My response to ECOTRAIN QOTW 10.7
Hi! here's my response to Ecotrain QOTW 10.7: Are activists who inconvenience the general public justified?
In a word, Yes.
To put the importance of Activism into perspective, lets take a little semi-historical wander and get a picture of the world in which Activism and protest are necessary...
These are times of 'everything change' not just 'climate change', that is too insipid a term for what's going on. We are facing wholesale collapse of many systems, man made and not. If you love labels, you could say that we've moved from a comfortable Holocene, through the human-made Anthropocene (via the diversity destroying Plantationocene) into the corporate created Capitalocene. All of those 'scenes' could be understood and dealt with conceptually by the average person. Now, though, we're entering into an era where the runaway changes that we're seeing at every level of existence are conceptually challenging the understanding of most of humanity (especially at a political level). Some are even calling the new era the 'Cthulucene', a time where massive forces are moving through and around us, forces that have no concern for the rights or freedoms of the humans who unleashed them or at least pushed them over unrecoverable tipping points. This isn't to be confused with Donna Haraway's 'Cthulucene' which is a lot different but is an equally important conceptual take on surviving the challenges we are already facing.
Lets face it, the last century or so has been pretty easy for those with a little wealth in fact, the whole Holocene has been pleasant by geological standards and has enabled us to become who we are today. Unfortunately, along the way, someone discovered that you could swap utility and value with a surrogate, a token - money. Someone then discovered the possibility of accumulating and hording that money. Maybe it was the same person who discovered that you could trade that money and make more of it without creating substance or utility themselves. People liked this money idea and started to substitute it for pretty well everything and those with a lot of it could leverage it against the work, then the very lives of those who didn't. Welcome to the Capitalcene.
People got pretty used to this idea because they were told at every turn that it was the normal way of the world. everyone supported those with the money and the power that it gave them because they were conditioned, literally from birth to believe that it was the money that had the value, not the things that it could be traded for. It was a system that insulated those willing to accumulate money from the wildness and weirdness of the natural world. With enough of it, you could become completely abstracted from the needs of living with Nature.
Over centuries, this became the norm and the average person came to believe that it was their role, their duty, to support those with the money in order to get a little money for themselves. So much money and so many resources went into convincing the average person in the street that this was and still is, the way that it is.
To this day, people are taught that those with money are better than those without and that it is their role to support them. A little of the money that the powerful have is given back to those that support them through the monetization of their creativity, their energy and their very lives. Just enough to keep them alive and just enough to give them the delusion that they too can become rich and powerful if they just work long and hard enough...
All in all, it has been a system that has rewarded work with comfort and bred complacency. A huge proportion of the global population believe that this is the normal business of life and that business should continue as normal and that the mega rich can solve the world's problems by throwing a tiny part of their wealth at them and that this is normal.
This is where Activists (yes, with a capital 'A') come into the picture. Activists are folks who see a problem or two or ten or a thousand or two and act to educate, enlighten and inform other folks about those issues. But they are working against a complacency that trumps common sense and personal observations.
So, rather than just inform or try to work within a system that is designed to keep the complacency going, that business as usual is what is needed, these folks act. They protest, they march, they speak, lecture and perform. In some cases they break and wreck but the key thing is that they act.
It is easy to walk past a rally, a soap box or skip over a YouTube or 3Speak video. It is hard for the activists to get the attention of the populace, so they must interfere somehow with their day to day
activities, to disrupt business as usual or their message won't be noticed.
Disruption, mostly, comes as a general inconvenience, a polite 'hello world, are you listening?' but more and more the levels of inconvenience need to be ramped up. One moment of inconvenience is drowned in a day of media teaching that normality is the way and the truth, that the activists are merely fringe lunatics and reactionaries.
Blocking roads has become necessary to get the message across that things are not normal and that what we consider to be normal is killing us. Disrupting transport and interfering with the flow of money is the only thing that gets people's attention nowadays. Sustained economic loss is the only thing that will get the attention of governments and law makers.
In Adelaide, our protests are very interesting. They are negotiated spaces. Protestors gather in the same place every time, march down the same street and then collect en-masse in front of Parliament House for a maximum of two hours, after which we all move on peacefully. It is held at a time when the minimum number of businesses are inconvenienced and many even take advantage of the extra foot traffic. Ministers are usually long gone before it all starts and all we protest to are cleaners and security guards. It inconveniences nobody and achieves very little. This is the nature of protest here.
If protest doesn't upset the daily work routine of people, if it doesn't cause some kind of inconvenience, if it doesn't cause some questioning of (at least) the daily routine of many, then it is pointless. Activists need to inconvenience, irritate and annoy people in order to get them to question their view of the issue. Once the view has been challenged, then, for some, it is time to educate.
Inconvenience is a necessary step in order to get a message across before revolution becomes necessary.