Where next for Occupy Dame Street? The momentum of the early days has long faded. Go to the website and you see that there have been no meeting minutes published since the General Assembly of the 7th of December. The Twitter hashtag #occupydamestreet never really went anywhere in terms of participants at the site or beyond involving a wider audience in the event. This video below, which has been shared on the Occupy Dame Street Facebook page, shows signs of a camp disintegrating into complete political incoherence:

Let me focus on one small aspect of this footage (which goes on for an agonising 15 minutes): the ‘coffin’ draped in the Irish tricolour. There’s nothing wrong with using imagery associated with death in a political demonstration, as the Spectacle of Defiance and Hope back in December showed, but unless it articulates something coherent- then all you have is death.

The overall picture emerging for an interested but remote onlooker is not great. I listened to a recording of a Philip Boucher-Hayes slot on RTE Drivetime just before Christmas, which featured several voices from the Occupy Dame Street camp (who were all male, along with the presenter and the two parliamentarians brought along to speak their piece). Even if we recognise that the item was shot through with both the patronising smarm and the antagonism disguised as sympathy that are hallmarks of whenever RTE deigns to speak to social movements, the participants did not convey any message that might compel people to believe Occupy Dame Street was or even could be an agent or a catalyst for significant social change. In fact, I get the feeling that if mainstream media outlets are now paying attention, it’s because they get the impression that the site has been adequately decontaminated of any ingredients that might produce any kind of social revolt, and seek to highlight Occupy Dame Street as the exception that proves the (fabricated) rule that Irish people have an in-built aversion to any sort of politics that requires confrontation.

Perhaps the perspective of those down at the camp day in day out, and night in night out, is radically different. Maybe experiences on Dame Street lead the people involved in them to conclude that the occupation there is really going places, and maybe, as a very infrequent visitor, I am completely disconnected from them.

Nonetheless, leaving aside the fact that of late the site seems to have become a music venue of some note (an excellent achievement, to be sure) I don’t see signs of any major public interest in what is going on these days, or of any material or activities that might stimulate such an interest. I know Occupy University is planned to return with renewed focus come the new year, and that will restore additional sense of purpose and continuity to the wider occupied space, but Occupy University in and of itself can’t be expected to generate the political momentum that might make Occupy Dame Street a people’s movement -which is what it claims to be- worth talking about.

It is revealing, I think, that there hasn’t been any statement from Occupy Dame Street further to the one released in early October.

So, whilst ODS rejects the ‘complete control’ of the ECB in dictating economic policy (which leads one to wonder: would it be happy with partial control in dictating economic policy?), it has had nothing to say to the wider public about what the ECB has done since the beginning of October. For instance, a $600bn present to the European banking sector at the expense of the European population.

Nor has it anything to say about the IMF’s call, in its latest report, for ‘efforts to strengthen active labor market policies’ (i.e. harrassment of welfare recipients) or ‘a carefully designed program of public asset disposals’ (i.e. fire sale privatisation).

And it has nothing to say about how there are certain constituencies in Ireland who find common cause with both institutions. It has had nothing to say about the planned introduction of the Household Tax, which is one instance of how, as per the ODS statement, the population of the country are burdened with socialised private bank debt, nor of the campaign against it.

It has had nothing to say about what it might take to nationalise the Corrib gas field, or just what ‘sovereign control’ might mean and entail in the context of oil and gas reserves.

It has had nothing to say about the transfer of effective control over national budgets to unelected European authorities and what the consequences of this might be for ‘real participatory democracy’. But it is not simply a matter of releasing statements: the whole point of occupying public spaces, or at least one of the most important elements, is so that you create a space for conversations about matters such as the ones I mention here to take place, because no other such spaces exist. And then, following on from that, you establish common alliances identify specific actions that might be taken.

