Last week I was walking between Pall Mall and a beer with the exceptional Monty Munford on Shaftesbury Avenue, when I came across a gathering of people in Trafalgar Square. By the end of the evening they would be on the news, for no real reason.

Anonymous 1

The lack of clear purpose was evident even early in the evening, as the throng continued to amass — there was no real message in what they were doing. Yet there was a strange sense of collective identity hanging in the air, the unspoken feeling that together they were making a stand.

I grabbed a few snaps on my phone as I wandered through, then asked a few people milling on the periphery swigging from cans of Red Stripe – ‘What is this actually about?’

They were very friendly — we chatted for a while. Here’s an abridged version…

‘It’s the protest group Anonymous. We’re trying to get 10,000 people out and March through London to the Houses of Parliament.’

‘Ok. But what are you actually protesting against?’

‘It’s against government oppression and that kind of thing.’

After a little small talk, I wished them well and headed on my journey.

After getting home late, I caught glimpses of Anonymous on the news the next day, even the impartial correspondents reported with the overwhelming sense that they had no coherent message. I was in London on my continued exploration of The Work Project and this made quite the metaphor.

How many of us, everyday, descend en-masse somewhere, with people we don’t really know, for some kind of common purpose that we’re not quite clear on, apart from it being our duty to be there and do what’s expected?

And how effective is that?

I met this figure in the Anonymous crowd…

Anonymous 2

Whether it’s work, or politics there’s always the sense that something must change — we can make things better. It’s not about all-out anarchy though.

Wearing a mask to hide your face in a crowd and grumbling about how bad things are is pretty much what most people do every day at work. As far as I can see, it’s also the opposite of anarchy.

What we need are for people to take the masks off, have their conversations out loud, make them productive and proactive. If you’re reasonable and real, there’s no need to hide your face – your authenticity is essential and powerful.

No one has a single, credible solution (Russell Brand included), but we need people to take the masks off, stand up and passionately talk about how things could be different. How can you have a coherent voice that resonates when you’re hidden in the melee?

In the work conversation, I’m privileged to mix with some of those people. I’m not going to list them here for reasons I’ll keep to myself, but they’re out there, changing the world of work one conversation at a time.

I’m sure there are people out there changing the world of ‘government oppression and that kind of thing’ in the same way. Take your masks off, Anonymous, and show us your faces. It’s the people behind them that have the real voice…

By Andy Swann on November 13, 2014.
Exported from Medium on July 15, 2016.