A problem with being assaulted, I am told, is not just the event itself, but the dreams of violence that follow. If a thug relieves you of your wallet and you hand it over without a fight, you will continue to dream for some time of what you might have accomplished if the assailant had confronted you while you had a gun or a chainsaw at your fingertips. handy. Or if you had studied martial arts and could do more Jackie Chan-style punk.
I must admit that similar dreams now haunt me whenever I see the Just Stop Oil protesters. Needless to say, their cause is false and irritating. Everyone in this country is suffering from a cost of living crisis. Everyone looks at their energy bills and wonders “How did that go?” The only thing that would be a dead cert to make matters worse would be to “just stop the oil”. If we just stopped oil, the country would go dark. Perhaps we can one day run the grid from magnificent solar and wind farms that cover all the remaining green spaces. But for the moment we do not have the capacities. It is therefore difficult to imagine a more destructive and short-termist demand than “Just stop oil”.
Yet it is not the injustice that causes my terrible thoughts, but rather the tactics of the group. When Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain chose to block bridges and highways, I had similar thoughts. Every time they stuck their hands on the ground and blocked ambulances from passing, commuters going to work and children going to school, I thought: why don’t the police just pull them off the roads? ?
The French police, who are a little less pacifist than ours, did exactly that when the ecologists tried this trick there recently. French police didn’t just act as some kind of personal protection force for protesters, then threaten motorists who dared to get angry. French police doused the activists with pepper spray and just ripped them off the tarmac, causing a certain amount of torn skin and a rather pleasant amount of rolling on the ground – as if the protesters had never imagined supergluing themselves to a highway could have any negative consequence.
Which brings me to the latest campaigner tactic, which is to stick to priceless works of art. It started last week at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. They glued themselves to the frame of a painting while their brave comrades spray-painted slogans around various works of art. As they were finally taken away, one of them shouted, “The art world is responsible. Every sector of our culture is responsible.
The front wing of what appears to be an all-out anti-oil movement then attacks the Courtauld in London, where they paint their slogans and stick to Van Gogh’s ‘Peach Trees in Blossom’ (1889). At this point, you might have thought that art galleries would beef up their security a bit. But it turns out that security in British art galleries is even weaker than the British police.
This week protesters targeted ‘The Hay Wain’ at the National Gallery in London. They covered the surface of Constable’s most famous painting with their own ugly version, then glued themselves to the frame. This amazed me because usually it’s hard even to lean too close to – let alone point your finger at – a painting of such importance without a guard naturally asking you to step back. Who knew you could step over the security cordon, cover it all up, and stick to it with so little interference?
On Tuesday, the Royal Academy was attacked. This time, five protesters entered the collection and glued themselves to the frame of “The Last Supper”, an early 16th century copy of Leonardo da Vinci, attributed to Giampietrino (a pupil of Leonardo). They then used graffiti pots to spray the words “No new oil” inches from the canvas and gave short speeches for the film crews they brought with them. One of the protesters said she was an art student and that while she respects art (a strange thing to say given where her hands were), “no painting in this gallery is worth more than the life of my six-month-old nephew”. .’ But I’m not sure it’s a matter of choice.
Of course, the amount of narcissism and self-assurance you must have to manage the nation’s art collections by behaving in this way is remarkable in itself. But perhaps even more remarkable is the sight of security guards quietly approaching activists, asking them to stop and walk around talking into their walkie-talkies as if to pretend to do something. I’m not sure you can call someone a security guard if all he does is talk into his walkie-talkie when the collection he’s supposed to protect is assaulted is such a fad. Why can’t we ask the security guards to knock these activists to the ground and pump them up a bit?
Activists believe that civilization is worth attacking in the name of sustaining life. I say sometimes it takes a little strength to defend civilization. Again, the question is where all the men have gone. Maybe “toxic masculinity” scared them away. In any case, I propose that we put in place new security officers in the stands of the nation. Maybe Taki could organize the training? Only then will my dreams of ultra-violence fade away and some sanity and peace will be restored to my nights, as well as to the nation’s collections.