Pissed-off Toff observes the eco-loons of Extinction Rebellion at large in London, and reflects that they are merely in thrall to the same new religion as the rest of us … only just rather more so.
The police now like to keep a helicopter more or less permanently in the air above Westminster. It makes the place feel like a war zone. The last week has been especially bad, with the machine hovering and circling every moment of every day. This time the coppers are up there observing the antics of the Extinction Rebellion ‘climate change’ protesters. But it’s an entirely pointless exercise, since the numerous policemen on the ground can see quite well enough what’s going on. My theory is that they just enjoy an outing in the sky; any excuse will do; and too bad if the non-stop noise of it drives everyone to distraction. Anyhow, rather than fantasising incessantly about shooting down the accursed chopper, I thought I’d go and see what all the fuss was about.
Famously, the members of Extinction Rebellion – aka XR – want to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by the year 2025, this despite the fact that doing so would take us straight back to the Middle Ages, but with about ten times more mouths to feed now than there were then. Their agenda would be almost amusing, if it weren’t for the fact that they are not alone in their lunacy … because they are merely the most extreme sect of the apocalyptic new religion which has more or less replaced Christianity.
I refer, of course, to the creed according to which man-made carbon emissions are causing global warming that will destroy life on earth. Now almost universally accepted in the US and in the Puritan countries of western Europe, but viewed with the greatest scepticism elsewhere, this is the madness of our age … a madness which sees us already embarked on a programme of economic self-harm on a massive scale.
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Re which, more another time; but meanwhile, off to Trafalgar Square, camera at the ready, to observe this millenarian cult in action. To the south of the square, Whitehall is cordoned off and there are police vans and policemen in high-visibility jackets everywhere. Now that the disruptive antics of XR have been declared illegal, a row of demonstrators is seated on the kerb, under arrest, with one policeman for each offender … or, if you like, for each martyr to the cause.
Nearby, a small crowd of clowns and hippies is gathered in the middle of the road. Some of them are holding up placards. “Keep calm & build an ark,” reads one of these, in biblical fashion. “Corporate greed will kill us all,” says another, usefully informing us at the same time that this pilgrim hails from the West Yorkshire diocese of XR. “They want you to be burnt alive,” announces a third message, gleefully conjuring up images of hellfire. They are of all ages, these zealots. But here’s a funny thing. They are all white. Nowhere is there a single coloured face to be seen.
The focus of attention of this all-white assembly is a grey-haired priestess figure dressed in a shabby multi-coloured patchwork garment. “Let us remember,” she intones, pausing to let the congregation repeat her words. “Let us remember,” they duly say. “Our love,” she continues. “Our love,” they repeat. “For all humanity.” “For all humanity.” “In all the world.” “In all the world.”
The opening part of the ceremony over, another priest-like figure leads the congregation in a hymn. “Power to the people,” they sing, over and over again, until the helicopter, which has so far been hovering over Parliament Square, moves in this direction, the din it makes drowning out the incantation.
In Trafalgar Square, the police are also everywhere, and the legend ‘Norfolk Constabulary’ on one of the white vans makes it clear that forces have been drafted in from all over the country, at a cost of many millions. Here and there are individuals wearing jackets announcing that they are ‘independent legal observers’ … though what they are meant to be observing and whether they are here at the behest of the police or of XR is not clear.
On top of the plinth under Nelson’s Column three girls keep watch over placards bearing various messages of ecological import. They are very pretty, and everything about them suggests that they have been privately educated. Nearby, a group of young hippies sings along to the accompaniment of a guitar. Something about them suggests privilege, too.
In the middle of the square, everyone is again white. Many of them are dressed in homespun tat; hair tends to be worn long and grey, or in dreadlocks; beards are in favour; going barefoot would seem to be a sign of special virtue; and there is the obligatory female loon suckling her infant in public, a swollen white breast prominently displayed.
Someone with a loudspeaker urges those present to form ‘affinity groups’ in which vital environmental issues can be discussed. Two other people hug each other in a prolonged embrace of ecologically-inspired love.
It occurs to me that I am witnessing a neo-pagan festival of a vaguely Celtic nature. A festival, it would seem, for the white middle classes with time on their hands. “Where are you guys from?” says one pilgrim to another, asking just the question that was on my mind. “Winchester,” answers the man. And wherever I look, there are clownish figures who, I suspect, hail mainly from the prosperous home counties and who appear to be untroubled by the demands of ordinary employment.
By now it’s five o’clock, and like me, many of the XR people are thinking of returning home after a fun day-trip. The same congregation is still assembled at the north end of Whitehall, and as I pass them they strike up with a soul song. “Bring me your broken heart, that I may share your sorrow too,” they chant, time and time again. In front of me two girls dressed for the hippy trail and speaking with posh accents are heading back home … to Hampshire, perhaps, there to ask Daddy for an increase in their allowances; because all this protesting is terribly expensive.
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Walking across Green Park while the helicopter buzzed infuriatingly overhead, I reflected that the madness of Extinction Rebellion is only relative. Because at the very end of the premiership of the unspeakable Theresa May, Parliament blithely enacted a law which, if implemented, will also bring about zero carbon emissions and therefore the destruction of the economy; not by 2025 as XR wants, but by 2050. In other words, Parliament entirely accepts the same religion as Extinction Rebellion, and differs only in wishing to enforce the observance of it with slightly less zeal. The difference is merely that between mad … and very mad.
Which reminds me. It being well past six o-clock, it’s time for a stiff G&T and an hour or so at the grand piano. Not a bad combo; and a way, of sorts, to preserve the few remaining shreds of my sanity. Plus, for today at any rate, the helicopter has gone. God be praised!