TOO MUCH PRESSURE GROUPS - THE PROBLEM WITH ANGER
Updated: Jun 19
So as COP26 meet in Glasgow Greta Thunburg has sought to invoke anger to promote change. Is she right? Even though I personally feel she is wrong her statement is understandable as she has youth on her side, and to quote Colin MacInnes in 1962, “ If youth is not radical it is no longer young.” Equally at 36 years her senior it would be wrong for me to assume that I am therefore wiser and the same author offer’s guidance on this: “Other people’s ‘wisdom’ is something received at second hand. One can only become wise by listening to those who are not – who are excessive. One must beware of one’s own ‘wisdom’ also, since it must be constantly changing.”
To invoke “Anger” for change is to invoke feelings that are negative and thus form a psychological process of social amplification of bad images and experiences and the attenuation of good images and experiences. We see this especially with fossil fuels where oil spills, slag heaps and choking pollution are images of overwhelming negative feelings. At the same time the positive images of freedom to travel, warm homes, reduced hunger, improved lifestyles that we benefit from thanks to fossil fuels are attenuated (reduced) by this emotional response. So the tactic of invoking “Anger” will possibly work, but at what price? Most people simply wish to live their lives without fear, hassle or barriers to their freedoms. They just wish to get on with their lives. These people are the silent majority.
At this point I am mindful of a conversation I had with a lovely old gent in Morpeth bus station whilst waiting for the bus to Rothbury about two weeks ago. The old man walked with a frame and told me that he had worked driving lorries until his mid seventies when his health stopped him. Prior to driving he worked in the textile industry, initially in Manchester and as firms closed then Liverpool before moving to the Newcastle area. He loved working in Liverpool, but found Union activity dominated his working life in that the need for Union protection was recognised, but just two or three activists in the whole factory could cause chaos by calling strikes at the drop of a hat, whilst all most people wished to do was to go to work and get on with their lives. He felt these “climate protesters” were much the same.
When it comes to pressure groups there are two distinct groups of people:
Trade and business – well funded lobbyists, promoters and campaigners that are there for the benefit of large businesses or specific industries.
Alturistic campaigners – pressure groups that are normally the product of disillusionment.
However, there is a third group of often rich or well funded private individuals, nations or political agitators that insert themselves like puppeteers into both of these groups simply to promote their agenda or to undermine that state or status quo. For this purpose I will ignore this third group, but only the naïve can deny their existence.
Pressure groups of the two types described above are found in every Capital especially London, New York and Brussels. These pressure groups feed stories to the media. The media like new stories that create strong feelings. Indeed the internet has increased the hunger for such stories. The internet has created a whole new breed of third rate journalists that sit on their arse all day and never see real people or make any enquiries into truth that cannot be found via a computer keyboard. Stories with strong feelings arouse public interest, especially evidenced by the clicks of social media and hash tags of trending topics. This creates a false authority to lobby civil servants and MP’s.
It is a simple fact that well financed pressure groups or well organised protesters, whether they aim to further their own interests or speak for the greater good, can exert an influence far greater than that of individual citizens and is therefore in danger of a minority imposing its will on the majority. The members of that majority will continue to feel they have no real influence on the forces that rule their lives. They are the SILENT MAJORITY.
If pressure groups, whether corporate lobbyists or belligerent protestors sticking their faces to the road, really wish to act in a responsible manner they should seek to influence the majority, not seek to bypass the majority and run straight to government. Democracy starts to fail when elected representatives submit to undue pressure from minorities. This was a fundamental issue in the failure of the Labour Party at the last general election as it submitted to minority pressure over many issues that left a majority excluded from feeling able to vote for it in historically safe constituencies. It was also a failure in Theresa May’s post Brexit government as she pandered to anti-Brexit influences that had benefitted from the previous regime rather than noting the majority strength of feeling for change that Boris Johnson exploited. Sadly the actions of Extinction Rebellion, and Insulate Britain largely turn the majority away from them whilst that same majority is sympathetic to their causes. Despite his failings I feel the Prime Minister gets it and understands this majority sympathy.
The issue here is that a significant minority are seen to hold sway with grandiose pronouncements that will inflict pain, hardship and reduced freedom on all, but especially poorer people and the majority of people that have some, but just enough wealth to get by. The “silent majority” risks becoming the “disenchanted majority”. Then the danger is that people become frustrated and angry enough to submit themselves to destructive organisations of comradeship and power that will seek to overturn everything we have of good, the anarchists, the fascists, the communists.
Finally a thought, I note that when Greta was asked if she would enter politics (as if she hasn’t already!) she stated, “What’s needed right now is a big change in the narrative. Right now it is more
efficient to do that on the streets than to do that on the inside.” However, it is a great failing of “Insulate Britain” that as they glue themselves to the road more people are not joining them and indeed are turning against them. The silent majority may soon turn against the environmentalist no matter how good their cause.