Monday, August 26, 2013

Reply to Karen

Karen provided a thoughtful comment yesterday:
Okay. I have been out showing the Rocky Mountains and some of my favourite BC places to my New Brunswick family for the last while, and, frankly, ignoring the situation.
I spent the last few years with a great group of people trying to keep the Enbridge Northern Gateway from happening. It's exhausting. There came points when I felt like I was living in an echo chamber, and I got tired of everyone else rolling their eyes when I mention it. I felt one dimensional.
I've engaged in some activism in the past; but never for as sustained a period as months at a time. One thing that I notice though, is that there's a disconnect between urgency and the intensity of the usual suspects and the general public. Sometimes I used to worry that I would get so into that world that I wouldn't be able to communicate with ordinary people. It's often either that progressive activists are hectoring moralists or there's this boring fanaticism.
On the one hand, I get it, Thwap. Its monstrous- the politcal and environmental tragedy going on is wrong, wrong, wrong. And I am more than happy to stand up and say it loud and clear. I am fine with being whatever kind of target that makes me. I don't want to be a part of the world where this level of corruption exists, I really don't. If my death would make any difference, bring it on, because if it all continues in this path, life ain't gonna be worth living anyway. On the other hand however, I do have a few people I love in my life, for whom I cannot make that decision. My parents are becoming somewhat frail. My offspring is just about to graduate university and hopes to pursue a dream overseas. Do I want to jeopardize them? 
Part of my point yesterday was that we shouldn't have these fears. Standing up for what's right (like blocking the illegal logging of precious, endangered rainforests) should not make one a target for a corrupt government's oppressive apparatus. This sentiment should be shared by all citizens, across the spectrum. If you're opposed to the views of one group of people you should still be outraged when peaceful protests are attacked and beaten.
For what it's worth, the group I am involved with on the pipeline have already been doing just the kind of thing you discuss here, having talks and conversations, and trying to widen the discussion, both in terms of content and participants. But the theme that I hear in private conversations is that they want a life outside of protest and dissent.

I understand what they are saying, while thinking in my private little heart that I need to find people who don't mind protest and dissent being their lives.
I think that's excellent what you're doing. It's very important. With regards to most people's desire to make formal politics a smaller part of their life, I've always tried to incorporate that into my systems. "Workers as Citizens" has always tried to address this by making it dependent only upon the people voting for a party that is bound to implement a life-shifting piece of legislation.

It's human nature that people are more concerned about their direct personal experiences than about some battles of words among representatives. But when it comes to the issue our limited parliamentary democracy and harper's assaults on it, I think more people would come out if their eyes were opened and there was some sort of POINT to their being called out into the streets.
I also think a real self defence strategy has to be formulated when we talk about protest. Didn't I just read this week that a protester at the G20 died injuries sustained at the hands of cops? I may be willing to risk that myself, but I don't really want you to. I want to know that there is someway I can have your back. And the kind of training that requires, to keep strangers from being mere bystanders, to defend one another, that is a whole other thing in this conversation. 
 This initiative has all sorts of gradations of participation for all sorts of comfort levels.

1 comment:

karen said...

I keep writing replies to this that go on forever. I suppose I should write something at my place.

Thanks for your reply. I'm in for your plan out here in BC.

I beleive that politics are not something that can play in the background of our lives. We either participate or we risk winding up victims.

One thing that I would like to suggest is that the focus NOT be on stopping something, or tearing something down, that the focus be on the building of something. It needs to be positive, not negative. I have a suspicion that the exhaustion comes from fighting, but that we can draw energy from building.