Say where and what?

November 2, 2011

Madeline Bunting getting all excited about Occupy LSX A nursery for the mind (Jesus…what a title):

“Space” is the theme that runs through much of what the protesters say. Their first agreed principle is that the current system is unsustainable, undemocratic and unjust, and they want to create the space to think of alternatives. First that means taking key symbolic public space – this is the politics of geography – to use it for conviviality, living, learning and participation. That’s no easy task in a city designed to facilitate only three activities – working, transport and shopping – with as little human interaction as possible. Metal fencing is springing up around even small public spaces in the City of London to preclude new camps. The protesters’ aim is to open up space, physically and socially, for people to connect and thereby open up space in people’s imaginations.”

Maybe she is talking strictly about the City of London but if she is referring to London as a whole – only three activities are permitted: working, transport and shopping? Where does she live? Westfield car park? Come on.

And how much ‘space’ has there been over the past few years? The anti-globalisation protests in Seattle were over a decade ago and I suspect the thinking has come little further than ‘we need a better system…err, that’s it’. I think there’s been plenty of ‘space’: it’s the lack of ideas that seems to have gone missing.

Norm makes some good points about the whole thing which again is becoming less about ‘how do we create a better world?’ and again seems to be about ‘how do we maximise our time in juggling workshops?’ Occupy reality:

Although the number of their direct participants is small, the Occupy movements – in this country and internationally – evidently give expression to a widespread dissatisfaction with the management and recent results of economic and financial processes across the capitalist world.

Where the Occupy movement will go depends on many different factors, but I stand by the view I’ve expressed in earlier posts here that one thing it will depend on is the development of a coherent set of goals. 

If Bunting can’t give a serious-minded account of the democracy we actually inhabit, its limitations and its resources and opportunities, why should anyone take seriously what she says about the alternative democratic forms that she discerns at Occupy London Stock Exchange? That there is merely an ‘illusion of public debate’, that it is ‘created through a stage-managed process’, that it ‘excludes all but a self-regarding elite’, that its participants are ‘largely in agreement, quibbling only over technocratic detail’ – these are all demonstrable falsehoods. Would you put the care of democracy’s future in the hands of someone who can so misrepresent the reality of Britain’s political system as to indulge the view that it is undemocratic? Not flawed, not imperfect, not improvable. No – undemocratic. 


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