Tim Longhurst's Blog

Entries Tagged as 'Guide to better living'

Occupy Sydney: peaceful, democratic gathering erased by NSW Police in dawn raid

October 23rd, 2011 · 3 Comments

Occupy Sydney 077

Welcome to Occupy Sydney

For the past week, Sydney residents gathered in Martin Place to participate in a 24/7 forum to discuss creating futures that are more inclusive, just and sustainable. In the heart of the city, Martin Place is wide enough to host hundreds of people while accommodating passers by. This patch of Sydney, squeezed between the corporate foyers of the Reserve and Westpac banks, is an otherwise under-utilised resource.

What an atmosphere

Were the people that gathered peaceful and inclusive? Yes, and they were kind and generous, too. Personally, I found the way the space was organised colourful, welcoming and cushy (sleeping bags abound), if untidy… but in a city dotted with deep craters surrounded by trucks, cranes and pollution, a few sleeping bags and hand-made signs was hardly an affront to Sydney’s visual amenity.

Good for the local economy

The proprietors of the local coffee cart couldn’t believe their luck, and started a late night service to feed hungry visitors to the site. An employee of a chocolate shop down the road enthused that visitors have been “stock[ing] up on chocolate and coffee“. Of the five closest food retailers, I’d be surprised if one of them didn’t see an upturn in sales as a result of this dead city space becoming a hive of activity.

Didn’t the #occupy movement start in Wall Street? This isn’t America!

At the time of writing, more than 1500 cities are hosting #occupy gatherings. ‘Wall St’ influence, excesses and gambles are shaping the lives of people in multiple ways. Many of the same questions about fairness, equity and sustainability Americans are asking ought to be addressed here, too. Australians have their own grievances, concerns, hopes and dreams and many would like to advocate, discuss and debate these in an inclusive, open forum.

So who shows up to this stuff?

The Australian #occupy spaces were given far more mainstream media coverage than your average Friday night “Politics in the Pub”… So with a nudge like that, it wasn’t just the ‘usual suspects’ that showed up.

Participants have come from a mix of backgrounds and experiences.  While we didn’t often talk about our backgrounds, in my conversations at #OccupySydney I spoke with carers, lawyers, bankers, wharfies, engineers, homeless, contractors, jobless, university students, teachers, marketers and scientists… People from all walks of life had come for a multitude of reasons.

Politically, there were people who consider themselves swinging voters, others were a-political. There were capitalists, greenies, anarchists, socialists and conspiracy theorists, and each treated the others with respect and humanity.

In our complex world, expecting people to come together with a single grievance or solution is unrealistic. It’s in the coming together, the conversations, the dialogue, that common ground is found.

So why gather at all?

Sydney has plenty of places where you can eat, drink, take drugs to loud music, gamble money on sport or in machines, and buy stuff. There are plenty of places where you can have a picnic, read a book, have a swim or go for a walk. But public spaces where people are welcome to gather with fellow citizens, 24/7 to talk about addressing systemic problems and find ways to organise to build better futures? Well, that hasn’t really happened before.

In a functioning democracy, with shift-workers pulling nights and contractors slogging it out during the days, gathering during a fixed window of time isn’t an inclusive approach. The web has influenced our “’round the clock” world where we connect electronically with whoever’s awake; if anything, this lifestyle shift has given rise to the acceptability and practical necessity of a public space for 24/7 political conversations.

Occupy Sydney in pictures

Every now and then, I snapped a photo to capture my experiences at Occupy Sydney. I worked every day this week, so I was only there for a few hours at a time. It didn’t occur to me that I’d be sharing these photos via the web, but I decided to write this blog post after what happened this morning…

Occupy Sydney - We have the power to begin the world over
“We have the power to begin the world over” – the sleeping bags of a selection of Sydney’s idealists in the foreground as a General Assembly takes place (background).

Occupy Sydney - Monday night General Assembly
A General Assembly (meeting)takes place on Monday night. You can read more about these in my original Occupy Sydney blog post. This one took place on the amphitheatre steps… Because a few of Sydney’s homeless people use these steps to eat their dinner, it was agreed the General Assemblies would happen away from the comfort of the steps to ensure #OccupySydney participants weren’t breaking the homeless peoples’ routine.

Occupy Sydney - a family bring lamingtons in support
“We can’t camp out with you, but we support what you’re doing…” A dad and daughter bring lamingtons to Occupy Sydney. The lamingtons were well received, as were the pizzas, salads, crackers, biscuits… much of the food was donated by people supportive of this democratic process.

