More Hippies Needed
This evening a deadline came and went, marking the commencement of legal action by the Corporation of The City of London to remove those parts of the Occupy London camp at St Paul’s Cathedral which are on Corporation land. The process will be as unspeakably tedious as that sentence and will take much longer. In itself it is unlikely to be a significant factor in the longevity of the encampment. However, it’s a sign of the will of the Corporation. They want the camp gone and probably for a number of reasons.
The most common publicly-stated reasons are access to the “highway”, safety and sanitation. There have been some comments about a negative impact on tourism and, recently, dark mutterings of drinking and drug-taking. All of these are red herrings.
There is no “highway”; there’s a path and people are to-ing and fro-ing along it with no obvious difficulty whatsoever. As far as safety goes, the campers have been meticulous in following the advice of fire safety officers, who have said they have no concerns. Sanitation is always a difficulty when you’re out and about in London and don’t have 20p for a station coin-op. However, a bit of careful planning and judicious use of portaloos seems to be working for folks at St Paul’s. I’d expected to be able to find the camp with my nose the first time I went there but nothing of the sort. Any stories you may hear about protestors pooing on the cathedral steps are nonsense.
Tourism? Who knows? There may be some timorous types who feel that a trip to St Paul’s can’t go ahead because they’ll have to walk past some tents. I’d argue that if you’re prepared to shell out £14.50 for a look inside, it’s going to take more than some campers outside to deter you. For anyone with any imagination, the chance to witness a bit of current affairs would be a nice garnish on a tour of historic London.
The final red herring is the stinkiest of the lot. Yes I’ve seen people at Occupy London who were drunk and caught the occasional whiff of not-quite-tobacco. Call out the army! Panic! Head for the hills! Up until now no-one in London so much as had a fizzy drink. These Occupiers are dragging us into a moral cesspool. Can I stop yet?
What no public figure wants to say, but many of them more than likely think, is that the worst thing about the Occupy London camp as far as they are concerned is the type of person it attracts. Hippies, punks, dossers, loonies… Not what they think London should be about. Well the truth is that the Occupy movement attracts all sorts. Description is impossible. The effort that is being put into accommodating different ideas and backgrounds is truly mammoth. And hangers-on are inevitable. The presence of a friendly welcome and a free cuppa is bound to attract homeless, rootless, itinerant types and why shouldn’t it? The Occupiers aren’t simply railing against the status quo; they’re also attempting to live in a better way and that means reaching out with respect to anybody who passes through, be they a tramp on his way to Waterloo or an investment banker on his way to a City dining room.
I’m not a hippy. I lack the survival skills and ability to function without creature comforts. However, I love to be around friendly, caring, genuine people and as such I find the camp at St Paul’s is my favourite place to be in London at the moment. Especially in the bleak, soulless stone and steel canyons of the City, it is an absolute oasis of humanity and reality. If you get a chance to visit, please do. And if you see Boris, tell him you’ve come on holiday to London to see the protests and be part of history.
If you move fast, you should still be able to watch “Confessions of an Undercover Cop” on 4OD. It was a fascinating doc, not entirely without flaws, but one point came across very strongly. Mark Kennedy, the Met Police officer assigned to gather intel on the hardcore environmentalist movement, “went native” because he realised that the people he was infiltrating were far nicer human beings than the people he was working for. Simple as that. Boris, Theresa and the Corporation may not like “hippies” but I tell you what: I’d rather be a hippy than a ****.