Friday, 18 November 2011

Occupy and Christ the King

I spent half an hour talking with a few of the people at the Occupy Brighton tents in Victoria Gardens near the Pavillion last night. I've been reading some of Tim Stanley's reports from Occupy New York and wanted to get a gist of what the movement is about in Brighton.

I have to say that, like what I have read about Occupy in London and elsewhere, the aims and ideals of the movement appear inchoate and vague. The occupiers just have this general feeling that 'something' is wrong. There's a real sense of a 'democratic deficit' which is already present nationally even if the undemocratic European nightmare still staggers on. There's the firm conviction that unbridled capitalism is producing rotten fruits, but when has it ever produced notably good fruits?

Talking to one man who was there to give a talk tomorrow to the occupiers, I said that protesting against capitalism was a bit like protesting against Original Sin. There is grave injustice in the World, the greed of people at the top of society makes greed seem even worse and avarice even more ugly than it is for the rest of us, even though we are guilty of the same faults, because the impact on the rest of society is disproportionately large.

Certainly in Brighton, even though it is being organised by anarchists, there is something peaceable and communitarian about them. There was a homeless man or two hanging around with a dog, a load of tents, some small, some big, the number of which has been steadily increasing after three weeks. I arrived after the community had had their general assembly. They have the full support of seemingly the Council, the police and Caroline Lucas MP in their expression of peaceful non-conformism and protest. To my surprise, they weren't all middle class idlers (like myself) but some were poor and noticeably so. There was even a picture of the Divine Mercy with the words of Our Lord at the Last Judgment ("I was hungry and you...") plastered over the main tent. I couldn't help thinking that Dorothy Day might have considered residing here and using it as a base to protest against society's reluctance to adopt Catholic social teaching and to gather stories for her Catholic Worker. I was told that some of the occupiers even work and come back in the evening.

This Sunday, in the new calendar at least, it is the Feast of Christ the King and I wonder whether I might print off a copy of two of Quas Primas and give it to the occupiers. In it, Pope Pius XI writes...

'If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. What We said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. "With God and Jesus Christ," we said, "excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation.'

Brighton, however, does not appear to be a place in which any form of radicalism takes off. It is still too pre-occupied with itself and its own image. The number of radicals in Brighton is small (is it 1%, I wonder?) and most Brightonians, especially the youth, are probably still more concerned with the pleasures of the World, bars, nightlife, clothes, having fun, having sex, getting drunk, taking drugs etc. It was noticable that the occupiers have a sign saying 'No drink or drugs by law' on the entrance to the camp, because obviously they don't want to give the police an excuse to close them down and street drinking is illegal in Brighton. I did wonder whether it was also to keep some people out of the camp. While I was there, one man, dressed in an army uniform came in and introduced himself as someone who could help with 'security' for the camp. He had apparently helped out with 'security' in London. Presumably he was some kind of Che Guevara type. I later heard that there is no 'security' at the camp because it sounds too oppressive. Instead, there are 'tranquility' teams who go around, enforcing 'tranquility'! How very Brighton! 

"You appear distressed and argumentative, dear. Would you like a herbal tea and some aromatherapy to help you relax? No? I see....Reiki?"

There are quite a few tents there in Victoria Gardens but, in all honesty, the protest looks a little small and almost totally inoffensive. Protest movements have moved on from the bloodthirstiness of the Russian revolution presumably because of men like Ghandi and Martin Luther King who won acclaim and respect for their goals through peaceful protest and non-violence. That seems to be the model for even a group dominated by the hard left. 

The occupiers, seemingly a mixture of relatively young to not as young, are a community forged out of confusing times when economic and political corruption have met and entwined. There is a sense that people have no voice or stake in society and that 'something must be done'. They don't know what should be done, but neither do any of us, all we know is that society is 'tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation'. I asked one of the occupiers how long this protest would last. He replied, 'As long as it takes to make a change, so if necessary, forever.'  Thank God, they have a fire to see them keep them warm over winter. I must say, if there was a small group of Catholics there representing the Church, I would consider joining them. We could Catholicise the group from the inside with Rosary by firelight, guitars and the rest. Unfortunately, I'm getting a bit old for such things. I need to get a job and pronto. I'd like to settle down, get married and start a family, which, let's face it, in Brighton, is the most revolutionary thing one can do.

Perhaps we could all donate some money and buy them a nativity scene for over Christmas?


Gigi said...

Thanks so much for that report! I've walked past the camp, looking in, a few times and been called over to chat, but haven't had the wotsits to actually go over. Like you and I supose many others, I was worried that the camp might be made up of "middle-class" professional protesters; a spit in the eye for those who are genuinely homeless in Brighton.
I wonder how long the good grace of the council and the police will last as the camp expands. And whether or not they have day-jobs and bricks and mortar addresses, it must be extremely cold at night now, with the wind coming straight in off the sea.
I love the very Brighton idea of Tranquility operatives! I wonder of some kind of Christmas service could be organised for the camp?

The Bones said...

A nativity scene over Christmas would be nice, wouldn't it?

Gigi said...

A Nativity scene would be great - maybe a larger size Nativity scene could be made fairly cheaply and easily?

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