Individual choice is an essential feature of any humane society but it can never be an absolute moral principle. On rare occasions individual choice is trumped by moral duty. You are obligated to take action otherwise you become evil like the evil you are presented with. For instance, if you walk into your home and your daughter is being raped, you don’t walk into the kitchen to make yourself a cup of tea. You are horrified and you intervene. If you walk past a house and see kids being sexually abused in the rooms you don’t think you need to get to work – you ring the police straight away. You intervene. Of course, technically you have a choice but no one with any self respect would walk by. This is not who you are and you act.
Something we all agree on is that sometimes you do not have a choice.
I am not being dogmatic or extremist here, forcing my view upon you. I am saying the opposite – that the act of giving yourself choice when there is clearly no choice is dogmatic and extremist – you are absolutizing individual choice above any sense of morality or humanity.
This is where we are at with the climate in 2022. To claim otherwise is an act of moral denial much more pernicious than the denial of the scientific reality of what is happening. The evil we face is replicated in our decision not to act to stop the evil – to not act means we become complicit in evil. We become radically disconnected from the other – and so also from our true self – our self that accepts the demands of morality.
In this sense the recent film Don’t Look Up is a distraction. It enables those in the climate movements to indulge in their condemnation of those who deny the science, while being in denial themselves on the most basic moral imperative – the obligation to resist.
The reason for this denial is nothing other than privilege – meaning the affordance of material security enables you to ignore your moral obligations to others. You can choose to be evil because your privilege protects you from the social and political consequences. Not for ever, of course. Privilege always ends up destroying itself through the stupidity of its selfishness.
I met a leading member of an American indigenous tribe a while back. The first thing he told me was that his tribe had been subject to genocide for 500 years. Women were raped and buried, men beaten and shot, children abducted and forced to adopt another culture. For them, he told me, resistance is not a choice – when their land is taken from them, there is no choice but resistance. Again, technically he does have a choice – he can stand by and allow the rape and killing, but morally speaking he has no choice. He is not privileged and therefore has no choice.
There must be a place for compassion here. Albert Camus said words along the lines of “if I had to choose between my grandmother and justice I would choose my grandmother”. But he could only say this because his whole life philosophy was based upon the pursuit of justice in a cruel and arbitrary world into which we have been thrown.
It is true then that if you are caring for the very young or very old you need not enter into civil resistance. If you are traumatised or mentally unstable then it is best not to go onto the frontline. But for everyone else – it’s justice or death. That’s what Camus is saying. He fought in the French Resistance in World War Two so he walked his talk.
In the Revolution
of our lives
Free. No nonsense. Change your mind anytime.
The climate movement then is a space of privilege in that it enables people to engage in displacement activities to avoid the necessity of civil resistance.
You know but you choose not to act.
You make a choice when there is no choice.
In contrast, to enter into civil resistance is not only a necessary moral but more importantly, an act of spiritual wholeness – a refusal to disintegrate your inner self through living the lie that you have a choice.
I do several talks a week speaking to people about the crisis – that we only have three years, if that, in which to act. That if we fail to act, we allow life on this planet to be destroyed for hundreds of thousands of years. That there is no greater crime because there is none.
In break-out groups afterwards, week after week, I hear privileged people give their excuses to not act.
There is always the same underlying structure: “My world is around me and out there is the climate. My priority is “my world'' and the “out there” is not my priority. Only their privilege enables them to believe that “their world” and “out there” are not the same thing. They are able to deny that when they enable the murder of the other they set in motion the murder of themselves. They engage in the ultimate crime – to “other” their own children – they murder their own world. There is no greater immorality, no greater evil than this.
A few thousand people read my FB posts but only a few will email to be involved in civil resistance. Be honest with yourselves: the screen is your protection. We are all drawn to be voyeurs. You look at evil to give you meaning, but it will destroy you if you continue to refuse to act against it.
You may think this is harsh, or even brutal.
You may think it is what a student, who criticised me, called “fear messaging”. But this is not a message and the fear is not rooted in what I say but in reality itself – not everything is a social construction. There are some things which are independent of the infantile desire that only the things you like exist, things such as murder and death.
No, I would say I am expressing tough love.
You have your hand in the fire but you have not yet felt the pain – the signal has only just started to reach the brain.
I am simply telling you to take it out before you burn yourself to death. Not yourself as a physical being, but yourself as the essence of what gives you your self-respect. To lose this is the biggest loss in the human experience: the loss of being able to say when you die that “I did what I had to do”.
Act before it is too late – not for the world but for yourself. And, through entering resistance, you will realise you and the world are actually the same thing.
Here’s that email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Civil Resistance projects are now taking off in most western countries.