Occupy Sydney - 1 in 10 Australians in poverty
“More than 2.2 million Australians live below the poverty line” – one of the many hand-made posters inviting passers-by to consider the world from another point of view. In a city filled with luxury handbag shops and ads for TV shows and yogurt, why not inspire people to reflect, think or act, rather than just consume?

Occupy Sydney - Discussion in progress please join
“Discussion in progress, please join”… One of the many signs that made it clear to all citizens that this space was for everyone. For a city where many bars and clubs will happily exclude people based on age, race, gender or dress, this was refreshingly inclusive. And no cover charge.

Occupy Sydney - Jazz band rocks Martin Place
This band rocked. I asked them who they were and when they were playing their next gig, and they said they’d prefer not to plug their next gig because it was more important that people focused their attention on keeping Martin Place vibrant.

Occupy Sydney - One person's point of view
Another of the many hand made signs. None of the signs could truly capture the sentiment or feelings of the thousands who participated in the first week, but the positivity of, “We Occupy Martin Place because another world is possible!” does a pretty good job.

Occupy Sydney - Everyone is Welcome
“Everyone is welcome” the pink flag to the left (obscured) reads, “What if we were prepared to sacrifice our comfort for change?”. The banner is part of a city-wide art exhibition. The serendipity of its placement reassured many of those sleeping under street lights.

Danny's charm... reminding police they're in the 99%, too.
Throughout the week, the ever-present police were hanging around talking to each other and mostly looking bored.  They had joined the force to catch bad guys, and now they were stuck here watching people discuss massive corporate crimes that were well outside their jurisdiction… Must have been frustrating for them. Occasionally they’d read a poster or engage in a brief conversation about political ideas. I spoke to police every time I visited Occupy Sydney, and not once did they advise me that I was participating in an activity that was “in breach of the city’s camping regulations”.  They sure didn’t manage to warn anyone that because people were sacrificing their comfort for something they believed in, riot police and bomb squad personnel would soon be deployed.

Danny (pictured, above) recognised the ever-present risk of violence, and made himself a billboard to advocate for police pay and conditions. He is a true lover of peace and happiness. Every city could do with a few of him. If you ever see him, say G’day to him, and pat his dog, Smarty.

Occupy Sydney - Week 1 statement agreed by General Assembly
The Occupy Sydney statement that was created through consensus by the participants of Occupy Sydney on Friday. The riot police showed up on the Saturday rally that celebrated one week. The police “kettled” the protest by lining the only two exits out of Occupy Sydney. There had been plans for some participants on Saturday to leave the space and do a tour of Sydney, highlighting some of the misdeeds of various corporations who occupy the city buildings.

Through a democratic process, it was agreed that the police presence meant it would not be appropriate to embark on the tour. Such a tour would have involved the crowd confronting two lines of riot police. A walk would risk violence, and as a peaceful democratic movement, we agreed the tour would instead take place in small groups later in the week.

And so the people stayed. They stayed and played music, talked, shared political ideas, and handed leaflets with cartoons and jokes on them. They stayed and ate sausages on bread rolls. It was a laid-back picnic protest. It wasn’t what a few of the gung-ho activist types would have liked (they rightly argued that the riot police showing up was intimidating and unnecessary, and if citizens had to cross a line of riot police to go for a walk on public streets, than so be it)…But it was a global movement expressed with an Australian flavour… Many of us weren’t rusted on activists… We were simply participating in a democratic action.  The presence of riot police was more bemusing than anything.  We weren’t doing anything that would call for riot police! This isn’t a police state, after all.

Martin Place "returned to citizens" - as long as they're wearing blue

This morning I woke to the news that the riot police moved in at 5am. I’ve read reports that those who were asleep were woken and given 5 minutes to vacate the space. Tired, indignant, sleepy, angry… Some participants decided that their peaceful protest, a statement aimed in part at strengthening democracy, didn’t deserve the riot squad, and chose to stand their ground.

An hour before daybreak, away from the transparency and accountability of sunlight and cameras, the police pounced. They destroyed the signs that quoted statistics about poverty and pollution, and the people were dragged away. A number were arrested. The space was cleared of both character and civility. The area between the Reserve and Westpac banks was made plain, boring and uninviting again.

