St Paul’s Bans Protesters

Anti-Capitalism, a Cathedral and a Novelist

By Tom Aitken in London

St Paul’s Cathedral has been closed to the public for the first time since the 2nd World War – all because of a protest against capitalism.

Church authorities say the main issues forcing the closure are reduced ease of movement in and out of the building, a fire risk and fears of health risks.

How could it come to this?

Well, on October 15 the anti-financial markets demonstrations, which began in Wall Street, arrived in London.

The demonstrators intended to occupy the London Stock Exchange. Police prevented that, so, equipped with sleeping bags and small square tents, the protestors went round the corner to the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.

There they set up an encampment, which, they asserted, would remain into the New Year. Some of them were reported to be themselves workers in the city, who would spend their weekdays in offices and their nights in protest.

Initial response amiable

Initial response from the Cathedral was amiable. The demonstrators were well behaved and friendly. They had the right to make their point.

The weekend passed peacefully. But there was trouble ahead.

The building is kept running from day to day, financially, by visitors.

These come in great numbers to be awe-struck by its huge, majestic interior, to sample the acoustics in the whispering gallery and, from the Golden Gallery at the top of the dome, gaze across London.

The crypt is the last resting place of the cathedral’s architect Sir Christopher Wren, Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.

‘The Light of the World’

At ground level, visitors can see a painting which may, for once sensibly, be described as iconic: Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World in the largest and latest of the three versions he painted over fifty years.

By the 6th day of the visitation, the Cathedral’s welcome was cooler. Receipts from visitors had halved and looked likely to diminish further.

The previous night I had visited the cathedral yard. It was quiet. Tents and demonstrators had moved off the actual steps and from a distance there appeared to be nothing happening.

Closer up I saw that the small square tents were crowded into an area to one side of the front of the building. Campers were visible in quite large numbers, together with half-a-dozen police. Everyone was very relaxed.

Egyptian street sign appears

Someone had attached to a nearby building a sign that is, I gather, a totem of these demos wherever they take place. A mock up of a London street sign reads: ‘Tahrir Square EC4M City of Westminster’.

I have to say, having been in the actual Tahrir Square, in Cairo last March, that what I saw by St Paul’s––the tents and the cheerfulness, was a convincing facsimile.

That conceded, however, the demo exhibits disappointingly jejune, knee-jerk anti-capitalism.

The slogans have it: ‘Capitalism is Crisis’; ‘Capitalism Means War.’ Only ‘Occupation is Liberation’ sounds new coined.

An city worker who is not involved, interviewed on his way to his desk, is quoted as asking, ‘Don’t they know the world can’t actually function without capitalism?’

Other targets suggested

Other critics suggest that their targets should be The Bank of England, The Federal Reserve, The European Central Bank and the last Labour government.

A different analysis of the present eruptive situation comes from a quite different and unexpected quarter.

Robert Harris is well known and much admired for painstakingly researched novels set in widely varying historical periods.

His latest, The Fear Index, a tale of the trading floor, came out recently.

He wanted to explore what went wrong after we supposedly created the institutions––World Bank, International Monetary Fund, G20, OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development)––necessary to avoid the sort of firestorm we are in at present.

Wall St and the mathematicians

He discovered that a large part of Wall Street is run these days not by economists or businessmen, but by mathematicians and scientists thrown out of work in 1993. In that year, the American Senate voted to save money by closing down a grandiose scientific project called the Desertron.

This, a hole in the ground in Texas, was intended to compete with the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, which investigates the most fundamental laws of the universe.

The out of work scientists went to New York where, to cut a long story short, they, and others equally high-flying, analyse the market with intense mathematical precision to predict share price movements and the level of investment risk.

The result is that 73% of New York’s share trading is done by computers, for which these people have written the programmes.

Traders have become ‘pilots’

Increasingly, Harris found, a trader is like a pilot in a computer-controlled jumbo-jet. He watched one computer, trading with other computers, make a profit of $1.5 million in 20 minutes.

The machines do especially well, apparently, when there is a panic, because panicking people do very predictable things.

Wonderful, of course. But even computers make mistakes.

The machines’ error was to assume that the US property market would rise forever, because house prices had never fallen during the country’s history.

But the American housing market crashed and the worldwide institutions that had bought into it fell into the hole.

Heavens, we cry, who will dig us out?

Our political leaders, apparently.

One of the most disturbing sentences in the English language “We are from the government, we are here to help”

Sadly the OWS people have fallen for the same rhetoric as most New Zealanders.
That is – if evenly distributed there is enough wealth to make everyone happy. This is simply not the case, there isn’t enough ‘stuff’ left on the planet to give everyone a flat screen TV and several cars in their garage (or even a garage each)
We are passed peak energy, so even if we could find enough copper etc (peaked years ago) we simply do not have the energy to build the TVs and all the things money could buy, even if we all had a swag of $.
The OWS people are just like the people of Easter Island, they like us believed their leaders, who were saying once the Moai sprouted legs life would be good for everyone on there overpopulated rock, well now we are told once the global economy ‘sprouts legs’ life will be good for the 7+ billion inhabitants of earth.
And that it is the evil 1% to blame for all our wows, if the wealth/resources had been evenly distributed from day one, then we would have hit peak everything about 3 – 5 billion people ago. There might have been only enough stuff to give maybe 1 billion people a ‘fair share’, but that was over 100 years ago. Now the planet is like a mangy flee bitten dog, living on the accumulated ‘wealth’ of millions of years of sunlight and photosynthesis.
We burn via our petrol tanks 400 years worth of total planetary growth per year, over the passed 5 years we have burnt the equivalent of every tree that has grown since Christ was walking around.
I think the OWS people are as foolish as Kiwi Savers, but then that is what you get from a dumbed down society, a bunch of selfish people demanding more and more of everything, it is all I want I want and Me Me, with people believing they have a ‘human right’ as if humans were any more special than the bacteria lurking at the back of your toilet bowl. Well Nature looks at us as all the same, and she will not shed a tear when the bleach is poured over humanity.
That was as good as it gets, the next 20 years will see a reversal of the last 200, and it will not be pleasant, no matter who we have running things.