Easter Weekend in London saw massive mobilisation of the British people. In sharp contrast to the childishness, bickering and arrogance of our political classes in recent years, the past week has given us a peaceful yet powerful expression of the true spirit of the Brits – focussed on respectful discourse, tolerance, collaboration, non-violent action and compassion. Just as with the massive pro-EU demonstration recently, the people took to the streets and showed the world how so many of us really feel.
Extinction Rebellion played their hand skilfully, clearly having learnt the hard lessons of past actions such as Occupy. The authorities have been spending money preparing for post-Brexit riots, but instead found themselves faced with truly peaceful protesters, who had no intention to cause harm to property or persons – instead they sought simply to disrupt the normal flow of city life to bring attention to the cause – to the Climate Emergency that is reported daily in the news but which our governments have no idea how, nor it seems the motivation, to tackle. The activities of the past week have brought to the fore voices such as George Monbiot that dare to say that the whole capitalist, monetary, economic system has to be dismantled. The Tory environment minister has been forced to admit they are not doing enough in regard to climate change, and the opposition Labour party have offered to sit down and listen to the campaigners.
Even more than this – at a time when crime, homelessness, poverty are all on the rise, when teenagers are murdering each other and terrorists lurk round every corner – the headline news should be that here is a mobilisation of people who sincerely believe life can be lived differently, we just have to get together, listen to each other and work out how.
Here is a mobilisation of people who come together peacefully, to explore and deepen connection, with each other and the planet we live on. The right wing tries desperately to pick holes in the movement, to attack it in any way it can – eg for taking up police resources which are needed to keep down the rioting hoards, and the islamic, irish and fascist terrorists. But it seems the dark forces were all taking a quiet Easter. We should not underestimate the effect that a few thousand determined individuals making a clear and determined message, that so many others are waiting to hear, can have on the collective spirit and consciousness of the whole nation. After all, we have seen how the horrific acts of lone individuals can unite us in grief – whatever the critics of Extinction Rebellion might say, this is not a movement spreading doom and gloom, this is part of a much larger and longer trend in human society – towards greater awareness and connection.
These words I found from an XR participant in a Facebook comment put it so well:
“Fundamentally our movement, not limited to Extinction Rebellion… is about creating a society based on connection, awe and love for all beings. You feel it, I feel it, it feels right…. but we are rarely given permission to express it.
“There’s been a steady shift in human consciousness for many years now and it is finally bubbling up to an explosion. Too many people are tired of wasting our lives in a society based on separation, fear, exploitation and depletion.”
But of course the opponents of XR, and probably the politicians too, believe it’s only a matter of time before the movement fractures and collapses, as other protests have done in the past. There are even signs of this happening already. The group’s Facebook page reveals that militant vegans, who like to insist everyone has to follow their example, are causing some to leave the movement. But also – the wonder of social media – we can see there how the overwhelming response from others, including other vegans, is to explain few things to the misguided but well-intentioned militants. Any movement for social, political, environmental justice doubles up as an intensive space of personal growth for all who get involved. The complex organisational co-creation that manifested as XR’s actions at Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus, or the mass die-in at the Natural History Museum, show that this is a collective with experience, talent, originality and the power to persevere. XR has staying power because all generations are involved here. Over 1000 people were arrested for obstruction, yet nobody was hurt, there was no criminal damage, no violence.
The same spirit of openness, tolerance and freedom was celebrated in Hyde Park on Saturday 20th April at the 4:20 Cannabis Rally. Now in its 8th year, the warm sunshine brought out thousands – people of all ages, all races and backgrounds were openly smoking across the park, and at 4.20pm we all stood up and lit up together – the diversity of the modern British nation celebrated in smoke. What an incredible mass ritual, honouring the healing herb that has been used as medicine and sacred tool in cultures the world over, but which the men in power in the 20th century made illegal, something they had no moral right to do. Crucially, we were also standing up for freedom of the individual, in mind, body and soul. The days of the state dictating what we can or cannot do with our own bodies need to end. I’m a gay man, I get this deeply. But as we move towards liberalisation of attitudes towards cannabis in the UK it is crucial that the cannabis campaigners are listened to – for the money-grabbing eyes of big business are already excited at this huge future market. Cannabis cultivation and dealing has been in the hands of the people during this time of prohibition, taking risks with our own liberty to do so, and it should remain the people’s plant.
Nobody was arrested at the Cannabis Rally. The atmosphere was positive and upbeat. The only violence in the park that day was unrelated.
