Tag Archives: revolutionary

No more fighting

We fight oppression and we fight for rights, we fight the system and we fight ecocide, and we fight unethical corporations and we fight the journalists who won’t report what’s happening and then we get cross with each other on social media and fight each other over matters of privilege. We’re so in the habit of fighting that we hardly know when to stop. Places that should be collaborative become combative. But we keep fighting the good fight against all comers.

I start to wonder if the fighting, at least some of the time, isn’t part of the problem rather than a route to improving things. And yes, I know there’s more than a dash of white western privilege in that statement because fighting is a choice for me, not something I cannot avoid. This is also part of my point thought – fighting is an option, so why have I been choosing it?

Well, the obvious answer is because there are so many wrong things that need sorting out so I have to fight all that injustice and intolerance and all the rest of it. The theory makes sense, but in practice I do not see the results I’m looking for. If I fight someone, the odds are really good they will dig in and fight me back. The very act of fighting them becomes part of their story about why people like me should be silenced, shot, not allowed to vote etc etc. By fighting I am feeding the fight.

I’m really tired. This has led me to conclude that I just can’t afford to pour any more energy into fighting. I’ve been thinking about this one for a while. I’ve been thinking about it since I heard Seize the Day at Rainbow Druid Camp last year singing something along the lines of “I will not rest until all oppression is ended.” Not being allowed to rest is in and of itself a form of oppression, and it will break your body and your mind far sooner than it will destroy oppression.

I’m changing my approach. I’m focusing on things I can usefully do – in my life, for the people around me. Comedy and kindness are becoming my revolutionary strategies of preference. Giving things away, buying from small producers, where I can. Helping. Living the way I want the world to be, in order to contribute to that being more feasible. I don’t want to live in a world where we spend much of our time shouting at each other and fighting each other, so I’m going to stop putting energy into that.

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Not so quiet revolution

Last weekend, the British Labour party voted a passably left wing chap to be their new leader. This is pretty revolutionary, because for a long time now, the right wing media have been telling this country that only the right wing people are electable and only the right wing approach to economics is viable and acceptable. We’ve been painfully short of alternative stories. Yet in spite of the media barrage, Jeremy Corbyn is in.

It looks like his first challenge is going to be to sort out a party in which there are people who have no idea what the world ‘Labour’ might pertain to. We know this because a bunch of them just abstained from an important vote on worker’s rights. The majority of us either work for a living, or are, due to circumstances beyond our control, unable to do so (age being one of those factors). And yet we’ve been persuaded, and the political elite have persuaded themselves, that the right way to run a country is to squeeze the majority for the benefit of the few.

There are a lot of us. We the people who do not have our own jets, cannot afford to buy the time of politicians, do not have a media empire to put forth our views. We are the majority. To the tune of about 99%. What the right wing has cunningly done is set us up against each other, encouraging those who are working to hate those who are not working, those who have some to be afraid of those who have less. We of the 99% have more in common than not, and although we suffer to varying degrees in this system, most of us are not benefiting from it much. It’s difficult to see how this works when your daily news feed preaches a very different story.

I’m not a Labour supporter, but I like Jeremy Corbyn. I like him because he talks of solidarity, of working together and taking care of each other. He uses words like ‘decency’ and clearly knows what those words mean. He talks about people, shared humanity, common need. Rather than encouraging people to be afraid of each other, his words are about encouraging people to help each other. Culturally, this is a whole other thing.

I’m tired of the politics of fear. I’m tired of this constant flow of propaganda that tells us to cling tightly to what we have while looking around nervously in case someone wants to take it from us. It should be a matter of shame to have an excess when others are suffering. We need to stop obsessing about who ‘deserves’ help because this is designed to reinforce the idea that most people who are in trouble don’t deserve help. We need to look at who needs help, and then help them. We have the resources, we need the political will. Now at least we have a different set of stories in the mix and some political will. It’s a start.

I very much doubt I’ll be voting Labour any time soon, because I’m a committed member of the Green Party. What I will be doing though, is taking every opportunity to stand up for a different kind of world. Hope not hate. Help not resentment. Solidarity. Compassion. Working together to make things better for all of us. I believe we can do a good deal better than we are at the moment. I believe there are better ways of living, and after Jeremy Corbyn’s win at the weekend, I am cheered to realise that there are hundreds of thousands of people in this country who feel much the same way. Their party politics are neither here nor there. What matters is the culture shift, changing the political agenda, and challenging the toxic right wing stories of fear and institutionalised mean-spiritedness that we have at the moment.


The trouble with revolutions

I’ve read enough to know that largely revolutions don’t work. Rally the troops, get all excited, kill some people, burn something… and end up with some new despotism with an unfamiliar face. I’ve read a fair bit of autobiography around China’s cultural revolution, the rush of enthusiasm, the hope, the bitter betrayal that followed. It doesn’t seem so far from the wild optimism and brutal bloodshed France went through. Wild, desperate attempts to seize power and make it all better quite often don’t.

Which when you’ve a revolutionary streak, is not happy news.

Fast revolutions don’t work. What is born in anger and brutality, is not likely to evolve into enlightened progress. I’m not someone who believes that the ends justify the means. If you look at history, it seems obvious to me that how you do a thing really informs what you get at the end. Violence begets violence. That which we build out of hatred, anger and resentment will not serve to warm our hearts much in the future.

The best revolutions are slow and quiet. They sneak in. I think about passive resistance and quiet acts of non-cooperation. A little civil disobedience can go a long way. Or wilful obedience. Sometimes nothing can be more subversive than doing as you were told. Precisely and literally. And not doing anything else.

We need change. I’m reading articles in newspapers about how the world is run to benefit the 1% who have the most, a UK education minister blaming feminism for the rising gap between rich and poor. We live in a system that is designed to serve the wealthy. We are playing a game where they make the rules, design the board, own all the pieces. Guess what? The game is rigged. We’re shown the few who sing, act or dance their way to fleeting fame and fortune to keep us believing that anyone can get out of the gutter if they’re young, attractive and lucky. It nourishes our illusions.

It’s not the physical poverty we need to tackle in this country at least. Compared to our recent ancestors, most westerners are obscenely well off. Our poverty lies in our lifestyles, how we feel. What use is money if you are miserable? What good is it playing a game you cannot win, to serve the needs of an elite few?

I’d lay good money if enough of us got angry we could storm the banks, burn a few politicians, put someone new on the throne. Give it a little while for the shine to wear off, and we’d find ourselves in the same system with a new set of faces under the hats of the elite. That’s not progress. Being the person on the throne is not a win, and only when we recognise that can we start to change the rules of the game. It’s only while we aspire to be like the people who seem to have everything, that we remain slaves of their system. Once you stop wanting to be them, its possible to rethink everything.

I want to live in a fair and sustainable world, where need is considered more important than greed, compassion is not equated with weakness, and money is not political power. I want to live in a world where beauty matters more than the bottom line, where quality means more than a quick buck. I want a whole different reality from the one we’ve got.

I am not alone.

Reading blogs and newspapers, seeing the growing disquiet amongst people all over the world, I know there are a lot of folk out there hungry for change. No dramatic uprisings. No bloodletting. No putting a new despot on the throne this time. What we need is a quiet revolution. It starts on the inside. It starts inside our own heads. It is the act of rejecting assumption and trying to figure out how things ought to be. And then, through small action, through personal choice, through our day to day choices, going after that vision of a better world. Throw away the unwinnable game. Chuck out the rules of the few designed to keep the many on a leash. Dream of something better.

Clap your hands if you believe in revolutions.

Clap quietly.