It’s a fine thing, we say, to take back control of our seeds, our food production and our lives. It’s plain that consumerism has brought us to a cliff edge. Ordinary people must gain sovereignty over methods of production, because dependency on the sovereignty of others had brought chaos. We have not been acting on the evidence of our senses, instead we have been lobbying that others – our providers – act on that evidence. We pay for the produce and ask for it to be just as we like. That is the consumerist contract.
Many in Extinction Rebellion are asking just that – that governments and corporations change their provisions to be just as they’d like. It may be that the bulk of people in the protests form a consumerist rebellion. The UK Green Party and the “educated” middle class are at the heart of that dependant outcry.
They demand the better behaviour of banks, oil companies and governments. Prominent journalists and so on have made sure that they have been very publicly arrested. The one demand they do not make is to take back sovereignty. Unlike true commons movements, such as the diggers, who simply, elegantly and truthfully dug, they demand nothing more than the changed behaviour of existing monopolies.
Yet, if people did not buy oil, oil companies would evaporate. If people did not fly, no aeroplanes could take off. Such a movement would be in the commons tradition. That tradition remains in our intrinsic morality. It is easily understood and could be inspirational. If we all shopped at market stalls, or the proper shops of skilled trades’ people, then the super market would close. Sovereignty of skill and ingenuity could be returned to the commons and life would return to our half-dead towns and villages.
If the Extinction Rebellion was rebellion against ourselves and our current ways of life, then it would prove a true rebellion. I’ve seen little evidence of that.
The School Strike for Climate asks that adults take control of their lives, their trades and their work-places – and that they begin to behave properly as adults should. It could have provided the spur to a real commons/real economic movement. Instead, we adults have cleverly betrayed the earnest eyes of children and have shrugged responsibility from ourselves to the abstract shoulders of an abstract idea – a government; a corporation. Extinction Rebellion has betrayed the School Strike, to fight what does not exist – only people and their resources exist. A corporation is an abstract idea, made physical by the very many purchases, which we ordinary adults make. To truly see the fabric of a corporation, watch a que at a super-market check-out, or count the clicks on their web sites. Viva School Strike! – but it seems to me that Extinction Rebellion, remains locked in consumerism. It expresses the outrage of the green consumer. Already corporations are re-writing mission statements to include those new “green” markets. If it’s the coming thing, then it’s theirs to be exploited. Does Extinction Rebellion ask for that exploitation? – Plainly, yes, since it asks for those corporate/government changes.
But then again, some may demand sovereignty without caring what they’d have sovereignty over and how – my life? your seeds? Do they ask for a simple transference of power from old vices to a new, but ill-defined virtue? If I have a skill, then it is natural to want sovereignty over my workshop, my farm, my mill, or my potter’s wheel. What we do creates the culture and what we do is specific. But undefined sovereignty is dangerous. It creates a new enclosure.
Every little sovereign, over every little field, or baker’s oven must be bound by the greater law – the law of the commons. Over centuries, commons have been broken and scattered in the spoil heaps of enclosure. In an enclosure, my field, or my work-place becomes my sovereign castle, in which I can behave as badly as I choose, and in which no trespassers may be lawfully permitted to say otherwise.
Here is the true rebellion – as the children say – of ancestors and descendants, embodied in contemporary behaviour. As the children also say, behave! By all that’s holy, dig like a leveller! Sing the joy of the ol’ sun ‘n moon illuminating a durable, responsive culturing of our mothering soil. And they say, be kind.

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