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Yes, it’s terrifying. Climate change will lead to changes in the composition of the planet, which will set in motion irreversible changes to the climate, making life on earth for humans and the other creatures with whom we share this beautiful planet immeasurably difficult, if not impossible.
In light of this, the critiques I’ve seen on here and elsewhere of Extinction Rebellion over the last couple or so of weeks have made me pretty angry. I’ve been working up to writing something properly on this, but haven’t had time to do it yet (I will). Here’s a preview:
XR is not diverse enough – it’s just white people/middle-class people.
I’m afraid this is prime BS. Diversity is important (of course it is – and I know a few things about that being a brown woman from a ‘non-traditional’ social background in a field dominated by middle-class white men. I got stories. I’ll save them, ‘cos I digress). But XR isn’t an institution or a field of employment or similar. It’s a spontaneous movement of people trying to force those in power to make the changes necessary for us all to have some chance of a viable future. Moreover, it’s pretty reductive to think that something’s being a thing that white people, or middle-class people, or white middle-class people, are concerned about in-and-of-itself means that it’s something not to be taken seriously. Ask about the cause, not just the type of people supporting it.
XR employs tactics (mass arrest) that not everyone can employ.
True. There are various groups of people for whom this isn’t a viable strategy – black and brown people, disabled people, people too financially impoverished to be able to risk the disruption to/destruction of livelihood, etc. But this doesn’t, as some sort of matter of principle, make the strategy morally bad in some way. All it means is that (i) no-one should be pressured into adopting it; (ii) those who can’t employ this strategy and who want to be involved should get together with others and work out what they can do instead.
XR needs to centre those in the Global South who are most affected by climate change.
I’m not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean. Yes, we should all be aware that the poorest people of earth are those who are initially going to suffer most from climate change. But what this seems to have boiled down to in a lot of discussions I’ve seen is that people are being scorned for not using the right form of words. “If you talk about climate change, be sure to mention the people in Mozambique who’ve recently lost their lives in the devastating floods.” Yes, we should remember and care about those people, but the net effect of this criticism is to turn this into an assessment of moral purity. Are your motives pure enough for us to endorse your action? Do you know the right form of words to utter when asked about your protest (like it’s some kind of liturgy)? Woe betide the uninitiated soul who says they’re simply doing it for the grandkids.
Headline news: political change requires political thinking – best tactics, best strategies, and willingness to work with different people. ‘The Left’s’ current approach of unforgiving moral scrutiny and fixation with navel-gazing internal reflection ain’t it.
Those XR activists don’t do anything to support refugees/black deaths in police custody/DWP assessments/etc. etc.
Yes, people should care about those things and do more about them.
But I’ve literally no idea whether or not those XR activists do anything about those issues because I don’t know them all personally. And even if it turned out (implausibly) that they don’t, it strikes me as a bit odd to criticise people who are trying to do something about an issue they care about that affects ALL of us, on the grounds that they don’t care about something else. This is another form of moral scrutiny. Not useful in political organising.
XR isn’t radical enough.
Show me your more effective, more radical movement currently attracting large numbers of support from ordinary people, and I’ll buy this.
And – I’m sorry to have to bring this up – but I’ve observed on a number of occasions, seasoned activists, for whom the Radical Activist Identity is baked into their soul, getting pissy when members of the general public get onboard with some issue. The only thing I can conclude (amateur psychoanalyst hat on) is that part of what it is to be a Radical Activist is to have values, take actions, live one’s life in a way that is different to the general masses, so it’s a threat to your identity when the general masses get involved. I get it. It’s a bit like when you’re into some really obscure band and then suddenly they’re playing the main stage at Glastonbury and even your best mate’s dad is listening to them. But when it comes to XR, you just gotta get over it. I’m not accusing anyone. But is this you? Be honest.
I met some people in XR and they were idiots/full of themselves/had a saviour complex/were mean to my cat.
Yeah – I’m sure you did. There’s nothing like a bit of political action to swell some people’s heads and give them a sense they’re some sort of superhero saving the world, and it’s annoying. Some of the people taking part in XR right now will be horrible people. But that’s so wherever you go, and focusing on this is taking your eye off the ball – the increasingly hot, increasingly hostile ball of rock our home is fast becoming unless we do something pretty damn quickly. Political organising involves working together with people who are not like you. And sometimes they’ll be downright objectionable. Get used to it.
Here’s a simple template for political thinking. Ask yourself and others:
– What’s the goal?
– Is this goal a good one?
– What are the best ways to accomplish it?
Pretty much anything else is white noise.
If you don’t like XR, then quit kvetching and start your own group or join one that’s more in keeping with how you want to do things. Think how much progress we might have made if all those critiquing XR had poured that energy into developing new ideas, strategies, and tactics for dealing with the problem in hand.
I could go on and on, but I’ll leave this here for now. If any of you got to the end of this screed, I’ll say what I’ve said elsewhere before:
Don’t criticise, organise.
Someone doing something that could be done better? Get involved, fix it, collaborate, make it better.
Tact is a tool – use it.
Be sensitive to others.
Work with difference.
Allow yours and others’ efforts to be imperfect.
Friday 17 May 2019, 11.00AM
Havi Carel (Bristol)
Komarine Romdehn-Romluc (Sheffield), ‘Attention’
Lilian Wilde (York), ‘Towards a phenomenology of post-traumatic experiences’
Will Hornett (Sheffield), ‘Habit, Skill, and Familiarity’
Carlo Raineri (Manchester)
Organisers: Keith Allen (York), Komarine Romdehn-Romluc (Sheffield), Joel Smith (Manchester).
