Extinction Rebellion – Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night

On the 31st October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. The awareness of this action’s long-term significance may have escaped him at the time. With swathes of people turning against the Catholic Church, which had been the most powerful force in Europe for countless years, any doubts about its effect cannot have lasted long.

On the 31st of December 2018, Extinction Rebellion issued a “Declaration of Rebellion” against the British Government. The event was passionate and inspiring. One hopes it will have a similarly galvanising effect as Luther’s hammers had upon the Church. Indeed, it will need to if we are to survive the ecocide standing before us.

This time of year has a feeling of rebellion. The haze of Summer, which somehow seeps well into September, starts to lift. Suddenly we are plunged into darkness and our clocks go back. An extra hour’s sleep never feels quite enough. Halloween is a time for Trick or Treat – far more of an American tradition than a British one. There’s something anarchic about the whole idea that I find appealing – the act of sanctioned, carnivalesque begging. Is giving sweets to strangers paying homage to that sense of hospitality we fear losing, or are we symbolically paying tribute to monsters we have no way of controlling?

Imagine if this practice happened constantly throughout the year? The Trick aspect of Trick or Treat is presented as a last resort if children do not get the treats they want. But really Trick is more of a word for the whole masquerade of Halloween, and its anti-authoritarian semblances, for dressing up as ghouls and ghosts. Halloween is about joyful anonymity through masquerade. It feels in some sense like an age-old protest. Or at least an exorcism of bad spirits.  

Costume parties run into November. And in Britain unlike the US we have Guy Fawkes Night. When I was a child, it always struck me as unpleasant to celebrate someone’s execution with bonfires and burning effigies. It took an imagination like Alan Moore’s to reinvent the Guy Fawkes imagery as an act of rebellion against a future British fascist state in his comic V for Vendetta to symbolically spin something out of Guy Fawkes’ vengeance at years of smouldering mannequins. On the night of the 3rd November, I sat in a plush London cinema watching the film version; a tear ran down my cheek at the inhumanity and the cruelty the film portrays. The message is very much that a certain ruthlessness, based on revenge, is if not necessary then at least inevitable for a mass popular uprising. The lead characters “V” and “Evie Hammond” delight in gleeful destruction – art as political violence.

In some senses, the Extinction Rebellion is similar – more subtle and much more forgiving than the swashbuckling anarchist of the aforementioned tale. Rather than taking pleasure in chaos, Extinction Rebellion presupposes that worldwide chaos is already occurring. Waking people up to their fate involves not blaming or taking out our anger on those who stand against us: the government and big business. Their resistance involves presenting us with half measures to global warming: they cannot face up to destruction, they will waver until the last minute to Midnight. It is only through grieving the extinction that is presently happening that we can hope to change the status quo. People do not know what they have until it is gone. Sadness is powerful and also political. Meanwhile, we have to be creative and artistic against a backdrop of violence and destruction. We have to speak truth to the emotions that lay in the realm beyond a climate apocalypse: both a collective mourning for what we are losing and a collective joy in what we are building anew.

@TomLennard Why Aren’t We Worrying More About Climate Change? Action not Words

This post was originally published here:

https://tomdlondon.blogspot.com/2018/10/guest-blog-tomlennard-why-arent-we.html?spref=tw

In July, Green Party candidate and academic Rupert Read declined to appear on a BBC programme. The tweet in which he justified this, read as follows: BBC Radio wanted to have me on today to debate a climate-denier in the context of the drought/heatwave. I said NO. I told them it was a disgrace that they still give climate-deniers airtime at a time like this. I won’t be part of such charades any longer. Please RT if you agree. @GreenRupertRead

Read’s contention is that giving climate-deniers airtime is a ridiculous move from the BBC, when there are more important debates about climate change; it is here, and is dangerous. This impatience is echoed by other activists, but ones that will not wait for a comfortable discussion around the pros and cons of different strategies. They are unwilling to make polite appeals to our government, when it is clearly in the pocket of big business and major polluters.

On September 25th I chaired a discussion entitled “Why Aren’t We Worrying More About Global Warming?”  where one of Extinction Rebellion’s main activists, Roger Hallam, spoke. At this event he laid out his arguments – arguments for starting a public rebellion against the government over their climate change inaction – and then he left before the Q & A began. 

Action, he explained, not words, are important in the little time we have to do something. We should not get caught in the over-analysis of the information. He painted a picture of activism as a sacrifice of personal freedom, and the importance of rule breaking to achieve ones goals. And knowing Roger a little, I can corroborate that he lives by these ideals. Here is a link to Roger’s speech https://ytcropper.com/cropped/EA5bd4dc118a72b

It is easy to view the non-violent action that Roger proposed as extreme and drastic – it is. It was only a week after the talk, on October 1st, that the IPCC released their damning report: we have only 12 years to keep climate change temperatures under control:https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report And this is to put widespread devastation and societal unrest into emotionless facts and figures.

I am no longer convinced that political parties of the Left have enough energy or gumption to turn us toward serious responses and solutions to climate change. Political cycles are short and politicians have even shorter memories.

Roger’s walk away from the discussion, and abandonment of polite convention had a very polarising affect. It generated an emotional response –  and such responses are necessary for going beyond our willingness to rationalise and normalise the impending chaos.

Whilst the positive stories are definitely something that can keep us going in the darker moments outside activism, many people around the globe are engaged in great projects that facilitate us moving to a more ecological way of living. But these are alternatives, and not the mainstream, socio-political reality.

Extinction Rebellion’s method is to shock the system. They plan to do this in the coming months, starting with a big demonstration and direct action in Parliament Square, with the backing of George Monbiot https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/18/governments-no-longer-trusted-climate-change-citizens-revolt

The present moment seems terribly fragile and frightening. Even the climate change deniers seem to be keeping rather quiet. But since the IPCC report the media has returned to its regular coverage of minutiae and gossip. It is a fragile moment that we live in, but fragile moments, are ones in which the status quo is broken. How things will look from the other side of a social revolution is much harder to say. But to be climate extremist in these times is nothing but common sense.

Tom Lennard @TomLennard

Kensal and Kilburn Better 2018 @KKBetter2018

You can become involved in the necessary campaign to force politicians to account over climate change at Extinction Rebellion – https://risingup.org.uk/XR/

For a recent, short analysis of the political strategy of Left Wing politics see Graham Jones’  “The Shock Doctrine of the Left” (published by Polity)