I mention all this not to whack occupiers at Dame Street upside the head with a laundry list of things it has failed to do, as though it could be reasonably expected, of the people maintaining the occupation at this moment, that they should have done all these things or are entirely responsible for them not being done. But it does show, I think, that the talk of “revolution”, which I heard on the Drivetime show, is not only utterly detached from reality, but thoroughly disempowering: one of the major propaganda successes of post-war capitalism is to trivialise the idea of revolution, so that it doesn’t mean the overthrow of the existing political and economic system and the introduction of a new one but the release of a new domestic appliance or a cheaper private healthcare plan, or maybe just people out on the streets carrying placards and shouting things.

The course taken by Occupy Dame Street -observed from a distance- has been fairly tortuous so far. If the occupation has not been able to articulate its political convictions effectively, neither has it been able, unfortunately, to demonstrate just how hostile an environment the space around Dame Street is for the people occupying it. The initial general assemblies were consumed with the question of alliance with the Enough campaign and then participation in the Dublin Council of Trade Union march.

What this meant, apart from fostering a fair amount of enmity, was that the degree of public conversation and deliberation that one might have hoped for from such an occupied space did not materialise. That, to my mind, is a major shortcoming of the process thus far. How, in Marxist terms, can you expropriate the expropriators if, in daily life you are expropriated of any capacity (in terms of space, time, language, access to information) to talk about how you are being expropriated and what you can do about it? It strikes me that the answer to this question is not, nor should it ever be: “well let’s hold another protest march, and find out then”.

The outcome of these assemblies seems to have been a loss of support and sympathy from people in the labour movement and on the left, whom a detached onlooker might have expected, at the outset, to play an active role. Also, for many, there seems to have been a discrediting of the consensus decision making process. For my part, I don’t think the fact participation in the DCTU march was blocked can be said to discredit the consensus decision making process, any more than the particular actions of a trade union at a given juncture can be discredit trade unions. But no matter: it strikes me that if Occupy Dame Street is to live up to what it sets forth in its initial statement, if -a massive if- it is to operate as, or spur on, a people’s movement, there are probably bridges to be rebuilt on account of all this.

They are hosting a Dark Side of the Moon meditation in the Occupy Dame Street yurt on New Year’s Day. Though I’ll be out of town that day, I would sooner attend a waterboarding session (well, not really, but I am not a Pink Floyd person). My own meditation amounts to this: Occupy Dame Street should start focusing on the Dark Side of the Camp, which is to say, the massive building towering over the yellow kitchen. ‘Occupy Dame Street’ is fine as a nod to ‘Occupy Wall Street’, but Dame Street isn’t Wall Street, nor is it Ireland’s financial district.

But the camp is parked right outside the Central Bank. The Central Bank ‘is responsible for maintaining price stability in Ireland through the implementation of ECB decisions on monetary policy’, which is to say, it is responsible for keeping wages depressed through the implementation of decisions made by unelected stooges of the European banking lobby. Thus it is a key instrument in the inflicting of austerity on the Irish population.

Therefore, it is presently an instrument of class war. Shouldn’t the occupiers start thinking about that, and telling people about it? One of the virtues of the occupation outside the Central Bank at Dame Street is that it impinges visually and conceptually on the terrain of the state. And if the demand is for ‘real participatory democracy’- shouldn’t that entail democratic control over the banking system? What, we might ask, is the point of demanding sovereign control over oil and gas and not demanding sovereign control over banking? Shouldn’t real participatory democracy entail collective decisions over what to invest and how to invest it? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to get the public involved in discussions about these things right down at the site of the Central Bank?

What there is with the occupation at Dame Street is a weird variation of that old Irish joke about the man who goes into a pub and asks for directions and the publican says “well sur, if I was going there, I wouldn’t be starting from here”: Occupy Dame Street started off at the right destination, but seems to keep looking for somewhere else to go instead. How does ‘Occupy Central Bank’ or ‘Occupy Central Banks’ sound? Provided people don’t think that ‘Occupy’ is now passé, I think it’s worth a shot.



