Saturday, 22 October 2011

Occupy Sydney - yesterday's blog at last

While I was thinking about what to write here about the Occupy movement I am VERY sad to say that this Sydney Protesters Forcibly Removed happened.

I went to the rally yesterday and it was respectful, peaceful and well organized in spite of rows of riot police lining each end of the area and preparing to 'kettle' the protesters.  Kettling is the term applied to the act of police forming cordons across the paths out of an area and thus either containing the people within it or forcing the use of a particular (police chosen) exit.

Now for those of you who may not know this I used to be a Constable in the NSW Police Force.  I went all the way through the Police Academy, including running obstacle courses and hill sprints in the snow during two nasty Goulburn winters and spit polishing my shoes.  I spent three years working in General Duties at the lively inner city station, Newtown (ironically now the lesbian hub of Sydney).
I really understand the importance of doing your job regardless of your personal beliefs and attitudes.  I took a very low key approach when I was dealing with people, even when I knew I was going to arrest them, I reasoned with people when I could and requested compliance before demanding it 99% of the time (the other 1% was too urgent.)  I was only ever assaulted twice, once by a 10 yr old boy I caught prying the change boxes out of public phones and the other time by an old crazy woman, and wow is that ever another story.  The HUGE blokes I hauled out of pub brawls always stepped meekly into the back of the truck.  Anyway, I digress...  I get it.  I understand both sides and I can't appreciate either police who use unnecessary force OR protesters who get in the faces of cops and stir up trouble.

I went to Occupy Sydney yesterday because I strongly believe that there is too much disparity between rich and poor; I believe Wall St in particular, and corporate America in general, directly caused the recession in the US and the collapse of the housing industry; and I believe that the 1% has continued to rape and pillage like pigs at a trough while EVERYONE ELSE (yes EVERYONE, the other 99%) has struggled to tighten their belts!  Furthermore, I believe that if you don't show your face and get yourself counted (if you possibly can) then you deserve what you get.

On the way into the downtown area I met a lovely young man (my god I sound like my grandmother!), Andrew is 17 and he has no idea what the Occupy movement was about, but he was interested.  He sat with me on the bus and then waited while I got my ticket at the train station so that he could wait with me for the train and then sat with me there too.  He had been refereeing basketball all morning and was on his way home.  I tried to explain it to him but to say it is a protest against corporate greed is just scraping the surface.  I would have had better words on my way home (except on the way home I was really tired and might not have struck up the conversation in the first place.)

The best speaker was a bloke from the MUA (Maritime Union of Australia) whose name I unfortunately didn't catch.  The MUA was there with a portable cafe making free sausage sandwiches for all comers.  They took a vote and approved a resolution of solidarity with the Occupy Sydney movement and they have been on board and helping since day one.  Their speaker was interesting, informative and passionate he talked about Shell Oil whose profits amount to $35,000 a minute, yes A MINUTE.  How the MUA is struggling with Shell for tiny pay raises and improved safety and conditions on the Shell tankers when Shell earns more than the most highly paid seafarer on their ships every three minutes.  He talked about another CEO who was getting a 71% pay increase (to over five million dollars a year) when the same company was fighting against a 5% pay increase for employees, unfortunately I couldn't hear the details in this case.  It is JUST WRONG!!!

The Occupy Movement is rather esoteric which makes it hard to clearly define the objectives and even to elucidate a desired solution.  In a masculine, goal focused, society this makes it a bit hard to understand.  My old friend, who met me there, tells me this is an integral part of the ideal, in that by not having specific demands the movement is open to evolve and morph into whatever it needs to be without the confines or structure of an imposed objective.  (I hope I got that right mate - please correct me with a comment if I screwed up).  Ergo the system is broken but the fix may not have revealed itself yet.  Oh and BTW my old friend was great, it made me smile to think how unchanged she really is after 30 years of not seeing each other.  Yet again I am reminded of what terrific friends I picked all those years ago!

Just an update, I did take a cane/walking stick with me.  I never really realized before that it is like having a private portable banister or handrail whenever you want it, which is kind of cool.  (I have been a huge handrail user for years since a few falls down stairs, due to crappy balance, drummed it into my thick head.)  I was feeling pretty damn good yesterday and I really didn't need the cane though I must confess to giving it a lot more use on the way home when I was starting to get seriously tired.  Last night was one of those nights when the need to be horizontal overwhelmed hunger and thirst and was only trumped by the need to pee!


