As a political radical, Gramsci wanted to change people's thinking and priorities, but this also required an engagement with the shared mode of thinking and acting, since for our communication we have to be ....'conformists.' ....This is a kind of dual task, using language and imagery that communicates effectively through the use of conformist rules, while trying to make this language express non-conformist proposals. The object was to formulate and discuss ideas taht are signifcantly new but which would neveretheless be readily understood in terms of old rules of expression. (Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice, 2009)Are we climate change activists not engaged in the same process? In the developed world, we try to change people's way of thinking and their priorities each time we hold a rally, write a letter to the editor, lobby the government, shame the government, blockade a road, go to jail, et al in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Are we effective? Perhaps - recent polls in Canada demonstrated that people care about climate change and want the federal government to do more.
However, the Canadian federal government has taken little action - it is following the American lead - and it seems the PM hopes to do nothing. How do we translate poll results into action by the government? We mobilize the public by using visual imagery and emotion to slip through their defensive denial. James Cameron's movie Avatar did this superbly as I discussed in an earlier post. So did Greenpeace when they climbed the Parliament buildings and unfurled their banners: no one was hurt and the banners were in place for hours. Theirs is the standard we should all attempt to meet in our activism.