Location: Department of Philosophy, Sally Baldwin Building, Block A, University of York, YO10 5DD
Admission: All welcome. Free to attend, but please contact Keith Allen (email@example.com) to register.
More info here.
I’m very excited about this event that we have coming up on March 27th.
What is it to be British? The idea of national identity tends to be associated with xenophobic nationalism, and so those on the political left generally give the idea a wide berth. However, this may well be mistaken.
A new conception of our cultural identity can be forged. This event is an invitation to begin the project of imagining a different way. It provides an opportunity to reflect on notions of identity and culture, migration, nationalism and the symbols through which we express ourselves.
More information available here.
I’m excited to announce that Professor Lewis R. Gordon will be visiting Sheffield on 27th March 2019. I first came across his work a while ago when I was reading about black existentialist thought. I then made copious use of his monograph What Fanon Said when reading Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks with my third year phenomenologists last year. These days, when I read a philosophy book I enjoy, I write and tell the author (we don’t do enough of that – so much of philosophy is focused on picking holes in other people’s work) so I wrote and told him how much I’d enjoyed his book, which began an email conversation. I’ve been wanting to get him over for a while, and the plan has finally come to fruition!
He will be giving two talks.
‘Theodicy, Capitalism, and the Commodification of Knowledge’ 2 – 3.30pm Hicks LTB for university members (but anyone can come).
‘Seductive Racial Fallacies’ 5 – 5.45pm Quaker Meeting House (this will be part of a larger public event. More details of this event to follow shortly.)
Lewis R. Gordon is a philosopher and musician. He is Professor of Philosophy with affiliation in Jewish Studies, Caribbean and Latin American Studies, Asian and Asian American Studies, and International Studies at UCONN-Storrs; Honorary President of the Global Center for Advanced Studies; Honorary Professor at the Unit of the Humanities at Rhodes University (UHURU), South Africa; and the 2018–2019 Boaventura de Sousa Santos Chair in the Faculty for Economics at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. He also is the drummer for the band ThreeGenerations (3Gs) and a variety of jazz and blues bands in the New England area. His many books include Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism (Humanities Press, 1995), Her Majesty’s Other Children (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), Existentia Africana (Routledge, 2000), Disciplinary Decadence (Routledge, 2006), An Introduction to Africana Philosophy (Cambridge UP, 2008), Of Divine Warning (with Jane Anna Gordon, Routledge, 2009), and, more recently, What Fanon Said: A Philosophical Introduction to His Life and Thought (NY: Fordham UP; London: Hurst; Johannesburg: Wits UP, 2015; in Swedish, Vad Fanon Sa, Stockholm: TankeKraft förlag, 2016), La sud prin nord-vest: Reflecţii existenţiale afrodiasporice, trans. Ovidiu Tichindeleanu (Cluj, Romania: IDEA Design & Print, 2016), and, with Fernanda Frizzo Bragato, Geopolitics and Decolonization: Perspectives from the Global South (London, UK: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2018). He is about to publish a monograph Fear of Black Consciousness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the USA and Penguin Book in the UK) and a collection of his essays 论哲学、去殖民化与种族 (On Philosophy, Decolonization, and Race), trans. Li Beilei (Wuhan, China: Wuhan University Press). His recent articles include “Afro-Jewish Ethics?” in Explorations in Jewish Religious and Philosophical Ethics, edited by Curtis Hutt, Berel Dov Lerrner, and Julia Schwartzmann (Routledge, 2018), and “Juifs contre la Libération: Une critique afro-juive,” Tumultes (2018). He is chairperson of the International Collaborations for the Caribbean Philosophical Association, of which he was its first president. He edits the American Philosophical Association blog series Black Issues in Philosophy and co-edits the book series Global Critical Caribbean Thought. His public Facebook page is here and he is on twitter: @lewgord.
Do join us if you can!
I am co-organising The British Society for the History of Philosophy annual conference on ‘The Philosophy of Habit’ with Dr. Jeremy Dunham. It will take place at the University of Durham. You can read more here.
This conference at the University of Sheffield starts tomorrow, and runs until Friday.
A common story told about academic philosophy in the 20th and 21st centuries is that is divided into two opposed camps, usually called ‘analytic’ and ‘continental’ philosophy. This conference proposes to assess a third, and often overlooked, philosophical tradition, ‘pragmatism’, in the light of this division. In pragmatism, we hope to discover novel approaches to the issues that divide the analytic and continental traditions.
Typically, analytic and continental philosophies are differentiated according to origins, methodologies, styles, and concerns. Analytic philosophy emerged in the early 20th century with British thinkers such as Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore. It was presented as a split from a broader philosophical tradition which included Kant and Hegel, and was labelled ‘continental’ with the inclusion of figures such as Husserl, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger…
This conference asks how pragmatism might allow the analytic and the continental traditions of philosophy to engage in new and useful ways. Perhaps relating pragmatism to analytic and continental philosophy can provide new suggestions regarding the methodologies, styles, roles, and topics that we think should govern philosophy. Perhaps attention to the links which classical pragmatism has to both sides might further dissolve the divide. Perhaps, as some pragmatists have hoped, pragmatism sits at the end of the development of both continental and analytic philosophy. Or perhaps a rejection of pragmatism by both traditions might forge new links between them.
The conference website is here.