My personal journey through this liberating weekend began at the Queer Spirit Full Moon Drum Circle in Vauxhall, where about 70 radical faeries, questing queers and magical souls gathered to dance and raise energy. We do this regularly– an opportunity for emotional release and ecstatic expression at the peak of the full moon. This time we dedicated our dance towards empowering the message being put out by Extinction Rebellion.
At Heaven nightclub on Sunday evening my weekend peaked as the 24 year old me was resurrected on the very dance floor where he dropped his first tab of acid – thirty years ago at Gay Pride 1989. For 3 or 4 years I was a Heaven regular, spending my nights in ecstatic rapture, finding in house music (and lsd) a doorway into myself that led me to an absolute sense of freedom, love and connection. After 6 years of trips (and facing the impending doom of full-blown aids) I was motivated to dive into a mystical education in order to understand this freedom and connection I had felt when high in Heaven. 24 years on from that, aids survivor, queer pagan and radical faerie witch/shaman that I have become, I got to go back to my playground – where in my 20s I used to lose myself in music and light, become the dance, become pure spirit. This time no lsd taken. Acid opened up in me the idea that we are pure consciousness, free, eternal and powerful, and I have used the intervening years to explore and deepen this within me – 30 years after my first trip I was dancing back in the temple of Heaven, feeling my 24 year old self inside me glowing with joy, being my 54 year old self beaming in gratitude for this journey called life, and for the keys to mystery that the acid house wave of the late 80s, that Heaven the nightclub and the amazing DJs who played there, gave to me.
House music arrived as a soul-infused development of disco and hi-nrg. It celebrated liberation, as disco had done before – but perhaps while 70s disco revelled in individual freedom and joy, 80s house held a vision of collective liberation. Queers were at the forefront of disco – when disco got tired and too commercial, we then held the pure dance spirit in our hi-nrg tunes until it evolved into house. Heaven, London’s original gay super-club now celebrating its 40th birthday, held nights such as Spectrum, Garage and Troll that nurtured the uplifting house vibe.
Queers were central to the dance revolution and we also have a big role to play in the ongoing liberation of humanity from the delusions, the mind control and soul-numbness that afflicts the world, but we are still a deeply wounded segment of the whole, finding our power only gradually. 30 years ago I was dancing in nightclubs, this summer I will be dancing out in nature at QUEER SPIRIT FESTIVAL, where 500+ fabulous, magical queers will get the chance to deepen our experience of community, of connection, of personal and collective liberation. There will be workshops, performers, fire circles, drumming, cafes, discos – we will be celebrating the potential in our sexuality and our seeking for love to open us to the heavens, to multi-dimensional reality, plus celebrating our ability to connect to and care for each other and the earth. The festival, like XR, like the Cannabis Rally, is a manifestation of people taking power into their own hands. We queers will no longer let ourselves be bullied by religion or anyone else, we are redefining who we are, from within ourselves. Www.queerspirit.net
It was so good to be in Heaven dancing again to “Brothers, Sisters, we’ll make it to the Promised Land”, to feel tears running down my cheeks as Robert Owens performed live, to remember being in utter bliss in that place in my 20s – at a time when part of my mind was stuck in the new reality of a deadly HIV diagnosis, another part was experiencing the awesome, joyful wonder of existence.
30 years on I celebrated my personal liberation on the dance floor where I first glimpsed it, during a weekend when the tide of liberation was riding high in London town. But let’s remember that Freedom is both an internal as well as external phenomenon. This summer I will be gathering with magical queers pulling together on the path to personal and collective liberation to our kind, and all humanity, through reconnection with nature, with the holiness of the body and sexuality, the transcendent potential of music and dance, with the ecstatic rites of Queer Spirit. Come play the liberation game with us.
London enjoyed a sunny and peaceful weekend, promoting the energy of communication, connection and harmony. Meanwhile terror did strike – in Sri Lanka, and we are left with this puzzling story that a number of affluent, educated, middle class Muslims went into Christian churches to blow up themselves and the Easter Sunday worshippers, showing how quickly and easily a country can be brought to horror, grief and fear. In our interconnected world the actions of hate affect all, but the forces and voices of tolerance and freedom do not get nearly enough of a look in – the media is always telling us the world is full of suffering and anger, but the hearts of the people of the world are drawn to hope, to peace and to love and liberation – as the activists of London have been showing loud and strong in the Easter sunshine.