The right to protest

I often find myself pondering deeply profound thoughts on a Sunday. I am not religious but find the week piles up in my head on a Sunday. I try to make sense of the world and its happenings. I have posted about world hunger and enjoying the simple things in life. In this last week there has been lots of coverage about the St Paul’s Cathedral camp, its purpose and legitimacy. I must confess to be slightly puzzled as to what they are protesting about. Is it other than the city screwing the financial stability then looking to offload responsibility onto the rest of us. I know that sounds a bit lefty but I presume that is what the protesters standpoint is? I fully support their right to highlight what they see as genuine worries over the city and perceived inequalities. It is easy to question how people who mismanage banks can expect to collect large bonuses at the same time.
I am equally alarmed to hear that possible legal action may seek to time limit certain types of protest in an attempt to avoid long term camps being established. I find this very worrying as it could diminish the aims of the cause. The Greenham Common peace camp stayed in place for years, highlighting many peoples fear over nuclear weapons. The anti war campaigner Brian Haw who died this year, lived in a tent for 10 years on Parliament Square. To many his camp might have seemed a pointless eyesore but to others he kept the anti war message alive and up the noses of the politicians.
Protest should not be predictable and time limited. Protest by its very nature is messy, irrational, inconvenient and passionate. We should never shackle the public right to protest over any issue. The minute we do is the minute  we take our first step down a very worrying path. Its like saying ‘OK you’ve made your point, now stop this nonsense’.
I am at heart a socialist, who believes firmly that our country is about the people in it and making it fit for the benefit of all; not controlled and patronised by those with money and power. I have said before (6/10/11) that I wish we would all try to get on with each other and help one another. It benefits no one to see families plunged into poverty or huge numbers of people of debt. I am a firm believer that Margaret Thatcher ruined the concept of society as a principle for the well being of all.
She gave the greedy, rich, selfish & intolerant a standard bearer & the opposition a figure of hatred. She hated trade unions as they wielded too much power (in her eyes).Trade Unions it is worth remembering, were set up to protect the workforce from exploitation by greedy employers. She hated the concept of nationalised industries as they restricted ‘competition’. I am intrigued and amused that given we have no choice as to what type of water comes out the tap or how thick our electricity may burst from the plug, is it real competition? Many other countries still embrace nationalised industries as they can manage to  reconcile the greater need with the free market.
There is an assumption from the protesters that workers in the city have no idea what they are doing with our economy. I do think the city don’t do themselves any favours at times with their perceived arrogance towards any doubters. Its like a physicist being asked to explain about the formation of the universe. Its a big subject. You do not look at the questioner and start by saying ‘its very complicated and you wouldn’t understand’. The skill of a good physicist like Professor Brian Cox is in his willingness to make it understandable. The same could be said for those in the city. They should look at their predecessors. I have a relative who worked as a partner in a stockbrokers for many years. He is retired now but still writes for business journals. His generation to some extent were dazzled by the grocers daughter from Grantham  but I think also felt uncomfortable by her rash extremism. They instinctively traded cautiously, minimising customers risk whilst trying to maximise the returns. Maybe the markets have just become too twitchy and impatient, prone to feeling like they should do something rather than watch and wait. Maybe what they need is to calm down and think before they act. Stability is almost a dirty word to some thrusting entrepreneurs but is not always a bad approach. These city workers ultimately have as much to lose as the rest of us.
Maybe the camp at St Paul’s and many other occupy campaigns around the world may teach the traders to think for a minute before they leap into another costly decision. It is my belief that whilst it may look unsightly, attract professional campaigners and go on for just too long it is a good thing. Someone in the boardroom of a large investment bank,will wake up to the fact  that we want to trust our experts to handle our investments/money/business interests; but they are not doing much to convince us of their capability to do so at the moment.
Until that day occurs, I say lets continue to make a nuisance of ourselves.


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