Monday, February 25, 2019

Hedges' Anguished Plea

In his latest column, Chris Hedges calls for a mass uprising this April. He envisions a rebellion in major cities and capitols by thousands of people resorting to civil disobedience, a precursor of sorts to an overthrow of the very order that brought us to the brink of mass extinction. Yet there's an unmistakable desperation in his words:
If we do not shake off our lethargy, our anomie, and resist, our misery, despondency and feelings of helplessness will mount. We will become paralyzed. Resistance, especially given the bleakness before us, is about more than winning. It is about a life of meaning. It is about empowerment. It is a public declaration that we will no longer live according to the dominant lie. It is a message to the elites: YOU DO NOT OWN US. It is about defending our dignity, agency and self-respect. The more we free ourselves from the bondage of fear to throw up barriers along the forced march toward ecocide the more we will be enveloped by a strange kind of euphoria, one I often felt as a war correspondent documenting horrific suffering and atrocities to shame the killers. We obliterate despair in our acts of defiance, even if our victories are Pyrrhic. We reach out to those around us. Courage is contagious. It is the spark that ignites mass revolt. And we should, even if we fail, at least choose how we will die. Resistance is the only action left that will allow us to remain psychologically whole. And it is the only action left that has any hope of halting the wholesale extinction of the human race, not to mention most other species.
Resistance is about more than winning. Phyrric victories, we'll take what we can get. Hardly the lingo of those who might storm a Bastille. Yet it is about taking a stand, perhaps a last stand, in defence of our "dignity, agency and self-respect."

Hedges quotes Extinction Rebellion co-founder, Roger Hallem:

“There’s a fundamental difference between breaking the law and not breaking the law,” he went on. “It’s a binary difference. When you break the law, then you’re massively more effective in terms of material and psychological influence as well as media interest. The more dramatic the civil disobedience, the better. It’s a numbers game. You want people blocking the streets, but you need ten, twenty, thirty thousand. You don’t need 3 million. You need enough for the state to have to decide whether to use repression on a mass scale or invite you into the room. The gambit, of course, particularly in the U.K., is that the state is weak. It’s been hollowed out by neoliberalism. They’re going to find themselves overwhelmed. We will get in the room.”
How would Ottawa respond to a mass challenge to its authority? Repression on a mass scale or negotiation? Would it be a repeat of the Toronto G20 fiasco?  Riot cops, CS gas, kettling?

Would we even turn out, flooding major city streets with ten, twenty or thirty thousand people of resolve?

So many questions, so few answers? Can you imagine yourself answering the call, engaging in criminal acts to paralyze, if only temporarily, the state?

Then again, there is hope:

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