Thursday, April 30, 2015

Occupy LSE and other stories

On 17th March a group of students occupied a room in the main building of LSE calling for "free education, liberation, workers' rights and an end to unethical investment". They were protesting the increasing neoliberalisation and for-profit orientation of universities and inviting discussion on freedom and the purpose of education. I happened to notice their sign the evening they took the space:


And subsequently I went down there supporting them most days.

occupy LSE. #occupy protest university

Known as Occupy LSE and functioning as the Free University of London, they had a lot of great speakers and discussions, hundreds of people in attendance at some points, and facilitated a great deal of debate about the role of money in education, as well educational, political and social alternatives.


They were in solidarity with and encouraged by occupations at the Maagdenhuis in Amsterdam and elsewhere, and sparked occupations at the University of the Arts London and Goldsmiths.


And they were actively supporting the struggles of cleaners and other workers, like at the Royal College of Surgeons:


Plus they had my favourite sign:


Amazingly they managed to hold the space for the last six weeks, but now they are being legally threatened with eviction. Even if they are forced to leave they have achieved a huge amount by maintaining for so long that safe space for free discussion in the heart of one of the leading universities in the world. And I know they have changed the nature and quality of the debate about education in this country and will go on to do more in the future.

Lots more pictures of Occupy LSE here.

Meanwhile I went back to Dublin where the campaign for a yes vote in the upcoming Marriage Equality referendum was well underway. Good to see so much public support for it, but polling reveals that while public opinion is heavily in favour the referendum might not pass due to low turnout, so get out and vote, compatriots. If you need something to shake you out of complacency, then see this nice piece of street art for 'Yes' by Novice, which was defaced within days of going up:

Novice put up a nice piece for marriage equality, but sadly it got immediately defaced

Though happily she came and fixed it later:

But happily Novice came along and fixed her Marriage Equality piece

Now I've been so saddened by the news of the earthquake in Nepal, and the thousands killed in it. Wish I could do more than just giving a donation to Oxfam, but at least it helps get help where it's needed. I was in Nepal in 1998, and lucky enough to see the Swayambhunath temple complex and Durbar square in Kathmandu, both now very badly damaged. The Swayambhunath stupa itself seems to have escaped much damage. This was it 17 years ago:


The earthquake is a natural disaster, but its impact on people is not - wealth, inequality, political power, visibility all affect whether a person is living in a home that is crushed by a quake or well built to withstand it, and whether they get help, supplies or evacuation quickly or are left cold, hungry and in danger once the quake has subsided. We could muster trillions for the bankers (no, we haven't forgotten) virtually and sometimes literally overnight and we can send drones to bomb miles away but somehow we don't have the money or the technology to help the Nepali people, or the millions of others around the world who deserve the basics of survival every day, and more, a decent life. Let's do better, humanity.


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