Eschatological Rebellion

What makes a respectable, wealthy, middle class, middle-aged woman climb up and try to smash a window in a government ministry? What brings more white, middle class academics and children of professionals on to the street to block the traffic, vandalise buildings and run countercultural camps in the streets? It is not the environment.

The end of the world! There were once eccentric men walking the streets with placards announcing “The End of the World is Nigh!”, and how we chuckled at them; now they wear beads and flypost ominous stickers on the Tube. I would laugh, but they are scaring children half to death with their unhinged eschatology.

If your stomach was turned by some of the displays available on YouTube it may be the sight of people dressed up as hippies or students doing ‘interpretive dance’ in the street or tents with signs for mindfulness sessions. That tells you more about us outside, really. It is a culture-clash: these are the people we do not want to be like, and we are the people they do not like because we do not appreciate their way of thinking.

(There is nothing wrong with interpretive dance on the street – in fact it is positive as it identifies the people I can ignore.)

Extinction Rebellion is wrong in just about everything they stand for. Having made that point, I have to look at the attraction they have for many, and why there is anger when I every doubt them.

The cause they claim is saving the world; every comic-book hero’s quest, and who can doubt that? It is what we are brought up with. We try to ignore the incongruity when Batman destroys a city just to save a girl, because he is just a comic fantasy, and so is Extinction Rebellion’s rhetoric.

So what makes a respectable, wealthy, middle class, middle-aged woman climb up and try to smash a window in a government ministry? That answers itself – the stifling social constraints of respectability. Bursting out of the constraints, liberation like a fly escaping from a bottle – that is what it is all about. There are hammers and spraypaint and free-form dance, and at least the latter harms no one. That ever-present voice inside says ‘settle down, be good, do your homework’;, but then a new ideology is available that says ‘all those things you never dared to do – do them!’

The rest of us look askance at the chaos that denies our learnt, ordered pattern of the world, but maybe with a hint of jealousy.

The odd thing is though that this gathering of thousands of likeminded or easily misled souls is itself a quest for respectability.

There are others. There are grannies suddenly finding a purpose for their time. There are junior clergymen losing their purpose. There are academics from ex-polytechnics with books and little imagination, resigned never to rise to the height that demands actual intellect. They are powerless, and here they find some semblance of power. Their works will never be cited at Oxford, but here their voice can be heard for a moment, whatever unscientific rhubarb they speak, and if they can persuade the government to act, as they sincerely desire, then that is power indeed. No wonder they respond so viciously when doubted: we are stealing their last chance for power.

For the rest of us, who may be doing more for the benefit of mankind and its environment than the whole parcel of the ‘XR’ mob, this is an annoyance to be cleared up like any other. What to do about it – that must be another article.

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Tempestuous climate on QT

What a show – it was horrible. The panel was more balanced on last night’s Question Time than it used to be, and the fur flew.  Before the end, I had to turn off – it was too painful.  The main issue this week was Extinction Rebellion:  for the panel included Rupert Read of that distinguished band of vandals.

On the panel, presided over loosely by Fiona Bruce, were Grant Shapps, speaking for the Conservatives but increasingly acting as the only voice of reason that evening; Lisa Nandy of Labour, who became increasingly detached from any semblance of reality as the evening wore on; Rupert Read of Extinction Rebellion, of whom more later but who made even Lisa Nandy look reasonable; Theo Paphitis as the voice of the frustrated rest-of-us; and Julia Hartley-Brewer, the rent-a-mouth whose sole virtue is being able to expose hypocrisy by being rude to everyone else.

We kicked off with the environment, climate change, and the actions of Extinction Rebellion, and voices rose to fever pitch such that you might imagine the rise in global temperature was solely caused by the Question Time panel. There is no logic in debate anymore. No one on the panel was arguing for climate change being a fantasy or unimportant. No one was arguing against its being hastened by mankind, so you would have thought all would be sweetness and light. It was the very opposite.

Maybe it would have been easier if they could just have said to Read that he is a nutcase and taking such complete nonsense it is only a surprise that he does not laugh at himself, but instead this was in form a civil debate, and as a result it turned into a shouting match.

It takes a lot for me to be on Julia Hartley-Brewer’s side, but she made the unchallengeable point (which Grant Shapps missed) that the Industrial Revolution was the greatest and most beneficial thing ever to happen to mankind.  It is a pity that the point could not be taken further, to analyse the anti-industrial rhetoric of Extinction Rebellion, to compare their (unscientific) protest that millions, or even billions, will be killed by climate change with the utter certainty that millions would die of disease and starvation were the Industrial Revolution to be reversed anywhere in the world.  Again Hartley-Brewer nailed it with her characteristically undiplomatic approach, that Extinction Rebellion is a “quasi-religious death cult”.

Rupert Read believes himself, which is worrying. He said that he wants the government to start by’ telling the truth’, but every statement he made was wrong, and he must have known it. When Grant Shapps demonstrated that Britain has cut carbon dioxide emissions mare than any other country, Read said the figures were fiddled (they are not); he made wild claims on what ‘the science’ says which bore no relation to any scientific papers; he said that no one was talking about acting on climate change until the Extinction Rebellion began – somehow ignoring decades of work and public concern on the subject, begun incidentally by Margaret Thatcher.  ‘XR’ must have a point, he said, because they are invited onto QT: well so was Nick Griffin of the BNP, mate. His knock-down proof of the rightness of Extinction Rebellion was that a sixteen year-old, traumatised autistic girl supports them. He even compared himself to the suffragettes and Martin Luther King.  There is delusion there of the highest order.

Even so, Read was cheered from the audience, which he took as validation. The audience may indeed care about the future of the environment – don’t we all – but does not mean accepting every contradictory madness proposed by his cult.  After that I was not convinced by Julia Harley-Brewer’s description: there is nothing ‘quasi’ about their religion.

We were also introduced to Lisa Nandy, a Labour Party star – she has been tipped for leadership. Please put her on television more – she discredits herself and her party wonderfully. She castigated Hartley-Brewer on the environmental issue (don’t feed the troll, Lisa) saying that environmental catastrophe would harm the value of pension funds – but somehow omitted to say how sudden deindustrialisation, or Corbyn, would not.

It was a relief to get off climate change, and the climate in the studio could cool.  Of course the next topic was Brexit, for some light relief.

On Brexit, out came Lisa Nandy, coming into her own.  She accused Boris Johnson of junking a deal with the EU:  she insisted that there was a deal agreed but somehow it had never been allowed to go before parliament. Well, the rest of the country know perfectly well that there was a deal, for we have memories going back more than five minutes, and that it was put before the Commons three times and each time Nandy and her colleagues voted against it. Challenged on this by Grant Shapps, she claimed there was another deal agreed by all parties (presumably known only unto her and not to the government nor the EU) which was not put.  This was fantasy. Just repeating the same untruth again and again makes enough people believe it to vote, but it is horrid to watch except in morbid fascination.

At that point, Rupert Read came back in with his one good point of the evening:  Brexit, deal or no deal, is not the end which will allow us to get back to normal politics: from that point the Government must start negotiating more trade deals with the EU, so it goes on. It sounded a bit odd after he had just been castigating all and sundry for using ships, aircraft and lorries – surely he would want a complete, self-sufficient autarky to keep those environmentally harmful ships in port?

With no sign of reality breaking out from anyone but Theo Paphitis and Grant Shapps, I finally gave up.

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