Making things right again

‘I am thanking god for youthful enthusiasm and damning the bastards who have made these encampments necessary’

BRATTLEBORO — When you first come upon the Occupy London Stock Exchange encampment at the top of Fleet Street, you see two white tents, both larger than any in the tent city.

The white Information Tent and the white Tent City University stand in the field of closely packed blue, teal, green, beige, brown, and orange single-person tents that roll out in front of you like colored snow moguls.

The big, white, and inviting Info Tent is the place you go to find out how you can participate. At Tent City U, you can attend scheduled educational seminars to help you become better informed. It is the central place to think things through with others.

That is an extraordinary feature of these encampments.

Libraries, like the one at Occupy Wall Street, can reach 5,000 volumes. Unlike other demonstrations and protests, the Occupies make a point of educating onlookers and sympathizers alike.

Some other things at Occupy London are similar to Occupy Brattleboro, Occupy New York, or Occupy LA: people's faces are energized and eager, clearly indicating a desire to engage in conversation about lost ideals and making things right again.

There is an energy that is infectious. There is also a camaraderie that transcends the need for agreement about any one demand while building a functioning community that shares the same purpose - rethinking our culture, and redesigning and reinvigorating our institutions with citizen involvement.

Taking all this in, I am thanking god for youthful enthusiasm and damning the bastards who have made these encampments necessary.

* * *

The similarities between the movements in the U.S. and abroad continue, most stemming from the pain the 99 percent must endure (sooner or later), while the 1 percent continues its inexorable quest to own everything.

Income inequality has found itself in the national conversation, if not on the political agenda. Economic injustice and the disassociation of hard work, education, and experience from earning the fruits of a decent life have become apparent to a growing number of people, and there is a sense that our expectations of an increasingly better world will no longer be met.

In London, over the three days of my observations and interactions, I saw only two to three police officers at any one time, no surveillance towers (though London is famous for its CCTV cameras), a short, functional barricade to maintain a footpath through the site, two portable toilets and, when a general assembly was called, the use of an electronic megaphone for ease of communication.

Very civilized.

* * *

Of course, behind the scenes, there was another story unfolding.

The Occupy London Stock Exchange encampment straddles the boundary between the City of Westminster and the Church of England, less than three cricket fields from the staid headquarters of British capitalism, the London Stock Exchange.

Thus, the question of who should decide the fate of the demonstrators became a matter of public debate.

The City of Westminster, like New York City, wants them gone. On the other hand, the Church of England, speaking through St. Paul's Cathedral - where 30 years earlier one of the biggest and most expensive royal weddings in British history unfolded so that Charles and Diana could proclaim their “mission to become the people's prince and princess” - was mightily torn between heeding Paul's spiritual message and royally committing hypocrisy.

The church vacillated.

In a scene not unlike Paul's conversion from Christian persecutor to Christian missionary, the leadership of St Paul's Cathedral in London waffled in a public statement.

At first, the leaders, too, wanted the demonstrators gone. And that first position was met with the resignation of a couple of senior church officials who would not support the police violence requisite to make that happen.

That public relations disaster set in motion an internal debate within the church regarding whether or not to sweep the Occupy London Stock Exchange encampment from the grounds of one of Britain's holiest sites, or let the protestors stay, at least for a while longer.

The resultant public outcry and continued debate within the church ended with the church's conversion. The protesters were allowed to stay through the holidays - presumably, to celebrate the birth of Jesus before being thrown to the lions.

Apparently, pondering the question “What would Jesus do?” lettered on a tent, just feet from the steps to the main entrance of the church, restored the conscience of the powers that be to make the right, if temporary, decision to let the occupiers stay.

* * *

It was curious that governments from coast to coast and around the world showed their sensitivities to health and safety concerns at about the same time - not for their poor, homeless drifters, or the unemployed, or the evicted, but for the small encampments of demonstrators in the mushrooming Occupy movement.

Their presence reminds everyone that the system isn't working. They had to go.

In a predictable pattern, first came the bogus claims of murder, rape, and mayhem nicely spread throughout the land by the “lamestream media,” as Sarah Palin calls the networks and wire services (the most sensible thing she ever said).

Then, as the public is softened up with that vile propaganda, the police, in the name of restoring order, dutifully provoke an excuse to attack the protestors.

Fortunately, their attacks have only attracted more sympathizers to the movement and created a trail of videos of police riots and brutality.

Still, I can't help being filled with hope and optimism and amazement that the deep layer of cynicism that has blanketed my spirit since the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore might be lifting.

That's because, unlike the anti-Iraq war demonstrations that culminated in an impressive, though futile, worldwide 15-million strong protest before Bush launched his self-serving maniacal war and ran up our nation's debt, the Occupy movement is not just an event.

It is a process.

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