Why Protest?

Why Protest?

Find your tribe. Claim your place in society. Act in collaboration with your fellow human beings and rediscover the sense of community that will be so vital in the coming years.


It all feels so good in the moment. You can palpably sense your tension receding. The cynicism that you wear every day like a nametag suddenly breaks and pulls back, and you allow yourself access to your own childlike sense of wonder.

You’re not ruminating on past missteps, nor are you grinding your teeth into powder worrying about what vague unpleasantness the future might hold for you. You’re here, now.

“But nothing in this life lasts, good or bad. The music dies down, the final credits roll, the bouncer leans into your conversation and brusquely informs you that the party’s over.”

But nothing in this life lasts, good or bad. The music dies down, the final credits roll, the bouncer leans into your conversation and brusquely informs you that the party’s over. The chemicals in your system, natural or purchased, begin the long climb-down from their peak. You walk home, doubts and worries slowly worming back into your psyche, as the clock ticks closer and closer to the resumption of ‘real life’.

Alone Walk: A street in Artane, Dublin 5

Alone Walk: A street in Artane, Dublin 5

I feel as though I’ve been trapped in this hollow cycle for longer than I can truly remember, back into the hazy memories of late adolescence. Always chasing that elusive happiness, only to have it fall like sand through my fingers whenever I grasped it.

As I grow that little bit older, I’ve come to realise that when I was pursuing that perfect gig, that perfect party, or that mythical ideal level of inebriation, what I was really looking for was far less complicated.

All I’ve ever wanted was to be in a room full of my fellow homo sapiens, feeling the same feelings in unison, and knowing that by our presence alone, we were affecting the world in some palpable way, however small.

Although we place so much value in the adornments and rituals that get us into the room in the first place, ultimately these things are incidental. What we all want is a community to be part of, a tribe.

Such tribes are not easy to find these days. Our society has become adept at selling us back these desires for profit. One only has to look at an organisation like FIFA to see how totally the human desire for togetherness can be commercialised.

For those of us without the means to buy into these modern tribes, it can feel as though the whole of modern society is closed off, a walled garden.

However, a glint of hope has emerged from the most unlikely of places. A new and urgent strain of climate activism has rapidly developed in the western hemisphere.

Led by groups like Extinction Rebellion, they’ve spent the last year calling for a sweeping upheaval of society, to mitigate (as best we can) the profound shocks to the human species that will occur if the global temperature continues to rise.

Since I quit my full-time job at the end of last year, I can certainly confess to months of listless aimlessness, busy but never engaged, feeling adrift.

I became a member of Extinction Rebellion in the middle of summer, primarily to give me something to do with my time. I first attended meetings, then protests, and then finally started accompanying them on direct actions.

XR Protest: Extinction Rebellion members protesting against Amazon forest burnings in  front of the Brazilian Embassy, Dublin 2, on the 23 rd of August

XR Protest: Extinction Rebellion members protesting against Amazon forest burnings in

front of the Brazilian Embassy, Dublin 2, on the 23 rd of August

“It is a genuine tonic for the soul to see my fellow human beings come together around a single goal, and attempt to build something bigger than ourselves.”

While far from a perfect organisation, and as riddled with structural problems and clashing egos as any human attempt at cohesion, something about their approach has helped knocked me out of my world-weary misanthropic mindset.

It is a genuine tonic for the soul to see my fellow human beings come together around a single goal, and attempt to build something bigger than ourselves. I’ve read a thousand books and watched a thousand films about the power of diverse groups to face down adversity, but seeing it occur before my own eyes has made all the difference.

To witness people much younger and much older than my 27 years bandying together and decisively rejecting the trappings of apathy has been inspirational, simply put.

This is not to say you shouldn’t be wary of those who promise they have all the answers. If, like me, you’re anxious and have a tendency to overthink, there sadly remains many out there who are all too willing to exploit you for their own personal gain. Thankfully, Extinction Rebellion’s non-hierarchical structure and focus on empathy and personal wellbeing mitigates this to a certain extent.

Standing with these people in front of government buildings, yelling slogans, banging drums and waving flags, has been a better form of therapy than anything that state-provided counselors and SSRIs could ever provide.

The tragedy that underpins this all is that it has taken the near-total collapse of the ecosystem, and decades of increasingly frantic warnings from climate scientists to shake us out of our complacency.

Although it’s wonderful to see my fellow humans sincerely doing their best, the harsh and unpalatable truth is that we are most likely too late.

There is no chance of reversing the damage we have collectively done to our biosphere. We may once have had that opportunity, but it has long since passed. Many of the worst predictions will come true. Our soil will degrade, our coasts will be flooded. Many thousands may die, and millions more may be left without homes.

Our focus should therefore not be on some fantastical panacea, but on doing our utmost to rediscover our sense of community. This is our best and only way to strengthen the bonds of our society, to allow us to resist and absorb the intensely traumatic events that will occur within our lifetimes.

“So, find your tribe, be they Extinction Rebellion, a local community development group, your library book club, or a magazine like FAC.”

If we don’t start this process now, then we risk mere anarchy being loosed upon the world once more. Already one can see the creeping tendrils of fascism take hold in our collective consciousness. As the amount of climate refugees skyrockets, it’s not hard to imagine the forces of unfairness growing in tandem.

XR Parade: Extinction Rebellion members leading a parade through the Electric Picnic  main arena, Sunday September 1 st .

XR Parade: Extinction Rebellion members leading a parade through the Electric Picnic

main arena, Sunday September 1 st .

So, find your tribe, be they Extinction Rebellion, a local community development group, your library book club, or a magazine like FAC. Claim your place in society, and engage with your fellow earth-dwellers as much as you possibly can. Don’t give in to the anxious lies of your subconscious. Human beings are meant to live, love, struggle and die together. If there’s any secret to happiness, getting out there and proving you’re still alive seems to be closest guess we have.

The 20th of September school strikes, which brought over 4 million people out on the streets worldwide, proved decisively that the people who will be most affected by an uncertain future are perfectly aware of how serious the situation is.

We owe it to them to not let their idealism dissolve into apathy. Now is the time to take control of our own narrative. Join Extinction Rebellion for Rebellion Week, Oct 7th-13th, and see what I’ve seen for yourself.


Fabian MacGinty O’Neill


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