On March 26th alongside the sedate TUC anti-cuts protest in London anarchists also protested though in a more dynamic, confrontational fashion. Included in their version of protest was the deliberate targeting of banks, The Ritz and other sites that symbolise financial oppression, exploitation, exclusion and inequality for property damage.
The damage was symbolic protest, a physical cry of resistance, an expression of ‘the scream’ that Holloway refers to (in ‘Change the world without taking power’). No one imagined it would bring down capitalism it was, as protest often is, to do with symbolism and communication of ‘if only’.
As I thought about the protests, the smashing of a bank window, I realised that it was very similar to the acts of Jesus in clearing the temple. You know the incidents; they are recorded in all 4 gospels. Jesus deliberately, as an act of protest and resistance, carries out property damage at a site of financial exploitation. He temporarily disrupts the exploitative system associated with temple worship while knowing his actions wouldn’t bring it to an end. It was confrontational but he was angry that what should have been a place of prayer had been turned into a place of financial exploitation with inflated prices being charged for sacrificial animals and temple currency.
On the second occasion Jesus says “It is written ‘My house will be called a house of prayer’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’” (NIV Mt 21:13). Some would dispute the comparison between 21st century anarchists and the 1st century Jesus emphasising that his actions were an expression of anger over the corruption of temple worship.
Both include anger at a system that was exploiting the poor, an anger that was the consequence of knowing what should be. The anarchists were expressing their hostility towards a corrupt system that causes misery, suffering and deprivation on a global scale, Jesus was expressing a more localised version of the same while including the added dimension of concern over spiritual corruption also. To paraphrase a famous question ‘What would Jesus smash?'
by Tim Foster