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.
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.