I don’t know who suggested Tupperware parties - but I think that was meant to be somewhat ironic!!!
Below are some quick thoughts on this topic…that probably need a lot of finessing!
I don’t want to sound negative, but XR really needs to dig deep and think honestly about where it is going in this country. These are a few key issues XR faces if it wants to grow and be taken seriously here. What I am about to say will not be popular, but I have given this a lot of thought over recent months…and talked to a LOT of people about their perceptions of XR.
I honestly believe that XR in Aus does NOT need to be seen as “cool” (tho we can do cool things like DISCO-bedience - that is brilliant!). What XR needs is to be seen as accessible, relevant and inclusive.
I think what Jordan explains is really interesting. But my personal take on all of this is that we need to talk less about the philosophy, and definitely limit the rhetoric. If we want a real grass roots movement that is inclusive to all and draws on the skills, talents, interests and concerns of people from all walks of life, we need to make XR appealing and accessible to everyone.
When I read a lot of the XR documents and comments in Base, Mattermost, etc. , there is a LOT of ideological stuff, and not a lot of practical detail (i.e. who, what, why, where, when, how).
My suggestion would be NOT to make XR “cool” in the first instance, but make it “accessible” to all. In talking to many people about how they see XR in Australia, they say several things consistently. This is a quick summary of the views I hear expressed commonly:
- EXCLUSIVITY: XR seems very “lofty” and ideological, and driven by well-educated “elites” (to quote several people I’ve spoken with) - who are in a position to dedicate themselves solely to the cause.
Many people are concerned about climate change but cannot commit themselves in the way that most current XR members do. And from a outsider’s point of view, joining some meetings can be quite alienating because everyone uses so much jargon - it can take ages to work out what anyone is actually talking about. Additionally, several long-term XR members with previous activist experience go out of their way to make new members feel uncomfortable and even unwelcome - simply because the new members are inexperienced. This is an awful situation, and really should be stamped out.
These sorts of behaviours make XR feel like an exclusive club - and not an inclusive movement. This sense of exclusivity makes it hard to take part, and has turned people away. (I have certainly felt this personally, and a number of people I know from various new LGs have expressed the same feeling. Most of these people have now walked away from XR.)
- DISRUPTION: Obviously mass civil disobedience is a key strategy for XR, but most people do not understand why or how this helps the cause. They just see things like road block actions (as an example) as annoying, disruptive to their activities and therefore stress-inducing.
I get that this is the point of civil disobedience - but there is a massive disconnect between the average person being inconvenienced and understanding the link between this inconvenience and climate change. They do not link civil disobedience with saving the planet.
Right now, there is higher than ever level of concern about climate change…but the person in the street cannot see how mass or smaller-scale civil disobedience can bring about change of actual policies or laws. And in fact, it is hard to find concrete evidence that this is the case.
- COMMITMENT Many people are very interested in XR but are put off at an Intro Talk because there is SO MUCH emphasis on getting arrested and also on “joining in”. When new rebels start going to LG meetings, many of them are overwhelmed by both the “insider language” (i.e. jargon) and the level of commitment that is seemingly required.
There are so many meetings to attend and so much to learn and so many roles to take on in the early stages of the establishment of a LG. Most people are not able to commit that amount of time to the cause. They have full-time jobs, study, families and all sorts of other commitments. They feel that they are not able to be involved adequately…so they drift away.
The other issue that I have witnessed first-hand on numerous occasions is the emphasis on people being arrested. Many people are not in a position to do this (for all sorts of reasons); and yet this is pushed so hard that they feel that they cannot contribute to XR unless they are prepared to face arrest. These people drift away too.
Far more emphasis needs to be placed on the “supporting roles” that are mentioned in some of the new AusMM documentation. This states that for every designated “arrestable rebel’ there are 5-10 supporting rebels required. Why not explain this a lot more, and really emphasise this in some way? Run a campaign that explicitly discusses why civil disobedience is important (and why this works)…and explain the importance of the non-arrestables. Start running NVDA training that is NOT focused on being arrested but instead emphasises the many ways everyone can take part in both protesting and building awareness of the planet’s peril.
This is probably not the feedback you were hoping for. Admittedly, all of the above is anecdotal and I have not completed any formal surveys. I just talk to loads of people about this and am not surprised by what I hear.
So, I guess what I am saying is XR doesn’t really need to be “cool”…it needs to be accessible to everyone. It would be great if people felt that the movement really does accept everyone, and every part of everyone.