On the steps of St Paul'sPhilippa

By Philippa Kerr
A masked man, a clergyman, a union rep and a pierced lady – sounds like the beginning of a joke!
Yesterday I had a couple of hours to spare in London so I went along to St Paul’s to see if I could get some sort of feel about what’s going on. Whatever it is, it’s no joke.
I stood and watched a bit; I walked and listened at bit. Since then I’ve thought and prayed a bit and I’m still quite baffled.
There was a lady from somewhere in South America giving an interview to a Spanish news crew in English. She was telling them that materialism was not the way of Christ, that the poor need looking after. All clear so far until she started, rather alarmingly, repeatedly shouting ‘Aviva’(I think) to someone or somewhere in Chile and after that the message was less clear.
The masked man was holding forth to news crews – I was told that some people didn’t want to show their faces because of fears of police reprisal.
I spoke to the clergyman who said he was delighted the church authorities seemed to be ‘getting the message’ at last. He apparently had been in the makeshift camp every day and was trying to be something of a go-between. I asked him if there was a common thread in the desire of this very mixed temporary community and he talked about rich bankers, the Establishment, and, bizarrely, a Jewish man who looked and dressed like a banker but wasn’t one – he apparently posed as such to bring out the irony of the bankers’ ‘indefensible position’. This man joined us for a while – he certainly looked like an Establishment figure but said he couldn’t talk much as he needed to get home to his family.
I asked the clergyman if he thought our national problems might be ‘in the heart of man’ and he agreed but felt that a useful dialogue might be found though the means of this and other protests. A lady who had joined the discussion said that it was a Utopian dream that she and others had followed before in the Peace Camps. Also in our little group was a young Canadian man, well dressed and clearly educated, he was running a blog and doing some reporting for ‘back home’. He was clearly in support of the protest but confessed that ‘as a reporter’ he really wanted something to happen, apparently even if it might be ‘the water canons’.
There’s a tent for first aid with volunteers from mainstream and complementary disciplines. A ‘university tent’ offering al fresco lectures or debates on a wide range of ‘alternative’ subjects – some rather ‘wacky’ (at least in title), others thoughtful, others very ‘new age’. Bit like the campers really.
I listened for a while to the union rep then moved on to a Caribbean man who was explaining that he didn’t believe in global warming; that the planet was able to ‘heal itself’ and had done so for years ‘like a snake shedding a skin it doesn’t need any more’.   He said that ‘carbon taxes’ were a ruse on the part of government to raise more money to spy on us. He had quite a following and the debate was intense, with a few laughs about his ‘conspiracy theories’.
The police (not very many) looked bored and vigilant at the same time. I think the questions coming from (mostly foreign) tourists were hard to handle, and the requested photo-shoot opportunities seemed an unwelcome diversion. They were very polite but distant. The tourists got the message and moved on quickly. A helicopter circled constantly.
As dusk fell the guitars and fags came out and the ‘campers’ began to group happily, it was an impossibly glorious evening – the first day of November!
If there is a common thread, it seemed that all concerned were not happy with the status quo in our land and wanted to say so.
It’s left me with a lot of thoughts (and not much clarity).
What happens if you tear down but don’t know how or what to build?
What happens if the rule of law breaks down?
What happens if you apply a political ‘solution’ to a spiritual question?
What is being ignored and shouldn’t be?
We all know how much easier it is to break down than to build (I’ve got the builders in at the moment!). I’ve often thought how much easier it is to have compassion for or be angry with those who are at a distance – less involvement is needed.
Answers on a postcard……!


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