Global Climate Strike 20-27 September: Towards a General Strike for Life?

[There will be a Global Climate Strike in over 150 countries September 20 and 27, initiated by Greta Thumberg, the global student climate strike movement, Trying to do something locally where I am, maybe getting our local council to declare a climate emergency and call for a citizens’ town meeting to discuss what can be done. Hope everybody reading this may consider doing something in their workplace or community given the urgency of our global climate and extinction emergency. Help can be found at the Global Climate Strike website. Below I am reblogging, unchanged, my 2015 piece pushing for a General Strike for Life and Great Palaver. I know we are collectively not that far yet, but no harm in trying again. The photo is of climate strike students in London last May.]

A Strike for Life and a Great Palaver. A Call to Freedom.
– For all those who cannot take it anymore, yet feel another world is possible

Deep Down

Deep down we know it all.

At that level, down there beyond our fears and rationalisations, no one need tell us what the case is.

At that level, we are wiser and wider than our narrow everyday selves. This is the level we are at when we deeply respond to a work of art, music, a poem, a child, the ocean, the silence of a forest or an empty room, a quietened body-mind.

At that level, no one need preach and tell us what deep trouble the world is in.

No one need tell us that things cannot go on like this without some total, cataclysmic breakdown, one that has already begun and will cause further immense and lasting death and suffering.

At that level, we know that no one is an island and the world is one. That endless growth is not possible on a finite planet. That climate chaos or nuclear war could destroy civilisation for centuries. That the Sixth Mass Extinction of plant and animal species is upon us because of global deforestation, over-industrialisation, over-consumption, over-development.

At that level we know that our freedoms are being increasingly eroded as liberal societies become authoritarian police and total surveillance states. That true social and global peace and security are not possible without greater equality and social justice within and among nations, without a massive popular rejection of imperial interventions, militarism and jingoistic nationalism.

This sense of the existential threats to the common good is just common sense. Any child, any wise old person knows that.

The General Solution

No professors or activists’ megaphones need tell us that our ways of interacting with each other and the planet, our ways of organising our societies and economies, are utterly unjust, undemocratic and unsustainable.

At that deep level, we even know what the general solution is, whatever the debatable specifics of that solution: we know we have to fairly share wealth, resources and the global commons (water, air, oceans, land and soils, forests, internet…).

We know we have to make democratic decisions about how we organise things, how and what we produce, distribute and consume not for the benefit and unsustainable, luxurious wants of a global few but for the benefit and real, sustainable needs of all beings, human and non-human, present and future.

These social solutions are the same as the general means of achieving them: direct democratic debate, self-organisation and self-management, mutual aid, free collective action, civil disobedience, non-violence.

Yes, But…

However, at this point our narrow everyday selves often say: no, we are powerless. No, it’s all too complex and overwhelming to face, and we aren’t competent enough to understand it all. No, we should leave it to the government, leaders, the experts, the CEOs, the scientists and technologists, the international conferences. No, we should just vote for someone who will ‘fix’ it all for us.

We would prefer to delegate our own thinking and responsibilities to others, and then complain when they fail to ‘fix’ things for us, and then go and vote for the next lot who necessarily must do the same, over and over again.

As voters marking a piece of paper and then going home and abdicating our own sovereignty to so-called representatives for another three or four years, we prefer to remain passive consumers of ‘democratic’ political spectacles created by others. We prefer to remain dependent, obedient, voluntary slaves, as it seems much more comfortable than thinking our own real thoughts, than being our real, wider self, than acting independently, for ourselves, in free interaction with others. We prefer to ignore our inner freedom, to drown out our niggling conscience with noise and ceaseless busyness. Sometimes we even do this in noisy political activism making demands to the state authorities like children to parents, often enough mouthing mind-numbing clichés or narrow, dead slogans printed out on standardised placards and t-shirts that move no one.

We are not used to, we have no practice in, democratically debating public issues within our communities with a view to doing things together ourselves. We are not used to seeing beyond our own narrow and immediate personal interests, our work and families, our daily issues, even as the world slides into chaos around us precisely because we don’t want to face the larger issues and our own consciences that are the inner expressions of those existential wider issues. At an emotional level, we don’t really feel an emphatic part of, and thus responsible for, a social and natural community or world, except as rate- and tax-payers, voters, tourists, and, occasionally, anxiously frenetic flag-wavers.

Our everyday unfree self cannot respond to anything beyond itself and its perceived narrow interests, thus feel no responsibility for the wider world. In our true, free selves we respond to conscience and world, we are respons-ible. Freedom is not opposed to, but the same as responsibility.

This narrow self and this wider self, this fearful unfreedom and this fearless freedom, are in constant tension or conflict within us all. We all oscillate between them. Social movements and nations oscillate between them.

The political and corporate powers-that-be are, in all their varied mediocracy, usually living embodiments of the former and do all they can to keep us all there. Their opportunistic careerism, their media narcissism and entitled trough-hogging, their rigid and Machiavellian mindsets, so-called public relations communications and psy-ops constantly spin out nothing but fear-mongering, divide-and-rule, scapegoating, power maintenance, denial, short-termism, adolescent games of ‘wedging’ of opponents. It is so seldom that an authentic person, a person of wide empathy and intelligence, a real ‘statesman’ or –woman, happens to wander through the power-ridden jungle of some party machine, and even when they do, they are always totally ineffectual without the force of grassroots social movements and public opinion.

The Great Strike for Life and Great Palaver

So, what to do? Perhaps to even have to ask that question is already an indication of how bad things are.

In a healthy community confronted by imminent, life-threatening danger, the natural human response would be to down tools, stop work, get together to talk about the issue and what to do about it.

