Extinction Rebellion: A wind of mad wisdom for the planet

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

Always more present, embarrassing for the obstacles to save the world, sometimes disheveled, Extinction Rebellion is also part of the path of wisdom.

From action to action, the environmental collective Extinction Rébellion (XR) has established itself in the media, and grown very quickly since its creation in October 2018 in London, reaching 100 activists worldwide, including 000 in France. Fake blood on the steps of the Trocadéro and occupation at the foot of a La Défense tower last spring, blocking of the Pont de Sully at the beginning of the summer, capture of the Italy 15 shopping center in Paris at the beginning of October, operation "Block Friday” at the end of November… XR made an impression. So many opportunities to get messages across for the protection of the planet. What XR activists demand: awareness of the disaster announced in the first place, but also the immediate reduction of carbon emissions, the cessation of the destruction of ecosystems and the establishment of proactive citizens' assemblies on these objectives. Ambitious approach… like others for a long time, but in a new communicative, festive, and above all non-violent spirit in a more assertive way, in line with the thinkers of civil disobedience. “With Love and Rage”: this is the emblematic formula that closes any exchange between the members of the collective. In other words also, with “Empathy and Determination”, which is reminiscent of the essence of “irritated compassion” embodied by certain figures of the Himalayan Buddhist pantheon. A look back at the movement's political and spiritual sources of inspiration.

To the sources of non-violence

"Extinction Rebellion humbly follows the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King", poses Roger Hallam, one of the British founders of XR, in an interview granted to The Guardian. Two thinkers and spiritual actors of non-violence in politics. The first in South Africa then in India for the respect and independence of its people, nourished by Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity or even by a very inspired Tolstoy... And the second in the United States for Civil Rights, in the footsteps of the first and going so far as to stay in India to better grasp the substance of the satyagraha. As a backdrop for each of them: the thought of the American philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), himself influenced by his readings on Hinduism and Buddhism, author of Civil Disobedience, a founding essay that would later become the Mahatma's bedside book. A crossover scholar of intellectual and spiritual influences, between the East and the West, as claimed by the founders of XR. And like Gandhi and Martin Luther King before them, the activists of this collective intend to act without violence, but without ever flinching, at the risk of going to prison (they are preparing for it!), and in the name of a quest and a dimension greater than themselves, with absolute respect for others, opponents never conceived as enemies, as well as all living beings. What could be higher than wanting to save the world? But no idealism, however, nonviolent civil disobedience must also be an effective strategy, according to them. It would even be the best to convince the population, rally everyone to the cause, the fight being waged for everyone.

From interdependence to action

Another claimed inspiration of the movement: the American academic Joanna Macy, one of the theorists of deep ecology and ecopsychology, who also draws on Buddhism. It proposes to change the relationship to oneself, to others and to the world in order to rebuild a more sustainable civilization. We are living, according to her, in the time of the post-industrial "great turning point" which is based in particular on the citizen's awareness of an unavoidable "change of direction" and paradigm, which should bring about a society that is simply compatible with the living. She evokes a necessary "work that connects" and is precisely explained in Buddhist News “It's about empowering people to feel and share with others their deepest feelings about the dangers that threaten our planet. Far from destroying us, only this feeling allows us to discover and experience the innate connections that link us with the systemic self-healing forces of the web of life. » (1)

A beautiful lesson in interdependence between all beings, all parts of life today, between yesterday's and tomorrow's generations too. But afterwards, what to do, how not to give in to despondency despite everything and commit to it for good? Starting by cultivating wonder, before opening our eyes to the alerts, the emergencies of the planet and to “suffer with” the wounded world, in the primary sense of “compassion”. This is what makes it possible to “change your perspective, then to engage”, she explains. “Recognition and wonder is an essential process common to all religions and wisdom traditions. To change yourself and change the world, according to Gandhi's well-known idea. And it is finally to a joyful inner and collective revolution, to which she invites us, thanks to the feeling of fighting together and uniting for the best. Precisely the one that seems to be experienced within Extinction Rebellion.

On the ground, a liberating bliss

Singing, dancing, costumes… Many of the operations of the XR collective have something festive about them, and if the stagings provide beneficial visibility to the actions, they make it possible as much to unite the troops as to communicate the enthusiasm to outside observers. Even if it is indeed a question of a very dark message on the dramatic extinction of the species and our civilization consequently, against which the activists rebel. And when they are posted in tight rows, entangled, stowed to block strategic places, they are not kidding! They are also seriously trained in the techniques of peaceful blockade.

The activists of this collective intend to act without violence, but without ever flinching, at the risk of going to prison (they are preparing for it!), and in the name of a quest and a dimension greater than themselves. , with absolute respect for others, opponents never conceived as enemies, as well as all living beings.

But fighting remains a celebration, driven by the prospect that an outcome is possible and that we must move forward together. Camille Behaghel, architect specializing in eco-housing and activist, was able to taste the joy. “Spirituality and ecology are the two pillars of my life and I quickly recognized myself in this very young movement, full of positive energy which was built spontaneously and very horizontally. Exhausted but refreshed, he had just returned from a meeting with Amma, from a visit to France, when we met him. Its role during the last occupation of the Place du Châtelet in October: "Peace keaper", precisely to explain to passers-by (generally sensitive) or motorists (more impatient) their approach as ambassadors of endangered species, without which our own survival is not possible. He went so far as to disguise himself as a lion, to embody an emblem of the animal world, and savors the sometimes tribal side of Extinction Rebellion: "Often, operations begin and end with a time of sharing and celebration, he explains. -he. There is a great fraternity within the collective. And in discussions, for decision-making, non-violence remains the principle of reference. This is surely what was able to attract spiritually sensitive people who, until then, had not been very involved in collective actions”. Well-understood interdependence and compassion in action know how to convince and forge effective and inspired militancy from the depths.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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