“I used to work for Starbucks; they would teach you that the perfect Starbucks coffee takes twenty-two seconds to come out of the espresso machine. Then in came a new manager with his new business plan – during rush hours a Starbucks coffee should now take only three seconds”.
Life in the city spins around urgency: urgency to get from A to B, to go up the career ladder, the property ladder, to become someone, to overcome and outgrow your up-and-coming neighbourhood on time. The second issue of Occupied London was dedicated to counter-summits, those relatively rare moments in our movement when we meet under intensified conditions breaking away from our individual everyday normality. This issue was going to be about this very normality – and yet, we quickly came to realise there simply isn’t such a thing: What passes for normality is a permanent state of urgency. Time is the urban battlefield we’re thrown into, always chasing the next task-in-hand. Pressed to do as much as possible in minimum time and even, simultaneously: to exist and function in parallel spaces in real time. Today, such multi-present state in real time becomes “not the opposite of ‘delayed time’ but only of the ‘present’” (Paul Virilio: Open Sky). To be present in more than a single reality renders them all unreal; it means being present in none.
Recently, the head of Scotland Yard’s Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office admitted that “there’s no fear of CCTV”. He speculated: “Why don’t people fear it? They think the cameras are not working”. Think, for a moment, not of the fearless person in front of the camera but of the emotionless watchers behind it. In their tiny monitor rooms, they record outside life but as for themselves, they barely record a presence – their energy and existence at all moments strictly channeled between their eyes and their screens. In the outside, in the settings recorded by these screens, their existence is even less so, stripped down to mere observer status – the rest of their living experience lost somewhere between their monitor rooms and the outside.
That they are in that way lost, can only be positive – but we have occupied ourselves enough with what they do… The question is now on us. An urgent demand for multi-present existence is also forced upon us; the question is, how would it be possible to face up to it and even reclaim it? We hear, over and over again, that we are faced with a situation in which it is “now or never” for us, for our movement; that the urgency for radical change is overwhelming, more than it has ever been. And still: for as long as we are crushed under this reality it will always be now or never – we can never take a step back. It’s now and always.
For now, we’ve taken a reality check. We’ve listened to voices talking of past anarchist influences; lessons learned from urban housing struggles and from separatist experiences in our very own city; we’ve been told of the changing face of culture in the globalised city and of the setting of new bio-political conditions within it. And we are glad to present voices that vow to keep fighting, in pretty London or elsewhere and to publish theses that hint towards a way forward. It’s finally time to think, and as always, it’s time to act. They’ll give us a few seconds, but we’ll take them on for ever.