Watching the sunset slide into the ocean in the last days of 2013 I’ve been allowing myself quiet times. Lying on a beach. Indulging in bad movies. Hanging out with lovely long time friends that aren’t activists and not talking politics all the time. Thinking. Reflecting. And bracing.
2014 is going to be the most important year we have ever had. With thousands more clearly seeing the damage to be wrought by the Abbott government we will see the beginning of rapid growth of the social movement that we will need to build in order to win. It is going to set the scenes that will see the battle lines move out of the political arena and to the frontline for years to come. We may see people jailed in this country for speaking for environment and social justice. We are in for the fight of our lives.
Last New Year’s Eve I spent with a small group of most exceptional folks. People were on the verge of exhaustion and planning for action through the wet season up in Broome. It did really feel like we were preparing for battle. I remember the frogs were going crazy. Phil – law boss and keeper of songs… he sang to them, and they calmed down. It seemed normal at the time.
Now it seems like a lifetime ago. The campaign to hold back the proposed gas hub that was set to destroy the Kimberley has been won for now. I have absolutely no doubt that if it wasn’t for that extraordinary group of less than ten people, that Woodside and the state government would have had their way. Certainly more damage would have been done. Country and culture would have been ripped apart in a way I can’t even bear to think about.
2013 showed me what is possible. 2014 is going to crack right open.
I felt it travelling around the country in the last two months training climate and forest activists. It is slowly bubbling up. Our community of resistance is building. You can see it all across the country in brief flashes of light. From the win at the Kimberley gas hub to inner Melbourne radical resistance to the East West tunnel, from the rural communities facing down coal seam gas in New South Wales to the deep South West of WA and new waves of forest action, and much more.
But we need to be smart to build on this momentum. Here is my wishlist for 2014.
We need to get our hands dirty and get on the road.
Keyboard warriors aren’t going to win this one. We need to get out and see the country we are trying to protect, we need to intervene in the root causes of climate change and challenge them at the source. We need to work with marginalised communities we normally drive past on the way to somewhere else ‘more important’. We need to see the sacred places that will be destroyed, we need to plant feet in the red dirt, swim in the salt water, we need to open up and let these places under our skin.
We need to get the hell over ourselves.
We need to learn compromise, step outside our comfort zone. We need to work out of inner city cliques, and with farmers and bogans and people with different politics.
We have what we need in common – imagination, determination and a base gut instinct that things are deeply unjust and must be challenged.
We might not have fashion and identity politics in common, but we can all see the value in a safe climate, clean air and water, human rights for all. We can see that business profits should not come at the expense of people.
We have more in common than our detractors would have us believe. And that is why they are terrified when we work together.
We need to step up, we need to do the things that scare us.
For me, that has looked like speaking more in public, asking the unpopular questions, choosing who I want to work with, telling people I care about them, asking for help, admitting to burn out, allowing myself to lead. We definitely need de-centralised, grassroots democracy and non-hierarchical organising, but that means we all need to be leaders, not the other way around.
At risk of the trite quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
We need to build capacity.
Of course we need to train and share resources, but we need to be practically working together as well. We need to undertake small actions that build our collective capacity, that are approachable and inclusive and allow people to take the next step. We need to remember and find our elders, we need to make our spaces inclusive of parents and children so we don’t continually lose talented people from the movement.
We need experienced activists to be willing to explain things over and over with patience and grace. We need people to act as mentors and work together with a new generation of young crew who bring their own skills. We need animal rights activists to realise they have heaps in common with social justice struggles. We need climate advocates to share their messaging and organising savvy with forest activists and learn awesome logistical and tactical skills from them in return. We need those who work for human rights, for refugees to share their struggles and stories, to allow us to find the human face… we need to find the common ground for all of us, which is intrinsically about justice. For humans, for all creatures, for our environment.
We need to build community.
This is said a lot. What does it really mean? It means looking after people if they are risking jail and arrest. It means doing the boring hard yards to make sure we are inclusive of a range of people. It means making tea and running errands. It means ceasing glamorisation of ‘the busy’ and the too many emails and allowing people to participate in whatever small ways are possible for them, but also encouraging them to stretch. It means allowing people to say no, step back and always ask if folks are doing ok. We need to organise in small groups and increase our resilience to external interference. And we need to have fun.
We need our actions to be bold, brave, and feisty and colourful.
We need some joy in our lives. It is the only way we will survive to do the work that needs to be done.
It will be worth it. 2014. Game on.
**UPDATE** This post has been shared quite a bit. If you’d like to support the kind of capacity building and community building work I am talking about, please consider donating in the final days of my crowdfunder – www.startsomegood.com/counteract Only 70 hours to go (as of 2pm SUNDAY 12/1/12)