Pre-Post-Apocalyptic In a Good Way

I remember first visiting London’s St Paul’s Cathedral at the tender, semi-Santa Claus eligible age of 17. Most striking was the exit; giant doors which held back the darkness of the inside, swinging open to a blanched square surrounded by the shining alabaster-coloured machines of London’s Square Mile. Often peppered with tourists, or suits, but for the most part bare and sparsely populated.

Well not today it’s not.

If you have had the pleasure of exiting this oversized but beautiful Church at any point of this side of September, you will have been confronted by a mass of tents, banners and a thronging crowd of rightfully discontented people. And judging by the general mood of the crowd, or by the fully-stocked and delicious kitchen, not to mention the wired-up technology tent pumping out free Wi-Fi and charging protester phones for nothing amidst a hub of wires, laptops and whiteboards with information flows planned out…

…these guys aren’t planning on going anywhere too soon.

…these guys aren’t planning on going anywhere too soon.

So what’s this all about? The long view is for another entry. Let’s take the short view.

Back in August, the printed word’s Enfants Terrible and all-star culture-jammer organisation Adbusters, a longtime favourite of mine, and the self-same good people who inaugurated “Buy Nothing Day”, put a call out amid the pages of their eponymous magazine to “Occupy Wall Street” – an at the time a US-scoped appeal for its readership and their respective room-mates to turn up at the epicenter of Theo-Capitalism. “Bring Tent” read the laconic singular instruction. “What is our one demand?” was their semi-rhetorical question.

Other than “Bring Tent” of course.

On October 15th this movement erupted into a coordinated international parallel protest of more than 1,000 independent #Occupations, amid a predictable general media-blackout, which failed even to pick out the stories of unprovoked mace-attacks on unarmed, non-aggressive female protesters (for which Youtube provided video evidence to the world), or the kettling and subsequent 700-person arrest of New Yorkers under a bridge (which, unfortunately for the police, was broadcast live on Livestream’s “globalrevolution” channel in real-time, at TV-ready quality.)

Let us loudly and roundly remind ourselves that were a policeman to mace an unarmed woman in a non-protest circumstance, it would be international news with cries from the establishment to “maintain order”. Similarly, the simultaneous arrest of 700 peaceful protesters in New York was almost the largest arrest in US history. Again, unreported.

To be surprised at this is to be highly naïve or willfully ignorant. For, if these events are against the backdrop of a global civil disobedience-based refusal to accept the apartheid of wealth inequality or the global cancer-system of “fractional reserve lending” (do yourself a favour and Google it), then I guess these major news stories must just deserve to be buried under the latest Justin Bieber niceties, or perhaps the meandering corporation-sponsored ramblings on just how awesome your own country’s history just might be.

Leave it on the cutting-room floor lads, the footie needs a 10 minute slot.

A little after 2pm, the BBC’s One Show spectacularly trolled this parade In Real Life by wheeling in a 40+ year tenured banker who, in the words of the BBC’s own well-meaning presenter, “is a huge fan of the banks.” Fairly quickly a crowd gathered, amongst them myself and Zeitgeist videographer Jason, HD camera at the ready.

A prominent and ably vocal Greenpeace member named George fired the first shot, as well as many thereafter, highlighting that not only was the bailout entirely unjust, but it was badly executed to boot, even for an inherently unfair bailout. David, the banker, defended the grand and magnanimous institutions, claiming without a shred of irony in his voice that “even the shirt you’re wearing, or your baby’s hat” were all directly “thanks to the banks.”

Clearly this man has never heard of sweatshops. Or perhaps he is not willing to factor in human or machine labour, or indeed the entirely technical, not monetary, reality he seems blindly to inhabit.

Clearly this man has never heard of sweatshops. Or perhaps he is not willing to factor in human or machine labour, or indeed the entirely technical, not monetary, reality he seems blindly to inhabit.

A pink-haired mother of a tiny shoulder-supported child was the first to hit the nail squarely on the head. “Shouldn’t an economy, I don’t know, ECONOMIZE?” She deftly manages to fire this out with true force, whilst simultaneously softly holding her child.

Rock a bye-baby, on the tree top.

Another lady unleashed the most impressive jeremiad against “neoliberalism and deregulation of the UK banking market” – and what’s more, she asked, who had been left with the bill? Not in just money, but in broken and sold off social systems? You, that’s who.

At this point the banker began to sputter like a dying coke-machine, finding himself having to agree with the points that questioned the fundamental structure of “the now”. Mutterings about “reform” or blame laid at the feet of some prior government fell on profoundly deaf ears. The BBC cameras rolled on.

After about 30 mins I had wrestled myself to the front of the mob and raised my hand. Looking the banker in the eye, I tried to get back to the fundamentals.

“We talk a lot about reform or who was to blame for regulating the system. But the fact is technological automation is replacing human labour at an alarming rate, escalating every year. So it’s not really a question but more of a statement to you; with the economy no longer able to be based on labour for income, the entire banking industry is going to become obsolete. And I’m glad you’ve had 40 years in the business, as that means you can get out at the last stop before it’s done.”

When the wind blows the cradle will rock.

“Yes”, says David, “but at the same time I’m worried about my children’s future.”

This is no answer of course. Nor have I asked a question. And we manage to agree without the need of either one.

And while the cameras continue to roll, the debate vanishes. And instead we are all left as a group of human beings all concerned about the same thing. There are no sides in species survival.

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall…

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