Monday, August 31, 2009

Protest Away!

I've said it before: one of the best things about Bloom is that it puts me in touch with like-minded people, people who see many things wrong with the world we live in and therefore want change.

One of these people is Francis Irving. He's got a first class in mathematics from UK's Oxford University. The degree included advanced courses in Complexity and Cryptography, Lattice Theory, Relativity and Gödel's Theorem. Eeeps! Very intimidating.

Among other things, Francis is the founder of Public Whip, a popular democracy website which makes it easy to find out how an MP has voted in the UK House of Commons. The site was the Winner in the New Statesman New Media Awards in 2004. He's also given his relatives, as Christmas presents, a year’s education for a girl in Africa.

But I find him also very quirky (or "whimsical", as a friend used to label me because she found me strange) - he likes Copenhagen's bicycle culture, street fashion from the Sartorialist and, Cambodia.

I like people like that: smart but with a sincere interest in life, people who are men and women of action, and not just interested in theories and theorems.

Francis is also a big believer in environmental protection. I get a lot of my information on climate change and what to do about it from his news feed

For instance this one by's Dave Pollard: "The Fallacy of Climate Activism: Adam Sacks writing in Grist explains eloquently why climate activists are misunderstanding and misrepresenting the core problem causing climate change: it's not greenhouse gas emissions, it's our entire industrial civilization that needs to be stopped."

Pollard also quotes Keith Farnish's An Uncivilized Solution, which tells us to
1. Reconnect with the real world, so that we can understand our close relationships with it in everything we do. The more you connect, the more you will realise how unreal civilization is.
2. Live in such a way that we do not contribute to the expansion of the global economy, reducing our impact on the natural environment in the process. Be aware that authority figures within the system, such as political leaders and corporations, will attempt to provide you with ‘green’ advice: this advice is designed to ensure that civilization continues, and should be ignored.
3. Create the conditions so that others may also change through education and, even more importantly, undermining the tools that civilization uses to keep us part of the machine. Don’t waste time protesting: this changes nothing – that is why it is legal.

I disagree with the last point. Protest does make a difference, sometimes. Francis has proof.

This is what happened at one protest he took part in:
"Then, a security guard comes in, and asks me to stop handing out the leaflets. I’m quite shocked, angry, but I immediately and intuitively know that he can’t stop me....It’s nothing to do with you being right, and much more to do with how the story would look in brief summary form in the headlines of a newspaper. “Parliament tries to stop people copying the speeches made by their own MPs” is never going to look good. Nor “Thrown out of Freedom of Expression seminar for handing out leaflets”.

"I raise my voice, and step towards the remenants of the panel chatting to people from the audience. “I’m in a Freedom of Expression seminar. You can’t stop me handing out leaflets.” I refuse to leave, he knows I could make more fuss than he could deal with in such a sympathetic crowd, and he leaves. The last leaflet goes to the last person and the job is done. Now I’m friends with Tim from CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade), and we leave together."
Eventually, Francis and fellow campaigners succeeded in forcing Reed Elselvier, the publisher of The Lancet and New Scientist, to ditch its subsidiary business running arms fairs. Super. Protest away, people!

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