Occupy St Pauls Cathedral!
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
Occupy St Paul’s! This isn’t the slogan of those who have followed in the wake of the Wall Street protestors, but London’s eponymous cathedral is now surrounded by a tent city of anti capitalist protestors.
In truth, there just isn’t the room outside the Bank of England, or the ‘Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’, as the institution is known. Nor are there open parks adjacent, so St Paul’s Cathedral, the Christopher Wren masterpiece is surrounded by a multi coloured Bedouin village.
It began well enough. Protesters were welcomed by the church, their sometimes inchoate demands echoed by the church which wants to be seen on the side of the people rather than Mammon. The British protests have largely been peaceful, nor have there been the scenes of violence visited on New York or Portland, Oregon. The British media largely began by watching the gathering with a sense of detached resignation. But it wasn’t long before the protestors found themselves being bombarded with the question; ‘so if you don’t like the system, what’s your alternative?’ Then some enterprising journalists discovered that some of the tents were empty during the night, as some less hardy souls returned to their homes, and now the church authorities, goaded by Mayor Johnson have decided it is time for the protestors to move on.
All is not without potential hazard. One churchman has resigned in protest at the cathedral authority’s apparent change of heart, while some protestors are refusing to budge. The stage is set for some kind of stand off. The mood of the media has hardened as well, although it is difficult to remember many of the same newspaper critics turning their ire and questioning on the bankers and speculators as they rifled the Western economies.
That said the protestors do know what they don’t like; a kleptocratic capitalism run by and for plutocrats, but as yet they haven’t reached any kind of consensus as what could be done to change our economic system so that it is both dynamic and provides equally for all. We are some way from all of that, but it will come.
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