Thursday, October 20, 2011

#Occupied Melbourne

Having been away for the key days over the weekend, I missed a lot of Occupy Melbourne and being pretty well occupied with my environmental campaigning job I haven't spent heaps of time down there. But it sure looks like a great event from what I've seen and much kudos to those who have spent so much time there.

The talk now is of when the police are going to clear out the square. Their numbers have already increased today. Given that the Queen is going to be in Melbourne in less than 5 days, we can assume that the conservative Mayor and state government are going to want to move everyone on well before then.

It's great to see two things in particular about this protest: a whole lot of people who I can't count as the "usual suspects" that I see at left and progressive events all the time. And then all those people (plus many of the usual suspects like myself) working together to create a big public display of our dissatisfaction.

Unlike the US, Australia has not had a massive financial crisis, bailouts of huge banks, and widespread evictions of mortgage defaultees. But economic prosperity here is not shared equally. The average income may be close to $60K but the median is more like $44K (as convincingly put by Matt Cowgill).

How many young workers have never had paid annual or sick leave because they have only worked casual jobs? How many students have to work part or even full time hours on top of their course load? And how many people entering employment can seriously contemplate buying their own home with prices as high as they are? There's plenty of economic reasons for discontent.

But the occupation at City Square isn't yet the 99%, even while it has their interests at heart. The longer it remains there, the better chance it has of drawing broader support. That's important, and if the police evict the protesters, we all need to be down there the next day to protest - and hopefully reinstate the occupation.

It's like guerrilla warfare: a common saying is that a guerrilla insurgency is winning simply by holding on and being a thorn in the side of the government. As long as we remain organised (and hopefully growing) the government is not winning. They are only winning if they remove the threat completely.

The protests can continue without holding the square itself. A guerrilla army (to continue the analogy) doesn't have to seize and hold territory. It needs to be taking any actions that build support for its aims and encourage wider participation. So provided the people who have come together for this inspiring action are willing to keep going, we can keep involving more and more "ninety-nine percenters" until we win.

What steps to take as the protest moves forward? Taking the message out further is important. Demands may become important, although a simple "we've had enough!" is a great message to bring us all together in unity to get the ball rolling.

No doubt there will be many ideas for where to take the movement. Symbolic trips to the elite "Melbourne Club" and the tried-and-true "corporate scumbags tour" are good to keep things moving. The participatory General Assemblies are likewise a great idea (I hope no-one's going to try and change it to a spokescouncil!).

Today many of the Occupy Melbourne protesters rallied to the offices of BHP, the largest mining company in the world, with headquarters in downtown Melbourne. BHP is applying to build the world's biggest mine at Roxby Downs in South Australia - a uranium mine 1km deep. It was BHP-mined uranium that leaked from the reactors at Fukushima.

The mining sector isn't just an environmental disaster, from the Kimberley gas hub, to Roxby Downs, to Xstrata's proposed Wandoan mega coal mine. It's also a sector of the economy that is bloated and is crowding out everything else. There's plenty of analysis - check out what the Australia Institute has been saying here.

The mining sector is the big player in Australian politics. They tore down Kevin Rudd over the idea of a very modest tax on their superprofits and had a more compliant PM established. They are getting brazen in their arrogant domination of the politics and economy. Pride comes before the fall: I think the time is right for a movement to reassert popular sovereignty over Australia's mineral resources and land.

Sovereignty that can only come with a treaty with the indigenous people, a republic that removes the fiction of the British royal as our head of state; a system that puts resources and wealth under the control of the people, not the 1% rich and their multinational corporations.

It's too early to say how this will all turn out. But if we are going to get anywhere, we will be coming up against these issues. Here's to popular sovereignty and the occupation!


  1. I suspect that the Occupy doesn't comprehend the hip pocket reality of that 99%. This enscapulates a long term divide in far left politics: economistic reality. As this useful comment points out the Occupy Melbourne " is not identifying strongly enough with the daily economic concerns of ordinary Australians the rhetorical 99%":
    The problem is that we don't necessarily need another anti-imperialist occupation. At stake now is at home neo liberalism impacting upon the millions that are hurting big time.
    Every element in our every day reality has been designed to screw us by squeezing greater profits from us. Unless that is reflected in the Occupy movement it will be but a flash in the pan. Inspiring. Anti-capitalist...but shallow.

    No Arab all.

  2. I wouldn't say that camping out in a tent, on concrete, in the rain, for a cause which relates to all of "shallow". The simple message of this global protest has got it right. The stolen wealth of "the 1%" has very real implications & influences upon the rest of us. Political, physical,cultural & spiritual implications. The time for The Change, the Reckoning, the Rebalancing, is now. NOW. It is a relentless, unstoppable, Undeniable Force for Good that will not be smothered over, silenced or forgotten about. It is happening on all levels all the time & won't let up. Global protests are an outworking of this. The more things done in groups, the more powerful the effect. There are groups anchoring these changes upon the planet every day, on energetic levels, paving the way for the outworking of change in the physical world. Protesting is taking a brave stand for what you believe in. So is living a life in complete authenticity with who you are & where you're headed. Avoiding supermarkets in favour of farmers markets, buying produce not grown with poisons, drinking water not laced with fluoride & chlorine, no longer supporting the factory farming torture operation but instead sourcing 'ethical' animal flesh - or avoiding it altogether, growing & sharing your own food, etc. Talk about a revolution ~ it's growing a food forest on your nature strip. All these actions simply remove power from 'the corporations'. Empowerment with Earth rebalances things. It's pretty important now to look into the prophecies of the 'Red & Blue Kachina' by the Hopi Indians, (on you tube). The solution to where we're collectively at right now is to seriously stay as close to Mother Earth as possible, to live in harmony with Her, with all of nature. When u do this, you'll get protection. And guidance. I move snails off the footpath & place them in the grass if i think they'll be squashed, & pick up bees who have lost their trail & put them on a flower again. Chemicals/pesticides/herbicides kill bees. Without the bees, no food. No ecosystems. No life... It's crucial to show respect to All of life, it's why we're here. Our true role as global citizens is to be Earth guardians, each one of us. What a magnificent planet, what a privilege to be here. HERE. We've got 7 days before the close of the Mayan calendar, nothing bad is going to happen, only good, but seriously, WHY is the Queen coming out here then? To Melbourne, in particular? I guess it doesn't actually matter, she's not that powerful at all, really! Not in the ways that count...


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