What the warriors taught me
I saw a coal ship loaded with 100 000 tonnes of coal come to a grinding halt in the port of Newcastle.
It was a beautiful sight to behold.
A handful of traditional carved canoes backed up by hundreds of Australians in kayak as the pacific climate warriors flotilla was successful in blocking and delaying access to coal ships for a day.
Lots has been written about the climate warriors and their trip to Australia. Lots of people have
written about bravery, and defiance and ‘against all odds’ and David and goliath, scrambling for tried
and true ways to describe the stunning contrast of a handful of people up against, literally up against, the coal machine.
A metaphor in a metaphor. A graphic visual of resistance writ large.
But I want to talk about other things.
Heart, spirit and resilience.
The final prep and training phases for the flotilla to stop the coal ships took place in Newcastle at Pachamama house. I recall someone writing about how the whole place was buzzing with their energy, and it was true.
Many of the warriors come from a deeply spiritual upbringing and there were many prayers. There was a creativity and joyousness, mixed with deep reflection, in their gathering that was unfamiliar yet appreciated amongst some of our Australian support crew.
Joy and tears and cheeky, cheeky laughter were always close to the surface, and sometimes at the same time. At our debrief I watched a young man from Tonga, one of those arrested, describe how scared he was, in part with tears, in part with laughter. The group cried and laughed along with him.
Strong, male ‘warriors’ spoke emotionally and easily, tears falling, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Which of course it is. And this was intertwined with bold expressions of rage and power. With singing, dancing and laughter all mixed in.
And a defiant resilience: from their refusal to be categorised as drowning, a case for pity… to holding physical space for eight hours straight in the massive foyer of the ANZ global headquarters, to the matter of fact approach taken when the police rammed and damaged their traditional canoe – they simply whipped out the power tools and got on with the job.
So these are the things I am taking from my time with them – which was a challenge, and an absolute pleasure and privilege… I will be looking to support and create direct actions which have fire, and emotion and creativity; which think outside the box. I will be resilient and practical, but I will allow joy and tears to flow, in equal measure.
Thanks to all the warriors for the gifts they brought us all, and may we continue to learn and grow
this beautiful movement together.