Illustration by ESME BLEGVAD
I don't mean to alarm you, but your boyfriend has recently become interested in activism. After years spent shoving Greenpeace representatives out of the way with his giant golf umbrella as they tried to get him to care about whales on the way to his job in advertising, he has suddenly found himself inspired by Extinction Rebellion.Perhaps it is because they too, like him, clearly have good intentions – they're doing everything in their power to prevent the destruction of the planet, in the face of government inaction – but are occasionally prone to being tone-deaf. Maybe it's because he dabbled in a bit of thespianism while studying PPE at Oxford, but something about this movement and their method of saving the Earth through the medium of interpretative dance really spoke to him, and he's gallantly used up a week of his allotted annual holiday to head down to the protests with a sign that says "Keep our planet clean, it's not Uranus", thus inadvertently admitting that he does not wipe his own arse properly.
Welcome to 'Introducing', where we get acquainted with Britain's weird and wonderful new subcultures.
If he's been really inspired, he may have even quit his job to help stop climate change full-time, although this now means that you are paying his share of the rent as well as yours. Or maybe, like so many of us these days, he has pivoted to life in the gig economy, and can now be found in the XR eco-working space, writing passive-aggressive comments about carbon emissions on your foreign friends' photos of them visiting their family overseas.Armed with little knowledge of why it's gross to fetishise arrest, he's spent every day of the past week putting on his yellow Albam x End raincoat, which he bought especially for the occasion, to hang out at the various sit-ins. He is, crucially, definitely not actually staying at the campsite with the unwashed masses; he secretly thinks they smell, and feels ashamed about it.It's important to note that the new XR lad is distinct from the hardcore hippy contingent. He's less Bristol and more Manchester. While the old guard is dressed exclusively in organic hemp items procured in Bali (or Brighton) and refuse to understand cultural appropriation as a concept, he is generally fashion-conscious and woke enough to know that white people shouldn't have dreadlocks. He used to wear Doc Martens; now, he wears vegan Doc Martens. Or maybe he used to wear Nike but now instead wears New Balance (lots of them are made in England, and therefore more ethical).
See: this is an important point – he's trying to help the planet in the only ways he knows how, and there's no knocking that. Maybe he used to work in film, but quit after seeing entire trays of untouched food tipped into the bin at the end of the day and realised how wasteful the industry is. He suggested donating the leftover catering to the homeless but was met with derision, as was his attempt to set up an "eco department" to keep an eye on waste and make sure everyone recycled. He has sworn off all plastic after watching Blue Planet, wouldn't be caught dead without his metal flask, and now tours bars passive-aggressively telling off underpaid staff about their use of plastic straws.He went vegan last year after watching Cowspiracy, and now spends his time at parties mansplaining to women he's just met about how the dairy industry is a form of rape culture and that they owe it to themselves AS WOMEN to make the switch to dairy-free. Has she tried Oatly? Even baristas swear by it!There he is now, shouting "we love you!" at the police as they arrest him, completely oblivious to the fact that they are a racist organisation. He doesn't quite understand why the activists who spent years fighting police brutality and the systems that created the hell-world we live in are angry at XR for giving a thank you note to Brixton Police station, where Sean Rigg, Wayne Douglas and Ricky Bishop – all young black men – died, making them three of the 1,718 people who have died in police custody since 1990.Didn't they see that they also sent them flowers? How can people be angry at flowers?! If only they could understand that we’re not going to be able to save the Amazon through anger and hate, he thinks to himself as he sits among his almost exclusively white comrades and chants "peace and love" at the riot police that have been dispatched to keep a peaceful protest in check. All his hard work will be worth it on Saturday, when you will find him at the XR Rebel Rave at Corsica Studios celebrating his contribution to saving the Amazon with a gram of cocaine.@niluthedamaja