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8 responses to “#occupycentralbank

  1. tara

    firstly thank you for your article because it brings to light a lot of issues that have affected occupy dame street. its very easy to list all the things occupy dame street does wrong or hasnt done but the point is that its there, people are doing something instead of nothing. there needs to be a facilitation ground for people to come together and occupy dame street has achieved this. from ods there is a media team and many other teams working both at the camp and outside the camp. there are people writing a second constution to present to the public. there are people working with the homeless, refugees and the anti eviction taskforce. The camp came about through a group of people, most of whom didnt know eachother previously. They came together not because they have all the answers but because they are sick and tired of the state of our nations ‘government’ and banking situation and the corruption taking place on all levels, not just in ireland. They are disheartened at the way irelands natural resources are squandered and outside influences such as the IMF have been allowed to take such a grip that it affects everybody, from rich to poor, from working class to social welfare recipients, from single parents to large families. Occupy Dame Street came into existance because people have had enough. People like yourself seem expect ODS to come up with a solution to hundreds of problems that have come about over hundreds of years, and to do so, and do loads more besides, in the space of ten or eleven weeks. People are also confused by the Occupy movement in general because, despite a list of demands relevant to each country or town, the Occupy movement as a whole has no defined end point. A government has a defined endpoint, which is usually a lie, but it is a perfectly concocted story they will feed you to make you believe they are doing a job for the citizens when really they are not doing much except lining their pockets. And sadly the majority of our nation would rather believe a lie that makes them feel safe than consider the possibility that it might take time to effect real change and that people without promises are not nessacerily going nowhere, but are maybe more honest because they have the courage to stand up and say I don’t have answers but I’m willing to work at finding them. A politician gets media training so that he knows what to say when he appears on Vincent Brown and he trains for months before he goes into the public eye so that he can cover every angle. If you ask a politician a question he doesnt like he won’t look you in the eye and will probably walk away. The people at occupy dame street don’t have media training. They are people, not robots made by the system. They will look you in the eye when they are talking to you, wether they have an answer for you or not. I dont think there are many people who are 100% happy with the current situation in this country at the moment. Occupy Dame Street understand this and are looking for answers and ways forward. The other option is to sit at home and accept everything thats thrown at us by the powers that be, until we all go down the drain. Occupy Dame Street is a place people can gather and people are meeting and conversations are taking place and groups are being formed and strategies are being put in place. Yes the minutes haven’t been posted in awhile. Yes there are not many people around the camp these days. Who can blame people? Is christmas week. Its the middle of winter. Nobody in their right mind would want to sleep in Dublin City Centre for ten weeks in the coldest months of the year. But peoples minds aren’t in the right place just now. Because this government has taken away our basic human rights. Some people can not afford rent , mortgages, food, shelter anymore. This is not acceptable. Occupy Dame Street is not the answer to everything. It is a starting point. It is a place people can go when they dont know what else to do. For the people that can’t be there but understand what it’s about it is burning a little light of hope that someone somewhere is standing up to this government and corrupt banking system. The Occupy movement is undefined and this is why I like it. You can put what you want into it and take what you want out of it. If I am politically minded, if I am a freedom fighter, if I am a mother, a father, a college student, a 9-5 office worker, nomatter who I am, I can go to the Occupy movement and put what I want into it, and take what I want from it. Occupy means to live, and at Occupy Dame Street people are learning to live again, free from the system, free from restraint , free from dependance on mainstream media or exhausted lies to brainwash people. Underneath it all, people know why occupy dame street is there. Because underneath it all a lot of people feel the same way. If you think the camp has turned into a music venue, think again. A couple of nights a week there will be performers, performers who relate in some way to the events that are going on in the world right now, political or otherwise. There are poetry readings and theatre performances. This is because these people bring a message that is relevant to the Occupy movement. And thats just what it is, it’s a movement, it doesn’t just involve politics all day long, it also involves theatre, arts, music, poetry, irish language conversation groups, and yes meditation, because, in case you haven’t noticed, we are on the cusp of major change on many levels and people want to be ready to deal with this, politically, spiritually and otherwise. The energy of the first few weeks of the camp has died down. At camp, to the visible eye there is not much happening. Behind the scenes people are re-grouping and there is plenty happening. And yes, some people are just