I have often had my doubts about George Mombiot’s take on the world, while acknowledging that he has also brought many important issues to our attention. In today’s Guardian he very rightly draws attention to the fact that the current British Government (or should that more accurately be the “English” Government of Britain?) is increasingly behaving in ways we would normally associate with dictatorships. The immediate target of his criticism is Priti Patel’s insertion of eighteen extra pages of amendments into the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill after it had passed through the Commons, and after the second reading in the House of Lords.. It’s clear her aim, on behalf of the Government, is to deter protest of any kind that is “likely to result in serious disruption”. Perhaps particularly the protests against Government with regard to the Climate Emergency. Protest that it previously tried to brand as “terrorism” following Green disruption of the business of its powerful friends in the press.
I’ve just bought a copy of Andreas Malm’s How to Blow Up a Pipline. Not because I’m planning to do anything like that just now, but because it’s clear that we are at a major turning point I need to understand better.
This was brought home to me after attending the webinar ‘Climate Change and the Arts: A Post-Cop26 Roundtable Discussion’, organised by Future Earth Ireland and the Moore Institute, NUI Galway. I don’t think it is only in Ireland that the point where civil disobedience may soon shift from peaceful to violent forms of protest. The “English” Government (currently in the hands of a Conservative Party addicted to flaunting its unethical behaviour and then trying to justify it post-hoc), like the majority of Western Governments, is clearly committed to sustaining its major supporters’ investment in ‘Business as Usual’, to borrow the terminology of Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s Radical Hope (2012). And to do so regardless of the massive human and environmental cost. Increasingly it seems that those who grasp what that cost will actually be are starting to consider direct, and if necessary violent, action. To think, that is, beyond blocking roads to the need to do things like blow up pipelines.
If that starts to happen, I think there is every chance that our pseudo-democracy will start to fall apart in the face of cycles of reciprocal violence and that widespread social breakdown will then almost inevitably follow. But equally, unless citizens defend such democratic rights as we do currently have, including the right to protest, we face rapidly sliding into rule by an authoritarian autocracy made up of individuals who have shown themselves to be hell-bent, not on providing responsible government in a time of crisis, but on extracting every kind of short-term profit for themselves and a small elite made up of their friends and business associates, and regardless of all other considerations.