Members of the legal profession should support Occupy
We are all aware that our economic system brings misery, exploitation and death to a large number of people and other living beings. Millions are born into a life of degradation. Huge power is now concentrated in a relatively tiny minority of companies and individuals. Decisions are made behind closed doors that affect so many lives. Children, mothers and men work in factories in appalling conditions so that those in other parts of the world can buy cheap goods.
Mining, oil and gas companies destroy local ecosystem services throughout the world, effectively depriving communities of what they need to survive, and accelerate our world towards a terrifying future as the climate changes. Your pension fund almost certainly invests in these companies, including the so called ‘ethical’ ones. The very life support systems of our planet are being destroyed for corporate profit. And this is legal. The legal system legitimises and facilitates crimes against humanity and against nature. But none of this is new.
Why have decent people stood by for so long and let this happen? It may be because we have been sold a lie by those companies and our political establishment that are benefiting from this brutal state of affairs - the lie that this is the best way to allocate the resources of the world. It is not. The human and ecological cost of this economic system is far too great. It’s a gross miscarriage of justice that we’ve not grasped this truth and spoken out sooner.
I am asking: can lawyers put aside their own self-interest and be a force for democratic renewal and justice? If so, then let’s unite and become a movement within the profession. We could do this under the banner of Occupy Law UK. Occupy brings together people of all backgrounds, of all professions and walks of life. There is a wealth of skills in this movement, and different people have promising solutions to how we can order different aspects of our lives in a way that is both just and sustainable.
As Occupy law, we are focused on the legal system, but our task needs to be approached in a holistic way - we must work with others in the movement looking at education, health, economics, food, energy and all those other fundamental areas of life. Occupy calls for systemic solutions to systemic problems. Our future legal system must be based on promoting the well-being of people and the planet. This is not an idealistic musing - it is absolutely essential if our children are to inherit a viable planet where peace, not conflict, is the norm.
If you support this call, you’ll be in good company. On 12 May Occupy London held a rally and took to the streets of central London to mark the anniversary of the Indignados movement (literally, the outraged). John Cooper QC (counsel for Occupy during the eviction case) lent his support to Occupy, and I was honoured to read a supportive statement from Michael Mansfield QC, which called for an entirely different form of governance, including Community Bills of Rights to elevate community interests above corporate ‘rights’ and a comprehensive reappraisal of values, priorities and needs. Later Louise Kulbiki from the Eradicating Ecocide campaign spoke and implored the crowd to support the call to recognise ecocide as the 5th international crime against peace.
Members of the legal profession, please step outside of your comfortable lives to support this call. Martin Luther King said, ‘never, never be afraid to do what is right, especially when the well being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict our soul when we look the other way’. As a movement, we can get fundamental change. You can follow @occupylawuk on Twitter, find us on Facebook or email email@example.com.
Melanie Strickland is a solicitor and member of Wild Law and Occupy Law UK