spending time with their families or attending work or college or doing what they have to do. But the movement, call it Occupy, call it occupy dame street, call it occupy galway or cork, call it revolution, call it nothing if you like because it doesnt really need a name. The movement is alive. The New Years Day Dark Side of the Moon medititation is a lighthearted way for some campers to wind down. It is a way for them to put the ‘Dark Side of the Camp’ as you call it, out of their minds for an hour or two on New Years Day. Its been a hectic few months. If people want to play some music on a sound system at 8pm at night after a stressful day and most of the night awake at the camp they should not have to defend themselves for doing so. And yes Pink Floyd is not everyones type of music and yes it may paint some people as hippies. Some people are hippies. And wether you like it or not, hippies have as much right to exist as you. And some people are doctors, shopkeepers, householders, accountants, ex-bankers, journalists..the list goes on. The people at occupy dame street want to listen to an album together on new years day after over ten weeks of sleepless nights in a city dealing with everything from drunks to homeless (most of the homeless are fine but some are aggressive) to being attacked physically, punched, kicked, verbally abused, being stolen from on a regular basis, having knives pulled on them, being threatened and many other things that happen in the city at night that have become so commonplace that the campers don’t even bother bringing it to the public eye or complaining. The people camping in occupy dame street at this cold time of the year are there for you and for everyone else. They are bravely and calmly holding a space of peace against all odds and against all people who say it can’t be done or it will achieve nothing. The day it opened it achieved something never seen before in this country (ie a stand in solidarity with cities all over the world against corruption and greed). After that everything else it achieves or is achieved as a result of it is a bonus. If you think that occupying central bank is a good idea, go and do it. You will be removed within an hour and be involved in aggravation and voilence if you resist. Show me what that is going to achieve except making a martyr of yourself for no gain. The camp has achieved something huge, its stayed on a main street in a city for weeks and weeks and stayed peaceful. Its talked to tens of thousands of people about the issues that face us all and set up groups to deal with these issues. The gardai said they don’t want to have to move the camp unless they have to. The gardai are having as hard a time as everyone else between taxes and cuts. Everyone is feeling it. Occupy dame street has a lot more reasons for existing than the obvious and a small country like Ireland thats not much used to change might have a hard time getting its head around this at first. Trade Unions mightn’t like the fact that some people at occupy dame street can see them for exactly what they are and don’t like them enough to march with them. So what. Political parties and Trade Unions are just going to have to get used to the fact that they can’t control everybody and not everyone wants to be affiliated with them or buy into their crap. Occupy dame street has operated much more efficiently since it doesn’t have to deal with regular swp takeover bids wasting their time. If this annoys people I dont care. Because people at occupy dame street are not there to impress trade unions or politicians. They are there to oppose the very greed and misleading agendas imposed by trade union leaders and politicians. And if you think the direct actions as above at the Aras are in bad taste, you need to understand that the camp is the camp and not every action that takes place is a direct result of the camp. But people are taking what direct action they think is best, there have been plenty of direct actions over the past months and will be over the coming months. The people in the camp cannot control and don’t want to control everything that goes on outside the camp. The direct actions are taken by the 99% and the 99% covers a very diverse range of people who will have some very different ideas for direct actions. What we learn here is that everyone is just expressing themselves in the best way they can think of. Occupy means to live and to live with others you have to be tolerant of their choices if not supportive. At least these people are getting up off their bums and taking action instead of sitting at home making lists of things that other people aren’t doing. You seem like an intelligent, i won’t say well-informed but partially-informed person as regards occupy dame street. My thoughts would be that you could probably come up with a better idea than occupying central bank. Or maybe take a bit more time to go to the camp and inform yourself a bit better before you write your next article. Better still why not stay over night and see what its really like. We are all on the same side at the end of the day and if people keep putting all their energy into creating divides we will get nowhere. I dont think the camp is the answer but can be used as a stepping stone if run properly. Some people are trying to run it properly but for all the reasons mentioned above and more its not easy. Help is needed. Physical human presence in the day and night. People like yourself who can see whats wrong are okay. People who are great are the people who will take stock of whats wrong and go some of the way towards providing a solution…wether it works or not, the point is that you tried, you did something. While you sit at home and critisize and complain about what others are doing and not doing you are just part of the problem and not the solution. Hope to meet you on dame street some day.

