“In the naked light I saw … a thousand people, maybe more
Silence like a cancer grows ” – Simon & Garfunkel
I have been at all but one of the climate change events since late last year. I have seen some of you at some of those . They have been organised variously by the anti-Adani people, Extinction Rebellion, and uni students for climate action, high school students (plus Bob’s convoy). 350.org might have been in there too. Sometimes just by one, sometimes a coalition. There has been a die-in, a sit down in the Mall, forums in the street (one with a ute and PA!), various kinds of lock-on (some communicative, some maybe not), street theatre, and marches (including over and through Southbank). That is, with one or two exceptions last year not just rallies.
All this may be neither here nor there. We have all been to many, many demos.
However, the atmosphere (high-spirited, with clever, humorous signs/slogans, even the chants are amusing occasionally – there was fun music during the latest march), the numbers always at least 1000 and sometimes 2 or 3 X (except for the ER die-in and that still had over 100), the wide range of types, ages, groups – plus lots of dogs sometimes!, the many small initiatives sometimes spontaneous sometimes pre-planned, and especially the positive or curious reactions of bystanders (including one high-ranking cop) – all this constitutes a vibe (‘it’s the vibe your honour’) that is telling me something. Plus Phil Monsour and others got near unanimous support at this year’s QTU conference for a motion in support of teachers who want to strike with their students on September 20, the day of an international strike (Global Climate Strike).
It is Sept 20 that the vibe is telling me about – that this is building in a way I saw the anti-Vietnam War movement build. So I am thinking that that day here might be as big and important as a moratorium. And like those (and unlike the Iraq demos) it will be clear that we will keep going until we get results. Not just expression.
You will remember that the point of a ‘moratorium’ was to stop business as usual because business as usual meant war as usual. That is the theme of the previous school kids demos and of ER – business as usual means global warming as usual.
By the way – I understand the school kids are making an explicit invitation to the adults to be part of Sept 20.
There is what amounts to a lead-up demo on August 6 by ER (Rebellion Day). I guess if this is significant it might indicate I am right. ER is planning other small group actions and they have begun this week.
I am not naive about the various groups. It is not all flawless (what is?). Some of the speech-making is mistaken in different ways – angry, moralistic, telling an informed audience what they already know. But not all. Some is terrific. What ER here propounds is a bit patchy, but they only just got started. They are not yet at the level of the UK ER. I am not sure if ER in general has thought through their people’s assembly demand, although they probably will.
I am not trying to start a correspondence here. Don’t want to. We all have other things to do. Just want to put it out there for you to make of it what you will.
It looks like I read the vibe right. In the first place the August 6 day was a great success with civil disobedience from 8 to mid-afternoon. You probably heard there were over 70 arrests. But even more than this is the reaction I have been getting from people when I put the argument above. Usually it is immediate agreement and often it turns out they have already thrown themselves into building the 20th. At the minimum people have committed to getting friends, family (including the kids) and work mates along. But it is not just word of mouth and social media. The 30+ Stop Adani groups are leafleting and postering. The union and workplace work has expanded well beyond QTU. There is similar stuff happening or proposed elsewhere, e.g. the school kids talking at schools, to unions etc. Everyone’s aim has been to get out of the social media hall of mirrors.
Last Thursday I was in an Australia-wide digital phone link-up with 2,300 people and 90 + promotional actions were agreed. Three high school kids spoke and two had the sagacity of seasoned activists. One sloganised “we need to go big or go home”.
I have been aiming for 10,000 marching in Brisbane. Talking to people whilst leafleting there seems to be a larger than usual sector of people who are well aware of the issue and who want to act but will never get around to it until directly given something to do. They are the low hanging fruit.
I have also learnt of one thing that may deny us a huge march. A lot of people, even some of the aforementioned group, are afraid. The civil disobedience actions by ER are confounding the picture. People think they will be arrested or things will turn violent. This is not a criticism of ER. (There are criticisms to make of the Brisbane ER – it is the only ER in Australia (or anywhere as far as we can tell) that has not adopted the aims of the UK ER and has salted theirs with ideological rhetoric.) Civil disobedience will remain crucial. But everything will be lifted to a new level with a huge march, just as happened with MLK’s Washington march and the moratoria. So if you are going to talk to people emphasise that it is a peaceful, legal march and will be very colourful and festive. There will be thousands of children there.
I am appealing to you to recruit others. If your reaction is ‘I say – that’s a bit rich!’ oh well – apologies.