- Care about the facts.
- Look after each other.
- Give in solidarity.
- Take action.
Look, I know this isn’t the world we were promised, and all you wanted was a quiet life of worth and sweetness, loving and laughing and doing a little modest good on the side.
I know you never asked for favour, for privilege, for an easy ride. I know you keep hearing that there isn’t enough to go around anymore and so many people want you to blame immigrants or bankers or the rich or the poor.
I know you can’t find a politician or a leader you trust, and so you’re making dangerous compromises with those you don’t. I knowyou’re being watched, and judged, and found wanting, by states and bureaucracies that don’t even know you, when all you wanted was your loved ones to be safe. For your old age to be safe. I know all this because that’s what I wanted too. And I know I’m just a yoga teacher and your practice is your safe space.
But please remember, if you’re safe, secure, with a roof over your head, if your job pays okay and you can afford the little luxuries in life, if you’re sat watching the world burn because you’re not sure how to stop it – you sound like a person in a lifeboat telling people on a sinking ship that there’s no point trying to save it.
Some of us don’t have the luxury of giving up. Some among us are exhausted, confused, sick and overwhelmed and can’t give up. Some people have had homes, futures, and lives destroyed and some can’t find the money to eat, and they can’t afford to give up.
Even if half your country didn’t vote and of the half that did, most were conned into voting for things to get worse because they voted for change, any change, anything at all, in desperation, don’t give up on the desperate because they voted for racists. Just as many nice, white, middle class people who look just like you voted for them too. Whoever got in, you’ll find the same people getting richer, and the same getting poorer.
And if you did vote for ‘change’, know this – I realise that you didn’t vote with far right poison in your heart, but you did give them a platform to be heard. You just didn’t care enough about the rights of black, brown, disabled, poor, queer, trans people or vulnerable women not to vote for them. And if they come in force, let’s be clear about this, they’ll be coming for me, and for mine. So here’s where I stand.
I watched while we bombed children for oil. I can’t watch as we build walls to keep the survivors out. I watched while benefits were cut, and sanctioned. I can’t watch people die being told they’re fit for work. I watched while democratic processes were overturned again and again when oil was at stake. I can’t watch protestors get shot for protecting clean water.
I’ve watched the weather and the flooding gets worse; seen all manner of things grow far out of their place and season. Now I’m watching careful, cautious scientists suggest that maybe, maybe we’re on the verge of a 7* climate apocalypse – and I’m watching them being told they’re rotten and corrupt, in the grip of some sort of global conspiracy.
I believe that some things are true and others are not, and I’m watching facts being treated as optional extras. We’re told we live in a ‘post-factual’ world, as if by giving propaganda a new name, we can somehow neutralise it. And the truth is a weak weapon in a war of a million digital words a day.
I’m watching women’s headscarves being pulled off in the streets, and racist graffiti, and trans people scrambling to protect their rights, and women being told sexual assault is normal, and across the world, one by one, I’m watching populist, reactionary demagogues being elected in the hope they might curtail the worst excesses of the same obscenely rich people that financed their campaigns. I’m watching them appoint the same class of ultra-rich leaders that got us into this mess into the same old positions of power. I’m watching the far right across the world celebrate in city after city, and I’m watching the people that elected them tell marginalised, vulnerable people that it’s going to be okay. It’s not.
It’s very far from being okay. We are burning the world to protect the last days of a lifestyle that we already know is unsustainable, because a generation or two of people that were told they’d grow up to rocket ships and full employment want their privilege back, as the one percent of the one percent try to pull the ladder up behind them on an ark they haven’t even built yet.
Burning what’s left as the climate tips into chaos and economies crumble won’t save anyone in the end. And onto the pyre we’re throwing civil liberties, social safety nets, and entire classes of people – the same people that always get burnt first. Black people, brown people, disabled people, queer people, poor people. Women.
Women. Some of us need to grow the hell up and remember our grandmothers, raising nine children on a miner’s wages; surviving back street abortions and their sons lost in wars and ending old before their time in workhouses, because not for one moment were they allowed to stop producing, stop proving their worth, stop earning their keep and just. Rest.
Women. Do you really think that our rights to vote, to hold property, to self-determination, to birth control are inaliable when children cross war-torn continents to sleep in mud and be told they’re a nuisance? When millions line up for foodbanks? When disabled people lie in filth for lack of a carer? Do you really think when we wrestled for those rights in the first place, they came from asking nicely, and politely, and giving time for a free and frank debate, when that debate included mockery, lies and cruelty?
I know there is so very much to be done. I know it’s hard to even know what’s true anymore. I know we’re living in social media bubbles and I know from the fear in my bones that those of us who just about pass for a ‘productive’ and ‘sensible’ member of society according to neoliberal definitions are terribly, awfully, petrifyingly scared of the day that we are too exhausted, too sick, or too unlucky to make the grade.
But those among us that don’t pass, have been suffering for quite some time already. Now the people who don’t think disabled people and black people and refugees and Muslims and queer people and poor people are quite like real people, are ceding ground to the people who saw us as sub-human all along and we’ve seen what their world looks like. Don’t tell each other not to be scared. Don’t tell each other to look to the good. Don’t say it’s all going to be okay. This is very far from okay. This is it. We stand on the battlefield whether we want to or not. Our only choice now is who and what we stand up to protect.
Sometimes you have to fight for love, for justice, for equality, because they don’t exist outside of our willingness to stand up for them. We have forgotten that we are the product of a thousand years of struggle, of dissent, and of resistance. We weren’t born to rule. Our ancestors were not leaders of men. We are the children of those who found themselves led, and driven, and beaten, and who made difficult bargains and horrible compromises and punched down to survive but also, once in a while, stood together and magically, beautifully, worked out how to punch upwards.
Our people have always worked with a contingent, rough and ready idea of morality. In service to a dream of better times and higher ethics, we have been pirates and poachers, smugglers and saboteurs, trespassers and rioters. We have gone on hunger strike and damaged property and thrown paving stones and did the best that we could, but we have always fought. In a million different ways, we fought back.
We fight now, for more than each other. We fight for the very ground we stand on, for the rights of all life, for the air we breathe and the water that sustains us. We are the people who know in our inherited bones how to fight, and we are the children of those who never had the luxury of pretending we could buy our way out of the mess we created.
Rest when you need it. Resist however you can. And then may we rise up together. May we stand for those of us that cannot stand, speak for those of us that cannot speak, hold each other up and know that everyone’s contribution to the fight is precious. It’s going to take all of us. Starting with this breath, and the next, and the next, for as long as it takes. Until our last if it’s needed. Heart to heart and hand in fucking hand.
For all our sakes. Rise. Up.
Things you could be doing right now:
- Care about the facts. Reach out to people on the other side of political debate if you can, but don’t waste energy in replaying the same debates. Check facts. When someone says everyone deserves enough to eat, but there are too many scroungers on benefits, check the facts on benefit fraud and tax evasion and show them the facts. Facts still exist. Show your sources. Don’t stoop to sharing counter-propaganda just because Buzzfeed had a snarky post about how all the Leave voters are going to die out soon.
- Look after each other. We’re probably in this for the long haul. People you know are scared, and hurting. Tell your trans, black, queer, disabled, poor and otherwise vulnerable friends that you will look out for them. Tell them that you will stand up for them and mean it. And then get as strong and resilient as you can. Sleep, eat and nourish your body, your home, your loved ones, your communities as well as you can. And then…
- Give in solidarity. Once a month take 5% of your income or whatever you can afford and choose an independent cause you believe in and send them some money. Choose foodbanks and refugee crisis centres. Choose pro-choice non-profits and environmental activists. Share your choice on social media to inspire friends to do the same. If you are living on the breadline, is there a way you can still give time, or love, or energy? Reaching out to others in need is an antidote to cynicism and reminds you of those resources that you do have in abundance.
- And then, take action. Once a month take some form of direct social action that a) happens in community with other human beings and b) makes you a little bit nervous. Exercise your muscles of dissent and reach out to people who scare you a little. Stand for your local council. Take a pledge at Compassionate Revolution. Help out at your local shelter. When it gets comfortable, stop, reassess and take more risks.
If your impairments and disabilities make this too exhausting or dangerous, there are activist organisations recognising the value of engaging your talents. The recent Rising Up Heathrow blockade was beautifully supported in real time by a communications blockade on Facebook, the phones and Twitter. Acting in a collective with peaceful mischief builds your resilience to take positive action and, again, is an antidote to cynicism.
It’s time. Are you ready?