Back in April I was visiting my parents in Kent. From there, I was planning (with some apprehension) to go to London to join the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations.
As I have shared in a previous blog, I was determined to speak with anyone I could about my plan and my hopes and fears.
This is some of what happened …
My Mum and Dad were first.
Now, I’ve known them for most of my life (of course) and I knew what they’d say. Things like “why on earth are you doing this!?” or “you’re not thinking of getting arrested are you!?”.
However, … to my great surprise … they were both totally up for it!
In fact, my mother immediately launched into remembering the time she had demonstrated against the closure of a local hospital and stood outside with the other demonstrators. I’d never known!
I spent the next day with some old friends from school. They meet regularly, but I had drifted away and only recently re-joined them.
Usually a space for remembering old times and having fun and a laugh together, I rather tentatively raised the issue of the climate and the environment. I asked how they felt.
They all expressed concern … but what to do, who should do it and whether anything would make any difference was unclear.
I shared how I felt and that I was planning to be part of the demonstrations.
I can be quite naïve in my ideas and hopes and I consider most of them to be more politically aware, informed and knowledgeable than I am. As we talked, they said things like:
“I don’t see there’s much we can do as individuals”
“It’s precisely the government’s job to handle this sort of thing”
“Stopping traffic in London will only turn the public against you”
“The government already has processes for this sort of thing – select committees, with experts.”
and “It’s so far gone, I don’t think anything can be done”
I found myself feeling more and more separate, isolated, uninformed and misguided. I began to doubt my ideas and hopes. So many of the things they said made sense. I began to get angry and frustrated and noticed how I was making them wrong and separating myself.
I left, feeling that bringing up the subject had achieved absolutely nothing.
Two days later I was on Waterloo bridge (a separate story). Four days later I was back home in Devon.
Then, a couple of weeks later, I received an unexpected email from one of them …
“Interestingly and perhaps surprisingly, our discussions have really got me thinking.
I went up to London earlier this week to see what was happening and whilst, to be honest, my initial reaction was that most of the people I saw were the usual suspects, whose motives I suspect are not always pure or straightforward (stop the city type anti-capitalists, lefty lecturers, new-agers), there was a calm and jovial atmosphere and it was nice to be able to walk down the middle of Park Lane with no traffic in sight.
I had thought that the demo was the wrong way to go about things. However, it really has got people talking about the issues. So perhaps I was wrong.
I expect that I shall remain more of an eco worrier than an eco warrior but I hope something good comes out of this movement.”
A few days later I got a second email from one of the others …
“I think I owe you an apology; it seems to me that the Extinction Rebellion protests have had some sort of impact.
Lots of media focus on wider Environmental concerns and the Labour Party discussing a carbon neutral policy aiming for 2045. Also bans on fossil fuel cars being sold after 2030.
Next step is to keep up the pressure and maintain the energy to keep the issues in the public eye!”
I take three things from this:
- It IS important, for me, to have these conversations, wherever possible.
- To try to not assume where people are at, what they might think, or what effect the conversation might have. In fact, to detach myself from any outcome at all would be great!
- To watch for making people wrong and separating myself from others
Finally, while my intention for this blog is to share my journey rather than my opinions … I’m going to allow myself one …
If we’re going to make enough of a difference, we have to do it together – no blame, no making people wrong, no separation.
It is “separation” that has played such a large part in where we are now.
Separation from nature. Separation from each other – in our families, in our communities, in our beliefs.
Separation through technology and social media – from face-to-face interactions – which in turn (I believe) has fed some of the polarisation we are experiencing. So, we end up seeing mostly our differences … rather than the things we have in common and the things we agree on.
Well, not quite finally – as I read this back, I realise that I’m still doing “that stuff” …
In my head is “I brought up the conversation, I went on the demonstration” …
which, loosely translated, means “I’m good/right” …
which in turn implies “they or you aren’t” …
… looks like a long way before enlightenment for me [wink/grin]