The return of the protest song…

The Occupy London movement have launched their own music channel, along with an album entitled ‘Folk the Banks’.

More from the Guardian here.

The first album, called Folk the Banks, has a cover designed by the artistJamie Reid, who stuck a safety pin through the Queen’s nose on the Sex Pistols’ behalf all those years ago. This is not punk, though, but – as the title suggests – folk music.

Adam Jung, an activist from the US who is the driving force behind the project, believes the organisers have made the right choice of musical genre. “Folk makes sense because it’s traditionally the music of protest,” he said. “It’s the music of the people. It’s very appropriate for the first album to come from that tradition.” And even if this one doesn’t take off, there are already four others in the pipeline.

The 17-track album includes work by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Billy Bragg, Anaïs Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, Sam Duckworth and the stalwart anarchist collective Chumbawamba. Yours in exchange for a donation, it will be distributed digitally and, the organisers hope, on vinyl.

Vinyl! I hope to be able to get hold of this…

The power of song to communicate ideas and to allow passion to flower in the very heart of us all remains strong. Sing on I say- we need you.

Ethical capitalism debate podcast…

If you are interested in the reformation (or destruction) of our capital driven economic system, then check out this podcast from a recent debate held by the Oasis’s Charities Parliament-

Does capitalism need reforming, replacing or is it fine just as it is?

Listen to the lively debate around the question of our generation with representatives of Occupy London Stock Exchange, former investment banker Ken Costa and Dr Luke Bretheton.

You might also be interested in checking out some of the stuff on the Occupy Movement’s ‘Occupy Cafe’ website. It full of activism, protest and even poetry! Any activist website with poetry will get my vote…

I really liked this for example-


Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud

Says that America is for him a maximum-security prison


Whose walls are made of Radio Shacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes

Where you can’t tell the show from the commercials,


And as I consider how to express how full of shit I think he is,

He says that even when he’s driving to the mall in his Isuzu


Trooper with a gang of his friends, letting rap music pour over them

Like a boiling Jacuzzi full of ballpeen hammers, even then he feels


Buried alive, captured and suffocated in the folds

Of the thick satin quilt of America


And I wonder if this is a legitimate category of pain,

or whether he is just spin doctoring a better grade,


And then I remember that when I stabbed my father in the dream last night,

It was not blood but money


That gushed out of him, bright green hundred-dollar bills

Spilling from his wounds, and—this is the weird part—,


He gasped, “Thank god—those Ben Franklins were

Clogging up my heart—


And so I perish happily,

Freed from that which kept me from my liberty”—


Which was when I knew it was a dream, since my dad

Would never speak in rhymed couplets,


And I look at the student with his acne and cell phone and phony ghetto clothes

And I think, “I am asleep in America too,


And I don’t know how to wake myself either,”

And I remember what Marx said near the end of his life:


“I was listening to the cries of the past,

When I should have been listening to the cries of the future.”


But how could he have imagined 100 channels of 24-hour cable

Or what kind of nightmare it might be


When each day you watch rivers of bright merchandise run past you

And you are floating in your pleasure boat upon this river


Even while others are drowning underneath you

And you see their faces twisting in the surface of the waters


And yet it seems to be your own hand

Which turns the volume higher?

Tony Hoagland

There is also quite a lot on the site about faith- and how this might stimulate or oppose activism for change. Check out this or this for instance.

Let’s join in the conversation at least friends…

The Zeitgeist Movement…

A little while ago, in response to my blog piece on the camp at St Paul’s, an old school friend sent me a link to something by The Zeitgeist Movement.

Specifically, Carol suggested I watch the clip below. It is quite long, but makes for rather interesting watching.

I had not heard of this movement before, so spent some time researching what I could about what they are about, their core beliefs and campaigning aims. At first I was pretty suspicious to be honest- there is something about their website that made me instantly uncomfortable- it is a little too slick, too shiny.

TZM is another one of these internet generation organisations that grows not along the lines of corporations that are led and controlled from the centre, but rather grows virally by a network of connections, and a set of common evolving principles. It has vague, fuzzy edges, and slightly non specific goals. Rather than ‘leaders’ who are appointed and recognised, there appear to be some key voices, but the structure is deliberately local.

