Goodbye yellow brick road

I’ve decided to apply the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY  methodology to journalistic interviews and chose to explore and learn more about OccupyLSX through the use of LEGO . I have been around St. Paul’s camp looking for someone to involve in my experiment. And that’s when I’ve met Helen.

She is 17, she is studying textile, “I still go to the college from here in the morning, which is difficult because it’s freezing and it’s too cold to get up. It’s not nice.” she says with a smile.

I ask Helen to build me the first model, to let her familiarize with LEGO.

She looks at me and then she picks up the LEGO bricks and starts building something. When she has finished, I ask her to describe me what has she has built: “It’s a rainbow colour tower and it’s thin in the middle because it’s gonna collapse and it’s not like stable. It’s quite odd, I don’t know… And the flower on the top represent all of mankind, it’s kind of victorious.”

The tower has a thinner part, I investigate more and question Helen about that.Helen's tower model

“Because it’s quite unstable, it’s not necessarily like a tower… it’s much like the world at the moment, it’s very unstable, it’s very unsustainable….”

She is smiling and is getting engaged with the LEGO, I ask her to build a model of the world as she sees it.

It takes some time, she puts the bricks together and when she is done, she starts telling me the story of the world through her model.

“This is like the tower” she says pointing at the tallest piece on the table “because we live in a completely CCTV nation now because we can’t do anything without being watched over, I don’t like that, it’s like they [the government] don’t have trust in us. Obviously, we need CCTV, but we are now kind of the most CCTV-ed country in the world… It’s ridiculous, it’s like you are continuously watched, you can’t do anything without being watched, it’s horrible. I don’t like it. And in particular, because I am a teenager, I can’t even go into a shop without being followed around. I don’t like it, it’s like we’ve been looked after. I think the government thinks we can’t think for ourselves…”.

Then looking at the model she explains me the headless human shape:

“And this is us, we are kind of running around like headless chicken not really knowing what to do about it. I mean, we all would like good things but we do not know what. I mean, generally I think a lot of people could do a lot more, trying to investigate and find out what’s going on around them, but really we are kind of headless chicken who don’t really know what to do at the moment, which it’s quite sad, really… And this is like the bridge for a better place,” she says looking at the broken bridge next to the human figure “you can’t get there at the moment because of greed and war which generally is caused by inequality and all those kind of wrong. And we have started building ladders trying to get on the other side.”. Helen gets excited while she starts talking about the colourful shapes over the bridge: “And that’s like the paradise! It’s like world should be on the other side, an equal society, something looking forward to.”

She speaks passionately but with a good realism “Because, as a teenager, once again, my future isn’t looking really cool at the moment, like I have not so much to look forward to looking at the state of our economy and the way the government treats people at the moment. I am not looking particularly forward to my future… And this is quite bad because young people starts losing hope and faith in humanity…”

She sees clearly the distance between people and the government and pointing at the tower and comparing it to the human shape, she says that “they [the government] have so much power and are so much higher than we are, like we had no real power over what the government is doing”.

I turn my attention to a little grey brick with a small ladder shape and ask Helen about it.

“…because we have started building bridges across, because we are looking for a way to cross, we are trying to find a way out of there…So we’ve started, but you can’t be an idealist, you have to be realist because, you have seen how things are going on, it can take a long while…” and her voice turns a little bit bitter “and people around, they call us ignorant, they call us in any way possible, like… Some’ve said that we have AIDS issues on the camp and needles… Do you see any needle?! I haven’t seen any needle and have been here for a long time! And we have people with diabetes and we have some just in case they need it, but sure we don’t have any heroin addicts or anything. We just give hope… you know our community just gives hope … But, you know, they say this is becoming like a homeless camp, it’s just people with problems and few crazy and all the stuff…”.

