Every day, more gather. Eyes are opening and the shackles of apathy loosening

 

Share
Related Topics

The Occupy Movement has already changed the debate. Whereas previously systems such as capitalism or two-party democracy were taken as unquestioned "goods", now the very essence of our political-economy is up for mainstream discussion. In many ways, this was precisely our goal.

For too long, neoliberal doctrine reigned unchallenged. Success or failure were seen as solely the responsibility of the individual; state regulation constructed as a hindrance to be curtailed and reduced to a minimum; the unfettered ‘market’ a wand that would always and everywhere optimise output and distribution. To publicly question these ideas was unthinkable. But no longer.

This is crucial; even in terms set by the liberal-democratic establishment. Few would deny the importance of free flows of information to a well functioning democracy. Yet under neoliberalism, precisely those flows were impeded, as public media became concentrated in the hands of a very wealthy few and universities found their funding slashed. Dominant ideologies were consequently re-hashed and the space for alternatives was closed. We are redressing that balance.

And we’re not stopping there.  If we really want to engage the 99% and shake up the system we see as unjust, un-democratic and unsustainable, we must keep moving forward, provoking thought and forcing debate. At Tent City University, Occupy London’s educational arm, we’re doing just that. Every day we host speakers ranging from world-renowned economists to mothers analysing the devastation that austerity has visited on their communities. Every day a few more people gather here and go home asking questions they previously wouldn’t have asked. Eyes are opening and the shackles of apathy are loosening.

But education isn’t just about eye-opening debate. It represents, in our understanding, a radical platform for challenging the very legitimacy of existing power relations. This is happening in at least three ways.

The first relates to our approach to learning. Though many of us come from academic backgrounds, we recognise that the structure of contemporary academia can and does reproduce both the injustices of the dominant political-economic system and the class divisions and inequality on which this rests. As Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire argued, ‘there is no such thing as a neutral education process’. In the context of the contemporary neoliberal ‘marketisation’ of universities, education functions less as a creator of critical, free-thinking human beings and more as a production chain for the integration of the young into the market economy.  Related to this, the myth of equal access to education and the process of grade-standardisation has led university qualifications to become a pillar of social hierarchisation. In today’s marketplace, those with a Masters are ‘worth’ more than those without a degree, the accumulation of qualifications thus constituting a path to the accumulation of status, wealth and power.

We reject this. Our motto is ‘anyone can teach, everyone can learn’ and we seek to promote an approach to learning that prioritises process over end-point and values the skills all of us have to share and the capacity all of us have to learn. Our workshops are therefore given by bicycle mechanics and electricians as well as by academics, and every speaker sits among the crowd as we discuss what has been said. What matters here is not the graded piece of paper; it is the process of learning and the new directions which emerge from it.

This relates to our second challenge – to break down some of the communication barriers constructed by the dominant status quo. While research increasingly reveals that humans are hard-wired to be empathetic, recent neurobiological studies have demonstrated that empathy is reduced by lack of interaction and mobility across social groups. In our society, these divisions are especially acute. We believe this to be a significant contributing factor to injustice and inequality. And so by creating a space in which people from all walks of life can come together; by having ex-bankers share stories of the wrongs of their industry; and by having migrant workers tell of the abuses they face as they clean the buildings that house this industry; we strive to challenge and overcome the many forms of division, privilege and discrimination that separate us from each other and prevent us from uniting to overcome injustice. We know that by offering this space we are only just beginning to bridge these divides and we recognize that to overcome them we must listen especially closely to those who have been denied a voice. But what we are attempting to build here is a context in which new collectivities and communities can emerge.

Our third challenge regards the use of public space. Though, intuitively, British citizens may assume they have the right to peacefully assemble at the heart of the nation’s capital to voice grievances and air concerns, in reality they do not. As in city centres across the country, many of London’s nominally public squares and thoroughfares have been parcelled off to private landowners or corporations who have the right to legally exclude anyone from rough sleepers to protesting students. Again, we reject this. And one way in which we contest the authority that underpins it is through our ‘flash teach-outs’ – a combination of education and direct action, where we assemble un-expected and en masse to stage public lectures and host open debates. Already, after the success of our teach-outs in front of the Bank of England, the Corporation of London has fenced off what most previously thought the ‘public’ square outside it. When asked why they had done so, they told us it was to ‘prevent disruption’. If, in 21st Century Britain, public debate constitutes ‘disruption’, then we intend to continue disrupting, because an authority that excludes the people from the people’s land no longer governs with popular assent.

At Tent City University, as at Occupy London more widely, we at may not yet have all the answers; indeed, this may be our very strength. But what we do know is that the system is failing us, and it is here, now and in these ways that we are working towards building an alternative. If you’d like to get involved in any way you choose, please visit our website or come along in person to one of our many talks and workshops.

http://tentcityuniversity.occupylsx.org

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: pours or pores, pulverised, ‘in preference for’ and lists

Guy Keleny
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect