Sphincter Rebellion


It’s easy enough to laugh at Extinction Rebellion oddbods dancing around peculiarly as if they are shaking off fleas (are they?) or singing jarringly in their pop-up choirs. It’s easy enough to get furious with them for their selfishness as they block the bridge you wish to cross on the way to hospital – with ridiculous meditation sessions and ritual bus-gluing. It’s easy enough to pin down their funders and to understand why someone as unappealing as Aileen Getty (pictured) – who pledged $600,000 (£487,000) to the Climate Emergency Fund which is funding Extinction Rebellion and other grass roots climate groups – feels she needs the acknowledgement. Because reasoned argument with them is virtually impossible above the sound of wailing and tambourines, it’s much more difficult to address the activists’ arguments head-on, and to prove that they are the wastrels they seem. Nonetheless, let’s have a go, shall we?

Helpfully, one of the founder members of the group, Stuart Basden, has let the cat out of the bag and told the world that, in his words:

“Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the Climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life. Delusions (of white supremacy, patriarchy, Eurocentrism, hetero sexism/heteronormativity and class hierarchy) have become ingrained in all of us, taught to us from a very young age. The task of Extinction Rebellion is to dispel these delusions. We need to cure the causes of the infection, not just alleviate the symptoms. To focus on the climate’s breakdown (the symptom) without focusing attention on these toxic delusions (the causes) is a form a denialism. Worse, it’s a racist and sexist form of denialism, that takes away from the necessary focus of the need for all of us to de-colonise ourselves.”


So, Extinction Rebellion is political after all.

In his diatribe Basden comes across as a hard-left Marxist. He’s just another watermelon – green on the outside and red under the skin, suffering from the delusions of state-meddling, dependency theory and the paranoiac fraud of Gramscian cultural hegemony. Yet Extinction Rebellion purports to be an ‘apolitical network’ that wants to go ‘beyond politics’. If the climate crisis is a genuine one (and many would argue that it is lesser or not) then surely collaboration across political divides rather than spouting a consistently failed political ideology is the only realistic way to achieve change? Marx is an infamous dead-end – the leisure he talks about depends on high levels of capitalism and without that capitalism the leisure quality sucks (a game of footie is only fun after a decent breakfast, not after hours foraging in bins).

Basden argues that climate catastrophe is going to happen anyway: “When a bus is driving with a certain momentum towards a person, it gets clearer and clearer that it will hit the person. After a certain point, it’s inevitable. And that’s where we stand now, with regards to the momentum of climatic change.” So why are we bothering to be green in the first place? Separating waste is a right old palaver and is clearly a waste of time if Basden’s grim prophecy is correct. Why are Extinction Rebellion wasting these end days rebelling? If we’re in a wake already for Planet Earth, then let’s bloody well enjoy ourselves. More beer, more sex and more V8 engines, please. Let the cows fart – let them have a sphincter rebellion.

Extinction Rebellion calls itself ‘participatory, decentralised, and inclusive’. Yet Basden in his rant tells Extinction Rebellion acolytes what messages they should/shouldn’t be communicating on their banners. Is he Seumas Milne in disguise? Extinction Rebellion is clearly highly centralised as their demo maps show. There’s a clear hierarchy. Hardly a grassroots, spontaneous rebellion then, is it? That’s not cool or inspiring, that’s Bolshevik. No wonder the salad-dodging division of Extinction Rebellion gave up after a couple of hours and tucked into Bic Macs and apple pies before catching the 15.32 back to Cobham…

Extinction Rebellion seeks to ‘halt biodiversity loss and reduce emissions to net zero by 2025’ by ushering in a sustainable new existence, which isn’t new at all. The old druidic world that they want us to “pause to enjoy” is full of smoke and pollutants, as anyone who has visited a remote, smoky African village or Filipino slum can testify to. Worse than that, it’s a bloody awful existence. As someone who’s spent weeks without power on a Venezuelan finca, I can assure you it gets very smelly and sweaty damn fast, and even after a few days the last thing you want to do is sway around in some God-awful weirdo ballet to humming and chanting – you want to kill the bastards whose ideology got you to that state of hell in the first place. You drink loads of rum, you smoke loads of cigars, you feel rough as hell after a while and those who are prone to mental illness fall by the wayside far faster than they would in the capitalistic first world with its comforts, pills and entertainments. If camping’s so great why do we have hotels?

Kindly, Basden digs the grave of Extinction Rebellion in his last refrain with a useful confirmatory wail of projection: “Never say we’re a climate movement. Because we’re not. We’re a Rebellion. And we’re rebelling to highlight and heal from the insanity that is leading to our extinction.” All that tearful Basden does here is hint at his own insanity – he forewarns us of Extinction Rebellion’s imminent extinction. For no group offering no alternative can rebel for long before facing its own extinction.

What do these “rebels” all have in common?

Greta is a whiner. Basden is a whiner. Extinction Rebellion whines. The bottom line is they all have one thing in common – they’re moaners on the losing side, with a penchant for exaggeration. When will these whining, scaredy-cat pessimists get it into their heads that through sheer entrepreneurship and buccaneering we humans have dragged ourselves out of the swamps forever and can now get access to incredible tech, to T-cell Immunotherapies and Interoperability? I can start my car by pressing a pretty image on my smartphone screen. My friend John has a fridge with a giant computer screen that can play television and display shopping lists, photos and weather reports. Science, optimism and bravery are the only hopes we have of avoiding the Armageddon of which they preach – either finding a new planet human beings can escape to, or solving the issues that face us on earth using recuperative green technologies, spurred on by market need. Peddling fear is so passé – ask Lord Adonis.

Extinction Rebellion is a con that will evaporate in time. Give it time. As Basden whines, “my own accountability cannot be fully paid through this”.

Dominic Wightman is the Editor of Country Squire. 

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