FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

Travel

Hipster Environmentalists Versus a UK Politician

In an attempt to psych out the conservative politician who thinks that climate change is a bunch of hooey, the crew will, one by one, approach him while he’s giving his speech, paint a circle around one of their eyes, and stare at him.
May 21, 2014, 12:33pm

Let’s face facts, fellas: Planet earth is melting. True: It’s only a fraction of the planet that’s actually made of ice, but if that ice turns into water it could mean water beds for a lot of folk around the globe, and not the sexy 80s kind either—the bloated-corpse kind. Nigel Farage, pariah du jour and leader of the UK Independence Party, thinks climate change is just a load of old hogwash. He thinks the scientists are wrong and instead seems to believe that climate change is a yet to be proven theory that metropolitan intellectuals and Guardian columnists like to use as a stick to beat the Lexus-driving classes, like how you’re not allowed to black up at Christmas or make jokes about gays.

Some people who think that Nigel Farage and his views on climate change are piss poor are the Future, a group of environmentalist activists, headed up by a woman named Fanny Calder. Fanny and her team "exist to challenge culture and disrupt politics" by "hacking real life and online." They believe that Farage and others have a big case of CCDS, or "Climate Change Denial Syndrome," a sort of made-up mental illness that I would imagine mainly affects people with aerosol deodorant and Jeeps.

Seeing as UKIP are the fastest growing political party in an influencial Western country, and their leader thinks the world is as close to melting as the heart of a Dad at a Backstreet Boys reunion concert, what is to be done? The Future has a plan. In an attempt to psych out Nige and his mandem, the crew will, one by one, approach him while he’s giving his speech, paint a circle around one of their eyes, and stare at him. Fanny will then stride forth and recite climate change stats that are backed up by so-called "scientific evidence." The aim is to give Farage the willies in front of his constituents, dish out some valuable information, and try to make people think a bit harder about the damage we’re all doing to dear old Mother Earth.

I've gotta say, I’m not sure what it is about staring that would make Farage rethink his attitude toward total environmental collapse, but I guess the Future must’ve seen something in it. So I got myself a ride down in their minibus of fate to Eastleigh, a town in Hampshire, England, where UKIP were holding their last meeting before the vital election day: Farage’s last push toward Europe.

Advertisement

There were about eight protesters making the trek to the outskirts of Southampton. One of them had acquired Google Glass somehow. I tried it on, but it didn’t work for me. Even though the little screen was directly in front of my eye it was still blurry, owing to my crippling astigmatism. I did see us pass by Birdworld on the hour and three-quarter drive down though, and to be honest I quite liked it.

The conference was taking place in a rec center. Here I am standing by a purple double-decker parked outside the entrance, like something you’d see on a Blues Cluesfeaturette, only with more sinister xenophobic connotations.

Let's be honest, the Future were going to stand out from the usual UKIP audience, with their Goldsmiths haircuts, colorful leggings, caps, piercings, and total lack of walking sticks.

A police liaison officer, an extremely pleasant gray-haired man, caught on to this immediately. He made it clear that, while he had no problem with people protesting, and it was his job to ensure that it’s made possible as the law dictates, it needs to be within the parameters of the law, as there were families around and commotion could disturb the peace.

He was right—the family athmosphere was bizarre: mothers and fathers holding their kids' hands on the way to their after-school swimming lessons while this strange moustachioed man proudly twirled a yellow and purple umbrella, loudly proclaiming, "My son is gay and still voting UKIP!"

There were protesters other than the Future here as well, but they'd set their sights on smaller things. There was a fenced-off area to the right of the entrance and they were quite happy to stand there yelling about how Farage is a bigot and a racist. What more can be expected of them, really? It was a small turnout for their part, but then again Eastleigh is a small town.

It was time to go into the auditorium, the hired-out venue, to cause some environmentally aware mischief. All of our tickets were on the phone of one of the activists in the form of a scannable barcode. The heaviest on the door, clad in purple high-vis jackets looking like giant blackberry lozenges, scanned the code. People passed by showing their physical tickets, their own barcodes, and were waved in.

But what do you know, our barcode didn’t work. "Shows up with zero tickets on there, I’m afraid," the guy said. Why would it say "zero tickets"? Surely it would just say "code unreadable," why would it make the point that absolutely no tickets were associated with it? It was a con, to be sure.

Two UKIP security men came over and told the Future that if it says no tickets they won’t be allowed in, and they had to leave, of course being aggressive and alpha and patronizing, looming over them like sadistic PE teachers.

The security guys had the authority in the situation, they said. They were, sadly, right. It was a private event held by UKIP, and they’re within their rights to reject or accept anyone they like, and they'd seen this lot coming a mile away.

Outside Fanny presumed that UKIP had performed background checks on all the members of the Future, considering they all used their own names to purchase the tickets. But I don’t think it’s as sinister as that: They just plain didn’t look like they were supposed to be there. How many times have UKIP probably had a bunch of youngsters looking to cause commotion at one of their events? This was Farage’s time to shine, did they really think they were just going to walk into a ticket-only UKIP event looking like they got dressed at a yoga studio lost-and-found?

Their optimism and warmth was endearing but ultimately served as their downfall. Perhaps their naivety was more in not understanding their enemy: Major parties would balk at the thought of excluding anyone from their events, especially the precious young, but UKIP don’t give a fucking shit about the young. The people walking into that hall looked like it was the last thing they’d ever do. Like they’d need an oxygen tank just to get up from their seats. I’d imagine the sheer shock of seeing some twentysomethings with painted rings around their eyes would send them into some kind of horrendous synchronised heart attack.

The ticket scanner is no hurdle for any political activist to fall at. It’s ignoble, insulting, and makes the van hire, petrol money, provisions, and precious time all the more painful to lose.

The gang was dismayed but wanted to do something at least, so they stood in front of the UKIP tour bus, painted eyes and all, and had some photos taken in front of it. Eventually, though, it was time to go back to London, where we belonged. We may as well have covered ourselves in pig shit and sequins the way we stuck out. The friendly people of Eastleigh were not concerned.

We drove past Birdworld on the way back again. I still want to go there. But, for now, I want to wish the Future the best of luck with all their future endeavors; someone needs to save the planet, and it might as well be my new friends.

Follow Joe Bish on Twitter.