This is exactly what the world crises are indicating that all communities large and small, what humanity as a whole, should be doing: downing tools, going on strike, stopping the destruction machine, taking time out, coming together and conferring about the world’s deep and mounting crises and what to do about them.

Some of course are already doing this, not in striking but in a global mosaic of local resistance or constructive endeavours, cooperatives and social experiments outside the main turbo-charged system or work itself. It is time for the latter to be included. This can only be done by stopping the ever faster and more intensive exploitation within the main system itself for a period of resting, deep breathing, regaining clarity and sanity, conferring together. A kind of active holiday from the work- and consumption machine, a ‘holy’ day of whole-ness, of being whole and hale.

A possible initial name for this natural response and process could be: the Great Strike for Life and the Great Palaver. As it develops, the process will in time probably find its own name, or names.

Because it would be a directly democratic process, the outcomes of this process cannot be predicted or ordained. All that can be said about it is that, like the wider self we all have within us, it is necessary, needed, and must freely follow its own course according to its own internal dynamic.

The first steps: critically think all this through for yourself. Listen inside, ask your gut intelligence and intuition, your conscience and wider self, for a response. If you find you agree with it, circulate this Call to Freedom to colleagues, friends, neighbours, fellow citizens. Perhaps a simple start could be made just by agreeing to stop work or activities for five minutes at work or in various grassroots interest groups, clubs, churches etc. and silently meditate together on the world crises. The next step might be to discuss preparing small, temporary strikes and palavers at work or in the community. Once these happen sufficiently and repeatedly, they may start to communicate with each other, link up, start preparing larger regional, national and international strikes and palavers.

The Identity of Means and Ends

Is this just another clever ‘political strategy’ to achieve some distant ‘goal’ as defined by some armchair theory or other? The purpose of stopping work in the destruction machine and conferring is to stop work in the destruction machine and confer. The purpose or goal of the Great Strike and Palaver is not outside itself.

Nevertheless, such a lively, vital process, like the previous alter-globalisation, World Social Forum, Arab Spring and Occupy movements, could become contagious across localities, regions and borders as it impresses and directly speaks to the suppressed feelings and longings of others with its vital democratic energy and meaningfulness.

The purpose of the process is not to look ‘up’ or out and influence our ruling oligarchies, the usual form of what passes for ‘politics’. Rather, it is to become the ‘rulers’ ourselves, i.e. the active subjects of a meaningful, direct democracy, subjects who are stopping work and conferring together about life-threatening dangers, the declining quality of life on all levels, the common good.

Some within the state and corporate oligarchies, their consciences touched, might be moved to join us, others will try to manipulate, intimidate, co-opt or, as usual, suppress us with violence. Often the violence will also come from state undercover operatives, criminal thugs or sections of the people themselves who identify with the state and system or who feel threatened in their authoritarian beliefs.

However, there is no point in trying to prophecise what may or may not happen. Those are the speculative games of the armchair spectators and know-alls who enjoy spectating and almost never get active. Whatever does happen simply becomes the subject of the people’s Great Palaver.

The Choice to Be, the Choice to be Free

Deep down under our various social masks and insecurely rigid identities we know we are free, intelligent, responsible beings with a conscience. We know we are humans with souls and vital organic needs, not machines.

So, can we let this inner freedom, this freedom-to-think-and-act-for-ourselves without worrying what others may think or do, this freedom to be our true, wider selves, can we let this true self emerge like a bright butterfly from the tired old cocoon of narrow and false identity, from daily distraction and habit, from the self-oppression of our deep knowledge and longing?

Can we let our basic, intuitive understanding well up from within and break through into our clear, conscious minds and inform our actions? Can we let ourselves be the free beings we really are to save the world and all beings, i.e. ourselves? Je suis nous, ich bin wir, I am we. Ubuntu (I am because we are).

Another world is possible, if we but let it. It is already inside us, as potential, as reality. Its name is: freedom.

(September 2015)

[Note. This Call to Freedom has been strongly influenced by an essay in German by mystic anarchist Gustav Landauer written in 1911, the title of which translates as ‘The Abolition of War by means of the Self-determination of the People’. During the so-called inter-imperial ‘Morocco Crisis’, a catastrophic world war looming three years before its actual outbreak, Landauer was making a despairing, last-ditch attempt to awaken the people by calling for general strikes and worker conferences to prevent war and start building the social alternative: self-determination, self-organisation, self-management. He failed of course. Countless millions died and suffered in the resulting two world wars and dictatorships. All one can do is pass on the flame, try again, perhaps: fail better.]

~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on August 10, 2019.

3 Responses to “Global Climate Strike 20-27 September: Towards a General Strike for Life?”

  1. wonderful Peter…
    we can all do our part…and hope it goes “viral”…
    it’s not like climate chaos is going to resolve itself constructively, if we humans continue to ignore our culpability…

  2. We have to get over the fear of wanting what we truly desire. The perverse prohibitions. Our group ( we have evolved from IOPS to PANIC) is organizing a city-wide student strike for the entire week. We are offering alternative “classes” on subjects that we hope are relevant to the future young people face. This promises to be bigger than anything we have put together in the past and the question, as always, is how to keep escalating the pressure. Tuesday we present a Climate Emergency Resolution to the City Council and flood the meeting with students.
    Time to act like our house is on fire (because it is)


    • On ya Dave. Wondering how it all went in zootown. Here 300 people (mostly adults) at the kids’ rally, more than I’ve ever seen in this sleepy ‘conservative’ region of only 50,000. But simply a listen to kids’ speeches, then go home again kind of event. Council rejected declaring a climate emergency.

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