05 October 2019 Xtincy Rebellion – April Rebellion and 7 October Extravaganza
In April I got word of an action by Extinction Rebellion (XR) before it hit London and took over five areas: Piccadilly Circus; Waterloo Bridge; Oxford Circus; Marble Arch and Parliament Square and boy did it cause a stink – quarters of the press to politicians to some members of the public were frothing at the mouth ergo my endearing nickname xtincy rebellion.
So I shimmied on down to Waterloo Bridge the first day to check out whether there really was a takeover and re-greening of the bridge with a festival of music and performance, jubilant fun and civil disobedience. And YES. There really was!
What struck me, approaching the bridge but still some distance away, was the total absence of traffic – a sight unseen on any day let alone a weekday. Second, was a swathe of flags fluttering in the breeze off the bridge balustrade with an image I distinctly recognised as @extinctionsymbol – a zig zag figure eight (hour glass) inside a circle (the world). I connected with this Twitter handle around 2012 as it shared global news, facts and statistics, on species’ extinction rates, and images of beauty of creatures and habitat, and also their abysmal circumstances and decline. I know, not the most uplifting but true…. and I need to know the truth.
Many people find it too challenging to face difficult news. A product of a society lulled to sleep by a state that’s coaxed it into compliance and submission – a bit like a nanny but a malevolent one with damaging long-term consequences – and ultimately into complicity and its own doom. Through consumption and manipulation via state and corporate owned media, propaganda, and the promulgation of fear – fostering phantom domestic and international threats or stoking potential ones. To the point where, many citizens, expect to be told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, and only complain when things are not as they are told.
Is it time for the TRUTH?
Extinction Rebellion seems to think so – it’s the first of their three demands
And THIS THING was in full swing with truth speakers and seekers aplenty. Revellers of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds with household greenery, plants, shrubs and flowers, to re-green the bridge, along with picnics, blankets, hay bales, flags, placards and face paint, and a mini skate bowl no less. A small lorry supported solar panels powering a stage (the flatbed of said lorry) for bands and performers. I witnessed an extraordinarily creative and festive event with banners, human barriers, and other free-form performances each end of the bridge.
And I experienced a similar if, even more jubilant, alternate reality only 1.5 miles away at Oxford Circus days later. I’d only seen Oxford Circus anywhere near living up to its name during a 2011 anti-austerity march when a Trojan horse, ornaments and other paraphernalia took over the space.
But this time the circus really was in town and planning to stay for an, as yet, unspecified amount of time.
Floating (on a trailer) smack in the middle of Oxford Circus was a very pink boat christened the Berta Caceres. A variety of volunteer acts, musicians, MC’s, speakers, poets, performers and DJ’s boarded the good ship Berta or danced routines around the tarmac underneath. Entertaining rebels locked under and around her hull, along with revellers, curious tourists and the public at large dancing to DJ’s, singing along with musicians and cheering galvanising speeches. While compliant rebels were intermittently picked off by police, one by one, their slack bodies – difficult to haul or carry – taken to vans brimming with earlier pickings.
I happened upon one van to find a mix, in age and sex, of people in good spirits, chatting or making introductions, sharing news and events of the day. Let’s say you’d be forgiven for thinking they were in a taxi ready to go home, instead of to the clink.
Remarkable was the togetherness, connection and dare I say, love (the expansive, unconditional kind as opposed to the consumptive Valentine’s day, saccharine Disney or manufactured Hollywood kind) among so many disparate people.
Yet as a non-violent movement founded on the principle of radical love this shouldn’t be a surprise. It was present in the way people spoke to, or assisted and supported each other and others who visited, and devoted themselves to their action. It was incredible to share a space – a traffic thoroughfare on one of the busy streets in the country – disobediently transformed into one of the best nights of your life with so many transgressing for the best possible reason, LIFE. We’re all in this together – to reclaim a soundbite disingenuously co-opted by Brexit deposed UK Prime Minster, David Cameron. I guess it takes something much bigger than us, individually and collectively, to engender this type of communion, solidarity, commitment among so many – The celebration of LIFE, all life, on earth and the very real possibility of losing it.
