Occupy Southampton is Coming…

1


When thousands of people descended on New York City last September to practise their sacred right to protest, the world went batshit.

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly described Occupy Wall Street as a ‘wacky hippy love-in’ and urged participants to go home, ‘take a shower’ and ‘get a job’. These ‘LUNATICS OF THE LEFT WING’ – as the headline so deftly described – accused the establishment of a conspiracy; a corrupt dictatorship controlled by billionaires was stealing food from our mouths, chaining us in capitalist bondage from the moment we entered this world, obliterating our futures.

When similar events unfolded on our own shores, news media reacted with invariably bombastic declarations of their own ignorance and apoplectic indignation. Porcine and condescending Sky News pundit, Adam Boulton, derided Occupy London as a waste of everybody’s time and money.

‘How dare this degenerate rabble of filthy, workshy, tree-huggers smoke drugs and fornicate in tents and make such an almighty fuss about nothing!’ his comments seemed to suggest, as he compared their indefinite tenancy on the pavement outside St Paul’s Cathedral to the Nazi Occupation of France.

Did he have a point?

The past 12 months has been a time of political flux and cultural strife. At home and abroad, dissent, both popular and less so, has dominated headlines, tweets and texts. With tumult and tear gas from Tehran to Tottenham, masking up and speaking out has become the new apathy. 2011 saw Time Magazine bestow their ‘Person of the Year’ award on none other than ‘The Protestor’. Yet this is not always an accolade to be held in esteem. In 1938, a moustachioed Austrian politician named Adolf Hitler graced the cover of the weekly mag, an influential figure in the words of its founder, Henry Luce) ‘for better or worse’.

Following in the footsteps of these various immortal occupiers, 2012 holds host to a new breed of protesters, this time around in the city of Southampton. They are a leaderless people powered movement for democracy, striving against injustice and oppression. The only problem is they haven’t started yet.

With UK camps across the country like Occupy Bristol already dissolving and protesters returning to their day jobs, is Occupy Southampton too little, too late? Bombarded with a stream of conflicting information and differences in opinion, I caught up with Known as Kenny – an Occupy member who has been involved for several months – to find out.

= = =

WS: What’s this all about then?

Known As Kenny: Basically most people know in their hearts something doesn’t fit. Perhaps you are aware of the fact that taking on huge student loans to pay massive education fees, putting you in £20k debt with no guarantee of a job doesn’t seem like the most sensible thing in the world. The one tool you need to figure this all out is to ‘follow the money’. That’s where this began for me at least, but it’s different for everyone. 

Following the money is easier than it sounds. Last month, headlines buzzed with the news that the boss of government-backed Royal Bank of Scotland had been awarded a bonus of £963,000 worth of shares in the company, one which (partly due to public scrutiny) he eventually rejected. There is a growing sense of the wealthy profiting exponentially at the expense of the less wealthy.

A small coterie of bankers holds the keys to an arcane world of financial capital where literally trillions and trillions of pounds are being accumulated. The rich are getting richer and richer. They are the enemy of the working classes. They are the 1%.

WS: Are you a student/graduate, and what made you want to get involved with Occupy? 

Known as Kenny: I turned 30 at the beginning of this year and reached a point in my life where I thought I understood myself and this life enough to find something I am really passionate about to focus my life on. Discovering world issues like peak oil, impending climate change catastrophe, and more recently, details about our political and banking systems, has led me to search for answers, and I am now a student of something called ‘Permaculture’.

WS: What kind of people are involved with Occupy Southampton?

Known As Kenny: There are people who pioneered this in Southampton like Ania and the two Les’s, which is fantastic, but from my perspective there are no main people. We are a community who have come together as one to educate ourselves on the issues, share information, raise awareness and look for solutions. No one person is more important than any other, just as yourself or anyone else thinking about getting involved would be any less important.

WS: What are the movement’s plans for the near future?

Known As Kenny: Occupy Southampton is still in its early stages, perhaps due to lack of awareness of the big issues in Southampton, or a general cautiousness, who knows? But people are slowly getting involved and plans are coming together. It looks like an Occupy camp will be set up in January after the Christmas period (some Occupiers have children) although the holidays will I’m sure be used to spread the message.

Sky News reported that only one in ten occupiers at the LSX camp stayed in their tents overnight. Those who left were derided by some for their lack of commitment to the cause. There have already been several meetings in Southampton City Centre throughout December and the New Year, organised ad hoc through the superlative communication apparatus that is Facebook, namely a closed group of fewer than 150 members. News stories and YouTube videos highlighting the slow decline of society and inciting encouragement are posted and discussed.

WS: How much support have you received from students?

Known as Kenny: I don’t know if we have much student involvement yet, but I do know that nearly every major revolution in history came from students. You guys are vital! Life can beat you down, but when you are young you still care, and you can still see the bullshit! It has been a tough journey for me to reach 30 without being sucked into that bullshit world of mortgages and thinking a new car is more important than the millions starving in Africa or the systematic destruction of our planet. 

In the streets and online, those involved say they are protesting against a corrupt system that has failed the people, not the alleged ‘socialist nirvana’ that right-wing agitators have suggested. It would be short-sighted to say that nobody’s seen this coming. The Anti-Cuts Demonstration in March last year was the biggest display of public discontent since the 2004 protest against the Iraq War. More than 250,000 people turned up, a group bigger than the population of Newcastle.

Known As Kenny: There is also a feeling that the country is going downhill, and that things don’t change no matter who we vote for. Why is that? Big questions, but there are answers. Just to have people asking those types of questions is my primary aim, because when they find answers the Occupy movement will suddenly make perfect sense! 

WS: How much support have you had from your family and friends?

Known as Kenny: I have no support from my family. Everyone I know has their heads in the sand, but that’s okay. A network is building of those who have woken up, and the more people involved, the more that support network will grow amongst us.

WS: What do you hope to change and what tips would you give to people interested in finding out more or taking part themselves)?

Known as Kenny: My involvement with Occupy is due to the possibility of an amazing change in the way humans see and live on our planet. Right now I see education on issues and potential solutions, and of valuable input of ideas from all as being the biggest plus. I am not involved to demand change, I do not recognize any authority to change anything for us. I believe that if we want to be treated like adults then we need to start taking responsibility like adults are meant to. 

Everyone has their own reasons for being involved, and every single one is valid and important! I rate knowing oneself as one of the most important things is life and I would encourage others to get in touch with themselves, to see how they feel about the information they will learn, and to find their own reasons for taking their own actions that are right for them.

We took to the streets to find out what students at Southampton thought:

“Suggesting high unemployment exists because ‘young people don’t want to work’ is an insult to the very people on whom the future of this country depends.”

Anon
2nd Year, History

 “They’re standing up for what they believe in, and fairplay to them. I stopped giving a shit a long time ago” 

Anon
2nd Year, Medicine

 

“I’d wonder what they’re occupying and if they haven’t got anything better to do. Southampton isn’t exactly a financial centre of the world”

Anon
3rd Year, Geography
 

 

 

avatar

Discussion1 Comment

  1. avatar

    What is the point, go get a job. Or even better decide on an aim in life, everything doesn’t have to be about money. Also if you don’t like the system then move, im sure plenty of failed states will be happy to welcome you to their barter systems

Leave A Reply