Sunday, 10 June 2012

Occupy Göteborg

Having seen a presentation of Occupy Göteborg on You Tube today I decide to visit them in their tent village in Vasaparken. Wonderful walk, despite the rain. Arriving in the park I'm greeted by a cluster of tents around the open round space behind the university. People are really friendly and seem to enjoy talking. Everywhere there are signs and posters and everything is nicely decorated, even the place for washing the dishes.

They've been living there for a little more than a month. The aim is not only to set up a space for public discussion, but also to use the space for creative activities. Concerts, workshops and lectures are frequently held. They've turned their village into a non-commercial zone. Everything, including food and coffee, is for free. The food is gathered through dumpster-diving during the night. In one of the tents they have a free shop, with books and clothes free for anyone who wants to take. Some tents have been put up for the homeless. They take care to keep the park clean, and life in the village is drug-free. Being interested in gift economies, I ask if things really are for free. Don't visitors bring things to the village which they offer in exchange they receive? One activist answers that visitors tend to do so naturally. Another says that they're actually grateful that visitors receive the things they have in surplus. 

A kindly middle-aged couple arrives and asks the activists who they are - do they have homes? One of the activists reply that they are mostly middle-class and have other places to live in. "So you're just like anyone else", the woman says with a smile. The man asks them if they are allowed any peace during the night. Mostly, they answer. The park administration wants to evict them, since they are not allowed to camp in the park. But the police thinks it's good that they are there, since they make the park safe at night. Young girls who've been partying are overjoyed when they discover them and think it's like Narnia.

A memorable episode was when an elderly, frail-looking lady sat down among us and showed us some sheets of paper where she had sketched a detailed plan for building a better society - everything neatly drawn with arrows and in black and red letters.

I follow the activists as they go to put up a sign saying "What is real democracy for you? To vote every four years?". A woman appears who seems to be living in the neighborhood arrives and delivers her opinion: "To me, democracy is parliamentary democracy". She turns her back on us and leaves.

Before leaving myself I ask if there's anything they need. Aluminium foil, they answer. And if possible firewood, a whiteboard and dairy products (which can't be dumpster-dived). But most of all they need help with the work that needs to be done in the village.

Visiting this village is a good way to spend one or a few hours. A strong impression I get is that many of the activists love being here, despite the work required to maintain the village. No matter what one might think of the contents of their protest activities (and I still know so little about them) or the fact that there are so many people who are worse off in this society than the "middle class", I think that one needs to be respectfull of whatever it is that has awoken such enthusiasm. Rather than being a routine activity, I feel that the space they're constructing is something out of the ordinary even to them, and such activities are always interesting to study and to participate in. Good things can come out of them.

I wish them good luck. I'll definately be back here, next time, perhaps, with my family. I look forward to tasting their coffee.

Monday, 4 June 2012


Something's changed with me lately. Warm weather last week made me feel as in a foreign country. A longing for air drove me out of my office and I headed across the parking lot towards a nearby hill. Climbing up through the lush vegetation I found a bench where I sat down and read a paper I had brought. Far below me was the parking-lot I had passed through, my work place, and across the street, behind a row of houses, the apartment complex where I live.

How curious it felt, looking at the tourists or the people on the terrassess below me. Just as so often happens when I'm travelling I was struck by everything around me - as if my idle thoughts, for lack of anything better to do, would just grasp at anything on which my senses happened to rest and start busying themselves with producing not-yet-conscious thoughts. Whatever happened to reach the level of consciousness I was happy to let slip back into forgetfulness. That's the best thing to do with ideas. Wherever I'm going, I can only enter empty-handed anyway...

If you're tired, allow yourself to forget. Valuable ideas are like friends, they return. 

Retreats are good. Cafés sometimes work, if they're not too noisy. But if the weather's nice, I recommend walking and finding a bench thirty meters above ground.
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