11 February 2012

The journey is the destination

Occupy Norwich began their protest on Hay Hill, alongside hundreds of other cities, on October 15 2011. Today at their General Assembly the occupiers meet to discuss the way forward. As they debate how to bring their work into the wuder community, Vanessa Buth, one of ON's communications team, describes her journey.

I read through the articles posted on the One World Column, I read the news, blogs, listen to talks and lectures, get involved in debates. Problems are raised, things that are wrong are pointed out. On the bottom of this page I read “No one has had any answers”.

Since the 15th of October 2011 I have been involved in Occupy, first listening, than increasingly getting active and engaged. What I have learnt from this movement, from Occupy Norwich that is in particular, is more than I would have ever thought. No actually, it is not just more, it is completely different to what I expected.

I joined, because I could no longer sit still and watch a small number of people destroy our society and planet, whilst the victims are numbed with unawareness and apathy or – as Rupert Read points out – not even born yet. I could not face the injustice and neither could I close my eyes. I did not go into this thinking 'I can change the world', but I knew that doing something stands more chance to cause some change than doing nothing. That is obvious.

What I did not realize was the change it would bring about, and believe me it has done so big time. No matter what the Occupy movement will achieve in the big, yes global scheme of things, with regards to tackling inequality of wealth or indeed the definition of wealth, it has already started a journey. And this journey is the goal. I do not believe that the change will come about directly, that finding the answers to our questions, to the problems, new policies, is what we need. The change is coming about by process. A journey that instigates changes in the minds of people, in perceptions, in their skills – which will ultimately be the change we want to see, the goal.

The whole occupy movement is built on consensus. Consensus does not require the agreement of each individual that whatever is decided is the only way, but it requires people to accept the collective will, because they believe in the cause and trust the collective wisdom. Consensus does not ignore any individuals' view raised out of many, instead it requires all views to be voiced and discussed. In fact one view could change the collective will – or the collective one might change yours. The process of consensus encourages people to want, to actually make a real effort, to understand each other to move forward together, because no one can 'win' an argument for the cause. It teaches to be responsible, to understand that you play an important part in the whole. It lies in your hands to play that part, but you can only do so if you respect the views and feelings of others and if you make sure this is the case for all of you.

In the process of consensus, I did not only get to know the other Occupiers - a bunch of strangers connected by their passion for the cause, exercising endless patience, showing immense goodwill to move forward together and opening their incredibly great hearts towards each other. I have also learnt about myself, my own strengths and my own weaknesses. I realized how pre-formed my perceptions of people are, even though I always thought I was so open. Occupy has made me see these things in other people, which before I was blind to, because my perception was - and of course still is - so biased by the society we live in. And I realized how wrong these perceptions shaped by our society are, not only because they are not true, but also because they are the obstacle in our journey. We fail to understand each other, to want to understand each other, because we believe we already know.

The Occupy movement has taught me otherwise. I have learnt respect, to take responsibility, to care, to self-reflect, to fight, to hope, to believe, to feel, to see beyond fake fences. Occupy Norwich, with all its different people and all their unique indispensable characters, has given me a little insight into what the world has already started to look like, in over 1000 places across over 90 countries. We are in the process of learning the trades of the journey. In fact, maybe this is what the world does look like, we just have to open our eyes and let it happen. Vanessa Buth

Further information about Occupy Norwich can be found at their website, on Facebook or Twitter.

Vanessa Buth came to Norwich to do a PhD in political science at UEA three years ago. She worked previously as a research assistant in Mannheim, Germany (her native land) and as a freelancer at a political foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Photo: Occupy Norwich assembly by Ann Nichols, from article on Occupy Movement through Pragmatist Glasses by Olaya de la Iglesia

1 comment:

  1. From the day we are born, society conditions us to see things in a certain way - a way that supports and defends the system that is robbing us of our true potential. Vanessa is absolutely right - we need to open our eyes, we need to help others to open their eyes. This is the vital mission of Occupy - not to supply pre-packaged pre-digested ideologies, but to give people the tools to find the solutions themselves.

    The work of Occupy has only just started. Or, in the words of Byron:

    “For Freedom's battle once begun,
    Bequeathed by bleeding Sire to Son,
    Though baffled oft is ever won.”