Until recently, I had kept my support for Extinction Rebellion resolute but ‘informal’ for a number of reasons; To manage my expectations of it. To resist group think and retain objectivity. To not lose myself in the bubble of excitement and adrenaline.To avoid the potential for interpersonal dramas. To maintain focus on the ‘outward facing’ aspects of the movement. To spare the rebels my precarious emotional state, (burnt out anger and cynicism) and to maintain what degree of anonymity I still have.
I haven’t joined the basecamp or facebook groups. I haven’t formally taken on any specific role, so I understand that I’m speaking from a privileged ‘outsider’ perspective.
Despite taking these steps, I’ve become emotionally invested in the rebellion. It’s impossible not to be if you acknowledge the urgency of our predicament. The stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. The central strategy is excellent. The bravery of the arrestables cannot go unsupported.
Over the last week or so though, a number of issues have arisen which if dealt with appropriately could only make the movement stronger. If not dealt with, they could compromise the movement’s longevity. It hasn’t been easy being one of the people to try to articulate one of these issues in such a way as to be helpful. It’s been harder still withdrawing my support until these issues are approriately dealt with. I’ve been angry and sad as hell about it all.
Writing this now is made even harder knowing that another criticism, which I felt was offered in the spirit of comaraderie, has upset at least one rebel who I have great love, respect and gratitude for. For this I am truly sorry. I wish I had the linguistic skills to articulate my thoughts more considerately.
Deflecting from difficult questions about the rebellion’s organisational structure or it’s relationship to the police (and the charge of historical revisionism) with the excuse of either ‘busyness’ or the urgent nature of the emergency is not really sufficient though, considering the monumental scale of the challenge and the number of people involved in the rebellion now.
Somebody must have time to deal with these difficult questions!
Oh. I’m ‘somebody’, aren’t I?
Theo Simon’s response to Gabriel Carlyle’s article in Peace News however, was fantastic and rousing and absolutely right.
There are no sidelines to stand on. Critical voices need to become the critical hands which shape our interventions.
So f*ck it, I’m back ‘in’ but I’m not going along blindly. I really want to see these issues dealt with because I believe they’re vital to the integrity of the movement.
It’s not about being ‘perfect’ it’s about dynamic strategy. It’s about continuing the difficult conversations and establishing systems for collectively learning from them, by absorbing and responding to useful criticism, collectively. It’s about developing a vibrant culture of PRAXIS which empowers people to ensure the long term sustainability and scalability of the movement beyond Rebellion Day on the 17th, (with however little time we have left).
It’s about actually building this citizen’s assembly.
I remember back in 2011, at our first local Occupy meeting after the assembly at St Paul’s it was absolutely packed. There were easily a hundred people crammed into a tiny room and filling the corridors. We had to open a window so people in the garden outside could participate. Out of all those people, one experienced voice from the old guard voiced some concerns about our lack of preparation and urged us to take some time to plan ahead. The mood in the room was gung ho though. We arrived with our tents a couple of days later, completely unprepared for what awaited us.
It’s strange and uncomfortable to find myself now to be in the equivalent minority of critical voices urging caution and witnessing proceedings from ‘outside’…
My advice for the rebels, for what it’s worth (from my privileged ivory tower…). Take it or leave it;
- Take all criticism constructively, especially if it’s intended to be friendly.
- Don’t just ‘take it on board’ and ‘think about it’, absorb and act on it. Use the XR platforms to respond carefully and thoughtfully. Keep the conversations going. (as I’m writing this, I’m greatly relieved and exhiliarated to hear that this is already happening, apparently).
- Resist the glorification of ‘busyness’. It’s a fast track to burnout, missed opportunities and generally poor decision making. Yes it’s an emergency. Yes the work is urgent but it needs to be done with careful speed, not reckless haste.
- Update the relevant documentations appropriately. It’s not a choice between one way of seeing it or another, the challenge is to articulate all perspectives, as inclusively as possible.
- Resist false binary dichotomies. Hope and fear are not mutually exclusive. Neither are respect and disdain for the police, government, and other ‘authorities’.
- Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the scale of it all. Be empowered by the scale of it all.
If it so pleases the rebel hivemind, I am volunteering my time to help with drafting the necessary word magick on the aforementioned criticisms. I don’t want to waste my time doing this if I’m not needed, or unwelcome now or if it’s going to fall on deaf ears, so please advise on how receptive you are to this offer.
Thanks for all you’re doing. Sincere apologies for any offence caused by my brief departure.
Thanks in particular to those rebels who have responded with understanding.
ALL comments in full solidarity.
Love, respect, rage and defiance.