Today’s unfolding events in London have been truly remarkable to watch – both exciting and disheartening. Exciting because, like no other time that I can recall in my life, there is a tangible feeling that this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment where things could change for the better. Change in a way that could almost deserve the description ‘revolutionary’. I think a lot of the protesters feel that way, and want to grab this chance with a ferocious eagerness and desperation. I say desperation because the politicians want to tinker with the current system and ‘get it back on track’. Back to serving the interests of the rich and keeping the poor aspiring to little more than to be in debt for the rest of their lives. A gross simplification I know, but not a completely unfair one. The lack of vision in our politicians today is depressing. Even now, there is little really separating the major parties in Britain and America when it comes to economics. They are micro-managers arguing over how best to ‘repair’ the system. No major politican has stood up and said, ‘You know what – perhaps there was something fundamentally wrong with the system in the first place’. Instead the arguments occur on social issues and are completely blown out of proportion in order to present the illusion of huge differences and, most importantly, fundamental choices for the electorate. An electorate which is treated like a focus group made up of pre-schoolers.
Which brings me to the disheartening aspect of today. In the days leading up to this the foundation was laid for the ‘violent protests’. The media fixated on it. There was endless talk of the preparation being made by the police and the measures being taken to protect the G20 leaders. The impression given was that the G20 leaders were reasonable people who were meeting to try and ‘save the world’ while the protesters were extreme lunatics who wanted nothing more than to cause carnage. And so it was with depressing inevitablity that today’s news focused overwhelmingly on the tiny minority of protesters who were violent. They of course do themselves no favour by fitting so easily into the roles which have been defined for them, but the scene was set long ago and the media has been complicit in enabling the politicians to disregard opinion that is outside of the (economically) centre-right consensus. It’s a familiar story, really. One that is drilled into us throughout our life – that this is the way the world is and how it has developed, and anyone who believes it could be radically different is horribly naive/dangerously extreme. The little coverage which has been given to the political beliefs of the protestors has been very much of the soundbite variety, with some protester’s brief fury/optimism contrasted with a ‘city worker”s stoic ‘realism’. The latter has been very much of the ‘I just want to go out and work and make a living for myself and my kids’ variety. The implication being that people who don’t have responsibilities, who don’t have children, who haven’t ‘grown-up’ – these are the people who can afford to indulge in beliefs. Everyone else is too busy just trying to keep their head above water.
Of course, it’s almost impossible to reduce the protesters to one political mindset. I disagree with some of them and disagree with how some have taken action. But Christ, I want to thank them for actually doing something while the rest of us just sit and carp and feel superior and more educated and moan about them disrupting our day and go and take photos of them because it gives a little vicarious thrill to our lives and indulge in the stultifying cynicism which makes our generation so easy to push around.