As a bright-eyed Gospel-touting young person from a God-fearing Bible-bashing breast-beating Protestant Evangelical Christian family, one-time members of a troubled sect, I was drawn to the victim narrative of the Aid and Development agencies. Those poor people in those dirt-poor countries with their cripplingly poor lifestyles.
I needed to be a Campaigner, I reasoned. I needed to tell the World, make some converts to the Poverty and Development cause, draw some attention, create some devotion, raise some cash, raise some banners, wave some placards, get some pledges signed.
Not realising that this kind of missionary zeal marked me out as a complete lunatic, I applied to a Famous Development Agency for a job. I was interviewed but ditched, probably because I had wild eyes, and wouldn’t stop spouting fundamentalist claptrap.
I must admit I resented their rejection, but I have carried on, and on, and on, taking up causes and campaign messages and thrashing people with them, pushing leaflets under their noses, shouting in parades, camping near power plants, writing intense demanding letters to my MP (God help him), sewing my own banners.
I have discovered that Poverty is imposed on nations and peoples, and that Climate Change devastation is already taking place, with a high risk of fatally wounding any last chance for human civilisation, or in fact any form of life, in the equatorial, tropical and sub-tropical regions. That’s plenty to be agitated and antsy about.
But you know, even though I have learned (or attempted to learn) a million things : like how to be inclusive rather than separatist in my communications, like how to be enthusiastic without being preachy, like how to share facts and contradict myths without sounding dogmatic : I’m still regarded as too strident, or too angry, someone missing several marbles, or having some screws worked quite loose.
Clearly, I don’t have the mental make-up to be an effective Campaigner. Dialogue with me is not smooth. I am not a diplomat. I am definitely too challenging.
I don’t like selling someone else’s message. I am not a salesperson. I squirm when people ask me to promote something I think is a waste of time. I shy away from engaging people in discussion if I’m not 100% convinced about an event or an action or a meeting or a plan.
My view is that the majority of activities being undertaken to raise awareness and stimulate action about Climate Change are completely useless, regardless of how much money or effort is pumped into them.
It is clear to me that the majority of public statements made by the Government officials and Non-Governmental Organisations are inadequate to match the scale of the problems, and the policies are not good enough to create real and meaningful change.
I am not prepared to compromise, which means I find it hard to reach common ground with almost everyone, even people I am supposed to be working with or sympathise with.
I am highly critical of some members of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, who are still treading the same paths their grandfathers used to tread in political and social campaigning.
I have met people in all sectors who have made Environment their career path, who have what I think are the most ridiculous ideas and theories. They seem to have made huge compromises in what they are prepared to do and say in order to earn a salary. They have also swallowed a basin of blather about Society and the processes of Change.
Where are your ethics ? And what bodies or organisations have been working to subvert you ? Surely you should not be inside looking out. Why are you not opposing wrongs and infringements ? What makes you believe such nonsense about Change ?
Yes, I know the modern way is to work collaboratively with people, to reach across the divides, to avoid polarised thinking, but all that seems to do is water down the message, obscure the facts, block collective action, and the real issues get kicked into the long grass.
There is a new trend : anyone who strays beyond a certain “high water mark” in campaigning gets punished, leaving them stranded :-
And perhaps most insidious of all, Campaigners are being co-opted, even directed, by forces beyond their control :-
“To police a demonstration on climate change in the same way as you would the industrial troubles of the 80s is clearly inadequate, particularly as climate change demonstrators have the express support of Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, who has said that they were essential to maintaining pressure on the government…It is essential the police bring themselves to an understanding of the legitimate aims of demonstrators, who in most cases could not be more honourably motivated.”
I recently suggested a series of interviews for this web log, to be entitled “Limelight London” : talking to a range of people about Climate Change politics, campaigning and action.
This is the reaction I got from one correspondent : “How about inviting the leaders of two of the country’s biggest green NGOs: FoE’s Andy Atkins and Greenpeace’s John Sauven? You could ask them why have their climate campaigns been so unsuccessful in changing government policy. Why haven’t they come out in support of contraction and convergence? And why do they never discuss the systemic problems of the corporate media?”
Yeah, have you noticed that ? For all the energy poured into campaigning, nothing’s happening. None of the tried and tested methods are achieving anything. So, maybe I’m not a tragic idiot, after all, even though everything I have tried to do in the last year has turned to crud and crumbled to dust.
I don’t want to be a part of a corrupted, compromised organisation. I don’t want to be a member of a group that does good work that gets dismissed because they’ve been made toothless. I don’t want to wear a wristband or sign a postcard to show my support for a Government-branded network : I mean, just look at the similiarity of the messaging here :-
I am not a Campaigner. I am not a Salesman and I am not a stooge, fall-guy or patsy.
I don’t think I can be called an Activist, because I really can’t see a way to do something effective outside the current paradigms. I don’t agree with George Monbiot’s conclusions that self-sacrificing acts of public witness are bringing about change :-
“People like the Drax protesters are the conscience of the nation. They always have been, whether they take the form of Diggers and Levellers, Chartists, suffragettes, peace campaigners or roads protesters. In the past they have helped to prevent disastrous mistakes, and have changed the law when the law was unjust. They carry the cost of reforms that deliver benefits to almost everyone. But the greater the cost they shoulder, the more likely they are to succeed.”
I have discovered that I am not a Networker, because as time goes by I have ever-more bruising encounters with people who I discern are compromised, fooled and naively trusting in charlatans and quacks.
I am still stunned by meeting somebody the other week who does dialogue in environmental matters and who believes in Spiral Dynamics. Have people got no powers of logic ? Why would anyone believe in this nonsense ? What’s with all the colours ? Please ! It’s embarrassing how ridiculous it is ! :-
Cultures don’t “evolve”. People don’t “change”, they are just looking for the right tools to get the job done.
If something isn’t working, we should give up trying and do something else, but people generally continue with old habits, useless methods, crazed ideologies, until they’re forced to change their toolkits.
It doesn’t mean they themselves have “changed”. It just means that they’ve started to use a new language or a new structure. But changing language and structure is not enough when it comes to Carbon emissions.
This is the problem. We are all stuck in the same groove of the vinyl recording. All of us will continue to use Energy. We won’t change. We need to have Zero Carbon Energy provided to us or the Climate will Change irrevocably.
I haven’t changed. I’m not a Campaigner. I am a Critic and I am a Complainer and I am a Commentator, sure, and maybe even a Prophet. I might have to endure going to yet more gatherings where people don’t want to talk to me, and get the brush off from people in “the Movement”. Because they’re all so right, aren’t they, and I’m all so wrong ?
People say they want to give everyone a chance to speak. They assert they want to include every voice. They claim to consult, much like the British Government claims to consult the public and experts. But in reality, there are still elites and cliques and the same-old same-old methods of control and channelling of energies into dead ends.
In order to continue with what I am doing, I have to risk becoming a persona non grata, a duck at a swan fest. If I’m not one already. But really, I have decades of experience at being the odd one out and the bad fairy at the christening. I knock on endless corridors of doors and I am politely, or brusquely, refused project work, collaborative support, access or any kind of useful platform.
Don’t worry. I’m not about to change and become a violent loner. I’m much too sociable for that. It’s just I’m frustrated. I don’t have any influence because I don’t want to be polite all the time, and I can’t squeeze myself into last year’s ideological suit. It’s just not me. All the same, I refuse to become a Cynic. Bitter and twisted is not a good look.