Thursday, 23 February 2012

Saying Goodbye to (this) Occupy...

At the risk of going all Celine Dion… I DO know we’ll go on. Occupy is an infant taking early steps and for all the future promise - I will miss this infancy - every bit as much as I will admire the stages to come.

I write fresh with the knowledge that my days and nights at Occupy the London Stock Exchange have been forced to end; sure there are a huge number of events already planned that will indeed involve my tent and sleeping bag… but it will never be this one holistic experience that has ‘bubbled’ into an Occupy community since 15 October 2011.

The bursting of this bubble will cause a spillage that like mercury, will find its reflection in the communities it meets along the way and it will grow. It will spread horizontally so that all it attracts can be neither too high above it nor too far below. How can the exploration of truth, the seeking of solution to social injustice and the genuine good in-tent of the Occupy movement be stopped? Why would anyone other than those in power (or misled by media), want it to be? What will replace it if it is? What will those in power be free to do if there is no witness by the people?

But those are other thoughts too much for tonight.

For now, I will ache for the loss of all these amazing moments that play in the reels of my mind; the late night talk that was never small; the little miracles that occurred in little lives as we formed an entirely, unquestioningly inclusive community; the crazy frustration at the ridiculous amount of time it takes to decide anything by consensus; the sheer bliss of incredible achievement when proposals did get consensus and you realised this meant that vastly varied people, from quite possibly every background possible, actually bloody agreed on something! The late night stroll to the loo that was sometimes a pleasure as soft voices wished you well and kept an eye on your safety or absolutely terrifying as you navigated the safest looking path through the tents to avoid the bad, the mad, the angry, the drunk and the many unknowns that passed through or emerged from amongst us.

Most memorable of all are the faces. James who had been homeless on the steps of St Paul’s for 10 years when we got there, Joey (also homeless) who needed us as much as we needed him and the raw humanity he brought and Tammy Samede; it is Tammy that impacts me most as I recall when she spoke her first words on the mic to a packed General Assembly (GA) facing St Paul’s, to ask why her god would judge her ‘out here’ but bless her ‘in there’ – once she had started, there was no stopping her truths and she bluntly expressed them on the best occasions to the most deserving people.

Self-empowerment was the gift that many get to take away from Occupy LSX (1); it was dished out in various amounts but I can honestly say that just about everyone I got to know, got a share of it. Humility too came in equal or higher doses.

For every whinge I wanted to make when it was cold and loud and I missed comfort and wondered what the hell I was doing in a tent in the middle of London at the steps of St Paul’s – I recalled the encounters with others for whom this was a huge step up from what they were used to. Our camp was truly diverse and that’s what made it the most intense place of learning I have ever been (and I’ve been a lot of places).

Most of us looked a bit rough, shapeless and khaki on site so you could rarely tell who was ordinarily homeless or anything else about them. All you knew was that you all woke up, in this strangest of places to wake up and that you shared conversations, decision forming discussions, disagreements, meals, hardships, hygiene challenges, joys and discovery together. I had assumed I knew what my fellow human beings were like, I thought I had a broad spectrum of experience of them – I was wrong. It is in the intensity of the camp environment where none of us had anything to hide behind and all of us were exposed to ourselves and each other that I truly met my fellow earth dwellers.

It isn’t just that we met people from other sectors of society, it is that we met them within Occupy; where there is no hierarchy, fewer labels and a lot of searching for the truth of what it is that would benefit us all. Rare conversations with people rarely met. For all the stuff in our lives and our heads that was different, we were here together now because each had reached their own ‘enough-is-enough’ moment ...and that united us.

There is no denying that time and the challenges of location took their toll and like an infant outgrowing a romper suit, it is indeed time to say goodbye to this stage in our development. We’re going to be bloody gorgeous when we finish evolving but for now, I am sad for the loss of the beginning.

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