I have returned to teaching full-time and haven’t missed a single day’s work in the last three years!
Why did you participate in Occupy?
I felt a collective awakening was going on and that for the first time, people were seeing things as they really are within how the government supports corporations and banks, and does not put the public first, whose actual interests they are voted in to represent. Basically there is a scam between the government and the banks and corporations to privatize everything that once was publicly owned, and this is funded by taxpayers money being transferred directly into private hands. I was angry that nothing was being done to hold the banks accountable, and with a recession and austerity measures things were simply going to get worse for the ordinary everyday citizens of the UK.
Once I arrived at Occupy on that very first day, I realised the scale of things with systemic problems went a lot deeper than just the bank bailouts. Suddenly there was a forum for openly and transparently discussing the true depth of the systemic issues. In addition, as I was one of the few Christians among the Occupiers, I ended up mediating between St Paul’s Cathedral and the occupation over the full occupation, as the Cathedral was also in the pocket of the banks, being in the anomalous place of bordering the City of London, and having many of the Cathedral sponsors from the City of London. It seemed decidedly unChristian the way the Cathedral behaved, as their interests seemed more based on the preservation of the bricks and mortar of the building, than displaying the human compassion and love that the entire church is meant to be built on through the belief in Jesus Christ’s teachings. However, I also learned to forgive the church for their role in supporting the City of London, as they were adrift at the time, floundering in their duty, and they may never truly be the same either, so hopefully Occupy made the church think more about their role in the events that took place. I also learned how hard it is to conduct any kind of meeting with consensus or direct democracy, that when you permit everyone to have a voice, you cannot filter out those who have malicious intentions, nor is there any understanding of why the police were prepared to disrupt and deliberately try and steer things into trouble, to create an impression that the Occupiers were troublesome. It is as though there is a full paradigm shift in which ‘state apparatus’ are working for themselves and those in power, instead of the other way round! They should be working for the benefit of the public, since they are in “public” office, and meant to represent the best interests of the country (and thereby the public), not corporate and financial powers that be! I wanted to understand how we have come to the point in which the government is accountable to no-one but themselves and their own self-serving interests, which are decidedly undemocratic and outright damaging to the best interests of the country and the public.
What impact did Occupy have on your personal life?
The impact of Occupy on my life will forever be treasured for the amazing people I met, the incredible learning that happened, as well as the knowledge that there are people who are prepared to stand up for what is right and put themselves into the line of fire to do so. It was also pretty devastating. I lost my house, as I was spending all my time at Occupy. My husband ended up suffering depression, and the more involved I got the more I despaired of ever seeing any change in the system. It is so entrenched in corruption, especially through the City of London, the banks and the corporations, that to sift through and rectify the quagmire of endemic deceit and manipulation of the governments and their allies in the corporate world, would take centuries. The description of us as Occupiers being the “canaries in the mine” was very apt, and what disconcerted me further, was those in power who did come to speak with us, agreed that we were absolutely correct in our understanding of things, but that nothing was going to change, even if those in power know that it cannot continue indefinitely. The day will come when we are ripe for revolution, when the disparity of wealth is no longer ignored by those who are either at this time ignorant, or turning a blind eye or those who currently think they are unaffected. They will be affected one day, and when that day comes, then we will have the conditions ripe for revolution. What saddened me was that those in positions of power generally agreed that we were right, but they were not prepared to stand up and put their own necks on the line, to do anything to change the status quo. On the positive side, I learned a lot about myself, as I know that I can make changes in my own life, I learned to public speak without fear of my voice being heard, I learned that I have superb organisational skills, and most importantly I understood that we are the 99% so we are not alone. I have taken all the positives of Occupy and make sure that critical thinking is an imperative in my teaching and in daily life, but especially in my vocation. I teach with passion more now than ever before, because I know what is at stake for future generations. They need to be problem-solvers and to have the courage to make the necessary changes to ensure the current system is dismantled and replaced with one that is more equitable and fair for their futures.
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?
Of course Occupy changed the way I feel, think and interact. I am so much more conscious of the world around me. I have travelled extensively all over the world in the past five years, and have a much better understanding of how connected everything is, and how the decisions by the main powers have major repercussions across the world. Globalisation has fundamentally changed the way things are done in the world, and the Internet and social media have blossomed to the point of becoming the means by which political organising can be done, activism can find a voice even when those in power would rather stem the flow of information, and this is where the truth cannot be hidden by the powers that be. Someone somewhere can access information, they can also track us and monitor us, but in the same vein, so can people become much more aware of what is going on in the world around us. It is not so easy anymore for governments to hide and cover up, and so it is a duality that exists, as communication becomes both a tool for the state to monitor those it perceives as a threat, but so can people find information on an unprecedented scale. I am much more cautious of believing anything in the media these days, and I “unlearned” my naive trust that the government is there to serve the public. What I learned was that when people galvanise together for a common cause, they can make their voices heard and the governments fear that! I also personally found the reconciliation with the Cathedral that I needed as a Christian, and feel that it was not and did not serve any good in those Occupiers chaining themselves to the Church alter on the inside on a day that potentially allowed St Paul’s to make amendments and give Occupy some credit. It totally distracted everyone from what good was being done, in that the church needs to reform too, but acknowledging Occupy on the inside of the walls was a first for them, which was lost after the staging of the Occupiers chaining themselves to the alter.
What impact do you think Occupy has had on the economic and political situation?
Sadly I don’t think Occupy has made a blind bit of difference in the big scheme of things with regards to political and economic reform, but I do think people are a lot more aware and a lot more weary than they were before. I also think the government is more aware that people are prepared to motivate themselves out of apathy and take a stand and they cannot take it for granted that if things continue as they are that another, bigger, more widely supported and potentially dangerous movement will arise. Occupy was about raising awareness and seeking change from within, but since the government rejected this, who knows what may arise in the future.
Given the current political and economic situation, what is your view on what people can do to bring long lasting systemic change?
Start demanding that the government be held accountable – make sure you sign petitions, go on marches, write about it (the pen is mightier than the sword), and always remember Ghandi – Non-violent civil disobedience is successful historically, so you must hit them where it hurts most – IN THEIR POCKETS – therefore make conscious buying choices, reject buying anything from corporations that will not pay their taxes, that merge to form global monopolies, that consciously damage the environment, that have links to arms manufacturing or dealing etc. BE the change you want to see!
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)
My dissertations at university both dealt with issues relating to the media and propaganda, so only through my research.
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?
I stay in contact with various people from Occupy and support various petitions and campaigns where I can – either though signing petitions or from time to time through donating financially. I currently live in Africa, having spent four years in the Middle East, so now I am not in a physical position to join any activism in the UK.