2 Cents of Change (Occupy Bristol 2 Weeks On)

It’s been just over 2 weeks since the Occupy Bristol movement set up home in College Green in Bristol city centre. A movement originally inspired by Adbusters, a Canadian activist group focused on social and economic inequality, corporate injustice and corporation’s influence over governmental policy. Since it’s inception in September ‘Occupy’ movements have gathered in over 1,500 cities worldwide, and is spreading. In Bristol, over 30 tents have made this a bold statement but do the intentions on the lawn reflect the grass-roots collective ideal of the Wall Street demonstrations? LNV caught up with the camp to discuss the ‘who, why and where?’.

It’s 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon and a small group have gathered around a chalkboard and a rag-tag seating collection, looking a little like an overgrown tea party. The board is headed with all the questions I’ve been itching to find answers to since they put the first tent pole together; the important facts of who they are, why they’re there and what they hope to achieve here. It’s an open group discussion and members of the public are invited to come and share their two cents, both intellectually and monetarily; when the camp’s tin comes round for more batteries and other supplies.

The whole movement has been globally massive and it’s clear from the response that most of the planet are in agreeance with the Wall Street. Although collectively they share the same core values, it seems even at the top they’re a little confused about the specifics. Adbusters is clear on the fact there needs to be a shift from corporatocracy to democracy and with that they’ve definitely struck a nerve with the masses at large, but even in their manifesto they’re a little vague in what the purposed outcomes should be . Down with corporations and a global banking system! Up with what? (See below for the group’s ‘Why we are Here’ page)

The same ambiguity and misdirection was expressed in the sea of conjecture that was the discussion on College Green. It seems like everyone present had the same thoughts and feelings of dissatisfaction of the injustices of the banks and corporations, but no one had any clear indication about what paradigm to move into. There was a lot of talk about the inequality of the division of wealth and a call for ‘fairer distribution’, however no one could share any advice about what was considered ‘fair’. Although there was discussion about anti-capitalism/establishment, there was still agreement ‘we need some kind of hierarchy’, and in any hierarchy someone always ends up at the bottom.

A woman from Oxford describing herself only as NA50A (part of her National Insurance Number), had travelled to Bristol as she saw the camp as a forum for discussing ideas and wanted to bring the movement to her home town in Bladon. Having worked with underprivileged youths and the homeless she was mortified the bankers could doll out bonuses and own unoccupied houses while other people starved on the streets. “I’m sick of being treated like a number and not a human being, I mean, since when was there a price on human life?”.

I was awed by the symbol, but dumbfounded by the message. My voice joins the masses in the dissatisfaction of the current system, but also falls into silence when asked to provide a solution. It’s clear it’s a movement that has resonated in people across the globe (approaching 24 sites in the UK alone) but without a clear contingent for a solution it seems like a massive knee-jerk reaction to the injustices caused by government, corporation and the banking system. There is a massive potential here for a collective voice to be heard, but without a clear voice we’re simply taking up space.

The group declares it’s intentions are:

  1. The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.
  2. We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities, abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.
  3. We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.
  4. We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.
  5. We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate
  6. We support the strike on 30 November and the student action on 9 November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.
  7. We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The worlds resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.
  8. We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call an end to the actions of our government and others in causing oppression
  9. This is what democracy looks like. Come and join us!
  10. This is just the beginning