Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Melbourne

I came away from a day in the city with an odd feeling of hope.

Hope that the generation that was only just being born at the time I was a university student flirting with radicalism, might actually save the world.

We arrived at City Square late morning, just as the carefully rehearsed speakers were finishing their monologues. As those clutching pages of notes thinned out, the speaker’s corner megaphone was handed onto anyone with something to say and the magic began to happen. I’ve always admired those who can make short, off the cuff; speeches and they were there in droves. But it was the 20-something bloke who came on after Chicken Man, talking of hope in an era of rising university fees and unaffordable rents that made me think for the first time in years that the future of our world may not be so bleak.

There was Vietnam vets, unionists, anarchists, socialist, students and a lot of ordinary people wondering through the carnival like compound. There weren’t any big names; even the lefty twitterati was conspicuous in their absence. Occupy Melbourne felt like an organic event, unorchestrated but jamming together beautifully. Some raged against the corporations, there was talk of a walk of shame up Collins Street to awaken the bankers during the week, others talked of the earth and our connections with each other.

By early afternoon the numbers had swelled from hundreds to at least a thousand. Children played in a supervised area, drummers drummed and some serious looking types sat in small circles on the grass and studiously discussed the fate of the capitalism.

What will become of Occupy Melbourne? Will it be any more than a short-lived lefty carnival? I don’t know, but like Jeff Sparrow wrote in Overland, it felt like something and I too hope it grows.

News from Day 2 via the twitterverse

About 120 (or 50 according to the official site) braved a chilly and damp night in the square , unlike the Sydney occupation shut down around midnight campers have been tolerated and even accommodated by both the police and Melbourne City Council. The forecast for a continued occupation seems optimistic.

Occupy Melbourne Flickr set, Facebook page and twitter #occupymelbourne, occupymelb.

Update: Mike Stutchberry in ABC's The Drum "There was the slight whiff of the Enlightenment about the day's event, a return to civil, public discussion. "

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