Is Extinction Rebellion a Hippie Movement?

Last summer marked 50 years since the Woodstock Festival, probably the moment of greatest blossimong of the hippie movement. Around 500,000 young people attended and performed there artists such as Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, The Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, The Who or Jimi Hendrix.

The conservative media reaction wanted to discredit the entire movement shortly after, associating it with two terrible events of the same year: the murder of a young black man by a member of the Hell’s Angels at the Altamont concert during the Rolling Stones performance; and the murders of the Manson Family. Charles Manson (whose story Tarantino has recovered in his last film) was far from hippy values ​​but the association still occurred. These two facts, which had nothing to do with the movement, discredited it and began its decline.

Although not all people who considered themselves hippies shared exactly the same characteristics, some basic and common features of this countercultural movement can be enumerated: pacifism, environmentalism, the rejection of consumerism, the argument of self-organising and a more communal lifestyle … Other characteristics shared by many people, such as drug use and the practice of free love, were controversial and caused the rejection by some sectors of the population.

More or less simultaneously with the decline of the hippie movement started the beginning of the neoliberal offensive, which through Pinochet, Thatcher and Reagan began to undo some of the social conquests of the previous decades, those after the Second World War. Gradually the narrative of this ideology has permeated all aspects of society with, among other things, an increase of individualism and competition among people.

We find ourselves not in a market economy but in a market society where absolutely everything can be bought or sold. The search for economic growth and short-term material benefits at all costs have become a religion, with economists (those who mostly failed to predict the financial crisis) as high priests, priests who ignore the basic laws of natural sciences.

Well, it is at this precise moment, after several decades of neoliberal hegemony, that we are facing a climate and ecological crisis that poses a serious threat to life on Earth. Without going any further, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns us that we need “rapid, broad and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” if we want to avoid or reduce the disaster that is coming (and already we begin to contemplate).

Massive fires, persistent droughts, floods, accelerated ice melting, heat waves and other extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense. Different organizations of the UN, the International Monetary Fund and even the Pentagon, all institutions considered not very radical, have alerted us or periodically alert us of the path to the collapse in which we find ourselves. The reports warn us that in a few decades the increase in temperatures that will occur if we continue as until now will make increasing areas of the planet uninhabitable or cause serious disruption in the food supply.

Before that we can continue as sleepwalkers towards the precipice (or towards the slaughterhouse), waiting and trusting that governments or some technology will fix this imminent disaster or we can react and rebel individually and collectively against this toxic and criminal system, promoting the necessary cultural, economic and political changes. In this context in 2018 Extinction Rebellion (XR) arises, an international movement that uses nonviolent civil disobedience in an attempt to stop mass extinction and minimize the risk of social collapse. XR is an inclusive and transversal movement, which is based on 10 principles. Let’s review some of them:

The first speaks of a shared vision of change. And this is defined as follows:

A healthy, beautiful world, where individuality and creativity are supported, and where people work together, solving problems and finding meaning, with courage, power and love. This will be underpinned by cultures rooted in respect for nature, genuine freedoms and justice.

Another principle affirms that we need a regenerative culture. This concept, which seems to derive in part from the ethics of care, is a fundamental point:

“A regenerative human culture is healthy, resilient and adaptable; it cares for the planet and it cares for life in the awareness that this is the most effective way to create a thriving future for all of humanity. (…) We need to reconnect with our love for ourselves, our country and our people alongside wider neighbours; people and the natural world.”

The regenerative culture also includes a compriensive approach in various areas of mutual support: self-care, interpersonal care, community care, and care for people and the planet. It focuses on relationships, and all their interdependencies.

Other principles refer to nonviolence, the challenge against hierarchies, or for autonomy and decentralization.

Once briefly reviewed some of the principles, and in the absence of a more thorough analysis, we can see in XR an inspiration coming from some of the values ​​advocated by the social movement that emerged in the 60s. Even so, to the question that leads this Article, is XR a hippie movement? I would answer no because Extinction Rebellion draws from many influences and many learnings from previous struggles and because many participants or supporters would not feel represented in that description. Now, I think it is fair to recognize that the hippie movement was a clear precursor to some of the changes we need. You can have more or less sympathy for this social movement, but it becomes clear that some of its narratives were going in the right direction, especially if we take into account that their rise coincided just with the beginning or just moments before some alarm signs began to emerge in relation to the path our civilization was taking.

Banner carried during a demonstration "Rebel for life"

The first demand of XR is that we must tell the truth. As first step, in this 2019, it has been recognized that we are facing an emergency for humanity. If we continue to deepen the truth, the next step (by 2020?) should be to recognise that our way of life (which does not equal to quality of life) is unsustainable, among other things because it cannot be sustained only with renewable energy. The era of accessible, abundant and cheap oil is over. And even if this was not the case, the climate and ecological crisis is forcing us to stop burning fossil fuels. We have to assume that renewable energies do not have the same capacities and therefore we must wake up from the illusion of the last two centuries. It is unavoidable, therefore, the need to reduce the use of energy and materials, a fact recognized even by the Spanish Minister of Ecological Transition.

At this point I would ask you a question. Is it better for a child to receive 8 or 9 gifts (objects) for their birthday or receive a maximum of 2 or 3? (minute of reflection 😊).

Or we can remember this dialogue from the famous book The World of Sofia:

– More and more people want to travel by plane. That is why more airports must be built. Does this conclusion seem sustainable?

– No, it’s silly. We must also think about the environment. I think we should build more sections of railroad.

As a final reflection, I think that the search for voluntary simplicity, a typical characteristic of the hippie movement, can be a beacon that will guide us on the path to a more authentic, more human, happier and more meaningful life. A life in which we give importance to the things that really have, those of which we will surely remember and take in consideration in our last moments of life.

Peace & Love

Oh no, what am I thinking?

Love & Rage

Jaume Osete
Member of Rebel·lió o Extinció Barcelona

A rebel year