  1. I wish I could add something coherent here, but I am so glad that you went. Occupy Sydney appears to be much more organized than we at Occupy Tri-Cities. I live in the US, in the pacific northwest. Specifically I live near the Hanford Nuclear Site. You know that big ol' mess that built the bombs that took out Hiroshima back in World War II? This is a very conservative town that is near full employment because of the government pouring money into the nuclear clean up. The irony doesn't escape me that this place is a bastion of Tea Party-ism. And that makes it difficult getting mobilized but it will happen. I have faith. I can no longer sit at my computer as I hurt from being out all day, but loved your comment on my blog and gave me faith to keep writing about what I am so passionate about now. When corporations own both sides of the US political party it's time to mobilize and get in their face. It's "We the PEOPLE, for the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE" and corporations are NOT people! Don't care what the Republicans and Supreme Court say. Many other grievances but this is one that will unravel a lot of other problems. Hang tough! I keep telling myself "when all I can do is all I can do then all I can do is enough" and right now, all I can do is go lay myself down and hope for the best. Tomorrow is another day :-)

    I subscribed to your blog. I hope we keep in touch! My email is Hope to hear from you sometime. Thanks!

  2. Love your report on the day G. GREAT to see you got there! It is a strange movement, this "occupy" stuff. I'm loving how metamorphic it is. Your take on the police activity, from the viewpoint of an ex-member and a protester is terrific.

  3. the update on this obviously is that before dawn the next morning those staying overnight in that neat and tidy well-organised protest were evicted in disturbing circumstances... maybe that will be your next post?

    On the lack of demands - I think I was trying to say that by not specifying any prematurely, that encourages thinking and conversations about what the problems are, and what might address them. We've been passive and "entertained" with mindless crap for so long, we (I mean people in general) have a journey to take with our fellow humans. We've got to name and uncover various sorts of power for example - who's got it, how they keep it, how they use it, how to transfer it to the people. So not having demands, but rather a list of concerns or observations, helps people engage at least with their minds... even if they're not turning up to the protests. The other side of it is - a short-list of demands will only be ignored, and in any case wouldn't address the problems, which are deep, systemic, and global.

    Really shocked by this morning's events at Occupy Sydney, and thinking about how to tell my kids about it!

  4. Kathy - I am so happy to find you commenting on my blog and I really must refer any readers to my side bar where you can find a link to your blog The Fibrochondriac I LOVE your line "when all I can do is all I can do then all I can do is enough" what a lesson there is in there for those of us who are overly self-critical!
    M - I agree about it being a metaphoric movement, one piece I read said it is like when the body knows something is wrong and white blood cells go out to challenge the bad thing, I kind of liked that metaphor. Glad you are here!
    Channah - welcome and thanks for the elaboration re the purpose of the Occupy movement remaining non-specific. I never know what to tell kids when the societal institutions we want them to respect behave disrespectfully. I guess it is just another lesson that nothing is simple and every situation needs to be judged on its individual merits. Yes go to the Police if you are lost or hurt but no maybe they are not your friends if you are protesting OR breaking the law.

  5. Kathy's quote---funny, I made a small poster with something worded like that on it for my mate with FMS. OK, wow, what an adventure. In the USA we are so honored that our anger has been understood and supported around the world. (We don't deserve it, so many of us have been taught to look no further than our own states needs...I applaud the Internet for bringing us all closer together. What a great post. (And not for nothing, just LOOK at how many people are reading you now!)

  6. Why thank you Diane. I know well the ethnocentricity of the US, I recall a conversation with a friend (she was well educated and very bright) where she mentioned the "world" and then corrected herself to say "I mean the whole world", oh how I laughed... my reply was "you mean, not the world between NY and LA? but the actual round thing?" However, the US was my adopted home and I love the principles on which it was founded and the piece of earth it occupies and MANY of the people too! It is not just am US issue because everything that has a serious impact on the US has a serious impact on the rest of the western world.

    UNITED we stand - Divided we fall... I hope this movement continues to grow and enact real change.