One of the most surprising moments in A-level history was the tutor quoting statistics that, despite the French Revolution of 1789 claiming the slogans of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity,” it was not the aristocracy who suffered the most deaths – the popular perception – but the ordinary French peasants.
Upheavals of any sort seem invariably to favour the strong to the disadvantage of the weak. The culture of the spivs and the black market in Britain during the Second World War didn’t do much to benefit Tommy Atkins and his family; it existed to serve the demands of those with wads of cash who could afford to pay whatever might be asked for the goods they wanted.
Protests, economic crises, revolutions, whether in affluent Europe or in the least developed nations in Africa, do impact upon the rich and powerful, but not nearly as much as they do upon those living on meagre wages or, even worse, at subsistence level. The strongest elites will always be able to pay for what they want.
During the years of financial crisis a decade ago, it was working people who were most affected as the funds holding their occupational pensions were devastated. It was working people who faced the repossession of their homes if they lost their jobs and have failed to keep up their mortgage payments. It was working people who were most affected when budgets were cut.
So when it comes to the protests by Extinction Rebellion, it is working people who are hurt. Affluent people can more easily make adjustments to their diaries to avoid the impact of the protests; affluent people can more easily pay for taxis when public transport is disrupted. Affluent people can more easily cope with the lack of police officers for ordinary duties caused by the protests, their homes will be more secure and will be alarmed; affluent people will more easily deal with such problems as might arise, because they will have the resources to do so.
The people who will be hurt most by the Extinction Rebellion protests will be the working people, they will be those who cannot pay for alternatives. Whatever language might be used to justify the protests, it is the working people who will suffer. The leaders of the protests might pause to think about the impact of their action. Being an overwhelmingly middle class movement, they will have little idea of how not being able to get to work hurts those for whom everyday is an economic struggle.