Witnessing the Occupy movement in London

An accidental witness

When you’re staying as close to St. Paul’s Cathedral as we are, it’s impossible to not see the ‘occupation’ of the square in front op the Cathedral’s main entrance. When we went out looking for a taxi last night, we passed through a veritable crowd of people. I’ve posted a picture below.

The opinion of Londoners

Londoners are clearly interested in all of the commotion. While not participating, some of them are willing to join in the debate, which leads to people discussing the “situation” on the Cathedral’s steps. However, talking to our cab driver we understood there is quite some apprehension as well. The occupation is bad for business especially for restaurants on and around the square, resulting in lay-offs in some restaurants there. An increase in
poverty hardly must have been the idea to begin with.

The purpose of the church

The cathedral, as I learned from an excellent guided tour which I took, has always been a place where Londoners came when they wanted to fight injustice of any kind, whether social or economical. From that point of view, I understand the need to come together right in front of the building. And there’s quite some ambition in the crowd. Just look at the sign they put up designating the square …

Wondering about the future

Some of the points the Occupy movement makes are certainly legitimate. They are in line with social commentary since late 2008. However, I question the execution, both in approach and in relevance. I feel it is again turning into an us, outside society, against them, society and the silent masses. In that opposition there are always victims which did not manage to adequately mitigate their exposures.

The risk management angle

Is this, for the businesses impacted, a Black Swan? Most will think so. While I agree the likelihood of such an event is low, the business impact is huge. That is something that needs to be taken in account, in any type of adequate risk management. Some of the businesses on the square effectively had their license to operate revoked, not by a legitimate authority, but is essence by “mob” rule. I’m not expressing an opinion here, just pointing out that the sheer mass and presence result in this potentially dire consequence for local businesses. While clearly a lot less violent than the riots which rocked London this summer, businesses need to seriously start considering risk mitigation plans for these situations. If not, the next occurrence may turn out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.