Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Agitating for the future | Big Issue

Agitating for the future

Jan 16, 2012

Jarvis Cocker on why the Occupy movement is visionary, democratic... and like a starfish

On May 27, 2011, Pulp played their first major show in nine years, at the Primavera Sound music festival in Barcelona. I was as nervous as hell – had I still ‘got it’? Would people just laugh at us? We were due to go onstage at 1.45am.

Around midnight, one of the organisers came to our hotel and said he had something he urgently had to discuss with us. That afternoon a group known as the ‘Indignados’, who had been peacefully occupying one of the city squares, had been forcefully evicted from their makeshift camp by police using tear gas and batons. Several people had been hospitalised.

He handed me a piece of paper, which read: “We invite the bands to feel sympathy with this uprising in civil society, to devote a brief moment of their concerts to support the cause.” I could have kissed him – instantly I was jolted out of my sad little stage-fright ego-trip: now we had a cause. There was a point to it all. Let’s do this!

That was my first encounter with the Occupy movement – a visionary movement because it recognises that it’s the cult of the individual that got us here, and so to escape from this situation is going to require collective action. Just as I was snapped out of my self-obsessed state ( and went on to perform a successful concert), so we as a society need to look beyond ourselves and our appointed ‘leaders’ if we want things to improve.

Much is made of the fact the Occupy movement doesn’t have leaders, and this is sometimes depicted as a failing. It is actually one of its main strengths.

Giles Fraser (the St Paul’s Cathedral canon chancellor who resigned his post in support of the Occupy protesters) told an interesting story about a spider and a starfish in the Guardian last year: “The great survival advantage of the starfish is that is has a decentralised nervous system. If you cut off the spider’s head, it dies. Even if you cut off its leg, it’s done for. In contrast, cut a leg off the starfish and it regenerates; indeed, the severed limb can grow a new body. Like the starfish, the power of Occupy is that is has no centralised nervous system.”

In other words, we are over leaders. We are not interested in ideology anymore – we just want things to work properly and fairly. When the people of the UK gave no clear majority to any one party in the last general election they were expressing their dissatisfaction with these old methods of representation. Occupy shows a new way. Whether you recognise it or not yet, it’s what you want. On May 27, 2011, it saved the show. I believe it could end up saving us all a lot more. It’s not about me, it’s not about you – it’s about us.