Plane Stupid explains: why take direct action?
People often ask me why Plane Stupid takes direct action instead of lobbying our MPs like good boys and girls. Once I’ve finished superglueing myself to their flight to Tuscany, I tell that it's complicated and that everyone has their own reasons for taking action. They’re usually not satisfied with that, so in the long hours before the cops show up, I explain the four main arguments.
Direct action works. History has shown us that when there is a need for radical social change, asking those in power nicely to relinquish some control doesn’t get us very far. There would be no trade unions without the Tolpuddle martyrs, nor marches and rallies without Peterloo.
Women wouldn’t be voting without the suffragettes. Mandela would still be in jail if it wasn't for direct action against apartheid. India would still be a British colony and Rosa Park's grandkids would be at the back of the bus. Britain would be covered in new motorways and GM crops. Even if you don't agree with our methods and aims you can’t really deny that the world is a better place because of people taking direct action.
Direct action gets straight to the point. Sometimes you’re left with no choice but to take action. Developers want to bulldoze your house to build an airport. Your family will be on the streets because the banks won't re-mortgage your house. An old lady is getting mugged in front of you at the bus stop. Your boss plans to fire loads of staff to protect his bonus. The biosphere is collapsing because industrial growth keeps consuming our dwindling resources.
These aren't times to write your MP a nice letter asking whether he saw the petition you signed. There’s no time to go to the police or the courts (even if you could afford it), and there’s no betting they’d support you if you did. These are all times to take action with friends, co-workers, neighbours and complete strangers. When systems fail you, don’t fail yourself.
Representative democracy is failing. These days we don't trust politicians to fill in expenses forms so why should we trust them with the most important aspects of our lives? Businesses spend millions every year on fancy dinners and seats on the board, which gives them more of a say in how our country is run than we have. Voting once every four years is not enough: we need to regain control over our own food supplies, our jobs, our shelter, our transport systems and our futures.
Climate change isn’t an accident: it’s happening because people in power profit from it – often the very governments and businesses offering us a way out. We can't afford to defer power to Governments we didn't vote for and the corporations we didn’t ask for. We need to build direct ways of taking back control of our lives and an ethic of direct action can be a part of this.
Direct action takes responsibility for the world we see around us. Dealing with climate change is our collective responsibility. We can't leave it up to the powerful to solve it: they got us into this mess in the first place, and the money they made doing so will make sure they’re the last ones to be affected by it.
Corporate and market-based solutions, like carbon trading and green taxation, are as much about keeping those in power where they are as tackling rising greenhouse gas emissions. Direct action is about recognising the false solutions and building real alternatives; about being the change we want to see in the world.
For many direct action is a preferred way of doing things through which we can take both responsibility and control: two sides of the same coin which we unwisely let fall into another’s purse when we allow the powerful to dictate the terms of business.
We passionately believe in direct action but we also believe that it must be justifiable and this is why we compliment it with horizontal organisation, direct democracy and consensus to decide what action to take.
So while we're sorry that your flight was delayed because of what we did, we had to take action. I'll get all worthy and quote Martin Luther King here: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." See you on the barricades?