Why the Democracy Village matters

Join us for a rally in Trafalgar Square from 1pm

"It is well enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning."

Henry Ford 

Whatever happened to that fly-by-night group of protesters who created a "shanty town" in Parliament Square over the Summer? You can't have forgotten; they caused quite a stir amongst those reasonable folk who value neat lawns above the freedom to protest about such trivialities as climate change, the banking crisis and illegal war. Thank goodness law and order was restored after Democracy Village lost their case at the High Court; now no politician entering Parliament has to endure the sight of the people holding them to account for their decisions. Really, what sane person in a healthy democracy wants that sort of thing going on?
As soon as the eviction was over Westminster Council erected some pretty fencing around the Square in order to carry out 'essential
maintenance' to the grass, and it is still there even though the grass has grown back. But I'm sure the public doesn't mind a bit paying for a private security firm to patrol the perimeter. The authorities are happy that the completely unintentional side-effect of the fences is that any protesters are kept out and, considering that the official reason for opposition to Democracy Village given by Westminster Council and David Camerson was that the Square looked untidy they must be very satisfied with how it looks now. Yes, it's obvious to everyone that fencing and guards are far more attractive to look at than rainbow flags declaring 'peace'. And the villagers? No doubt the horrid rabble has skulked off to lick their wounds.
Alas, reports of the death of Democracy Village have been greatly exaggerated, because unfortunately for those who wanted rid of it it is very much alive and well. As we declared back in July  the the Village 'was far more than a collection of tents -- it is an idea. And ideas cannot be moved on.' So, the idea that is Democracy Village has been growing, expanding and gaining strength not a stone's throw from Parliament Square in
weekly People's Assemblies held at Victoria Tower Gardens (Saturdays at 1pm if you'd like to join us) and will flower this Saturday, Oct 9th, in a celebratory Democracy Rally in Trafalgar Square. This will be a day of "education, discussion and creative expression" featuring
speakers from many grassroots organizations who share with us a passionate belief in new possibilities. But make no mistake, this is far from a traditional gathering - it is the Idea taking form. And never has there been a more potent historical moment in which to make it happen. After the expenses scandal, the banking crisis, and with unprecedented cuts looming, the ground is fertile for the planting of new seed.

Gandhi said something that is much-quoted: "Be the change you wish to see in the world". It may sound familiar to you, but how many of you understand. much less, embody, its true meaning? This quote is so profound, and its implications so powerful, that if only a fraction of those of you reading this article now were to put it into practice immediately; if only some of you began, without delay, living in a way that reflects your deepest longing for a life without constant struggle and pain then the society you see around you, with all its seemingly entrenched injustices, with all its corruption, all its exploitation and all its violence, would begin to transform at a speed that would astound you. Because all that gives these iniquities their life-blood is your belief that change is not possible. It is your acceptance of the lie that you have no agency, no real
power, that keeps your dreams out of reach. No matter that David Cameron talks of "giving" power to the people, the clue is in his language - he is the source of power and any freedom you have is only the amount the government deigns to give you - the very opposite of the definition of democracy which states that power is vested in the people. Go on, look it up! Therefore, if a real democracy is what we have then power is not Cameron's to give. How can you be given something you already possess?
The only reason he gets away with turning his distortion of democracy into a virtue we are supposed to be grateful for is because we have colluded in the lie. We have allowed ourselves to be hypnotized into a state of helplessness by the few with a vested interest in our paralysis. And what is the swinging gold watch used to put us to sleep? The newest gadget, the latest fashion, the fastest car. This is what we are offered in place of an authentic life in which we control our own destiny. Only the Spectacle, the ravenous beast of consumer culture that is never sated. The beast feeds on the world's rapidly diminishing resources - and it feeds on our souls. It chews up and spits out that better part of ourselves that knows, deep
within, that we are all one community, that we value human dignity, that we respect the natural world and revere the life that shares with us this beautiful planet. How long can we revel in our consumer choices if the true price for them is paid in the currency of human misery and a devastated environment, and in the exploitation of every vulnerable lifeform? The lie is that you are a winner, but the truth is, in this game everyone loses.  Withdraw your cooperation in this deception and your real position of strength will be revealed. 

In the words of Thoreau most of those who sincerely wish to see a more just world "hesitate, and they regret.....and godspeed to the right as it goes by them." Old Henry knew that change only comes through action, through movement! Action is choosing to live each
day in a way which rejects exploitation of all kinds because the truth is, there is no need to wait a single moment before taking the first step towards a better future. The future is ours to make! It is not something to be decided upon by those who know better. And who are these infinitely wise and benign politicians who know better than you do what is good for you and your children? Are they the same ones who took your hard-earned money to pay for their duck-houses and widescreen TV's, and then, with an astonishing sense of entitlement, hid behind legal technicalities to absolve themselves? Are they the very same politicians who allowed, indeed encouraged, the bankers to play fast and loose and then asked you to bail them out while pretending they had nothing to do with it? And are these the very same bankers who are now enjoying
pre-crisis levels of bonuses while those same politicians lecture you about tightening your belt and making sacrifices for the greater good? Are these the people you are still putting your trust in? Wake up! The dream they are selling you is really a nightmare. Start acting like the sovereign citizen you are and beg no more for that which is your birthright.

"All experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

American Declaration of Independence




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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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