Thinking About Campaigning – A World View Reminder

From time to time it is well worth reminding myself and others of how I view the world.

Take the overview, but keep an eye on the details.

In practice this means I will put my political energy in to those projects which very few people have the time or energy to engage upon.

Or

In to those projects which take a lot of time to learn about.

I also believe that we can not indulge in thinking in terms of campaigning seasons, as the kind of crisis which we face need hours by days by weeks by months by years by decades of solid campaigning and social action.

The real problem is just how do we maintain such long term activities, while receiving very little or no support ?

This is very much a practical question which needs to be asked by anyone who is engaged in long term campaigning.

The Mess We Are All In Now

For those of you who have not been able to follow the news about Brexit over the last couple of weeks: – here is a summary of it all.

A large group of delusional and dysfunctional individuals, who are otherwise known as members of the house of commons, are having an argument about just what kind of dysfunctional society we should all live in. Although there bottom line comes down to how they might hold on to power, or keep boosting up their egos.

Meanwhile they ignore the declining economy which is resulting in there being more rough sleepers on the streets, poor housing, growing debts, a declining NHS, growing pollution, and the 2000 and 5 other more urgent problems which most of the population are worried about.

That’s aside from the fact that they seem unable to focus upon the need for proper recycling facilities, or creating a sounder ecological society.

Meanwhile there is zilch being done to stop the UKs greatest exports – High levels of plastic waste & radioactive waste getting in to the sea.

I don’t think I’ve missed anything here, except for a few details, such as how these self serving members of the house of commons are more worried about a general election taking place, or how they might replace the unelected prime minister Mrs May, than in anything else.

At one level it is farcical, but none of these social and ecological problems can be solved until we take control back from all these dysfunctional and delusional politicians.

As to what might happen next – Either the disastrous farce continues, or some real world thinking starts to take place.

We can only hope – – – .

Long Term Rules For Activists – Part Six

A Few Considerations.

First Consideration.

One of the aspects of any political analysis, social, or world view, which always needs to be considered, is just how it may match up with what goes on in the real world.

Things change over the decades, our individual situations change, and that it something we always need to be aware about.

Second Consideration.

Many of the campaigning manuals make sets of assumptions about how activists are able to see each other on a very regular basis, or have very close friends, a partner, or family members living in the immediate area. All of whom can give them support if things go wrong.

That’s nice in theory, but excludes a lot of would be activists whose homes are spread over a very wide geographical area.

Meeting Up.

It also takes no account of the fact that many campaigning groups come together for a short while before the individuals in it move on to other towns, cities, villages, or countries.

Something which I’ve realised over this last decade, is that if I tried to meet up with everyone I’ve campaigned with over the years, then it would mean going on a 6 month world tour.

I jest not.

So – – –

So we all need to spend time refining &/or questioning our world view.

While always spending a lot more time talking with, and getting to better know, all those activists we work with.

This especially goes for those individuals who do not have a good support network around them, or who are fresh to many of our radical ideas.

Long Term – Short Term

Many of the major issues we face seem to take a long while to solve, but here’s the key question: –

Will they take a few years, or a few decades to solve?

Some issues come down to changing peoples attitudes, such as racism, gay rights, sex discrimination, or ageism.

While some campaigning centres around stopping specific wars.

All of which is achievable.

What will take much longer is countering just what has and is being done to our environment.

Be it burning fossil fuels, allowing plastics to land up in the middle of our oceans, or pollute the earth with radioactive waste, there is going to be no quick fix.

All we can do is work to stop these problems growing, and then put our finances in to various measures to clean up all of this mess.

So What To Do, or What Options Do We Have ?

The follow up question is:-

Just how many of us are capable of very long term thinking?

The answer is Not Many.

That’s why we find so many people who are able to think in terms of campaigning for achievable immediate objectives, but are not able to do this in conjunction with working to achieve longer term aims.

This might be summed up with a mind set which goes:-

It feels ever so, ever so, ever so – ever so in to the future.

Thus we are for ever mounting short term campaigns after short term campaigns, which are not conducive to any sort long term or longer term thinking, as opposed to building campaigns that have a decades or centuries long vision.

It really does make it very difficult to do any long term planning if we have to constantly keep focusing upon short term campaigns and short term campaign fund raising.

Thus in any campaign we need to work upon both our short term and long term aims.

For example: –

In the short term stopping specific arms exports.

While in the long term illuminating all the causes of war.

Ecological effects

Much of the major ecological damage to the global has been done over the last couple of hundred years, but we have as a species been able to reverse some of it.

For example by banning the use of those gases which damaged the ozone layer, and by Species reintroduction projects.

While we are currently campaigning to curtail the use of the plastics which are killing so many creatures in our oceans.

Such projects take decades to get results and a lot of dedicated hard work to make them happen.

