Rebellion Rebirth 2/4/2020: A dozen people sit in a circle of plastic chairs in a library while the January wind rattles the window. Hardly a recipe for a revolution, this meeting of “Extinction Rebellion” in a small, somewhat poor town in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut probably includes only two folks under fifty. Not much under. Those two wield laptops. There are three legal pads, four gray and white beards, and one pork-pie hat. These are the unlikely foot soldiers in the birth of what may become a new direction in earth’s culture. They hope so, anyway.
A couple of women use their leadership skills. They direct the rest through a hasty agenda, steering the discussion, which veers off minute by minute. One person cannot keep up and returns to an issue that we moved on from five minutes ago. It appears two of us, maybe the oldest, have experience in the radical years of the late 1960s. Randy is a Vietnam Vet, I am a veteran only of college demonstrations and those huge dramas that took place in Washington DC. Tear gas, nights on church floors, long bus rides.
This feels uncomfortable, sad, and helpless. The power structure is sociopathic; the President on whom much of the anger is focused, is as well, but he is the product of the system. Frankenstein come to life. What drives me, though, is my memory that it all felt this way 50 years ago too. SDS fell apart, women broke off to fight their own battles, all the anarchists on the left (and that was most of us, whether we realized it or not) slipped off into the woods when it became clear that they would simply shoot us down for peaceful actions. Wild animals escaping from a trap, we formed our own little short-lived democracies of wood stoves and brown rice. Hated brown rice ever since. And yet somehow a host of positive results occurred. In spite of confusion, mistakes, and tragedy, we had convinced the main culture to move in the direction of tolerance, acceptance, kindness, peace. Perhaps it can happen again.
We are planning a peaceful march around town during a local festival, when foot traffic will increase exponentially. We’ll carry some signs, maybe chant or sing a bit. Try to telepathically send the message “Climate change is a real global emergency”. I’m curious to see what happens. “A child will lead them”. In this case, the child has been Greta Thunberg, but she’s not here. There is just me, and a few sincere but inexperienced normal humans. For me, any kind of public production and dedicated leadership is outside my comfort zone. I’ve spent a decade and a half trying to raise consciousness quietly through art and words, following my own inclinations and talents. Some of that surprised me by turning into a media spectacle anyway. Hell, my whole life, to be honest, has been a gentle striving toward community and a role for humanity within, not above nature. I think there have been some results and I’m proud of that. But this year, this alarming escalating situation, this future of flames and floods facing us, demands more. It’s clear nothing is happening fast enough.