  2. Richard

    The comment below was sent to me by Gillen, since the spam filter does not seem to be working properly (in fact Posterous does not seem to be working properly):Yet another "interested but remote onlooker" would like to guide Occupy onto the right path.You cannot write a critique or give guidance if you do not undertand what Occupy is. Occupy is promoting participatory democracy. This involves participation.Richard, you should bring your ideas and energy to an assembly where they will be recieved with interest. Thepoint is participation rather than observation from a distance. You should join one of the many action groups that plan protests and work on solutions. Participation is the key.If you are dissapointed with our inability to provide an adequate soundbite for drivetime, then you will continue to be dissapointed. Problems of this scale do not reduce themselves into soundbites. Occupy faciltates a real conversation that is too big to be encompassed by tweets, letters to the editor, or even an esteemed blog of this calibre.You may dismiss the music and meditation, but you cannot dismiss the musicians and yoga instuctors who participate freely. Or the herbalists, carpenters and electricians who give their time freely so that the camp may be as comfortable and welcoming as possible and help to highlight the corruption and injustice that is ruining our communities and forcing our children to immigrate. While we pay billions of euro to unsecured bondholders and give away our natural resources and assets away at knock down prices, people are being evicted from their homes with no chance of recovering their shattered lives.What was the issue you’d like us to focus on again?Participate. If you have an issue with the lack public communication, you should join the media team, you obviously have the skills. If you have a particular angle of protest, you should join one of those groups. Maybe the constitutional review group would siut you or one of the many autonomous groups we support like the Anti Eviction Taskforce or Peoples Association Watchdog.What gives Occupy its focus is participation. Participate and help to take the pressure off some of us who have been working very hard for many weeks."Occupy Central Bank" sounds great! Looking forward to your progress report.

  3. Richard

    Thanks for the comments, Tara and Gillen.Tara, I am not out to denigrate the efforts of people involved in all sorts of productive activities through Occupy Dame Street. I don’t expect Occupy Dame Street to come up with solutions to everything. Furthermore I think you are misunderstanding what I meant about the music venue and the yurt. I think there is nothing at all wrong with it, in fact I think it is great that a space is created for poetry readings and theatre performances and so on. I have no expectation that people at the camp should be suave media performers, which is why I think the likes of Vincent Browne and Phillip Boucher Hayes should be ignored. And I have no preoccupation with hippies! Meditation is fine by me! Yoga instructors, herbalists and electricians too!Here is the problem, as I see it, with what you are saying about Occupy having no defined end point: this might be fine if Occupy Dame Street had not previously set forth very specific demands. But it is against these demands, and the public interventions made by Occupy Dame Street, that the wider public, which Occupy Dame Street seeks to reach, makes its judgement. Yes, the task of maintaining the presence of the camp there is a vital one, and yes, this happens in an extremely hostile atmosphere, and fair enough, if you’re soaking wet and getting verbally abused and physically intimidated night in night out, you may not take too kindly to someone in a more comfortable setting saying "what you’re doing isn’t working". But it is precisely because I sympathise with so much (but certainly not all) of what you have written above that I feel I should point out that the camp cannot simply become an end in itself – it must have a political purpose, and it must have some continual idea of what success might look like, and therefore what failure might look like. If it is articulating a set of demands, and then apparently does nothing to pursue or develop or review those demands (or the point of making demands) then to my mind -but more importantly, as far as the wider public it seeks to reach is concerned- it is failing, and as far as I can see that is a bad thing too for those people who are putting themselves in harm’s way to achieve something..