While in many coastal areas community groups are going out to the shore line to clear them of plastics.

Radioactivity makes for a set of long term issues.

What we can’t clean up or easily reverse are the effects of radioactive matter in our environment, which will effect us for hundreds of centuries.

Thus the urgent need to stop more being produced in the first place, which will then have to be followed my many decades of campaigning to make sure this waste does no more harm by getting in to the environment.

That the kind of campaigning which is both very urgently needed to be done, and which will need continually worked upon for many centuries to come.

Rethinking the time scales

There are no campaigning handbooks which I have ever seen which take in to account just how many generations of activists will be needed to campaign about these same ecological problems.

When the nukiller power industry developed in the 1940s and 50s nobody thought about the long term effects of what they were doing.

They just developed the reactors and dumped the waste where they could. That’s why we have so such of what is refereed to by the industry as ‘legacy waste’.

There are no short term fixes to many of our various social, political, and ecological problems.

That’s why we need to think about actions which look towards long term solutions, as opposed to a lots of short term protests.

Long Term Rules For Activists – Part Four

Thinking it through.

Huxley

There are a number of books which made an impact upon my thinking while in my early 20s, and which I still come back to in terms of how I view the world. One of them is the Aldous Huxley book Ends and Means.

Thinking it through – In practical terms

There is something which I keep saying we need: –

Real World Solutions For Real World Problems.

That is as long as it is consistent with ends and means, and brings us towards the kind of nonviolent, non exploitative, and environmentally sound world which many of use would like to live in.

That is very much my starting point in any campaigning which I might be involved in doing.

Practical examples.

In terms of how we solve some of our ecological problems many of the following match up not just in terms of a joined up campaigning approach, but also in terms of a joined up set of solutions.

Walking, the use of push bikes, building tram ways, and moving more freight by barge.

A vegetarian/vegan life styles, with more food being grown in urban farms.

The creation of urban forests or woods.

&

Moving towards decentralised energy generation, via solar panels and vertical wind turbines.

All of which will make a big contribution towards solving a global warming.

A Life style look at the labels.

Anyone who has ever gone shopping with me, or watched me go shopping, will notice that I spend a lot of time reading the labels.

This is because I am looking to make such that the food I buy contains no palm oil, is completely vegetarian, is low salt / low sugar, and how recyclable the packaging is.

Thus I aim to buy loose fruit and vegetables if possible, and fruit juice in recyclable glass jars, as opposed to tetra packs which are still not being widely recycled by many local authorities.

This comes down to taking a personal responsibility for the state of our planet, but it should also go hand in hand with campaigning for all packaging to be recyclable.

With a lot of contents labels it is just not obvious what they are composed of, or how they are manufactured.

If for instance clothing stated that the materials used were a plastic derivative, or a recycled / recyclable product, then we might be able to make much more informed choices about what we wear.

Here is where a lot more ‘consumer education’ and the power of the boycott comes in to play.

I could give many more example of just what might be done this way.

As the saying goes:-

You get what you pay for.

So if you pay for all that unneeded packaging, then the real cost will come out in the form of a heavily polluted planet.

It is another aspect of joined up campaigning.

Campaigning by example.

A lot of people mouth the phrase: –

Think global. Act Local.

Yet just how many people who use this phrase think just what this means ?

What I think we need to do is engage more in what might best be described as:-

Campaigning by example.

Long Term Rules For Activists – Part Three

Activists and long terms activists.

One of the continuing practical problems which all campaigning groups face is not enough activists. We all moan about it, or have heard others moan about it, but very few people know how we might encourage any kind of long term activism.

The problem being that a lot of protest activities are reactive to events, while there are only a very small number of individuals who have the time or energy to engage in to long term, day by week by month by year by years by decades activism.

Thus we can land up with: –

A very small number of long term activists within a number of very small groups.

or

A large number of activists who do a lot in a short period of time, but burn themselves out within a period of a year to 18 months.

Neither of which makes for an ideal situation.

Activists, research. and articles.

It should also be kept in mind that building activist knowledge is only possible because of spending a lot of time reading many different reports, books, newspapers, periodicals, newsletters, and by viewing a lot of websites.

That’s something which very few people have the time to do.

Thus the long activists tend only to network with other long term activists, as it can take a while to keep explaining the same background facts time and time again.

Thus any campaigning research tends to continually fall upon a few long term activists.

While all of that research gets used by others.

Here is might be noted that there are a lot of academics who have made a career, or good living, by using the knowledge gained by activists.

Good research work costs money, or at least the time to go visit many libraries on a regular basis. It also involves spending a lot of time chatting with or networking with other long term activists.

Joined Up Protests.

When it comes to some issues we have a lot of local campaigning groups with very few activists in them. Thus they are only able to organise a few events or protests a year, which in turn comes down to the same small organising group.

