Saturday, October 22, 2011
Occupy Saint Paul's!
The canons of St. Paul's Cathedral in London decided to close the cathedral indefinitely for the first time since World War II. During the height of the Blitz, the cathedral closed for only 4 days. They cite all kinds of safety concerns for visitors as well as for the protesters. I cannot help but think that this is a melodramatic over-reaction. Camped out protesters are hardly German incendiary bombs raining down out of the sky.
I think the London protesters are right to see this as a move on the part of the City to close them down. We had a similar episode in New York when a scheduled "cleaning" of LibertyPlaza/Zucotti Park was used as a transparent pretext to shut down the protest. Supporters rallying at the park at the last minute prevented a confrontation by forcing the mayor and the police to back down in the face of public opinion on the side of the protesters.
The protesters are there because the London cops would not let them anywhere near the Stock Exchange. That center of the international financial industry must be protected from ... shame and embarrassment I suppose. The campers pitched their tents on the cathedral grounds and the cops were ready to move in and clear them out. Kudos to the cathedral for asking the cops to stand down and for welcoming the protesters to camp out there (would I be right to see the hand of Giles Fraser, frequent columnist for The Guardian and resident canon priest at St. Paul's in that invitation?). It is good to see at least part of the Church of England resisting the fate of so much of American Christianity, to be co-opted into becoming another collection agent for the banks (see right wing political efforts to clobber the poor with the cudgel of Calvinism, the one corner of Christianity where camels do pass through the eyes of needles). There appears to be a measure of good will between the cathedral and the occupiers. It seems to me that some kind of agreement could be worked out, especially if the City Corporation stays out of it.
Contrast that situation with New York where there is no good will at all between the occupiers in Liberty Plaza and the Mayor. Mayor Bloomberg is definitely part of the 1% and is not exactly shy about his complete lack of sympathy for the protests. The cops are not shy at all about using clubs, pepper spray, and mass arrests on unarmed and peaceful protesters. And yet, both sides managed to work out at least a modus vivendi for the occupation of that small park. The occupation in New York continues to flourish and expand. Occupy Wall Street now has public opinion to protect it from more aggressive police tactics. It seems to me that the custodians of St. Paul's could work out safety and sanitation issues with largely peaceful protesters instead of having an attack of the vapors and passing out on the fainting couch. I see no good reason why protesters, priests, worshipers, tourists, and pigeons can't find some way to live with each other.
Occupy proclaims a message that the Church should embrace. European political leaders, like American political leaders, refuse to confront those who are really responsible for creating this global economic crisis, the high rollers in the financial industry who gambled with everyone's money and threw snake eyes at the craps table. Instead we get bromides about already hard pressed middle and working class people living beyond their means, that austerity and more austerity is the solution to debt crises. The politicians and their financial backers want to reverse the parable of Dives and Lazarus and put poor old Lazarus in the flames of hell with rich fat old Dives in the Bosom of Abraham laughing at the poor wretch.
I wonder if the canons of St. Paul's would prefer the protests end like this:
I'm delighted that Themethatisme looks in on this blog. He sends this skewering of the Opinion of The City:
Posted by Counterlight at Saturday, October 22, 2011