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My Experience of XR Activism

From Mark C

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

I joined the recent Extinction Rebellion Manchester march during their four-day occupation in the city centre and took part in the 'die-ins' which, for the uninitiated, involve lying silently on the ground, en-masse, for a few minutes, while a single, standing protestor declared the reasons for our presence. I felt that the hundred or so of us ‘dying’ outside the offices of our target corporations created a powerful and thought-provoking image for their staff and for passers-by.  Although this large-scale action caused local disruption in the city, I was glad to be involved, if it ultimately helps to prevent some of the global disruption of climate change and environmental degradation.

The following Sunday, I took part in a smaller die-in at Morrisons supermarket in Todmorden, to highlight the environmental impact of palm oil. At 12 o clock, we died in front of the tills with our baskets full of palm oil products. Again, it created a powerful scene, but I was not alone in feeling uncomfortable at the very targeted disruption we had created. I felt less anonymous and that I had to account for myself. There was some public applause, but we also received some angry comments and I was conscious that our disruption could also be stressful for Morrisons staff members. 

Carefully organised small protests such as this, with support from experienced activists, are encouraged by Extinction Rebellion and can raise local awareness of the global crisis we are facing. But I see a risk of them being perceived as more disruptive and less relevant, compared to the city occupations and other large-scale events, that may seem, more obviously, part of the global movement. Just like in Manchester, our Morrisons protest had a spokeswoman who clearly articulated the reasons for our protest, but we had no one available to liaise with individual members of the public or to respond to objections from some, unhappy that their shopping trip had been disrupted. Perhaps because small-scale events such as this do seem more personal for all concerned, I feel such liaison could be vital, to help build support for the cause.

From Ian M

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Mark, Are you aware that your small scale disruption in Todmorden resulted in trauma fur several members of staff and also customers?

The store has previously been the victim of armed robbery and your group rushing in and screaming "get on the floor" caused great upset. One elderly lady had to helped back to her house as she was so unsettled. 

Also, from the subsequent discussions on local social media pages, no-one had the faintest ideas what you were protesting about to the point XR felt it necessary to post an explanation. 

Finally if you are targeting local companies who use Palm Oil, why have you not targeted Nestle in Halifax?

Surely they are a more worthy target than old ladies doing their shopping?

From Gideon Foster

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

I think reading the first two posts on this thread highlights an interesting point that any protest action has consequences, even if that action is undoubtedly well-intentioned.

I do wrestle with this dilemma that in some ways when we spend our energy pointing fingers at what or who we perceive is the problem, we actually become part of the problem, because people don't like to be told they are wrong, and will rebel against the message. However, if we set an example of the alternative then people will follow that as they don't like to be different.

So visit places like Morrison's by all means but do it to highlight the benefits to the world of products that do not use palm oil rather than merely protesting against the problem. Be the solution not part of the problem. That's far more effective in my view.  

From George Murphy

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

It's the most important issue that faces us. I value the thoughtful contributions so far. I think the key is to get the mass of people to understand our situation and become supportive: don't frighten them off.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 3 October 2019

The tactics of Extinction Rebellion seem akin to a double glazing firm hoping to get your custom by heaving bricks through your existing windows.

From Jewel Chadwick

Thursday, 3 October 2019

As George notes, good to see E-collapse at last being discussed here but sad that the men so far posting all criticise efforts being made to save life on Earth. Whilst I agree with Mark that the Morrisons protest could have been better organised – this is local people learning how to act in an emergency. 

Like babies learning to walk, it doesn’t always go smoothly. More time for better planning may have followed Extinction Rebellion guidance of pre-organising advance notification to police and target, arrangements including megaphone etc. We’re not yet a year old but this is how we move on. Just like in fables, wait too long for perfection and all will be lost!

Especially comfy in our cosy cocoon here, don’t we all need to face reality and alert others, even at risk of ‘old ladies’…trauma’? If the worst they face is a little kindness from neighbours, maybe time to consider where will go the millions already made homeless by rising seas? Or the near-extinction of insects on which our survival is directly dependent?  

It’s hard not to feel hopelessly helpless so blanking our imminent demise, distracted by apparently pressing personal issues. But change starts within each individual dealing positively with grief, not blame or panic. Fast-growing experience is of deeper reconnections between all natural beings, our consciousness expanding collectively (yes, 40 years in this valley ). Balanced by gratitude, finding courage to address those endless torments becomes also deeply rewarding. 

