The recent spate of civil disobedience in the UK, France and elsewhere against environmental and social concerns, have these individuals criminalised for legitimate concerns. The real culprits, who have allowed these harmful practices to pervade society - our politicians, walk away unscathed. Isn’t it time to rethink how we hold them accountable?
London and Paris have recently been disrupted through a spate of civil unrest. Similar activities are planned for New York and other major centres. These campaigns have highlighted critically important environmental and social issues, which need to be addressed by their respective governments, as a matter of urgency.
Individuals in all these centres are placing their lives at risk to stop practices which are killing the planet or are responsible for creating massive social inequality. These individuals may, or may not, be harmed, but one thing is certain, they will all be given criminal records for their part. These criminal records will tarnish and hurt them for life. This raises the question: if protest is a criminal offence, then what is deliberately polluting the environment in pursuit of profits classified as? If organising other people to protest against blatant injustice risks getting you labelled a "terrorist," what name do we give to corporations who conspire amongst themselves to alter the environment so that nothing can live on Earth any longer? If those with a social conscience are consigned to jail cells, and those who perpetrate the real crimes get away with it - what does the future hold for all of us?
In a democracy, we rely on our duly elected politicians to represent our interests and to stop blatant injustice and bad practices from happening. Rather than have innocent individuals punished for the failings of democracy, our political representatives must be held responsible. Only in this way will the buck stop where it should, without harming innocent heroes.
Government's duty and responsibilities.
A democratically elected government has a duty to protect its citizens and to act in the interests of the majority. The economy falls under the control of the government. Therefore, it has a duty to see it serves the needs of the majority, which, among other things, entails the protection and nurturing of the environment, as the sustainer of all life.
Government's failure to meet its duty and responsibilities.
Currently, the economy serves the needs of the wealthy one per cent, at the expense of all other stakeholders. This means we have a dysfunctional economy: the political class have failed to serve their constituent's needs. Our democracy is dysfunctional. Because our economy is dysfunctional, human activity is directed towards creating wealth for the one per cent, while destroying other stakeholder value. The environment is one such stakeholder. The wealthy one per cent continue, with government backing, to destroy the environment through economic activity only favouring the wealthy. This is putting the entire ecology of the planet at risk. This represents the wilful dereliction of duty by politicians. However, environmental issues are only part of their failure. Social problems are equally serious, although perhaps not as time critical as certain environmental issues.
The rights and wrongs of civil disobedience.
How can we condemn civil disobedience when their only objective is to protect the interests of the majority from a dysfunctional democracy, which has led to a dysfunctional economy, which has us in a death spiral, with the imminent destruction of our ecosystems and life. We cannot condone taking the law into our own hands, but the wilful dereliction of duty by the government is a crime in itself. Government has wilfully harmed its own citizens and done nothing to end its support of the abusive practices of the wealthy one per cent against the majority. If your home is broken into and your life and property threatened, do you not have the right to protect it? This is all the civil disobedience groups like "Extinction Rebellion" are doing - trying to protect their home and life. The criminals, in this case, are the wealthy one per cent, with the government an accessory after the fact. This makes both parties culpable of a crime. Therefore, to criminalise the protesters is wrong. These people are heroes as they stood up to defend our home when we cowered in the corner from the criminals. These people are prepared to have criminal records, a blight on their life, to protect us. The real criminals complain about the disruption to their profits and have the protesters punished and silenced.
What's the catalyst for change?
As soon as the protesters are cleared, and out of public view, their cause slips from the political agenda. Life returns to "normal." The crimes committed by the wealthy one per cent continue unabated, in fact, they increase. Let's be clear and unequivocal here, crimes are being committed against society and the environment. In terms of statutes, they may not be recorded as such, but that does not make them legitimate behaviour. It does not negate the fact that these are practices intentionally conducted for the benefit of the wealthy one per cent, while wilfully, and knowingly hurting other stakeholders. They create hardship and difficulty, and in some cases, death, and extinction. The existence of these practices, in the first instance, is proof of a dysfunctional economy. That they are not recorded as crimes, is further proof of a dysfunctional economy, and one which highlights the fact that we don't have a system of justice. We have a legal system, but that's something entirely different.
As these crimes are being committed with political knowledge and or endorsement, we must hold our political representatives accountable. Organisations fighting for change should draw up a "Charge Sheet", specific to their cause, where they charge every politician with the crimes committed against society and environment. Obviously, some politicians will be doing something positive, while others will be aiding and abetting the wealthy one per cent. The politicians will then receive a score, according to their efforts in addressing these crimes. These charge sheets should then be publicised. They will act as a permanent record, in public view, which will either act as a "name and shame" or "name and shine" poster for politicians. Such a process will keep the issues high on the political agenda, protect the courageous few from incurring criminal records, and allow us less courageous many, to maintain the political pressure on our politicians.
We have to remember this is a political problem. Our dysfunctional democracy has led to a dysfunctional economy. Our dysfunctional economy is the underlying cause of our our most serious social and environmental problems. We have to address our political failures first, by getting politicians to face the economic realities of our dysfunctional economy. We must help the politicians Identify the major underlying causes, and hold them individually, and collectively responsible for correcting them. Either forward-thinking politicians and parties will ensure these causes then go onto the agenda without further delay, or external organisations will have to draw up and manage Charge Sheets independently of the government. In my opinion, it's a sad day when politicians cannot do what they are supposed to do, leaving it to others to do it for them. Let's hope it doesn't deteriorate to the point where people start taking the law into their own hands. It will come to that if politicians fail to act now. The consequences of a dysfunctional economy are catching up with us quickly. We don't have the luxury of sitting around waiting for who knows what. Politicians have failed us in the past. They must now rectify their wrongs and act now.
Copyright © Adrian Mark Dore 2019.