This week, thousands of people marched the streets of London, calling for a second referendum on the British breakup with the European Union. Simultaneously, and perhaps connected in many ways, hundreds also marched in Lancashire to protest Cuadrilian fracking. And a group called Extinction Rebellion are planning active civil disruption, beginning at the end of the month, in the face of political inaction and apathy towards the climate crisis.
On Twitter, at least, I am registering a shift in the general zeitgeist ~ notice taken, at last, by a greater crowd beyond the long converted. More retweets, more mentions, more vocal response, especially after the latest IPCC report publication, to a rapidly changing climate and relentless depauperation of wildlife (so often ignored by a lack of interdisciplinary focus). Even more intensely, there’s a rise in exchange of articles and research on steady state/de-growth economies. Campaigners seem energised by this. A good thing!
But I’ve got to be honest with you. I am not detecting much of the same enthusiasm in the shopping malls of Cardiff, or on a packed A48 dual carriageway at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. Importantly, neither am I seeing it echoing out from halls of power. All this takes time, when we have no time left.
I’ve been calling for ‘radical’ over these past few years but, instead, people seem to prefer the idea of being a rebel. A call to arms? Perhaps. Radicals are maybe too extreme for the British. We have a good, solid history of rebelling against monarchs (it’s Bonfire night soon), but not a culture of anything too much in the ‘extreme’. God forbid.
The problem is that rebellions may ultimately shift power structures, but I am not sure they attend to deep-seated human misadventures in values. And it’s at this earthy level – the deep roots of human values – where change in behaviour will liberate the biosphere, not apprehend it. A true radical shift still lies in the way we coach our young (and old). Slide us up the competance hierarchy from sub-man to unconscious competance in ‘living the good life’ mutually, along with all other species. A R-evolution. And soon.
Are there ways to rebel that are radical?
Here’s an idea ~ let’s adopt a system of responsibility over rights.
Legal rights are generally upheld as good. Yet time and time again, they are flouted. Governments tend to change the concept of rights to suite their agendas. Consistency is lost everytime there’s a switch in power. Rights are temporary social constructs, devised by nation states (the UN is a collective of Nation States), to impose order among the human population. They can be treatised and then rejected, voted in and out. They can be good or not so good, proclaimed as a brand of justice handed down by powerful people, who are largely in train with capitalist ideals and infrastructures. They are not necessarily liberatively just, enduring nor bioregional. And, importantly, at best, they cloak only one species from the elements ~ homo sapiens.
This is the thing; rights are quintessentially anthropocentric.
Non-human life needs liberating from human dominion, not co-opting into our systems of Law, Property and Capital.
But responsibilities are just the other side of the same coin, no?
Not if you think that all species/genera have equal responsibility to the floloca to which they relate. The basic rules of play exist in a natural order that ensures complexity, diversity and evolution. Humans are too busy simply relating to one another and not all species. We are NOT thinking ourselves of and to our symbiotic relationship with all other life. This is our immaturity.
Take land. The UN asserts through various international legal treaties the human right to secure tenure (individual or collective). Humans, therefore, are granted a right to determine what other species are allowed to cross or reside upon that land, down to the microbiome. A scrap of freedom hurled to us from on high makes us ‘feel’ empowered, right? What about the empowerment of all these other species on this shared planet? They still do not have a ‘say’, and it is ridiculous they should even need one.
Regardless, nation states bank roll their way through these seemingly basic human ‘rights’, even in the UK, where English Compulsory Purchase Orders facilitate HS2 and a political obsession with 20th century economic growth means 20km of ecological vandalism in Wales ~ M4 extension proposals.
Potentially useful legislation such as the Wales Future Generations Act are ignored, rights instead argued ‘for the greater economic good’ of a nation.
But remember, the greater good (wrong or right), is for the human population only.
Some, already embedded in the culture of legislation as the route to enlightenment, wish to enforce the Rights of Nature by legally framing wild populations, animals, nay entire mountains, rivers and mountains, as either persons or entities with single identity. These identities can then protected against other humans who want to exploit them. They are supposed to deter, but we know how this usually works. An infringement is made purposefully and then tested through the courts. This is an expensive process, and if you have enough funds, you can generally guarantee a win by appealing until you break the financial strength of the opposition. It’s a lawyer’s game, with cryptic language and a copper-bottom fee structure. Asserting rights for us or our wild communities just means a fight in court, at great expense, and against fundamentally capitalist levers channelled through 300 years of common law.
Quite frankly, I can’t see this as radical in any way. I can’t even see a funding pot as radical. Nothing fundamentally changes beyond the idea that the ‘playing field’ is somewhat levelled. But it’s still a ‘playing field’, a game, which doesn’t include the key witnesses in need. Intensely political appointments, clever lawyers smoothly cultivated from a certain educated class (the way of the neoliberal University), judge bias… there’s no real change here.