This might be viewed as a weakness in our campaigning options, but it can be turned around in to something of a major strength.

The first thing is to make sure that the activist within all of these small groups both advertise each others events, and make an effort to attend them.

Thus a small local event can become a much larger regional or national one.

It can be done if each of the local groups has a good travel budget. The same budget can also be used to pay for speakers to come and address local meetings.

The second option is to engage in coordinated protests.

That is lots of small pickets or leafleting sessions at the same time on the same day.

Those kind of activities do not take much time and effort to organise at a local level, but with the same leaflets / same leaflet text it makes for a much bigger event.

It is not so much a question of working towards what is sometimes referred to as being a Day of Action, but showing we are not just a few small isolated groups.

All of which turns what is our weakness in to a strength.

Best of all such events should attract individuals who have neither the time or the money to make it to Yet Another National Demonstration or March.

Long Term Rules For Activists – Part Two.

Long Term Short Term

Over the years I have spent many a happy hour on pickets or leafleting. It is something which needs to be done if one is involved in active campaigning.

Yet no matter what one is campaigning about, there is always a need to see it as a part of an ongoing process, as change can not be achieved in a hurry.

That is why every picket, demonstration, or leafleting session needs to be properly planned.

This is where a little campaign theory comes in to play.

Protest as A Form of Communications.

If we are demonstrating then we need to be clear about just what it is all be about, and we need to carry more than leaflets in case any passer by wishes for more information.

If we are there to make our views and information known, then it is a more of a presentation event.

It is best described as being the difference between a demonstration / picket at which leaflets are handed out as part of a protest, and a leafleting session where the prime object of the exercise is to communicate.

If one wishes to communicate, then the first time we will be there to hand out leaflets, then it might best be billed as a communication session.

It is going to be outside of the offices of an organisation one is campaigning about, then getting the right information on the leaflets is important.

That’s a way of informing those who go in to the building why we are there.

While on the second or further occasions, you can turn up with a lot more poster boards. and make it a much more visual event.

Then if they still don’t do anything about the issue, we can move on to the fun part, which might consists of street theatre, blockades, etc.

In between all of this you can also do a morning or afternoon leafleting session, which is aimed at the staff, decision makers, and advisers who work for the organisation. This is with the aim of making sure that they know just what the issues are all about.

On the other hand you can also do regular leafleting sessions just to show your concerns, and which are very much part of a larger set of campaigning aims.

For example: –  By regular leafleting sessions outside of army recruiting offices as a part of ones long term anti-militarist campaigning.

Last of all there are the support pickets outside of both embassies & consulates. These may be one off events, or ones which are done on a regular basis.

A word with Plod.

One last point to keep in mind.

Even if there seems to be no official response to your protest, then are noted, and are mentioned in the various reports which they make.

That’s why it is always a good idea to make sure to hand over a copy of the leaflet your handing out to their security, and ask that it is passed on to the right person in the building.

A cheery Good Morning as you shake them by the hand will also defuse any potential hostility they might show to you.

Just explaining that you intend to keep off any of their private land, that your purpose is to communicate, and how long you will be around can help too.

Then when plod turns up, you give then a cheery Good Morning, shake them by the hand, and tell them you have already talked with the security about what you are doing.

Now I know a lot of the comrades would never dream of doing so, but I’ve had more conversations about the issues I’ve been protesting about because of this willingness to do so than most activists could ever imagine.

[ Though I still would not advise anyone to give them more than your first name, and certainly not your date of birth. ]

Yes I know that many of these points are all very self apparent, but it is important to be clear about them in our thinking.

Leafleting sessions and pickets might note seem to be the most exciting activities, but they do build up support for any campaign we might be engaged upon.

They also give us the chance to chat with people who might not know much about the issue, and can sometimes encourage individuals to become involved in our campaigns.

Long Term Rules For Activists – Part One.

A Question for activists.

The question which I keep asking, is how do we keep going with little or no support?

There is no easy answer to this, as achieving social change is a long term slog.

Yet there are some ways of thinking, and acting , which do help to sustain ones activism.

1. Keep focussed on those issues which very few people are working on, and which you have some special concerns or knowledge about.

2. Keep remembering that social change will only come by a day by week by month by year by decade, by decades, by century commitment to making it happen.

3. There is no such thing as a protest season, so just think in terms of what needs doing right now.

4. Match up your political actions and life style.

There is a lot of good information to be found about boycotts, and ecological lifestyle issues in the Ethical Consumer magazine.

5. Be willing to work with people who do not share ones political views, but are concerned with some of the same single issues.

It might mean you get your radical views seen in action by people who are never going to come in contact with them any other way.

This is something which I keep doing as a part of my Liverpool Pedestrian campaigning.

