Kay Smythe


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Monday, August 19

Britain: Why Aren't You Joining Extinction Rebellion? [are you the worst homeland ever?]

When I first moved to California in 2015, a year had passed since writing Swansea: the worst hometown ever. I did my due diligence after the shitstorm I caused, following up with a BBC interview for what turned out to be a wannabe article that barely notated an ounce of the real fuckery going on my hometown, let alone the shit going down in the country as a whole. The piece contained some of my worst writing, so I hope this essay angers people for the right reasons, because for as much as I used to hate Swansea, I really am at a loss with the UK right now. 

Half of my friends and social network have turned to spiritual practices as a means of dealing with the levels of stress they feel over our future, while the others sit idly back, watching the country burn. When I graduated from university, I left the UK with a real sense that change was happening, and that we would soon be leading the globe in renewable energies, restructuring society for the climate crisis, with new industries springing up every day in support. None of that has happened. The decline in our nation is all-encompassing, leading to new definitions being needed on what constitutes action, and what now constitutes a climate denier in the UK. 

Climate deniers can now be defined as anyone failing to appreciate the magnitude of climate chaos to the same extent as Extinction Rebellion. I don’t care what redtop tabloid wankers you choose to read, what studies you have completely misinterpreted, and what weather systems you are blindly ignoring: if you are currently in a passive state in your action against climate change, you are a climate denier. You’re also contributing to Britain being the worst homeland ever, and it’s time we all did something about it.

Let’s start with the wrong turn that started this shit: Brexit. There is no point in another tirade against this calamitous fuck-up on the part of the Great British public, but I would like to point to Brexit as a core distraction from the end of the world as we know it (AKA: climate chaos). Along with all other global political events, of which there are many catastrofucks, Brexit is a particularly insidious viral infection that has polarized the population on how to ensure our future.   

In the US, almost all of my conversations revolve around either (a) who people are hoping will win the DNC primary because 2020 is the most important General Election in civilized history, or (b) why there is no point caring about politics in America at all. International motivation polarization is understandable. Thanks to the globalization of technology, we are bombarded with predominantly negative news that forces communities apart. We are so inundated with propaganda that is it easier to switch off than try filtering truth from fiction. Societal disengagement is, ironically, exactly what I wanted from my life, but the next two years are too important to the future of the planet for anyone to sit on their arse and do nothing. 

That is why I am backing the work of Extinction Rebellion, as I know it to be, as one of the most important societal movements in modern history. Their international approach to getting attention is working because it is making you angry. Unfortunately, some of you are getting angry for the wrong reasons. Here is one particular facet of Extinction Rebellion’s cause that should sway the most moderate of liberals: no society should have to form a citizen’s assembly for their government to take action on something that is literally going to kill us all. What the fucking fuck, Britain? 

Have we totally forgotten about that time we made Killing In The Name Of the Christmas Number 1 single as a mega fuck-you to X-Factor? How in the living land of fuck have you all given up so easily on a problem that doesn’t come at you through your radio stations, it comes at you from the sky; it destroys our coastlines, homes, and businesses; it is the reason half of you will die of malnourishment, new diseases, and at the hand of each other.

More importantly, climate change is a hell of a lot more important than X-Factor, so why are you all being so goddamn lazy about doing something to get your government to act on this crisis? 

Part of me thinks it’s because you’re scared. The limited chance that you might be arrested as part of Extinction Rebellion might feel like a step too far for most Brits, and is the main reason that skeptics emerge around this means of making a point. It’s not like us Brits are known for making a stink. You’ll eat cold soup in fear of causing a fuss. Sadly, this macro-social behavior of obedience is why a lot of you are going to die prematurely (because of climate change).

In all fairness, I would be scared of getting arrested in the US… less so in the UK (no guns). Social issues are tackled differently here. In the United States of California, groups like Young Entertainment Activists and others are tackling the climate, while organizations like Future Majority hope to reshape the capitalist system gone awry on a national level. The US is a place where you can see change happening, so it’s easier to step outside of the lines to do so. I can’t remember the last time I saw any of us get anywhere significant with changing the British government. 

We went to war in the Middle East. We got smacked around in 2008. We let freaking Brexit happen. Boris Johnson actually became PM. Not even our most beloved celebrities seem to be doing much to make a difference… 

I think this has left a lot of you numb, relegating yourselves to council-run recycling programs and taking public transport slightly more often. Extinction Rebellion might seem like another loud group of people bothering your commute, but they are actually getting shit done, and getting your goddamn attention. If you want them to stop, start listening.

They are the only people trying to help you.  

This whole planet would be a much better place if we all stopped for a moment and started listening to why we are all so scared. Mental health is part of that conversation, so I’d like to give a nod to Russell Kane’s Boys Don’t Cry podcast for making it easier for men - all genders, really - to communicate about their emotions more openly. Along with macro-politeness, Britain also has a macro-mental health problem, which is only being exacerbated by the impact of climate chaos and Brexit alike. It’s not like we’re afraid of complaining in Britain, we just have a culture of rolling over and going “oh let’s just have a cup of tea and pretend like it’s not happening.” 

The things we fear are no longer hypothetical. Time and time again I hear that a sense of impending doom has loomed over every generation, as if that’s an excuse for doing nothing. Our grandparents should have been fearful of the Nazis. Can you imagine if we had done nothing to stop them taking over Europe? Most of us would be dead. 

The nuclear threat that overshadowed our parent’s youth, both at home and abroad, was also a fairly realistic concern. Chernobyl should have been enough to show us that nuclear power probably wasn’t the best idea we’ve ever had. Had the globe not taken a breath and done the necessary work on our nuclear reactors, we’d all be dead… 

For Millennials and younger generations, our doom will be dictated by the chaos currently caused by the collapse of the climate. It has started in the form of social polarization, leading to vast swathes of you failing to realize that survival is dependent on whether you take action now. 

Brexit has done its job. The working class are disenfranchised. The middle class are disappearing. The upper classes will be saved. Those of us sensing the end have already fled. 

I’ll admit to my own ignorance to the issues facing Britain. I left the UK to pursue a career in writing and research, and ended up helping legalize cannabis in California, something I would love to do in Britain. However, it’s not like we ever went without weed in Britain. What we really need right now is not to keep calm and carry on; what we really need is for people ready to step up and demand that action be taken to save our future. 

I recently heard Heydon Prowse speak on the fact that Britain has never had a revolution. In order for Blighty to return to her former glory, it might be about time for one of those. It’ll mean going out and doing a bit more than buying a CD, but it will hopefully ensure the preservation of our species (in case you need some motivation). Joining the ranks of Extinction Rebellion is one step toward that goal, and a pretty revolutionary way of getting shit done. 

*this piece has been edited from part of an on-going essay series; please 

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