Crisis, elitism, and contempt for people


This is not a new thing. For decades elites have held the ‘little people’ in contempt, considering them too stupid to understand, and certainly too stupid to decide.

We saw it with Brexit, where a great many people said it was ‘too complex an issue’ to be decided by referendum, and then deriding us Brexiteers as uneducated thickos.

And now we’re seeing it again. Another paternalistic elite that thinks they have the right not just to tell us what to think and do, but to physically prevent people from going about their daily lives.

Extinction Rebellion think of their right to protest, without understanding that right ends where other people’s rights begin. The British are a liberal people. By and large, we support the right to protest. We do not support the serious disruption of people’s lives, preventing them from getting to work and to hospital appointments.

This isn’t just inconsiderate, it’s downright elitist. It’s elitist because it’s accompanied by two other things: contempt and hypocrisy.

Contempt for ordinary people who get up for work in the dark and then find themselves stuck in Canning Town tube station or Shadwell DLR station because Extinction Rebellion want to use the disruption of their lives as a protest tool.

Hypocrisy because they use a diesel generator to heat their patio heaters, fly in to protest against carbon emissions, pop into McDonalds, sleep in plastic tents, and take trains and buses to travel and disrupt that same public transport.

They think they have a right to dictate to people what they should be concerned about. They think that if they raise the alarm, we should drop everything to listen to them. They think that if they get in the way, we should be grateful to them. They think that their good-intentions, or age, or something else about them means that the ordinary rules don’t apply to them.

Well, I don’t think it will work. Not only is this wave of direct action not winning people over, it’s turning off increasing numbers of people who had sympathy with the cause, but not the methods. Ordinary, decent, working people don’t want to be associated with Extinction Rebellion and the elitist hypocrisy it represents.

The thing that Extinction Rebellion doesn’t seem to have grasped is that we live in a democracy. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, or ahead of the curve, or something else – but it’s my view that in a democracy the power rests with the people. If you want to change something, you need to persuade people. It’s simply wrong to try to impose things on them, especially if your demands – like Extinction Rebellion’s – would cause economic ruin.

Brexit has made it fashionable to think otherwise. We even have MPs who want to subvert the democratic vote in order to force us all to do what they want.

There’s a General Election coming. In that General Election, people are going to vote for candidates and parties that best represent their concerns and have the most persuasive policies.

And if Extinction Rebellion really wants change, they ought to stop their childish tantrum and get on with persuading people of their stance. Persuading people that the so-called ‘climate crisis’ is more important than all the issues they ordinarily base their vote on.

I can anticipate the reply, because I’ve made this argument before. My belief that it should be the people who decide is not a new thing. You’ve heard it before too.

“It’s too important to let the people decide. They can’t understand the complexity of the issue”, they will say.

But what Extinction Rebellion really means is that they either can’t be bothered – because they’re so important that they don’t feel they should have to persuade anyone – or else they know that their arguments will fail and they want to inflict their prosperity-destroying, alarmist measures on us regardless.