As a trainee (social) scientist, I’m gonna make some predictions about the climate rally today.
Based on my theories that
- the climate movement is an exemplar of the Smugosphere – that place where we do things because we can and they make us feel good, not because they have any realistic chance of changing the world in the direction that we like
- social movements more generally are predicated on a deeply colonialist and middle-class model of “information deficit” which leads to sages-on-the-stage (people who allegedly know what they are talking about at the front and centre of any room, with people in rows or a circle watching them) and the (willing/collusive) creation of ego-fodder
- the total lack of selection pressures because of a) and b) means there is rarely if ever any conscious innovation in the “repertoires” of movements (i.e. they stick to a small range of camps, marches, meetings which are in the comfort zones of the bosses).
then I make the following guesses/hypotheses
- At least one of the three speakers will speak for longer than they are supposed to. (It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if all do)
- There will no mechanism by the chair for effectively bringing an overlong speech to a conclusion.
The speeches will revolve around the following
- Capitalism is Unfair, Man.
- Capitalism is Wrecking The Planet, Man
- Historically (for centuries) it’s been the fault of Rich White Men, and climate change is simply one symptom of all this.
- The UNFCCC process has failed, Man.
- It’s, like, Really Important that you Go On The March in London at the end of November. And if you’re able, Go To Paris. Man
[btw, just for the record, I heartily endorse the first four of these points. They seem extremely uncontroversial to me. Though on point two you might want to substitute ‘industrialism’ or ‘growthism’]
There will be nothing on
- The failures of the climate movement over the last ten (let alone 25) years, at a local and national level, especially from the ‘grassroots’ groups, be they socialist, reformist or ‘non-hierarchical’. Everything is the Fault of the State and the Corporations, Man.
- The multiple exclusions that “summit-hopping” enforces, deepens and perpetuates. [the entire critique of summit-hopping, developed in the late 90s and early 2000s has been effectively memory-holed.]
There WILL however, be some token comments about ‘it’s really important to take local action too’. These will come from organisations that a) haven’t managed to win a local election since 2004, b) hold incredibly boring meetings and are basically willing to be a fig-leaf for the Council and c) don’t even have a local organisation that holds meetings or has its own website, but simply band-wagons onto the issue du jour.
Given the nature of the climate movement generally, (i.e. not based on theory as past experience the audience will be about 25 to 50 people. Crushingly white. A mix of very committed types (including the organisers and their paper-selling friends) and random mostly young people (university students).
The event will not be filmed/live-streamed, because of a lack of technical know-how and willingness to include people who cannot turn up at 3pm on a workday. [This a shaky prediction – Bambuser is slowly penetrating organisers’ awareness].
The format will be three speakers followed by Q and A, giving people a chance to show off their knowledge/commitment/zeal.
The first three questions will come from men (unless of course a woman who wants to prove me wrong reads this!].
No effort will be made by the organisers to make the Q and A more interactive, more open to new people, women, those with less status/confidence. Though this is of course very doable.
There will be minimal (probably none) effort to find out what knowledge and skills people have, what knowledge and skills people WANT. This is of course very doable. Because what actually matters is Going To Paris. The drudge work of local activism is for losers.
Now, a critic would say
- take that stick out of your ass, and give it to me so I can beat you to death with it
- you are not the target demographic for these rallies, and they are great motivators and energisers for people who don’t hate humanity/the climate movement/themselves.
And my reply would be a) come on if you think you are hard enough and b) just because I am sick of the smugosphere, doesn’t mean the smugosphere effectively recruits and retains people. If it did, the world wouldn’t be in quite such a fricking mess.
Why am I going? Because it is literally 50m from where I work. If it were 100m, I’d pass. Because I will get to test my hypotheses. If I am right, I get to be (even more) smug and insufferable and say “I told you so”. If I am wrong (and I hope I am) then a) the ‘movement’ is not in quite such bad shape as I thought (result!) and I get to modify my theories and expectations. Note that I did not say ‘hopes’.
Next blog – will be about the perils of summit hopping and the perversions that that creates in social movement organisations