The body has plenty of Adrenalin to be excreted whilst sitting down. Excitement and fear, courage and anxiety can all be evoked by the passive observance of the sacrifices of others. Armchair activists, those chained to employment routines, co-conspirators responsible for family maintenance, all collaborators in kind, those of us with reasons for not joining the front line, can and do share the emotions of the “arrestables” whilst not being amongst them.
This morning’s scenes at the start of the October Rebellion, overnight arrests in London, police hard-handling of elderly sit-downers in Sydney, children and young people joining workers and pensioners in more than 60 cities across the world, the banners, the scaffold towers, the perilous gluing and chaining of limbs and bodies to block main arteries and business openings, all, all, evoke sensations of arousal and, dare it be admitted, Hope.
Extinction Rebellion now has over 4,500 affiliate groups across the world, and the next two weeks will see more. The eight million people who joined the 20th September global strike will be added to by millions more drawn into the campaign by loud and accurate messages of scientific Truth and anger at Establishment intransigence.
Whilst the BBC chooses to all but ignore the protests, most media outlets are broadcasting fascinating and though-provoking images and interviews of human ingenuity and peaceful collaboration. The artistic expressions of environmental distress and human desire are manifold everywhere.
Protesters risking their lives perched painfully atop flimsy stilts, others locked to hastily erected and beautifully adorned scaffold towers, people chained under vehicles, together present images of commitment, humility and sacrifice designed to provoke changed awareness and new thinking.
By the end of the first day of the next 14, more than 200 people have been arrested in London amidst the cold and wet English Autumn. Police on 12-hour shifts, bussed in from across the country and highly briefed are acting-out well-rehearsed roles to produce systematic cautions, clearances and convictions. The “arrestables” are throwing themselves at the Law to break the log jam, the impasse, the Status Quo that insists Business as Usual.
The Climate Emergency must drive immediate structural change if we are to survive. There can be no more business as usual in politics, business, behaviour, thought or emotion. The rebellion is designed to arouse. Whilst the rebels formally and earnestly apologise for the disruption caused they know this is nothing compared with the devastation we face from economic collapse.
If the drivers and commuters become upset, angry or even abusive they are to be understood, empathised with and engaged wherever possible in quiet discussion about the threats we face now, tomorrow and for the rest of our lives. If today is not the right day for forcing the change we need in order to survive, then when?
If non-violent direct action is not the correct method to evoke change, then what is? We have tried, and will continue to attempt, the ancient “legal”, respectable, non-disruptive methods of political lobbying, propagandising, participation in elections, letter-writing campaign and all. But, in the last 30 years of trying, none of these have produced a fraction of the public education and political pressure that the past 6 months of direct action has achieved.
We who are not, salute the arrestables. As the days progress into months and years ahead many who have not yet defied the Law will find ourselves up against it. The forces of short-termism, both the politicians limiting their horizons to the next public vote and the shareholders unable to focus beyond next year’s dividends, will have to be forced to understand that their way cannot continue.
Their Way, the established way of doing things, has to end. Profiting from the destruction of people and planet, gambling on the destruction of the Amazon, investing in Ecocide in all its myriad of forms, is all illegitimate. In very practical terms, their actions are against the Law…of Nature.
And if the rich are expected to sacrifice much, so be it. So are we all. The poorest have suffered and survived or perished in the next-to-nothing left-over after the vanquishing Capitalist expropriators, privateers, carpet-baggers and military-industrial gangsters. The global South has been ravaged and cannot care for the weeping and wailing of the Northern privileged wealthy calling for calm and collaboration.
Today’s responses from London workers inconvenienced by the barricades has been heart-warming and encouraging. The man missing his desperately needed hospital appointment offered full support. The woman late for work compared the delay to her routine experience of cancelled trains and poor public transport and suggested that, at least this time, she was delayed with good reason.
The postal worker said he didn’t min working an extra hour to complete his deliveries if he was helping save the planet, the baker brought free bread and cakes to those sat on the cold and wet tarmac, the ex-Police Superintendent placed himself in position to be arrested – again!
The practical scale of this week’s protests will still be far smaller than the critical mass required to force change. Government spokesmen (they are men), have been quick to condemn and to say their parties are doing enough and should be given a chance. But back in the homes, where tonights evening news flashes on-screen images and half-heard spin-lines, people everywhere will feel something.
We are spreading the word – we face climate catastrophe and must be heard. No-one should feel guilty for not being on the front line. No-one should rush out and join the array unprepared, untrained or unclear. We are all learning and feeling our way forward. Like the build-up to inevitable war, we are preparing for huge change and disruption, the size of which will dwarf the best of any protest action we can imagine.
The sooner we end business as usual the better. I have done the training, I have felt the passion, and I’m off to protest right now.
Monday 7th October 2019