Owning reality means speaking our truth now and acting upon it to set up new systems based on totally different values from this flailing economic ego-cult we are currently drowning in. That means being responsible for all futures, individually and collectively challenging ourselves. XR actions aren’t the only answer so if you don’t like what’s being done to help life, find another path to change - they all link up if shared! 

It’s not too late to get down to a day or more of next fortnight’s London Rebellion but there’s plenty support needed up here too. Check out Facebook pages or email: xrcalderdale@gmail.com. Cheap transport from Leeds, camping, places to stay, support all included for nowt – why not give it a go? 

It might be your last chance to tip our balance…

From Gideon Foster

Friday, 4 October 2019

Just for the record, as i am one of the men who posted initially on this issue, I actually support XR's cause, but i do wonder if there are far more effective and faster ways of bringing change.

Reality is a very fluid concept, as our perception of reality differs, we read things based on our experience and not as they were written, especially in a world that communicates more and more with written words, but then i am also guilty of that! So yes we must speak our truth in so much as we also have to be aware that our truth in most cases is only an opinion and we have to be willing to let others speak their truth also.

Apologies if i came across as critical, but it was not my intention, I was hoping to suggest a way of action being more effective, I wish you well with your cause I shall continue doing my bit also.

From Jewel Chadwick

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Thanks Gideon, good intent appreciated. And no apologies needed for constructive solutions. But whilst you wonder, & even do your bit, our planet is simultaneously burning & drowning. We do aim to live more positive lives like avoiding palm oil or buying killed animals. We can lead horses to water but not refill empty wells. The range of need is endless but our time left on Earth is not! 

Doing our own bit is what we’re all about, ‘we’ meaning anyone whose conscience is stirred by recognising the harm humans continue to wreak and urgent rectifications needed, if only for our own survival. Whilst I don’t agree with all they say, XR plays a vital role in having solid underpinning philosophy and political analysis that challenges our deepest core values. For progress, we have to rebalance competing as individuals for personal progress against collective cooperation for the good of all. 

Each change begins in ourselves to be either stifled or opening up new vistas. Having lost the old ways of living lightly on the land in harmony with natural rhythms, our identity ‘choices’ become overwhelming. Dependent on treadmill survival, dare we dream of better ways of using our own energies? Conformity can be less effort or threat but depends on us not owning or acting on our inner truths to find new ways of re-connecting.

Proud of our big brains, we believe we consciously determine our own directions, having forgotten simpler skills in being who we are as key part of a whole. We think we’re clever using language to communicate – but at cost of more meaningful inner exchanges that offer instant ‘knowing’. After fifty years in educational psychology, I’m still marvelling how hugely deeper hidden recesses drive our lives. But a world so engrossed in following greedily oppressive grabbing examples through stifling regimes has tipped our planet off-balance. 

We need to reclaim our power within – though I’ve not heard those words from XR, its final principle is that ‘we are based on autonomy & decentralisation’. That means there is nothing to stop you speaking or acting except your own fears and needs. All these are brainwashed into us by invisible, imperceptible controls over every choice we make. Right now, we all need to wake up fast to make the most of our days.

Could rattle on but got to rush off to London wellbeing hub so thanks for reading and hope this discussion and positive change will expand fruitfully – it’d be great to find better ways forward when back. Whatever, I hope better balancing of our grief and gratitude are inspirational in expanding shared awareness.

From Gideon Foster

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Thanks Jewel, I appreciate you taking the time to respond. For what its worth I think the key to most of the problems we face is to realise that we are the ones who actually have the power. The big corporations actually need us the consumers to exist. We are the ones who create them and yet we think we are small.

The problem is in convincing others in a world conditioned to believe that power means oppressing others and success is measured by material wealth. Hence my initial thoughts about promoting the alternatives as fear of extinction will not alter the course for the greedy and logic exists to either accept it or deny it.

So we have to trust our hearts for the answers. Mine tells me that when you get summer temperatures in February and drenched for most of the summer then nature is trying to tell us something. How you convey that to others, I still believe you merely have to be the change you want to see and that spreads.