Sunday, 19 March 2017

"Keep on going forwards" - why solidarity is essential to our personal activism

I’d hesitated about writing this post, let alone actually posting it, because it felt very personal (maybe too personal), but after reading several honest and thoughtful blog posts by friends, albeit on different topics, I have decided to be brave and post this.
It’s probably no secret to some of my close friends that I’ve felt no small amount of hopelessness at the state of the world recently, and also anger at the short-term-ism and selfishness that leads to people and resources being exploited to benefit the very wealthy, rather than being cared for to improve the world for the generations who will come after us.

Last Saturday, because I rather liked the idea of dragging International Women's Day out into a long weekend, I was thrilled to get a ticket from a friend to see Grace Petrie and her 'Coven' perform in a community run pub in London.
The gig left me feeling very emotional, not just because of the beautiful folk music performed by Grace, Lady Maisery and O'Hooley and Tiddow, but because the songs themselves carried a powerful message of hope. These talented musicians gently suggested that barriers to equality and fairness are not insurmountable, just obstacles we can all chip away at in our own way until they fall.

Some of the 'traditional' songs of solidarity and protest sung by the Coven were written over a century ago, but they seemed incredibly, worryingly relevant. I reflected on how we seem to have lost track of the concept of solidarity in a world that seems to require more and more from us, and gives us less and less in return. In these times it's easy to feel that we barely have the resources or time to improve our own circumstances, let alone the lives of others, but it's under these circumstances that we need to support, and be supported by, our friends and communities more than ever.
We need to seize on the things we have in common and use them as a way to build each other up, rather than using our differences as a way to push each other back down. When you start looking for common ground, it's easy to find, and when you listen to the concerns of others (while taking on board and learning from constructive criticism), you can start to provide the support they need.
For all the incredible innovations of the last century, we are still an incredibly unequal society, and I don't simply mean globally. The problem is right here in the UK, with London as a  microcosm of a wider problem.

I often feel overwhelmed by the challenges the world is facing at the moment, and sometimes it's hard to imagine how my attempts to generate less waste, or to make sustainable or ethical fashion choices, could possibly make an impact. But when I look around, I realise it's not just me. I can swap tips about mending clothes with work friends, or enthuse about my ethically sourced bamboo leggings, and no one rolls their eyes or thinks I'm odd. My mum and her pilates teacher were relieved to discover that darning walking-boot socks wasn't something that was unique to them (I have no idea how they got on to this topic) and as well as being involved in virtually every local ‘green’ venture, my dad was a poster-boy for re-usable water bottles on the community notice board by the village supermarket!

We are constantly being told to 'get outside our bubble' (one of my least favourite phrases of 2016!) but I think there is a more productive way to do this than arguing with strangers on the Internet. The support of our peers and communities can give us the courage to raise our voices and reach out to people beyond our immediate sphere of influence. People who might initially think that conscious or ethical consumption is virtue signalling, or boring, weird or just a waste of time, could change their minds when they see alternatives to the lifestyle we've all been sold presented in a practical and positive way.
Although we might not always agree on specifics, or see some campaigns for change as more 'lightweight' than others, it's important to remember that we have so much more in common, and can achieve much more when we work together and support one another.
So this post is really a ‘thank-you’ - to all my friends who read my blog and say nice things to me about it, to the supportive and positive community of eco-bloggers I’ve met on Twitter, and to musicians who take the time to remind their audience that they will always believe there is more good than bad in the world.

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