Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Visiting the occupiers

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I'm sure no one is celebrating the fact that there are growing numbers of have-nots in the developed world but it's difficult to imagine how camping in Aotea Square is going fix anything. Photo / Sarah Ivey
I'm sure no one is celebrating the fact that there are growing numbers of have-nots in the developed world but it's difficult to imagine how camping in Aotea Square is going fix anything. Photo / Sarah Ivey

One sunny Sunday afternoon I visited the occupied territory at Aotea Square - partly out of curiosity and partly to introduce my eight-year-old to the idea of citizens peacefully protesting and campaigning for change.

"What are they trying to change?" she asked.

"Um, they don't like the fact that one-per cent of the population has most of the money," I replied.

"And, um, I think they must want the money for themselves. Not sure really. We'll have to Google it."

My grasp of the situation may have been hazy but at least I was taking an interest. I was here to learn.

I picked up four leaflets from the information desk near the entrance: Socialist Aotearoa's They-are rich-because-we-are-poor message, socialistworld.net's "Break the power of the banks and multinationals!", Occupy Auckland's Safer Space Policy and Occupied Aotea Square's own newsletter.

As it turned out, my spontaneous visit coincided with a pre-arranged off-site event, presumably linked in to the fact it was Halloween Eve.

The newsletter said: "Zombie Crawl to the National Party Conference. Dress as a zombie and demand a living wage!"

So I only saw about half a dozen other people as I wandered through the space.

Suddenly I realised my oversized Burberry handbag could have been interpreted as a symbol of rampant materialism but no one seemed bothered - not the friendly young woman collecting litter, the two men chatting quietly about how to change the system or the guy slumbering in the shade of a marquee.

A large blackboard detailed the scheduled workshops. The 1pm Massage Circle may have proceeded as planned but the session called "John Key is a Wall Street Bank$ter: The Facts" had been postponed.

There were phrases chalked onto the steps: quotes attributed to Lewis Carroll, Lord Byron and WB Yeats - and a less poetic one that ended with "F*** the law, F*** everything they stand for!"

To my surprise I had a fleeting Marianne Faithfull moment: At the age of forty-six I realised I'd never camp in Aotea Square with the mood of anti-capitalism in the air. Perhaps I could have been a successful activist if my life had taken a different tack - and to think it took this visit to unleash such a rogue sense of what-if-ness.

Other commentators - Cactus Kate in Intrepid Journeys: Aotea Square and Chris Barton in 'Occupy Auckland' protest speaks with many voices - have already noted the fragmented nature of the messages on offer here. I saw signs referring to asset sales, Israel, marijuana laws and water pipes. It seems anyone with a cause is jumping on this particular bandwagon when surely they'd be better off communicating their core concern.

So allow me to clarify. As stated on occupywallst.org it's a "people-powered movement that ... has spread to ... actions in over 1500 cities globally" in order to fight "the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process ... and aims to expose how the richest 1 per cent of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future".

I'm sure no one is celebrating the fact that there are growing numbers of have-nots in the developed world but it's difficult to imagine how camping in Aotea Square is going fix anything.

Mind you, I'd have said the same about the anti-apartheid campaigners flour-bombing the South African rugby test at Eden Park back in 1981 - and look how that worked out.

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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