'When you're dealing with protesters who bring their own portable loos, what's the worst that can happen?'
Really, Church of England, I despair. I throw up my hands and despair. As I write, officials from St Paul’s Cathedral are investigating the feasibility of removing the Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters from its environs, after the failure of a polite plea from the dean to move on because they were causing a fire and health and safety risk.
What astute Anglican – member of the single most benign organisation in western history – could look out over a sea of the best-behaved civic protesters in even our island’s long tradition of same and see a problem instead of a vast, synergetical opportunity? CofE, this is your perfect storm! Out there in Paternoster Square is a group of apolitical, unthreatening, well-meaning but slightly confused, pointing-in-all-directions-at-once, allegedly-democratic-but-as-is-the-nature-of-all-humanity-about-to-undergo-multiple-schisms-over-many-as-yet-unresolved-doctrinal-points people waiting for a charismatic leader to emerge and show them the anti-capitalist way and the light.
Ring any cathedral bells yet? These are your people. But you have to go and get them. Kindly unworldliness and a few plates of fish paste sandwiches might have been enough in days of yore, but yore has been over for yonks. At a time when we are governed by the slickest, if Spammiest-faced PR man in the western world and our nightly entertainments are based almost entirely on choosing which dead-eyed wannabe fame whore can be most effectively monetised, you need to start thinking less, “What would Jesus do?” and more, “What would Katie Price do?”
Don’t emerge bleating about health and safety issues from a monument that even the Blitz couldn’t close* like some local government jobsworth, for God’s sake (literally, in your case). Such petty risk-aversion looks bad on anyone, but particularly those who purport to believe in an afterlife. And really, when you’re dealing with protesters who bring their own portable loos, what’s the worst that can happen? Offer martyrdom and a stained-glass window to the first tourist to trip over a guy rope, the office of weekend thurifer to the camp’s most proficient spliff roller, and you’re golden.
You have the buildings, they have the numbers. The synthesis is perfect, and the protesters feel it too, you know. They didn’t turn up on your doorstep simply because yours was the first convenient plot of land that wasn’t patrolled by private security guards like every other square inch of the Square Mile. They felt a pull on their souls and now they shelter in the lee of the mother church that has called them home.
Your main man just scored big by bearding Mugabe in his lair and was cheered to the rafters by some of the most oppressed and imperilled people in the world for the mental succour his actions gave them, so enough with the mewling pleas for departure and seeking of injunctions back home. Embrace your new flock. Toby and Tamsin’s occasional unflushed turds notwithstanding, you can do this. Roll up your sleeves, butter some baps, go forth, and don’t forget to blog about it.
* And don’t write to me to say that actually it did, for four days. That will help even less. You’re competing for mythic hold over the popular imagination yourselves, remember. Spend more time on learning larger lessons, please, not facts.