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.

Thinking About Self Education

I have never wanted to be an ‘expert’ or specialist in any shape or form.

All I’ve ever wanted to be is a good All Rounder.

Thus I have focused all of my self education activities.to that end.

That includes what I might read, or viewed in the many museums and art galleries which I visited over the years.

Such visits are also my idea of fun.

In my younger days I was lucky enough to pay ahort visis to such places at the British Museum, National Gallery, and National Portrait Gallery during my lunch breaks.
Plus spend my time browsing within both radical bookshops, and all the ones along the Charing Cross Road.

Spending much of my life working within libraries has also contributed towards my self education.

I also enjoy public talks on the few occasions when they occur.

Understand all of that and you will get a good idea about how my thinking goes.

Now that I’m retired I would of liked to spend some of my time in undertaking an adult education course. Though that has become much more difficult to do as many of these day courses have been cut, while I’m spending a lot of my time engaged in Campaigning activities.

Museums, Art Galleries, and Libraries are essential if we wish to create a very knowledgeable society.

Every cut to them is something which harms us all.

This needs to be said time & time & time again.

If I Was A Poet

If I was a poet, then this is what I would write: –

I did try to tell you, to warn you, to tell you, but you were shopping at the time.

I did try to tell you, to warn you, to tell you, but you were partying at the time.

Now I keep trying to tell you,

to warn you, to tell you,

but fear it might be too late.

 

Books to Keep – Books to Ditch.

One of the reasons why I have not been writing that much of late is because I’ve been doing a major spring cleaning, buying new furniture and replacing a lot of my bookshelves.

As with all such projects it takes a while to get it all completed.

Three questions.

I’ve also been going through all of my books, resorting, and weeding out the ones which I can no longer use.

In order to simplify this process I asked myself three questions, and If I got the following answers, then out they went.

Are they related to my key interest? No.

Will I ever get around to reading them again? No.

Can I get hold of them should I ever want them again? Yes.

Some of them I’m giving to fellow activists who can use then.

Some I’m giving to a specialist library.

While the rest of them I’m donating to my local radical bookshop as a way of supporting the work it does.

If I was still living in London they would of gone to Housmans bookshop.

Sorted.

Having almost completed this whole process I’m now better able to find all of the references which are needed for my campaigning work, and for anything else which I might use in my writings over the coming years.

I’ve been putting all of my books together by subject and Authors, & my CDs by type, composer, band, or singer.

The same kind of thing has been done with my DVDs.

Though in some cases I’ve put both books by specific Authors together with the DVD films of their works.

e.g. Those of J.R.R. Tolkien, H.G.Wells and Jules Verne.

A Great Advantage.

So now to take advantage of it all – – – – – – –