The concept for Griffiths’ testimony came to her in bed, in the midst of many months of tangled thinking. “It was a very simple thing, in the end. It just came to me,” she says. “I don’t want to talk about the law, I want to talk about justice. To actually put children, the very people who should be most protected, in a situation where they’re the ones who are going to suffer the worst, is the most appalling wrong.”
Reading Griffiths’ statement, which is printed at the end of Why Rebel, it is difficult not to imagine the emotion in the court; the quiet hum of a wild radical kindness. “In Oxford Circus, I was passed a little handwritten note. It said, ‘I can’t get arrested because I am only 10 but thank you for doing this for me.’ It is my vow to live guided by the justice for the world I love, a world where in the eyes of a child I am innocent.”
Its most poignant part – and, in turn, of the book – is when she speaks of the children she never had. “I love children and always wanted a child, but I am truly relieved now that I do not have one, because I would at some point plead with them not to have a child of their own,” it reads. “My own grandmother was a Pankhurst, and I am happy to follow in those footsteps, except for one thing: I would not want to be a grandmother myself.” In a world facing climate crisis, it is the children of today, and those of the future, who will witness the worst of its consequences. “We’ve all colluded, and I would include myself in that, in an enormous crime,” she says. “At the same time, the collective lack of imagination, that collective stifling of conversation has made it really difficult to speak, and act, for so many people.”
Finally, though, people are listening. Is she hopeful about the future? “I think the idea of making a necessity of hope is stupid, quite often,” she says gently. Fear, she suggests, is more galvanising. “I think people do things when they’re really scared. Appropriately scared.
“But what makes me optimistic is human nature, because actually, I believe in people’s fundamental goodness, in people’s fundamental kindness. And I do think that given good information, people generally make good decisions.” Griffiths, storyteller for so long, is turning into soothsayer. The wisdom she’s seen and learned from others, often living non-Western, non-colonial lives, is being offered up for us to change ours. The decision? Whether to act with kindness, honesty, and love – or not. It could be one to save the world.
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Image: Stuart Simpson / Alicia Fernandes / Penguin