I think this eviction is wrong, the justification of the eviction is wrong, and I think the point of the protest is correct.
But on some level I also find the protest intensely frustrating. The very things about it that are laudable are an irritant: it is stubborn without being muscular. Its aims are commendable without being implementable. It is the right battle, fought with the wrong weapons. It is a Siren-song, rich with vital knowledge, sung in a language Odysseus never learned. He goes home none the wiser having heard it.
It will move and move again when it is, again, evicted. It cannot be destroyed, but what it achieved here it will achieve in the next camp site. It will exist, and be known to exist. It doesn’t achieve what it ought to because it is prying away at the dragon’s scales with the wrong implements. The movement is packed with intelligent people, united in their bright array of beliefs and intentions by a shared understanding of what is right, and by human decency.
They will fail.
I hope they don’t fail for ever. We are all becoming uncomfortably aware that people – and when I say “people”, I could append the words “exactly like us” without being accused of hand-wringing – are dying now in Europe, in Greece, and in this country because of “austerity”. That strange, prim word that belongs in scrubbed Victorian orphanages is the name we have given our own bland acceptance that the deaths of some people – other people, we hope – are an unavoidable consequence of our continuing to use the system that killed them in the first place, rather than apply ourselves to finding an alternative. Austerity is the opposite of intelligence, the antithesis of courage, the enemy of positive change. It is the creationist still protesting against the teaching of evolution, and still winning.
The we-are-the-99% cry is probably the best-known public face of the Occupy movement globally. Yet I do not think it sums the movement up at all, certainly not in London where the discourse I have heard from many activists has not suffered any over-simplification. Still, only the simple ideas make the news sound-byte, and there is an idea, swilling in cafs, and applauding peevishly on Question Time, that this austerity is the consequence of the heady successes of a very few – the 1%.
We are wrong to feed that idea, and the dragon must be delighted with us for our distraction. The suffering is the consequence of an industry upon which the income of a great many people, whether heady, average, meagre or downright mean – as well as most people’s ability to have a home – depends. An industry upon whose strutting quills the economies of entire nations – all nations – now flutter. It is an industry that everyone from the post room to the board knows is fiat in nature, execution and governance (where any applies). It is fiat to its very core. It does not require revision any more than the Emperor’s suit required a couple of inches off the cuff. It requires obliteration.
Tomorrow the papers will be full of how this protester spat at that policeman, or a policeman stamped on someone’s dog, despite the fact we’ve all watched it happen, live. There will be a certain buzz in the City’s offices in the morning. At lunchtime, over the Square Mile staple – an indifferent lunch on white linen, supported from below by a magnificent cellar – this will be laughed about. This was a game of cricket, the troops against the village boys and girls. The camp will be tolerated in a less bothersome, lower profile spot for a few weeks, then swatted again on principle.