6. Don’t fall for the ‘one last push’ / ‘we need more people to make an even larger march / demonstration’ way of thinking.

This only results in burn-out or disillusionment.

And Last of All.

Just go on those small scale pickets or demonstration where a few people will make a big difference.

As to meetings.

My rule of thumb is that they are only worth while going to if they are planning ones, or where you are going to increase your knowledge base.

Though sometimes it is worth while going to them in order to do some networking.

Good Health, A Healthy Brain, and Good Connections.

They say that the only way to keep a healthy brain as one gets older is by lots of exercise. Well I do that by walking between 4 and 7 Kms each day.

They say one should also keep a healthy brain by constantly challenging it with new tasks & learning lots of new things. Well I’ve got that well and truly sorted.

They also say that one should get out and have a good social life. That gets much more tricky if a lot of ones closest or oldest friends are scattered around the world. That’s why I like trying to chat on line or by phone. It’s also because a lot of the campaigning work I do is via email, and that’s just not the same.

Plus a few good chats help to counter what might otherwise be a complete feeling of isolation.

[ This is also important in terms of supporting friends who live many miles away & who find it difficult to get out because of their medical condition. ]

These are all aspects of life which I’ve discovered work well for me since my retirement. They also counter the fact that one does not see or communicate with the same people each day at work.

All of which means that I always make such to visit the library & do my shopping on a daily basis. That also means that I’m always able to eat very fresh food.

There is also that aspect of ones life which people forget while young, and that is just how many of the friends one knew may be dead. While other people one may of lost contact with many years ago.

The other aspect of keeping ones brain active is my visiting new places, or revisiting places one has not been to in a long time. That’s known as learning or relearning how to get around various locations, especially as places one once known well do tend to change over the years.

I offer these thoughts as a way of showing just how my mind works.

Bagging Up The Plastic Rubbish.

The plastic problem – Up and until now.

There has been a lot of very worrying news stories of late about plastics in the oceans,

and the problems caused by plastic particulates.

Yet the only solutions to this which ever seem to be mentioned are recycling plastic bottles,

phasing out the use of plastic cups or cutlery, or getting groups of volunteers to go clean up their local beaches.

There has also been a lot of protests about the use of plastic packaging.

This goes hand in glove with trying to persuade the supermarkets to stop selling fruit and vegetables in plastic bags, netting, or containers, by selling them as loose items.

That matches in with the campaign to stop a lot of food waste from occurring.

On the plus side I have noted that some cafes and bars have switched from plastic to biodegradable straws.

The plastic problem – What else we can do.

If we are going to solve problem of all the plastic in the sea, then we need to do much more about this as a society.

One solution will be to switch from plastic to biodegradable rubbish bags. That will mean pushing for them to be made available in all the supermarkets at an affordable price. It would also help if these were to become available via each of the rubbish collecting local authorities.

Cleaning up the plastic pollution is going to take a while to do, but we can do something by trying to cut down the amount of plastics which currently land up inside of plastic rubbish sacks.

Being Time Rich & Working Ahead To Stay Time Rich

Being and staying Time Rich.

Here is an observation which should be remembered about what happens to everyone who is retired.

First of all one has more time as a result of not going to work.

Yet if one is interested in what’s going on in the world, and engaged in making social change, the the following will hold true: –

‘ I just don’t know how there was time for me to go to work.’

I know this to be so, as it was a case of my switching from a page per week to a day per page diary.

Though here comes a tip to anyone who’s about to retire –

Go food shopping every day as you will be eating really fresh food, and can use the sale bargains on items you use all the time.

You will also get out of the house that way, and get the walking exercise which everyone needs to do.

The Wrong Answer.

The other advantage of retirement is that one can work on projects / plan / work on events way in advance.

Being time rich also means I am able to read a lot of newspapers, and reports which relate to the campaigning work I’m engaged upon.

So when I ask a specific question about some issue or other, then it’s because it really does need to be addressed.

That said, one will constantly hear the following from those who are still at work:- ‘ I’m too busy to do [ or answer ] that right now. ‘

That’s known as the Wrong Answer, as it slows down the work of those of us who are time rich.

This is especially so if it’s a case of asking for the same thing time and time and time again.

It also means that those who keep saying ‘ I’m too busy’ will never get the potential help they need, or ever see the various projects which they are involved in move forward at a faster speed.

Thinking Ahead – Planning Ahead.

The things one learns you get older, is that there are always last moment problems, or changes which need to be made at the very last moment.

Many of these come about because of changing circumstances, last moment emergencies, etc.

Yet a lot of them are the result of not being able to do any medium to long term planning, or thinking about alternative options way in advance of events.

Right now I’m look at and working up events some 3 months to 5 years in to the future.

For example: – What we can all do about marking 60 years since the Windscale fire this October.

So just keep all of this in mind, as it could well work to your advantage.