Truer meaning comes from nurturing a depth of timeless responsibility. I’m going to try to claim this back off the right-wingers.
Both ordinated rights from on high and impulsive freedoms mirror the strict parent and a rebellious teen. The whole thing lacks maturity. This has been hijacked by the ‘Right’ in the political sphere, where regulation is seen as a bind on the ‘self,’ weaponised by the left to infringe upon the freedoms of all and particularly restricting on the financially ambitious.
But a libertarian nature of responsibility is not confined to the ultra-conservatives at all in Western political theory. As well as full-on libertarian anarchy, there is Bookchin’s Communalism; a form of social ecology, whereby smaller bioregions form smaller democratic face-to-face forums, which then co-operate under a greater administrative federation in order to maintain peace. And it is here where my own persuasions lay right now, with a little bit extra ~ the acceptance of the ethic of fluminism underpinning all decision making.
An ecoliterate population mentors its descendants in the carrying a shared load, this charge being the active proliferation of an abundant and diverse biosphere. Humans are psychologically evolved to act through innate moralities, a heady blend of rationale and emotion. They are of course shaped by culture and experience and closer attachment generally means higher moral imperative.
This is why fluminism needs to be at the heart of communalism, because as humans become more emotionally aware and physically immersed in symbiotic processes, and attached to all beings devoted to those processes, mutual love brings our ‘being’ close to the same process, the same purpose. And with it, wellbeing. The interconnections bristle.
Self respect, individually and collectively, embraces the weight of fluministic obligation, and finds the joy in devotion. To proliferate the flow of life (as a fluminist), means the rewards are great and mutualistic between all species, and in multiple directions. Block the flows at the collective’s peril. Block the flows for generations and we humans take the majority of known living systems with us into oblivion.
Legal rights generally prescribe things, not explain in depth the understanding why. It may be easy to sell to the young under a banner, “Freedom!” but it might as well read “Entitlement!” But life involves a toughness too, extending oneself beyond comfort zones, realising we are not so entitled because there is a limit to freedom when it begins to harm others. Making the effort to contribute to community (including non-human), despite all our personal issues and problems is an act beyond entitlement. It is self respect and respect of community. Love comes back in droves, whilst responsibility and truth come together ~ the reality of a functioning biosphere.
A court of law is full tricks and traps, an adversarial system designed to be fairly hostile, and Nation states do generally uphold capitalist or wealth accumulating ideals through it. Instead, via a system of responsibility and co-operation, we may go back to humble ways of living in and as part of nature. The closeness of community means that rogue behaviours are more quickly spotted and curtailed by local consensus. Morality is also about visibility. Further, we can take the strain when others are unable, an ethic of care that doesn’t necessarily require us to know all the individuals concerned intimately, but close enough knowing all are interconnected in our one biosphere.
Indigenous law generally tends towards “take only what you need and leave the rest,” as do the birds, the trees, and most other species. Produce food, clothes, tools and shelters that are crafted well the first time, and are easily prepared and repaired. Create methods of ‘harvest’ that respect each ‘world’ of being. And instead of framing nature as external ‘resource’, something separate to use, form close relationships with these ‘worlds’ as kin, organic and even the inorganic. Kinship being “we of them”, not the other way around. To make them human brethren is simply more of the same Anthropocentrism.
Therein lies responsibility to them.
In this way, the law is a living thing, a dasein-daily, which can be taught and improved down through generations and within planetary limits. And without having to pay lawyers to translate. Let us now adopt our own kind of indigenous or adopted endemism way of being. Without full cultural appropriation, we can freely adopt these basic key tenets without seeking the consent of anyone. No lawyers, no politically appointed judges, no politicians/police-itians. In doing so we are being truly radical, rebelling against the current paradigm and not simply playing the same game.
I’ll end by posting a wiki link to information about an indigenous Andean ethic called Ayni. I wish I knew about this years ago. There are other resources available on this ancient tribal way of life, and plenty of NGOs seem to be involved in protecting the people and their culture, particularly of the Q’eros community (a living form of communalism) to varying degrees of sucess. The wiki entry, none-the-less, seems to be a good introduction.
In summary, we can love, be mutualistic, learn, know and remember, work and preserve life ~ form our own bioregional forms of Ayni. We can adopt, once again, communal lands and waters, with no separation between what is human and non-human. We can reciprocate/extend mutualism, but with love, towards each other and all other life. We can look out especially for the vulnerable and sick.
And quite beautifully, as the people of Q’eros have said, we can lift each other and all life ‘up’ to equal height.