“I wish everyone who said they believed in angels would actually believe in insects. – Jay Griffiths
Sometimes a small book can have more impact than the weightiest tome and that is the case with Jay Griffiths eloquent call to action Why Rebel. This slim volume of essays celebrates the wonder of the natural world, while also mourning its passing and urges us to act before it is too late. Griffiths’ writing is intrinsically beautiful, she is a master craftsperson when it comes to the written word, sadly some of what she writes about, is not beautiful but tragic and frightening.
In the first essay; The solar flares of fascism she is forensic and poetic in her analysis of the rise of libertarian fascism, highlighting the Alt-rights love of “Alt-facts”: “…Take a truth (climate change, Rwandan geonocide) and simply declare it a lie. (A ‘myth’ a ‘hoax’ a ‘scam’ a ‘swindle’.) Sit back and wait a minute, and a very gullible press with little editorial responsibility will happily help you tell the public they have been conned. No one wants to feel they have been duped so, hey presto! You have a ‘war of ideas’. Without evidence, argument or proof; without expertise of knowledge”. (Griffiths, 2021, p.11)
She examines the rise of neoliberal fascism from Italian futurism to the ugly, anti-feminist, racist, homophobic, nature loathing, hyper-masculine polemic of today, as manifested by the likes of Donald Trump and his cronies. Such figures she argues are Deus Invictus personified, the god unbound:
…Typified in Libertarianianism and personified in Trump’s solar solipsism, with his backdrop of gold curtains, Twitter-roaring against the unbearable restraints of truth, respect or social justice, Deus Invictus is a ruthless enemy to the living world, the god unchained to scorch the earth. What has been set in motion is an ideology of monism without plurality or otherness, furious for its own freedom, an idiot divinity unleashed upon the world.
There is also love and beauty in these essays: “Eros is coursing through the forest. The forest is mewing with its jaguar life. (p31). Poetry and metaphor emerge as integral in understanding the natural world and all its rich importance to us. Other ways of thinking, indigenous ways of thinking are championed, humour and satire are also championed, as a way to carry the truth forward. Old stories, like the myth of the Fisher King, are utilised to explain the new tragedy. Powerful connections are made through personal stories; the experience of witnessing the beautiful death of coral, (it glows electric blue), or the tortured existence of orangutan mothers whose lives are subject to constant stress for the benefits of tourism. Politics is abstract, but the personal is powerful. The personal essay, the personal story can carry much weight.
Many people find protest and civil disobedience to be something they are not personally comfortable with. Protest is painted as radical, even criminal but when we are facing something like the current threat, protest should become a duty for every one of us: “Like Ghandi, XR believes that ‘civil disobedience is a sacred duty,…” What could be more sacred than speaking up for life on this planet? When Jay Griffiths tells us her story of involvement with Extinction Rebellion it is impossible not to feel deeply moved and inspired. Many of the essays in this little volume have been printed elsewhere and the essay that appears here as A time of rebellion can also be read here: This is rebellion I urge readers to click the link and read Griffiths powerful account, it is impossible not to feel moved. If you just want an insight into the thinking of people who are willing to disrupt and get arrested, read that essay. If you want a summary of the horror the planet is facing, read that essay. If you want to feel inspired and hopeful, read that essay.
This is an emergency and if ever there was a time to rebel that time is now:
Only when it is dark can you see the stars, and they are lining up now to write rebellion across the skies. Why rebel? Because nature is not a hobby. It is the life on which we depend.” (p.4)
I have loved Griffiths powerful, intelligent writing in these essays. I have loved her ability to capture the beauty and the tragedy. To distil truth from obscurification, and I have loved that she has left me inspired and galvanised. This has been a really great Gaia/nature read and as a book that talks about activism I guess I can use it to cross off the Get Active square in the book bingo since that square can refer to reading a book about activism or a book about physical activity in nature, hopefully, I will read a title that also fits the second definition as well before the year is out.
If you are interested in a downloadable pdf of the book bingo you can get it here on this page. If you are interested in signing up for the Gaia reading challenge, you can also do it on that page or simply sign up here via the comments and leave a link to whatever social media platform you want to use to record your reading. You do not have to use the book bingo, it is just a bit of fun, you only have to read one or as many nature-themed reads as you would like through 2022.
Gaia/ Nature book bingo