I felt sick. I felt sorry for the people who were busy keeping the space alive overnight… Holding the space for those of us that showed up during the day. I wondered what happened to the people who I’d talk to. To the gentle souls like Alan, who suggested to me that if everybody shared, nobody would go without:

I was gutted. I tweeted:

"Occupy Love" somehow survived the waterblasting of Martin Place
Pictured: In this exact spot, every hour for a week, conversations about peace took place. Today, storm troopers with guns and tasers instead took pride of place. I wonder what refreshing ideas were discussed here today? NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch explained it was time “to return Martin Place to the community of Sydney.”. The community of Sydney already had the space, thanks Mark. No matter how hard you scrub, the ideas that were discussed here, the connections that were sparked, remain.

[Read more →]

Tags:

Category: Change Agency · Communication and connection · From the frontlines of the future · Future · Guide to better living · Imagining Australia · Our living planet · Peace between people · The Explorer's Handbook · Things that make you go hmmm · Understanding people

Heading to New York and DC for coffee

March 6th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Today I’m heading to NYC and DC for a two week trip, and I’m hoping you can help me make the most of it. Sure, I’ve got some work to do while I’m over there – meetings planned for my work with GetUp etc., but I want to squeeze the most out of my trip. I’m attempting to ‘crowd source’ part of my itinerary by asking my network to advise me on who I should with over the next fortnight.

In short, I’m going to America to have a few coffees with interesting people – and I’d like you to help make sure I fall in with the right crowd.

To give you a hint of what I’m looking for, I am passionate about innovation. To me, answering the question “Is there a better way?” is one of the most important tasks we have as humans. I’m dedicating this trip to meeting with innovators – people who dare to seek the better ways of doing things –  in the fields of media, communication, activism, business – actually, really, any field at all!

But maybe ‘innovators’ is the wrong word? Maybe change-agents, activists, philosophers, thought-leaders, speakers, futurists, rabble-rousers, culture jammers or thinkers would be better words?

If you know (or know of) someone based in NYC or DC that you admire/love/respect/think would be cool to meet, recommend them! I’d like you to please name them in the comments section below, forward this post to them, or email me – tim @ timlonghurst.com.

I’ve got a great feeling about this trip. Naturally, even if you’re nowhere near NYC/DC you’ll be included – I’ll save the best quotes and anecdotes from all of this fun for the blog – I promise! Thanks in advance for your help, Tim

[Read more →]

Tags: · , , , , ,

Category: Communication and connection · Corporate craziness · culture jamming · Guide to better living

lafraise.com – it’s french for threadless

July 18th, 2007 · 1 Comment

I remember thinking I was so urban and edgy when I discovered US-based Threadless. Now they’re a recognised brand with co-promotions with Google and doing tie-ins with Basecamp I think the word is really out on that great site. My favourite aspect of Threadless is that they offer American Apparel, suppliers of fair trade products. Well guess what? There’s a french company that also has great prints on AA t-shirts – lafraise. And according to the very scientific “Googlefight” for every one mention of Lafraise there are two of Threadless. So here’s my tip – whilst Lafraise isn’t exactly underground, you may well be half as likely to catch someone in the same t-shirt as you if you shop from the Frenchies rather than the Americans in this instance.

Of course, finding a local designer who uses fair trade T’s for their prints is also a good option!

Thanks to my pal Pierre at Tangler.com for the Lafraise tip.

[Read more →]

Tags: · , ,

Category: Guide to better living

Alarm Clock: Stay inside new tech ventures

July 1st, 2007 · No Comments

I haven’t posted for a while, so I have a quick present for those keen beans that show up here to see what I’ve posted recently. Check out Alarm Clock – spend an hour at that site and you’ll be as up to date as anyone in your IT department – at least for a few minutes.

[Read more →]

Tags:

Category: Guide to better living

Ever been ripped-off? If you’re in NSW, Australia, this may help

January 19th, 2007 · 1 Comment

I am not a lawyer, I don’t offer legal advice, but since this information might be helpful to some people, I’m adding it to my site. Check your facts before you go around quoting this website (and that goes for always, not just with this article!).

If you live in NSW, Australia, and you get ripped off by a business, keep this line in mind:

“I will be lodging a claim against you in the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal and you will be ordered by law to attend the Tribunal hearing without legal representation and you will be legally bound by the decision of the tribunal.”

And you won’t be all talk. It turns out that if you lodge an application in the “General Division”, for $31 and a bit of stuffing around, justice may prevail.

I discovered this magical phrase some time ago during a phone call to the NSW Department of Fair Trading. Apparently the process isn’t all that painful and often businesses often back down and do the right thing if you start sounding like you know your rights and how to get the law involved.

[Read more →]

Tags:

Category: Guide to better living