How our unconscious memories of bullying help the corporate thugs – Electricité de France and the No-Dash-for-Gas activists

February 27, 2013 § 5 Comments

Were you alarmed by the recent news that Electricité de France (EDF) plans to sue the 17 protestors who last October occupied one of its power stations in protest at the government’s new ‘dash for gas’? I was. It was a kind of low-level fear in the gut. 5 million pounds – how could ordinary people ever find such a sum? I found my mind turning to my house, my pension, my income, all the material things that make life feel marginally safe. Better be careful, I thought.

Corporate bullies

What goes on when a big corporation makes a threat like this and someone like me, who wasn’t even there, automatically fears for their own safety? The answer is that unconscious memories have been triggered. I’m back in the school playground. I’m alone. I’m small. I know that I have not understood the unwritten rules and that even if I have, they will be changed to disadvantage me. Fight is not an option. Flight is not an option. There is only endurance, avoidance and – perhaps – survival.

These are the visceral feelings of being faced by a bully. They are universal. Sometimes the bullies are other children. Sometimes, disgracefully, they are adults wielding sadistic and arbitrary rules or making perverted sexual demands. You are unlikely to have escaped childhood without some experience of bullying. Everyone knows the sick fear in the pit of the stomach. Everyone knows, at some level, the terror of looking around to see that everyone who might help you has left.

EDF knows this too. It knows that people like me will feel fear, think again about joining a protest and retreat to some mild and ineffectual tut-tutting in a letter to my MP or the Guardian. Just like the playground bullies staking their territory it wants to hollow out the public space where protest takes place. Its attack is an attack on democracy.

Liberté, egalité, fraternité?

Electricité de France had its birth in the country that gave us the universal ideals of solidarity and protest against injustice. It pretends in its (now discontinued) support of climate week to care about climate change, sustainability and the environment. Its legal action against the No Dash for Gas activists gives the lie to those claims and places EDF decidedly on the wrong side of the barricades.

I have to admit that I’m a wuss when it comes to demonstrations. I hate crowds. I can’t run. I’m afraid of being pushed over. I don’t like shouting. I hate being cold. I claim that I’m too old (not true). I claim that I’ve done a lot of demonstrating in the past (true but irrelevant). I claim that I do lots of other useful things (also true and also irrelevant).

You can support the No Dash for Gas activists by signing the petition here

And, if you’re a wuss like me, you can struggle against the internalised fear of the bully and stand up more strongly next time you are asked.


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§ 5 Responses to How our unconscious memories of bullying help the corporate thugs – Electricité de France and the No-Dash-for-Gas activists

  • never too old to sign a petition! Miltonic pose – we also serve who only sign petitions.

  • Astrid Horward says:

    As usual you hit the nail right on its head, Ro. Thank you for sharing!

  • Gillian Kent says:

    Thank you, Ro, will do

    G x

  • Barry Woods says:

    No protester can expect to take direct action, ie occupying anybody’s premises, or preventing lawful business, without the possibility of the other party seeking damages..

    Thus EDF’s actions were against direct action, and to discourage others from taking action, that would prevent it’s lawful business, they are not preventing anyone’s right to protest. The protesters could hold a demonstration, every day of the year at the gates..

    This applies to everyone.. hypothetical.. (and slightly over the top) could radical atheists, occupy a church and prevent services being taken.

    Could radical anti-windfarm locals, climb up wind turbines, or prevent their operation (Ecotricity, would have every right to sue for loss of income), etc

    and of course the activists are still in court.

    IF the activist could drum up enough support to make a massive protest outside their gates, that would get noticed, the fact that they could not, shows how limited the support is, and why should anybody be at mercy of the whims of an ideological few.. and that works ALL ways..

    I have no right to take direct action (without consequences), and occupy Greenpeace’s offices, (nor yours!) nor the WWF, even though I think they do huge damage. and are unaccountable to anybody but the few that run the organisation, (public donors, have no vote on policy) yet are able to lobby governments.

  • rorandall2 says:

    The good news is that EDF has dropped its legal action against the protesters, following an effective campaign. People who take direct action challenge the powerful and run many risks in the pursuit of justice. Thanks to everyone who joined the campaign to persuade EDF to drop the action.

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