From civil rights to Vietnam, protest used to really mean something. For today's youth, it's little more than an excuse to flaunt their virtue on social media
I always wanted to be a protestor when I grew up. As a well-behaved child I was in awe of the American civil rights movement and then as a rebellious tweenager I wanted nothing more than to run wild with the anti-Vietnam war protestors whose appeal was more feral but whose cause seemed nearly as noble.
Then I read about Cable Street and in my small way tried to emulate them by showing up and yelling at the National Front at Lewisham in 1977, becoming intimately acquainted with the wrong end of a police horse for my troubles. In my twenties I admired the miners with their beautiful banners and the dignity that only comes with physical labour.
But insurrection isn’t what it used to be. And rather than showing us a heroism to aspire to, the more I see of the Extinction Rebellion mob the more I despise them. Two weeks of traffic-clogging clowning is now on the agenda and the only upside is that this dubious cause will have suffered irreparable harm in the eyes of the public by the time it’s over, leaving we baby-eating believers in economic growth to merrily have our way with the poor defenceless earth.
To co-opt the language of the Woke themselves, I find these people mired in both white and class privilege; there’s a big cross-over with the over-praised and under-productive cry-bullies who are forever coming over all Violet Elizabeth Bott, threatening to thwceam and thwceam till they’re sick unless the howwid transphobe/Islamophobe gets de-platformed.
A good number of these types spend their lives looking for offence to take when they’d be better off looking for a job and paying the taxes that go towards keeping society civilised. Their Chicken Lickenish warnings about the end of the are far less convincing than they would be coming from a less alarmist cohort.
Still, it’s a nice day out for the police, who used to be so heavy-handed when policing we anti-racist protestors in the 1970s, actually killing the young teacher Blair Peach. Surely there’s some happy medium between murdering protestors and dancing with them?
The rot set in with the Yippies – the drug-addled American after-birth of the sensible Sixties rebels – who believed that spectacle and silliness were a valid part of protest, throwing pies at politicians and putting a pig ("Pigasus the Immortal") up for President. And just last month hundreds of cyclists staged a die-in in London featuring three horse-drawn hearses carrying coffins and signs saying "asthma", "crashes" and "obesity" in a none too subtle snipe at drivers. We can see the latest in this level of pathetic attention-seeking in stunts such as the fire engine which sprayed the Treasury with red paint last week.
What a shame for Extinction Rebellion that their antics share news bulletins with the ongoing protests of the brave and beautiful young people of Hong Kong as they take on the might of a monster state determined to rob them of their civil rights. (Also, incidentally, the world’s biggest polluter, but Extinction Rebellion never let facts get in the way of a family-size hissy-fit.)
With their freedom flags and solemn songs, they recall the days when protest was a matter of life and death, not of huff and puff. If I was a youngster today, these are the people who would inspire me – but I can see that to the special snowflakes the dummy-spitting which passes as climate protest is far more fun.
You can virtue-signal in safety and sneak into McDonald’s for sustenance while your comrades simultaneously stage a protest against fast food in the doorway (talk about having your Coke and drinking it!) before adding it to your social media feed and having mummy come and pick you up in the Range Rover.
"The revolution will not be televised" went an old song from the hardcore heroic years of protest – but Toytown tantrums and virtue-signalling Voguing were made for Instagram.