As I cycled up towards the Central Library I could see the road blocked off because of protesters brandishing placards. For a quarter of a second I thought “great, at last, the climate revolution is upon us.” It was, of course, a bunch of people there to commemorate the unveiling of a statue to the one of the more Conservative and war-mongery of the suffragettes. Amid the cops (there, presumably, to make sure that nobody from Extinction Rebellion er, rebelled) there were thousands with their sashes that said “Deeds not words”.
Ah, once the rebels are safely dead (fifty years minimum), then they can be commemorated, such is the condescension of posterity. In America now you’ll hear Republicans wax lyrical about Martin Luther King. At the time, they would have wanted him lynched. It’s very convenient, this condescension of history: people who would never go within a million miles of dissent, let alone active resistance themselves, can bask in the dimly reflected glory while enjoying the benefits of others’ sacrifice. And walk right past people trying to do social change now, without batting an eyelid. Four hundred miles from Darwin and all that…
In the library cafe I saw an horrifically neo-liberal and incompetent former City Council official, who’d been at the event. Thank goodness grotesquely mediocre women can now go as far as grotesquely mediocre men. That’s progress, isn’t it? Then, out in St Peter’s Square, with Police “Liaison” Officers and police horses strolling around minding
their own everybody else’s business, a councillor who I explained the latest undemocratic farce that the Council is perpetrating waves away concerns by saying “look, new trams” and “these things take time”. I kid you not.
“Deeds not words.” Yeah, right. What has this council actually served up on climate change? Other than ever more words, in more glossy booklets, more unaccountable quangos. And its core promises around elections, around annual stakeholder conferences, around transparency, are all broken. And people who call themselves activists, who think that they have some stunning political analysis, or understand how social change is made, well, they accept it all, never say boo to a goose. And then wring their hands a little once ten years have passed about how the council might not have the “capacity” to act. Because… well, you’d have to ask them I guess. If you could be bothered. It’s many things, but activism it ain’t.