Who knew, hey? Who knew that putting a toe across some line that marks where democracy-the-fantasy ends and reality begins... would lead where it does. Where simply disagreeing with a government plan, would create a conflict that would ravage years and expose the fallacy of ‘rights’. Activists have known I expect, for as long as there have been, Activists. The ones who noticed something amiss, something they felt they needed to challenge, protect, defend, question... but ‘Activists’ weren’t us. At least until the day we became them.
Over the years of eye-opening public meetings in communities across the country faced with the threat of fracking – I met people who were teetering – the ways of engaging with our system of government were failing them and they needed to access democracy. Government wanted to drive an industry into their lives that they point-blank refused to tolerate. What next? There’s no handy guide for this stuff. Councillors proved either toothless, sold-out or ignorant and those who had taken the time to look properly at the risks – were too few to impact. The media showed bias to government and industry and the regulators... weak, ill-informed, ill-equipped, understaffed and overburdened.
Everyone that became an activist ever... wasn’t one, the day before and there’s lots of people in that place now – either unaware or simply holding back with caution till more is known. We are all fed lies through slick PR & marketing campaigns, flogged things we really don’t need by smooth-talkers and led to believe a myriad of things that just aren’t true... is it any wonder we’re divided, conflicted and confused?
All talk is of the EU – in or out. How the hell can anyone be expected to make a decision this big – without access to honest facts, honest government, honest figures and a wise, human debate? We’re told to be afraid of all the outcomes and presented contradictory figures to support the tales. I feel like we’re being kept busy having conversations that can only be based on assumptions – as we know, facts are not what those in our government peddle, whichever side of the debate they’re on.
What a contrast to the fracking ‘debate’ – there isn’t one. The government says you’re having it and the other side of the story remains unexplored. Media blink our way, find the colourful, the unique, the emotional, the creative ones to present as the face of activism... ignoring those of us more dull round the edges, more everyday... thus perpetuating the ‘Activist aren’t you’ lie.
The minute I became an activist was somewhere around noon 15 October 2011 – at the entrance to London’s Stock Exchange. My first direct action. I sat for around 8 hours, as close as I could get to the place where we brought our anger. Our government had bailed out the banks and inflicted austerity on the people... targeting those most in need. I hadn’t encountered fracking at this stage and simply wanted to address the unfairness of things I was witnessing.
|15 October 2011 - London Stock Exchange|
Occupy was a unique place to become an Activist – probably couldn’t have asked for a better environment in which to learn, grow and most of all – place assumptions aside and forget about making judgements about others... individuals are rarely what they appear and in that place – I was constantly taken aback by the wisdom of strangers.
The greatest gift I took from Occupy was the discovery of a core inside people that is capable of uniting around a shared idea/hope/demand – regardless of all the things that otherwise drive us apart. Like taking one step together in unison at the start of a dance – there’s a moment (just before it all gets prematurely over-confident and a bit messy for a while) when the mass is moving as one in a single direction... like a murmuration of birds. It takes a lot of choreography to get even that one step and we’re a long way from executing a tango... but I believe the fight to defend air and water, has been a strong focus that brought many together who otherwise never would have met – let alone become ‘Activists’.
We may call it campaigning or community building – but this is activism. This is people standing up and saying very firmly NO... to those in office who wield the power. People discovering how little power WE have in this seemingly one-sided arrangement. Everything is fine if we just listen to the lies, tick the box, swallow the story and get distracted enough so we won’t notice them ignoring their promises and abusing the arrangement.
This activism though is easy... because the cause is very clearly stupid and a RIGHT NOW threat. Who the hell thought fracking was a great idea... let alone on a fractured, highly populated island? People ‘get it’ and so adding to our numbers has not been as much of a challenge as say those honourably standing to stop a runway, to keep our NHS in public hands, to stop nuclear dumping, to stop Trident or make education accessible – not everyone sees themselves as having a stake in those things or fully understands the issues and so there are more excuses to turn away... but EVERYONE needs clean, safe air and water – and so do their children.
We have some fine tools now that also weren’t available to earlier campaigns... able to undo media lies before they hit the News at 10... able to rally ourselves to events, arrange transport, send warnings, crowd-digest huge volumes of research and share the truth of what’s happening, as it’s happening - rather than the edited version shaped to fit some agenda.
Fracking is a dangerously stupid plan – preventing it though, has done a whole lot of good.
I’d describe fracking as a very big, ugly symptom of an underlying disease – like a huge boil that you can’t help but see the infection in... election fraud, bank bail-outs, BHS Pensions, privatisation of health and education, clearly biased media and so much more, are symptoms too but they are more rashy and harder to spot. The disease is the problem and forever fighting symptoms is still failing to address the cause.
Not sure how I’d name the disease... it’s not ‘democracy’ because that reads quite nicely and we’re not experiencing that – so what is the ‘system’ we live under? That we pay taxes to? That we entrust with the education of our children, our health, the wellbeing of our elderly, the care of what we need to survive? I’ve heard lots of names for the disease – but sometimes people are confused by their interpretation of the names... so maybe, for the sake of staying in-step with the dance... we try not to fuss about the label just yet – simply first acknowledge that it exists and what the next step is.