A breakfast of champions and a disco of gramophones

Breakfast of Champions
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Wednesday 12th October

Morning on Day Five on Occupied Dame Street saw a strange and unfamiliar yellow orb pass slowly overhead, bringing a feeling that some would describe as the opposite of cold, and when coupled with the discovery that for many of the Overnighters the sounds of constant traffic and the heaving retches of late-night passers-by have become an urban lullaby resulting in an unprecedentedly good night's sleep, no longer is there a sense of bitter resentment that we have been cursed by fate to be involved in #OccupyDameStreet and not #OccupySeychelles or #OccupyMaldives.

As we arrived down to the Camp a bountiful breakfast was being served by the Food Workgroup (and while anyone can volunteer to help source and serve food, there are two or three folks who seem to always be there and are just amazing) with hard-boiled eggs, sardines and fig-rolls the power foods du jour. Especially Fig-Rolls. Camp life seems to start to get going between 8 and 9am, when the majority of folks are up and active, most after only four to five hours sleep, though since the introduction of a midnight noise curfew the morning faces seem less bleary-eyes and groggy, which is just as well give the early morning arrivals of journalists. In fact so frequent have been the morning media visits these last few days that certain signs around the Camp decrying the media black-out have had to be subtly altered.

Less of a blackout, more of a brownout
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Wednesday 12th October

This afternoon's General Assembly returned once again to the theme of outreach to or acceptance of members of other political groups and organisations. As I mentioned yesterday the stated position of #OccupyDameStreet is that while it welcomes the valuable experience and contributions members of existing political groups could bring with them to Dame Street, as the movement is only beginning to find its voice its asks that party affiliations be left at the door (a metaphorical door, this being basically a hundred-foot wide concrete wind tunnel). Proselytizing and recruitment, whether verbally or by leaflet, newsletter, fundraising jars etc by external groups are all banned from the Camp, but individuals from external groups are more than welcome to approach the General Assembly and ask to run a workshop on a particular topic as an individual rather than on behalf of a party.

There is no single issue more contentious at General Assemblies than this topic, as at every GA there are a fair few members of parties or groups that really want to support #OccupyDameStreet, and support it in strength by arriving down en masse with banners and placards. However there are normally far, far more people who disagree passionately with such an approach, and the main reason they are at Occupied Dame Street is because of the absence of these very political banners, placards and affiliations.

We are all individuals at the afternoon General Assembly
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Wednesday 12th October

My own feeling is somewhere in the middle, I am there because of the unaffiliated nature of the movement, however I feel that if someone wanted to speak at a workshop on behalf of their party they should be given the chance, which would also give the chance for everyone else to question them. However I am adamantly opposed to any banners, placards, leaflets, chanting or recruitment being carried out by any external groups on site. The danger of #OccupyDameStreet being hijacked at this early stage by an external group with their own agenda is on many people's minds and the ideal of Left Unity trumpeted loudly is sadly all too often followed by the mental reservation "under our leadership".

It was clear that there was no consensus at the General Assembly to alter the "leave at the door" position. There was an interesting moment when someone called for a count of votes for and against altering the policy and were quickly reminded that #OccupyDameStreet operates under a pure consensus system – it’s all or nothing, not majority rule. After forty minutes of debate the status quo stood, though any General Assembly in the future is free to change the policy once full consensus is reached. Even for seasoned political activists operating under this system can take no small amount of getting used to, but it is amazing to see what happens when consensus is reached. I don't know how they ever take major decisions, but maybe this is why Quakers seem so happy all the time.

Gavin Titley hosts a workshop
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Wednesday 12th October

The afternoon finished off with a fantastic workshop hosted by author and academic Gavin Titley, from NUI Maynooth, on the topic of 'Racism and Neo-Liberalism' that started with David Cameron's smokescreen national conversations in the UK on immigration and ended up with the thesis that neo-liberalism relies on the stratification of individuals in a society according to usefulness, with the most desired citizens being those most autonomous, responsible and passive; that racism is intrinsically linked to utility and migrants with skills are welcomed as long as they integrate silently. Dog-whistle phrases and smokescreen debates are all part of the politics of spectacle, and with the 2004 Citizenship Referendum Ireland (and Michael McDowell) was well ahead of the neoliberal curve.

Hooray for us! We're Number One! We're Number One!

Workshops are fast becoming my favourite part of Camp life; the opportunity to learn, interact and debate with folks far, far more knowledgeable than myself on a wide range of subjects (not hard, I am an academic dabbler, always going for the Fish Fingers of Knowledge and ignoring the tastier Salmon). The workshops are also a fantastic way for the camp to directly engage with members of the general public, a public more used to political slogans, banners and manifestos of dislikes.

The workshops are approved by General Assembly and anyone can offer to host one. The full list of the day's events can be found on the newly launched official #OccupyDameStreet website, the conveniently named occupydamestreet.org where you will also find this new leaflet, put together in record time overnight by the Media Workgroup:


I shall be released
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Wednesday 12th October

I love evenings on Occupied Dame Street, the buzz of the General Assembly, the impromptu debates that occur afterwards as the crowd breaks up into smaller groups of strangers and friends, the sodium lights that bathe everything in a soft yellow glow that totally hides the fact that I don't really understand white balance when taking photographs in the daytime, and the chance to catch a sneaky cup of tea before running off to a two hour Media Workgroup meeting which you foolishly volunteer to facilitate and quickly discover that it’s not all unicorns and Jazz Hands and end up missing TV3 broadcasting live from the camp.

Still, the evenings come alive as the camp swells with well-wishers, passers-by and supporters who cannot break away from their 9-5 but still want to be a part of something special. While there is zero tolerance for alcohol or drunkenness and a rigorously enforced noise curfew in the camp from midnight on, it has to be said that at times the night bears no small resemblance to a festival, tonight being a perfect case in point.


A gramophone disco, in fact The Gramophone Disco
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Wednesday 12th October

Almost as soon as the crowds from the General Assembly started to dissipate an impromptu trad session erupted followed by The Mighty Stef and The Gramophone Disco and a rolling jam with anything up to five guitarists that went on perilously close to the curfew. The whole session, as with almost all that happens in the camp, was live-streamed on the internets with up to 150 folks watching it around the world and sending in requests to the accommodating fingersmiths.

An amazing energy and the perfect way to wash away the taste of committee meetings.


This next one goes out to Gordon on Wall Street
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Wednesday 12th October

Yes, I know that all reads like your dad talking about watching Glastonbury on BBC2, but it’s late, I'm tired, and to be perfectly honest you should be thankful it didn't end up going all "hurrrungh-capitalism-bad" there at the end.

TV3 Midweek broadcasting live from the camp, starts at about 24:25)
The Gramophone Disco on MySpace
The Mighty Stef
The #OccupyDameStreet Livestream, normally running between 11am(ish) and midnight


Originally posted on David's site, boomingback.org.


All images: David Johnson.