There’s a Ridley Scott film (I know I might lose some folks, but stick with it, it will be worth it, I promise (1).)
It’s called “White Squall” and it came out in 1996. It stars the ever-watchable Jeff Bridges as a sailor and general dude.
Anyway (and SPOILERS), there’s a storm (a white squall – comes outa nowhere) and the boat is gonna sink. Some of those onboard get off, but others are trapped below. There’s a moment where Jeff, desperate, swims down and peers through a porthole, and can see his beloved trapped wife (played by Caroline Goodall), doomed with no way out and no way of being rescued. He pounds on the porthole, and she – sitting with her knees hugged to her chest, shaking with fear, looks for a second at him with ineffable bleakness and then looks away.
Only saw the film the once, during a bizarre “International Festival of the Sea” in Bristol in early 1996. But the moment has lurked, not quite an eye worm, but called to mind occasionally.
So, climate activism…
No, seriously, bear with me.
I think on some level, without going all Jungian collective unconscious on yo ass, “we” “know” that the ship is sinking and that the captains lied. We know there is no hope of escape or rescue. And so we adopt the position – the near foetal position. We adopt the soothing rituals that ‘worked’ in the past – of marches, petitions, and, yes, suffragette-style non-violent direct action. We don’t try movement-building because we don’t know how, don’t have the social base (churches, people, churches and trades unions), and it would take too long and we’d have to learn new skills and forego certain short-term pleasures and it would take too long and we don’t know how and ANYWAY IT’S THOSE EVIL CAPITALISTS OVER THERE WHO SHOULD BE FORCED TO CHANGE AND INNOVATE, NOT US BECAUSE WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS AND EVERYONE KNOWS THE WAR SHOULDN’T BE OVER AND IT SHOULD BE THE BAD GUYS WHO LOST. NOT US WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS.
Blah blah smugosphere, blah blah emotacycles, blah blah ego-fodder, blah blah Freddie Niche and his abysses and eternal returns colliding with Punxatawney Phill…
Who gonna bell the cat, how, when we aren’t even talking about it? Recently I had a letter in a “respectable” activist publication, about how we never reflect on the mega-meta patterns, and how we ought to. A single solitary response, and not a very useful one.
Nobody is interested in innovating, that I can see. (2)
We will persist with comforting rituals instead. We will hug our knees to our chest and shake, as the ship goes down.
(1) You act as if my promises were worth a bucket of warm spit? Srsly,dude…
(2) At which point people might rightly point out that my arrogance/solipsism/hubris/misanthropy/personality disorders are showing, and this innovation is/may well be happening, it’s just not happening near an embittered and frankly unpleasant old cis-het white guy. Fine, I hope they are right. I only ask that they TELL ME WHERE THESE DEBATES ARE HAPPENING so that I can lurk and learn.
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