  4. Richard

    As for my own participation: I think this is irrelevant to the question of whether or not my criticisms are valid. Fact is, I live and work way outside Dublin and have family obligations that make it very difficult for me to spend much time down at the site. But I have given two talks at the site and have written favourably about it (there are not that many people writing about it), and from the beginning have insisted on the need to bear in mind the practical and logistical difficulties of maintaing the occupation in such a hostile environment. Contrary to what you are saying about what I have written here as ‘part of the problem’, I think critical engagement -as opposed to widespread indifference- is part of the solution, and it doesn’t have to take place down on Dame Street.Here are some other pieces I have written:http://knaves.posterous.com/occupytexthttp://knaves.posterous.com/process-of-collective-gorgoninghttp://knaves.posterous.com/one-for-the-mastershttp://knaves.posterous.com/occupydamestreet

  5. Richard

    Sorry Tara, missed this bit:’If you think that occupying central bank is a good idea, go and do it. You will be removed within an hour and be involved in aggravation and voilence if you resist. Show me what that is going to achieve except making a martyr of yourself for no gain.’This is a misunderstanding of what I have written above. I am not advocating people trying to occupy the central bank building. Rather I am suggesting that people occupying the central bank plaza start to think politically about their immediate environment, and start focusing on the precise purpose served by the central bank, and what it really ought to be used for.

  6. Well to me it’s clear Irish people in general have an aversion to confrontational politics. How many were on facebook around this time last year saying they wouldn’t march, because of some spurious rumors of violence? When has a body of Irish people ever really made their feelings overwhelmingly felt, in the way the people of the Czech republic dd, or those of Algeria, or Egypt? In a time when revolution is rife accross the world, it would seem, from where I am, that even those who are organised, and have a strong agenda, do what they usually do, they talk themselves and the rest of us into boredom. Go and occupy the central bank. Go and occupy the Daíl. So what if you are the one to get dragged out by the thug police? Go and do it, because your democratic rights have been trampled on. Go and do it because your children have been disinherited. Go and do it, I dare say because the ideals of a republic born in 1916, by people willing to take a stand for what they belived in, and who had self value, have been betrayed. Go and do it, because you are Irish, you are proud, and it’s about time the politicans and europe stopped raping us.

  7. But it also seems that sitting around in Dame street and talking, and planning, but not actually doing any actions that are inspiring people, can be perceived as a cop out. We don’t need the anti war cry of the 1960’s where we were told to ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out’ We need to drop in, like a ton of bricks, on the heads of those who have sold us down the river liffey and every other water way in Ireland. There are plenty of small, independant succesful nations in the world, why the hell can the Irish people not just grab the bull by the horns and bring him to his knees?

  8. unkiedave

    Interesting post, going to take a while to digest. I am less pessimistic about the value to date of #OccupyDameStreet (but of course I am hopelessly biased), however I share some concern over were it stands now after three months and the perceived lack of a coherent alternative vision.My own 2 cents on this has been that while for three months I’ve been saying that ODS is all about starting a conversation, and that it would be arrogant to present an alternative vision without taking the time to hear what the wider public have to say, ODS can’t get away with saying this in the new year. The conversation has been going on and ODS need to move to the next stage and actually start presenting a coherent alternative vision based on three months worth of interactions with the public. I just hope its not too late to do this, and that ODS is still capable of doing so.My own take on this as an active participant in ODS since day one (written before I read your piece) can be found <a href="http://www.boomingback.org/2011/12/occupydamestreet-occupyouroboros-end-of.html">here</a&gt;.

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