But this wasn’t my first brush with the business of extinction and what to do about it…other than face it. I’d been involved in Dark Mountain back in 2010, which pegged itself a cultural movement, though I remain unconvinced. After a promising start it seemed less a movement and more an opportunity for a publishing arm for the two blokes who came up with the manifesto which I note, ironically, is now for sale.
I’d also previously actioned disappearing trees, spotlighting their beauty and value – ecologically and spiritually – and the impacts of their loss. Another time me, and cohorts, focused on the extinction of many beautiful critters down by the Dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park. I was informed, by one woman (to my comical amusement) that extinction “wasn’t her thing” – the tragi-comedy of our times!
Because one thing in life we will NOT have a choice about, if we do nothing, is Extinction.
But getting back to the point, this was definitely the biggest action and best festival I’d been to on the subject!
Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus were also overtaken along with a large area of Marble Arch/Hyde Park attracting even more crowds – also the scene of democratically determined next steps and ultimately the decider in the cessation of XR activity just shy of two weeks. The programme at each site from teach ins/ teach outs, to workshops, music, art, dance, speakers, poetry and so much more was immense. Added to which with the various road-blocking actions in each surround. Well. Imagine the activity, energy?! Emotional, uplifting, connecting, exhausting and exhilarating were some descriptions.
There were also criticisms, some valid, to do with diversity for example and XR’s reach into communities beyond the (generalising here) white middle to upper class demographic – which they committed to addressing. While other comments like misinformation about people dying because ambulances were stuck I could not take seriously – pumped out of the bowels of toilet-papers like the Metro, Sun and Daily Mail. XR were in touch with emergency authorities throughout – as happens during other disruptions including accidents or events like the London marathon – advising them of routes, disruption and co-operating to open roads. Then there was the whole “people couldn’t get to work” or “the pollution caused by traffic is counter-productive”. Well comparatively to pollution caused by everyday traffic jams, as in London pollution in general which causes around 28,000 deaths a year! I think it was relatively about the same. Especially as with pollution around the world there’s no incentive for governments to legislate for clean energy or to hold polluting and poisoning to account. Nor did I swallow the accusations of hypocrisy because a celebrity hopped on a plane to support XR. If that one celebrity on a plane – and let’s face it, it was full of other people – amplified the message by ten then my view is, it’s worth it.
One Extinction Rebellion motto is: “No blame, no shame”. In other words, my words, don’t blame, shame or judge others within the movement for their green credentials or the methods they choose. Use all the tools of the system at your disposal to the best of your ability to amplify and raise awareness. We are all complicit in one way or another, on some level, because we all live within the system and you’d have to entirely isolate yourself to achieve this. The system needs to change.
The next Extinction Rebellion extravaganza is 7 October.
Consider offering your time to support the future of this planet. There are many types of roles from stewarding to first aid to coordinating, well-being, cooking, technical support, stage-building, art and crafting, actions or road-blocking etc. It’s entirely your choice. Find out more. The power many takes the pressure off the few.
Is it time to TELL the TRUTH?
I think so.
Because it’s the same system that is destroying the environment and causing climate change is the one that enforces Austerity yet bails out banks, and does little to bring those responsible for the collapse to account. And demonises the disabled and caused the death of over 100,000 vulnerable people in the past ten years. It’s the same system that causes global poverty and the rise in food bank usage and supports global conflict.
The next Extinction Rebellion extravaganza is 7 October.
Is it time to TELL the TRUTH?
I think so.
- Tell The Truth – Governments must tell the truth be declaring a climate and ecological emergency.
- Act Now – Government must act now to support biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Beyond Politics – create a Citizen’s Assembly
Extinction…coming to a town near you. ….