They are supposed to be SOCIAL movements, not personal ones: Of McNulty, metrics and #MeOnly

Warning – incoherent-and-dashed-off-when I-should-be-thinking-and-writing-about-Something-Else rant

Measuring “success” of social movements is notoriously difficult. Did a law get passed? Repealed? Did social attitudes change? Over what timescale? Who did what to what effect? Or did things change BACK, or not change (not all social movements are ‘progressive’!). And on and on.

But sometimes an organisation comes along (calling itself a movement – looking at you, XR) with some very specific goals. Complete decarbonisation of the UK by 2025. “Tell the Truth” and all that. Can’t be bothered to look for the third one.

And they also give specific numbers of how many people they will “mobilise”.

And so it did not come to pass.

Pivot – In The Wire (what, you have not seen it? But, but, you’re basically functionally illiterate when it comes to understanding how bureaucracies, power etc works. Sort yerself out, goddammit) one of the central characters is a self-centred and uber-competent cop called Jimmie McNulty. He has to be repeatedly reminded that it is Not All About Him. (No, I never wince and cover my eyes while watching those scenes. Why do you ask?)

Well, when it comes to talking about the relative success/failure of XR, I fell like I am talking to early, pre-change Jimmie McNulty (it’s debatable how much he DOES change, but that’s for another time perhaps).

You try to engage in a conversation about XR and whether it has “succeeded” and you get the following (names redacted, obvs)

I can honestly say that I have met many very intellectually & politically curious & open people through XR on here & irl. AAAA & BBBB are probably the most intelligent people I’ve ever encountered who have delved into Gramscian & anarchist writing, out of their comfort zone


XR has done way more than most and I am still part of it …?

It reminds me of a moment in late 2010, when I met someone who had heard me predict that “Manchester Climate Action” would basically disintegrate (and it did). And this person triumphantly said to me “you were wrong, I am still involved in climate activism.”

What I should have said (but was so flabbergasted I did not have the wit) was “It. Is. Not. About. YOU. It is about the social movement organisation that no longer functions to inspire, retain, skill-up, connect, and that plays a role in socio-cultural, socio-political, socio-economic and socio-technical change. They are called SOCIAL movements, not “personal” movements. What you have got out of it, whether you are still involved, is actually a lot less important than you think. Maybe google solipsism.”

End of rant. Sorry for tpyos and spittle-flecked paragraphs.

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