This is a familiar organisational structure to me- as it reminds me very much of the ‘Emerging church’ movement. Such organisations are always difficult to get your head around from the outside- as they appear to lack structure and substance. There is more about these kinds of organisations here.

But back to the specifics of what BenMcLeish had to say above-

I liked much of what he had to say- particularly his analysis/critique of the state of our current economic/political/environmental situation, which I find myself largely in agreement with. I might also echo some of his concerns about religion- although unlike him,  I remain a believer.

I think the importance of a strong critical voice against the excess and over consumption of our wider culture is vital. I have been wondering for a while where this will come from, and where we might see examples of people living lives that are different- people that break from the flock and show a better way to live. I have been excited by these possibilities all my life, and so wherever I see these things being talked about, I am interested.

Unlike what Ben had to say above however, I have seen most of this kind of thing within faith based organisations. Sure, there are a lot of people within our churches and mosques and synagogues who are as sheep like as the rest of society, but there are also many whose beliefs lead them to aspire to something more. Within my own faith, I would point to the  New Monastic movement, towards which my own little community makes a slight nod.

CS Lewis used to talk about Communism being a ‘Christian heresy’- in the sense that the impulse towards good things was in many ways Jesus-like. I think you could perhaps say the same about TZM. I have described previously my belief that the job of Christians is to watch out for wherever there is truth and beauty, then to seek to shine light on it, and to salt it to bring out the flavours. On this basis alone, I intend to keep an eye on TZM.

Which makes what is happening in front of St Paul’s Cathedral all the more interesting. The grand old Church of England have got themselves in a bit of a cafuddle- they want to be ‘nice’ to the young activists, but can’t quite deal with the mess of it all.

Having said all that- TZM seems to espouse some macro economic and political solutions to our current woes- these I find myself less inspired or convinced by. A futurist perspective like this, with grand predictions of the fragmentation of the current mechanisms of state and society, seems to me to be highly speculative. The grand idea of a money-less society, with resources allocated according to need (and administrated by think tank and committee) just seems to be rather fanciful on a national scale.

But not necessarily so on a local small community scale. This is where my interests lie. Ben speaks at the end about what individuals and families might do to look at their own patterns of consumption and life choices- a list of things that are very familiar to the aspirations of my faith community.

Does this organisation offer a real alternatives to our Capitalist consumer economy? Not yet. What it does do however, is to push back– to offer a visible critical analysis of what we are.


Church closes it’s doors to radicals shock!

So, in the light of my recent ponderings about capitalist excess and consumerism- this story caught my attention…

The protest – modelled on earlier such events in Spain and, more famously, New York – descended on London’s financial district last Saturday with the intention of setting up a permanent camp in Paternoster Square, the private commercial and retail plaza housing the Stock Exchange headquarters.

However, the square’s owners won a court order preventing this, and police blocked access. Several thousand activists, who eventually coalesced into an encampment of around 200 tents, instead based themselves on the western edge of St Paul’s. There, they set up an increasingly entrenched camp, featuring a food marquee, a media tent and a “university”.

Relations with the church began well, especially when its canon chancellor, the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, delighted protesters on Saturday by saying he supported the right of the “good-natured” crowd to remain.

Since then, however, cathedral officials have repeatedly raised concerns about the size and scope of the camp, warning that it was impeding access for both worshippers and tourists, especially ahead of next week’s busy half term. This is a particular issue for a cathedral that relies heavily on entrance fees for its income.

Hmmm- I wonder if they Dean is concerned that some radical might start turning over the money collecting tables?

To be fair, the closing of the doors of the Cathedral does seem to be at odds with his earlier statements-

He said: “We are delighted that the London protests have been peaceful, and indeed there has been a good atmosphere generally between cathedral staff and those dwelling in the tents around St Paul’s.

“There is something profound about protest being made and heard in front of this most holy place – a gathering together of those concerned about poverty and inequality facing the great dome of this cathedral church.”

I wonder though- is this perhaps the beginning of a real movement for change in our rather sclerotic socio-economic system? Might these few hundred tents be far more in touch with the zeitgeist than the health and safety constrained Cathedral managers?

Over in America, a recent survey suggested that only a slight majority of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Asked whether capitalism or socialism is a better system, 53% of American adults cited capitalism, 20% said socialism and 27% said they weren’t sure.

The question remains- what next?