Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Melbourne: not the usual suspects

This week I’ve missed the little tent city in the centre of my town. Instead of enjoying lunchtime wanders through Occupy Melbourne to soak up the soothing vibe, City Square has returned to it’s usual arid wasteland.

The black bile continues to flow against the movement on the OM twitter stream. I get a bit shouty at the computer screen at the recurring themes. The biggest seems to be that the (insert expletives here) (insert diminutive term here) need to get a job. There’s some irony in that statement.

However all the people that I’ve talked to in the square or on the street have been gainfully employed, often highly educated and unlike the misinformation propagated by the shock jocks and Mayor Doyle, far from being dole bludgers.

Correction. One demonstrator had a bit of a moan to me about Centrelink. She was a recently separated suburban mum in her 40’s out demonstrating in the rain with her pubescent son who wanted to attend the rally. She wanted to work or retrain, feeding her family being paramount. Far from the bludging rent-a-crowd usual suspect, here was a person who’d been inspired by the collectivism and harmony of the first weekend of OM. She’d been particularly impressed by the communal kitchen and spent the week cooking healthy food for her family.

I told her, “If Occupy Melbourne does nothing else except motivate you to buy less processed junk and make better food for your kids, then it’s been an amazing success”.

But stories like this don’t tend to make their way to the blinkered, who have a high investment in the image of what the Occupy movement is about.

As for what OM stands for, there’s still a debate over it’s focus and direction. Another irony is that on the one hand some that have been attracted to OM are refreshed by its initial lack of familiar faces, that there’s a new movement of non-alligned groups and individuals. But then the same people criticise OM for its lack of leadership, direction and aims.

Serendipitously I listened to a classic Late Night Live, Phillip Adams in conversation with Gerry Stoker about the future of politics. Despite the interview being recorded 5 years ago, it could have been a fly on the wall of a discussion in the square last week, about democracy, consensus and the importance of finding a way to engage a new generation in the political process.

The way I see it, is OM is an emerging movement, strongly committed to peaceful discussion and the forgotten, time consuming process of allowing everyone to have a voice and collective decision making. This means it’s just learning to walk, let alone even being on its L Plates as a political force. If this germ of a collective is allowed to grow, I have a renewed optimism for the health and wellbeing of our planet. Cut it off at its knees and I sink back into pessimism.

It’s a movement that needs nurturing. It’s likely too unformed to turn OM into something huge and positive – just yet. But there’s hope.

Despite the unnecessary violence of last Friday, I’ve read no reports of a single window broken or threats to members of the public by OM. At it’s least it could be seen as a bunch of disparate dreamers, camping and drumming in a public space.

But at it’s most? Watch this space.

I’ll be off line over the next few days and can’t attend the rally on Saturday. I’m hoping that it’s big, peaceful and offers a few more curious souls like myself a taste of hope.

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Blogger Ed Charles said...

I didn't see first hand what was happening in City Square as I flew out to Wellington on Friday. But I did stumble across occupy Wellington. Apparently they have the blessing of their mayor.

I really support this idea but the problem I see being taken seriously - at least in the Wellington case - is the number of people with dreadlocks, multiple body piercings and tats.

I think that will really alienate a certain group who would otherwise get involved. I reckon they should lose the feral gear and put on suits and it may change perceptions.

10:33 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I saw (and talked to) a lot of young men who deliberately "dressed up" and even wore suits to the peaceful march last Saturday. They're a step ahead of you.

And hey, I was out on the corner of Swanston/Collins Sts last Friday in work gear, high heels and lipstick. We don't all look the same.

It might be worth going on the march this weekend, to see the actual diversity (and add to it) yourself.

BTW if you aren't actually there, you're basing your perceptions of who OM are by the media coverage. It's entirely self-serving.

11:06 am  
Blogger Clyde said...

I like what you have said in this post and in your reply to Ed Charles. Fuck it, I am coming in this weekend to sit and listen. That way I can at least say that I have even a tiny bit of balance in regards to OM and what it hopes to achieve in time. See ya there!

p.s. Also listened to the LNL podcast. This man is spot on and also found a bit of positivity in a link via Twitter re: big banks that has been around for a while that you may or may not have seen. Ideas like this inspire me.

1:29 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Welcome to Other Rants Clyde. Thanks for dropping by. Glad you liked the LNL link. It certainly helped the penny drop for me. And if you make it to the OM this weekend, hope it is a positive experience (I on the other hand have to be in two other places at the same time...not quite sure how that happened).

Ed, I spoke at OccupyWelly last weekend, they were a small bunch. I first noticed the 50-something blokes (and wondered as always if I'd known them in the dark ages when I was at uni there), then a commanding Maori woman of a similar age and lastly typically university aged, twenty-somethings. It was only later that I realised there were huge holes in the demographics. No teens, no people over 60 and very few in their 30s and early 40s. I guess it's a smaller population (greater Wellington has a population of about 400,000 but only about half that closer to the city). I was on the lookout for dreadlocks but maybe they'd gone home for a bath that day? No more than usual.

I saw a great TV panel discussion late on Sunday night on one of the minor TV channels talking about the Occupy movement. They said the Auckland and Wellington protests were quite different (Auckland having more of the usual suspects, professional activists). Can't remember the panelists other than Anne Salmond, most seemed pro the occupation.

NZ is currently in election campaign mode, I think Occupy Aotearoa is going largely under the radar.

6:56 am  

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