I got arrested for the first time in my life this week. And I’m proud of it.
As long-time followers of this blog know, over the past 13 years I’ve tried everything I know to get our society to change its omnicidal course. I’ve written books, co-founded organisations, taught courses, worked in my community, lobbied governments, given talks, participated in grassroots discussion and action…
I’ve failed. We’ve all failed. As a global society we are accelerating towards oblivion, and taking everyone else with us.
And last week, someone said something that stuck with me. That if everyone around you is carrying on like everything’s fine, then no matter how much one reads or understands intellectually about a situation, it’s so difficult not to go along with that. Equally, if you’re somewhere and everyone else starts screaming and running for the exit, then you probably start running for the exit, even if you have no idea what’s going on.
Maybe there’s seemed to be a disconnect between the message we’ve been bringing – that this society is knowingly causing the harshest catastrophe in history – and the actions we’ve been taking?
Maybe if the wider public see that hundreds feel the need to go to jail over this, they might start to seriously ask why? With these stakes, it’s worth a shot.
That film was shot yesterday on Blackfriars Bridge, one of five bridges surrounding Parliament that we occupied as part of the Extinction Rebellion. The sheer mass of thousands of people meant that the police couldn’t possibly arrest everyone, so the bridges were ours for all the family fun you can see.
But when, at the hour we decided, we collectively moved on, many ordinary folk stayed behind and refused to leave in order to be arrested. If all we have left to amplify the message with is our liberty, then we offer it up.
And paradoxically – as I said in my speech in the clip above (from 4m15) – in doing so we have discovered a new freedom. That following our conscience and refusing to be bound by laws that insist on inflicting death and misery is an act of liberty.
Hundreds of thousands of humans are dying of climate change each year now. Most of the wild nature that existed fifty years ago is gone. What’s a little time in jail, by comparison?
Perhaps, as ever, Wendell Berry said it best,
“Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success, namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.”
Maybe we can’t stop what’s unfolding, but it would diminish us not to try. And yesterday was the first event I’ve attended that felt as though it might be a historic turning point.
Equally, it might not. That’s up to us.
One child held a placard saying “When I grow up, I want to be alive”.
I’ll leave you with the song that has been the soundtrack to my personal Extinction Rebellion.
It makes me cry every time.