After a week of incredible protests across London, the XR movement decides where to go next.

 

Adaptation & Direction

Take heart, friends – any of you who were sitting in circle today and debating these issues. It is natural that anyone trying to bring about change in uncertain times – perhaps in any times – has doubt. Do you think the Freedom Riders didn’t have constant and passionate discussions about their struggle?

Remember that you are trying to find your way through the dark, as Rebecca Solnit says, moving forwards but with our past struggles as a light.

You are on the path towards a strange horizon called hope. Strange, because it recedes as we move closer to it, and strange that we may never reach it fully – but it informs every footstep, every uncomfortable hour, every defiant song.

It is right that democracy grows upwards, not down. It is right that we’re constantly re-checking and re-navigating. It is right that we give space to those who are tired; and that we open-up new fields of expression. The struggle for a resilient, sustainable, and diverse future is after all occurring in every community, and in every home and heart – not just the streets of the Canker, and not just under the banner of XR.

This is all a part of what the Pacific Islanders, the Austronesian and the Papuans call way-finding. A constant calibration of the climate and tides and obstacles to find the right direction forwards.

There are dangers, of course. Filibustering and empty argument, devoid of praxis leads to impotence. The twentieth century is littered with the shells of powerful movements that stumbled due to burn-out, factionalism, in-fighting, and direct state interference.

The thing about way-finding for those Pacific Islanders was that stalling wasn’t an option. In uncertain seas and with danger all around, the only movement is forward.

 

First they call you Mad, Then they call you Dangerous

When the Freedom Riders travelled across America – facing harassment at the best, or beatings and far worse – they were called crazy, foolish, trouble-makers, and dangerous. There were voices from without and within the Civil Rights movement to halt their non-violent direct action and instead parlay.

Thankfully however, the protests continued. They filled the jails in the southern US states, so much so that participants talk about those places of incarceration being transformed into unofficial training centers of non-violence. Skills such as peaceful resistance and solidarity flourished. The legacy of Gandhi’s Salt Marches and Quaker war resistance spread, transformed for a new era, and eventually formed the bedrock of something else entirely.

 

UnCivil Society

It is a terrible thing to have to admit this in our ‘enlightened’ modern times, but history writes this plainer than I can, that power-brokers will never agree to negotiate a change when they don’t have to. They do however, when they know that you dissidents, marchers, riders and sitters of conscience aren’t going to stop.

There are a hundred reasons for this:

  • Western Politicians overwhelmingly come from a rarefied cultural sub-set.
  • Corporate Lobbyists and revolving-door industry appointments ensure that while on the one side there may be the requests of thousands – on the other are millions and millions of pounds.
  • There are other actors involved in this fight who will work to undermine you, at every turn – Big Oil, PR Firms, Private Hedge Funds, Investment Banks…

The thing about way finding, is that we have to be able to see the obstacles clearly, and to be able to name them if we are to navigate them.

Blockades and barricades might not be the eventual tactic that forces the UK Government to declare a climate emergency.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t, either.

 

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