"The only way to prevent our extinction
is through mass participation civil disobedience"
That bit of wisdom from one of the founders of Britain's Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam.
Whether it's a mass demonstration snarling transportation in our city core or blocking Justin Trudeau's pipeline to oblivion, we have no choice but to push back against the forces of extinction, our own governments.
The fact of the matter is finally settled. Not the fact that if we do not stop putting carbon into the atmosphere our children will starve. That was settled three decades ago. Rather that the only way to prevent our extinction is through mass participation civil disobedience – thousands of people breaking the laws of our governments until they are forced take action to protect us. In less than a year Extinction Rebellion has gone from 15 people in a room to creating the biggest organised civil disobedience campaign in British history. In the past two weeks more than a thousand people have been arrested and as a result the climate and ecological crisis is finally on the political agenda. Everyone from the Labour party to the Sun newspaper is accepting we are right – we face the destruction of the next generation unless immediate emergency action is taken. For millions of people this week the penny has finally dropped – this is real and it’s terrifyingly serious.
Drawing on the groundbreaking research of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan (Why Civil Resistance Works), we came to the conclusion that the only way to overcome entrenched political power is through extensive campaigns of large-scale nonviolent direct action. In January this year I produced a 30-page paper for XR which formed the basis of the strategy of the past two weeks of mass disruption in London. The document has now been made into a booklet. The strategy is based upon three observations. Firstly that only through disruption, the breaking of laws, do you get the attention you need. Secondly only through sacrifice – the willingness to be arrested and go to prison – do people take seriously what you are saying. And thirdly only through being respectful to ourselves, the public and the police, do we change the hearts and minds of our opponents, which makes it easier for them to negotiate with us.
Specifically the strategy – the “civil resistance model” as we call it – needs to involve several key elements in order for successful outcomes to be optimised. Firstly you need a lot of people – thousands need to be involved. You need to go to the capital city because that is where the rich and powerful are – the government, big business and the media. You need to break the law – sit in the road or glue yourself to the entrance of a building and such like. Unlike A to B marches this is what gets attention. You have to stay strictly nonviolent. Indulging in violence and aggressive language excludes vulnerable groups – the old and young – from participation. Crucially it has to go on day after day. Like a labour strike you have to impose economic and reputational damage on the opponent over an extended period. Finally it has to be fun – many more people are attracted to celebratory cultural spaces than narrowly political ones.Push them off the hill. Lay claim to the moral high ground. Keep the light on just who and what these people are whether they're Liberal or they're Conservative or even demonstrably feckless New Dems. The irony is they'll throw you in jail when they're to blame for exposing the population to ruin and worse. Beat them into submission, day by day.
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