FOR a while now I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly the Occupy Sheffield movement is all about in the hope of fashioning some kind of informed view.
I admit I have only a rudimentary grasp of politics but, then, such limitations never stopped Richard Littlejohn expressing an opinion.
And so I have read the group’s statements and visited their website. I have milled about meetings and spoke to campers. I have perused papers and followed feeds on social media.
I have even read what Naomi Wolf has to say on the issue, and, if you’ve ever read what Naomi Wolf has to say on any issue, you’ll know that can officially be filed under ‘taking one for the team’.
And yet I still cannot wrap this naive head around what Sheffield Cathedral had to do with the banking crisis...
Here’s something, instead, I am sure of: I am young(ish), liberal of heart and messy of hair; I have not much respect for anyone who is a banker and less still for anyone who is George Osborne; I believe in localism and libertarianism, and – guitar and Open All Hours box set, aside – am largely non-materialistic.
In short, I am prime recruiting material for Occupy Sheffield.
And yet, this, I think, is the problem.
For I want – dearly want – to be behind this movement. But, through its mismanagement, missed opportunity and misplaced antipathy, they have alienated me; they have splashed away my support like a banker with his bonus in Stringfellows.
Perhaps it is their lack of courage that offends – the way they have wholly ignored the institutions which irk them and instead bullied the soft-centred church. Or possibly it is the lack of common sense – how do you take seriously a man talking extreme anti-capitalism while tapping at a smart phone? Or maybe it is the lack of communication – for I am still to understand how the dots between ‘marquee outside a tram stop’ and ‘better world’ can be joined.
But mainly I think the sticking point is their righteous rhetoric which insists the movement inspires debate. No, it doesn’t. People are angry about the economy anyway. They just don’t need to trespass to prove it.
I am not the only one turned off.
A paradox: a 2010 poll showed 76 per cent of people wanted bankers’ bonuses capped. Another recent poll showed 80 per cent of people did not support Occupy.
In other words, the single most astounding achievement of these happy campers is to take almost total public sympathy for their cause and turn it against themselves. Impressive.
Sort of reminds me of those sixth-form CND kids who always talked sense but talked it so self-importantly it made you wish for nuclear apocalypse.
And that, in turn, always reminds me of that George Orwell line: “The worst advertisement for socialism is its adherents”.
And that in turn makes me think of Sheffield’s own political philosopher Edward Carpenter – anarchist, free-lover and sporter of a beautiful beard – who Orwell was supposedly referring to.
I like Carpenter and his work. I suspect those outside the Cathedral do too.
Which brings me back to where we started: am I not their natural ally?
And yet here I stand, isolated and still confused: for if they can’t even win me over, what good do they think they do?