I ask again Helen about the orange bricks which interrupts the bridge:

“It’s like lava, like a volcano… We can’t get over, basically it’s just a matter of building more bridges and fill that gap. It’s gonna take a lot of time and a lot of talking and a lot of tryings to fill the gap and to recognise it… and anyone who comes here starts thinking ‘Oh it’s even better than I’ve read about it!’ and people comfort us with genuine thoughts and trying to find a way forward… and then there’s people just passing by, and some people not just pass by but they shout insults like ‘Give up dirty loathe!’ and these are the people in suites, who are expected to be the educated ones in society… and it’s when people start talking with us that we are starting building the real society. There’s so much cooperation between everyone and we all started talking and we all stared living more freely in a real world where you care about emotion, and you care about what people are thinking and not just how are they earning, or the law, it’s we need more recognition”.

The orange lava has two trapezoid shaped bricks at both ends and interestingly those bricks point in opposite directions. I ask Helen why is that. She looks at the model and at me, quite puzzled. She smiles “I supposed I did it subconsciously but I think it’s because, you know, it’s all the different ways this could go. It can go either way at the moment. Either we can keep going where we are going and everything will gonna be ruined – and it could happen. And that is the way we point toward: a more sustainable future that has nature and beauty and the things that actually matter to the world, instead of the paper which we actually consider so important for our livelihood…”

I look at her model again and look at the tower: it’s an interesting tower with an apparent sound facade.

“And I was thinking, this power, is going fall apart at some point.” she explains to me. “It’s look quite stable but behind it, it’s very little and has very little substances here” she says showing me the tower’s thinner backside “because if you think about what they (the government) keep saying “We are recovering! Everything is gonna be fine again! Stop worrying! Buy more! Buy more!” but the truth that matters is that everything isn’t gonna recover and for me in particular, thinking about my education, my schooling has been cut, like we have quite a lot of extra and I go to a state school which is supposed to be like free education. And I love English, I love English so much and enjoy it but I also love textile and I consider the creative side should be considered just as important and instead of just neglecting it… it’s like the wrong system and it has been cut and each and every way and they try to save money all the time… And they are also putting off mental system, which is also unbalanced because they are cutting the NHS too and all the stuff that really matters have been cut”.

I ask Helen to build me an other model – I want to see what keeps her going, what gives her so much energy to be around, sleep outside, go to college from St Paul every morning.

She engages with the LEGO and put the pieces together in a colourful and vibrant representation:

“The main reason because I have managed to stay, in all honesty, it’s because I can really feel part of it and I can feel the good vibe emanating from every area by compassionate, real, genuine and intelligent people. Here I’ve started being more real in life and happier than I have been in a long time. I was on medication and I am now off just because of this, because I am finding so much love and hope and people makes me feel that there’s something to look forward to, there’s hope.”

“And what about the yellow bricks in behind?” – I ask pointing at two long yellow bricks just behind the human figure.

“It’s just an other golden block of our imagination, it’s that we are allowing our heads to open up for other opportunities, trying to think more and more on different ideas. It’s just amazing! And that’s kind of overwhelming charm of victory that there is the possibility and we could change something like no matter how long it takes, we will change something and that’s why we are planning to stay as long as possible.”.

She stares at her own model and describes it:

“The green bricks are just nature because a lot of people is not realising what we are doing to the environment. All the colours represent the vibes: you can feel the love, the compassion, the real sense of society and hope… and the blue which is kind of colour of hope, green nature… and it’s virtually blooming from each other…”

Then she looks again at the yellow bricks:

“The yellow is like when you are a child, you know the yellow brick road? It’s kind of driving forward and you get somewhere beautiful and when you get there it’s not what you were hoping for? What’s happening now it’s that we’ve been walking forward and forward, going somewhere and we got there and it’s not like … So that’s behind, because we are not following it anymore, it’s not about going on the yellow brick road, or listening to someone else telling you what to do…”.

In the model the space in front of the human figure is empty, I ask Helen why is that.

“It’s empty because it’s not sure yet. None of us quite knows, it’s not that we don’t know what we want, we do! But we don’t know how are we gonna achieve it and so we need more people and it’s empty because we need more people to go on that way.”.

Helen is just one of the over 300 occupiers who have decided to take the floor and try to change things.

She is genuine, her enthusiasm and her passion emerge in every single word. She is young, yet she is doing something great – and she knows it and she takes responsibility over her future and over our future too. She is one of those I thank for what she is doing – because she is doing it also for me. And you.

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