It appears that the City of London are going to evict the Occupy protesters tonight or tomorrow. If so all to the good, it is about time we got real. By their self-indulgence the protester’s main achievement has been to set back the possibility of real challenge to an economic and social system which enables a few to reward themselves with incredible riches, whether earned or not, whilst aided by ineffectual politicians their incompetence and greed has brought Europe to the brink of economic and social disaster.
The protesters have done more harm than good to their own cause.
Vigorously promoted by the media, unstructured and idiotic protests have come to be seen as a viable way of changing society; as if chanting inane slogans and spouting weepy canned platitudes is essential to the transformation of an economic culture covering most of the world.
Most of the time the Occupy protest has been shallow and predictable. Arguments are correct not if they conform to facts and well researched reason, but if they are passionately held. Unfairness is measured by the intensity of one’s feelings. The Occupy protests have been to a considerable extent self-justifying tantrums by the comfortably off fearful that their culture of entitlement may come to an end. One group noticeable by their absence from the protests have been the group hit hardest by the economic mismanagement of bankers and politicians, the working class.
The Occupy protest has been caricatured quite fairly as: “What do we want?” “We don’t know.” “When do we want it?” “Now.”
Perhaps the saddest thing about the whole affair has been what has happened to the Chapter of St Paul’s. True they were incompetent in the way they handled the occupation. From Giles Fraser welcoming the protesters, to wanting to rid of them, to getting the City of London to do the dirty work, to Giles Fraser reacting to protesters defecating in the cathedral by saying it would be alright because Jesus was born in a stable; they bumbled along. They never took a clear stance, instead they reacted, and reacted in what appeared a haphazard fashion.
As a result there have been resignations and plummeting reputation. Which is more than sad because the Chapter, in their daily work in and interaction with the City, have probably done more than any to press home the need for high ethical standards on those who live by trading in the City. Real work at wrestling with the complexity of social and fiscal structures and the necessity in the name of Christ to take a view which goes beyond the FTSE Index has been sidelined, even disregarded. Instead a handful of self-regarding protesters have indulged themselves and made a mockery of real abjections to a hazardous fiscal system.
Back in the 70’s when student protest was an idealistic crusade, and a fun thing, I can remember TF Torrance grumping that Tubingen University didn’t have a Faculty of Theology, instead it had a poster factory. I didn’t appreciate it at the time (I was one of those who thought protests were going to change the world, and that they were fun) but he was right. The world is changed not by playing drums, face painting and inchoate cries about greed. It is changed by fearlessly bringing God’s Word to bear on the whole of society, rich and poor, powerful and weak. It is changed by doing the hard work of analysis; of Scripture and of society. It is changed by the hard work of involvement, not by standing on the sidelines and playing at revolutionaries.
Calvin had more radical ideas over breakfast than the entire Occupy movement has had in its entire futile existence.