Here’s what I remember from Sunday’s meeting. If you were there, or indeed if you weren’t, and there are points you want to discuss or elaborate on, please reply to the comments below:
Sunday’s meeting went really well, I’m over the moon to see we have a small and very strong group developing so quickly. Don’t feel left out if you couldn’t make it though, we’re still very much just getting going and your input in the comments this week will be very welcome in preparation for the next meeting this Sunday 13th. 195 Mare Street has as amazing thing starting, their opening night is Friday 11th. Hopefully some of us will be able to meet there before Sunday too.
I began the meeting with my intention to set up an attention grabbing high profile squat which will be used rather than lived in and the fact that the people I’ve been speaking to are all creative and the overall tone of the place will inevitably reflect that. I also reiterated my intention for this squat to seed other squats. And to that end we will have an ethical squatters training room very similar to the practical squatting nights .
Until Saturday I had been completely ethics-focused, I thought that as long as people squat well, the actions would speak for themselves. That was before I read an amazing post in a group called I used to squat and don’t want to see it criminalised. This post made me realise what we need to do to bring about the legal reform we seek. It speaks for itself:
Hey so caveat: I’ve never squatted. But I do think you have a point with abandoned buildings but if you want to get any actual political traction, pictures of beautiful paintings you painted to decorate the premises are not going to do much. If anything, they may be counterproductive. Find studies and statistics on the issue, especially if you can find empirical evidence to suggest squatting actually maintains and in some cases improves the property, which I imagine is out there as I remember reading an article about it a while back.
Don’t focus on the ethics, but the facts. The main reason slavery was abolished isn’t because it was wrong but because of various socioeconomic factors. Similarly, you can spend all day discussing whether torture is ethical but the main point will always be is that it doesn’t actually work. Although the debate around this is beginning to shift, if we had been using this argument earlier, we may be in a different situation now. Although it’s nice to think that legislation is all about ‘doing the right thing’ but in reality it’s more about what’s more functional for society. Find facts, data and research to support your arguments and use ethics sparingly. If I want you to do something for me, rather than arguing it’s the moral thing to do, I would get results a lot faster if I could convince you that by doing that thing, you will be benefiting yourself.
Don’t be overly antagonistic. Using photos of grafitti with zero artistic merit besides a big fuck you to the man is not going to endear poiticians to your cause. Same goes with the ‘less cops’ anti-authority posters (not to mention, it’s technically ‘fewer’…) If you make it about ‘us’ and ‘them’, you’re destroying any chance at a dialogue before you even begin.
Do you have a leader who speaks on the behalf of the movement? If not, choose one and choose one that’s polite, articulate and doesn’t look homeless. I know that sounds mean but optics are very important when it comes to these kinds of issues. It’s like that House quote, “Do you want a doctor who’s an asshole but gets you better or someone that holds your hand as you die?” If the end result is more important than making a statement, make sacrifices like that, even if you believe you shouldn’t have to or find it humiliating to jump through hoops.
Also, and this is really important, decide on several very specific demands and don’t deviate from them. Many movements and protests fell apart because they didn’t really have a specific goal or end game beyond ‘getting rid of inequality’ which is admirable and something most can agree on, but it’s far too vague and suggests you don’t really know what you want. If all you want is for the bill to not go through, focus on that and only that. Don’t add other bits and pieces that form a fundamental part of your belief system but get messy.
Research suggests US conservative global warming deniers become less hostile when presented with policies that don’t undermine their basic political views and capitalise on them instead. On the other hand, telling them they’re wrong and presenting ethical arguments only made them more certain in their original views. Same result, just a different way of approaching it.
Also, and this is a little patronising, but make sure you know every aspect of law surrounding this issue, otherwise your arguments won’t be taken very seriously.
Right, monologue over. I do support this cause (though I am ambivalent on most things including this) so I do wish you luck. Sorry if any part of this has come across as in any way patronising or insulting; that’s really not my intention. I’m just throwing some ideas around.
I hope you’ll agree, Alexandra raises some very strong points there. Once that evidence is gathered, we still need to get it some attention. So there are two parts to this: (A) We need to gather the facts and evidence and compile it into a logical argument. This work can be done in front of a computer screen anywhere, including in London. (B) Then we need to put that argument to the public and politicians through the media by grabbing their attention with a nice big squat full of creative people in central London. That can only be done in person.
So the question is when are you available after 20th Oct ’13?
If you were at the meeting, or indeed if you weren’t, and there are points you want to discuss or elaborate on, please reply.