To be honest you can’t see much happening here, the encampment was around the corner. But that would seem to be because Guards (police) are preventing people from getting close enough to witness the break-up operation. The presence of the CSI van is also a little disturbing. What crime, exactly?
A shameful day for political freedom in this country. Occupy Galway – the last Occupy protest camp in Ireland – was uprooted this morning. The Council cite safety as a reason to suppress the protest. As ever. It’s simply counterfactual. Increasingly dangerous at night in recent years, Eyre Square became a friendlier place thanks to the constant human presence. That encampment was the best things to happen to the Square since they took the feckin’ railings down. But this real increase in safety means nothing when compared to the unspecified dangers posed by tents.
It was something to be proud of, symbol of the freedom of thought and action so damn rare now in this cowed country. The kind of person who found this shameful and untidy is the same sort who granted planning permission to a hundred concrete tumours. Unbelievably, their main pretext for removing the protesters is to tidy the place up for an international yacht race. That’s a bit rich.
Indeed, super-rich. The symbolism is grotesque. Because the ludicrously wealthy want to come and play, the protest against what the ludicrously wealthy are doing to us must be silenced. Shut up and cheer the corporate toys.
But the race is good for everyone in Galway, right? Hmm. It was easier to believe that during the boom times. The rising tide may lift all boats. But when it’s going out, you’d better have a big one.
One day I’m going to take a stand against the division of time into arbitrary regular periods. It’s a delusion anyway. The periods aren’t regular – I’ve noticed throughout my life that they grow consistently shorter. A year is a trivial amount of time now. On current trends, by the time I’m 80 one will last about as long as a summer’s afternoon did when I was five. No doubt it’s healthy to stop and take mental stock every so often, but marking every single year that comes along feels like indulging them.
But then again, without this end-of-the-year show it could easily have escaped my ephemeral notice that 2011 was an extraordinary one. I doubt if we’ve had so much change – especially so much hopeful change – since at least 1989. In some ways we’ve seen the anti-2001; the greatest act of terrorism was carried out by a Christian extremist, the people fighting for democracy were Muslim. It went a long way towards repairing the damage perpetrated during the miserable presidency of George W. Bush.
Except of course that done to the world economy, which is still utterly buggered. At least people rioted in the UK. Yeah, I see that as a positive. If we create a society where the rich can blow it all gambling yet somehow still stay rich, meanwhile telling the poor that they have to be poorer now, then it is a good thing that some people say “OK, we’re not playing by these rules anymore”. This isn’t justifying theft, it’s pointing out that societies are made out of people and you can’t keep taking the piss.
Similarly I think the riots against austerity in the Eurozone were on balance a good thing. I’d sooner peaceful civil disobedience like the Occupy movements, but a riot is the next best thing. Certainly, either is better than the supine attitude we seem to have adopted in Ireland.
This then is my greatest hope and fear for 2012. How will we channel our anger? Here in Galway, city councillors are trying to close the little Occupy encampment that we have on the grounds that it’s bad for business. That is how much our politicians care for actual politics. Every challenge to the system in the last ten years, from organised terrorism to music downloading, has been used by the powerful as an excuse to give themselves yet more power over the individual. There are real threats in the world to democratic capitalism, it is true. The greatest is from undemocratic capitalism.