10 lessons about conflicts in activism
After three years sharing this workspace, I've passed through several crises within this movement, which, as with any other group, is formed by people with distortions and a wide range of understandings. Also, as with any other group, it has biases and dysfunctions. I've lived the split of the only two global movements that proposed a solid alternative to our state of things: The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement. I've seen and have participated (by action or idleness) in the desintegration of a chapter with more than 20 activist working as a true coordinated team. I've seen a lot of brilliant disenchanted or disenchanting activists leaving this space from Australia, Spain, Italy, UK, Sweden, Colombia, Argentina... Even some of my best new friends have left the room as strangers.
The first thought I have after each of these conflicts is never happy. How can both sides be very aligned with the main goal but not enaugh to share the path? How can there be space for wrong schemes and obsolete structures in a movement with such high moral values (freedom, justice, equality, nonviolence, critical thinking...)? Why is ego still present and visible in our relationships? My second sort of thoughts is: Can we learn something about it?
This text has the intention of collecting 10 lessons to learn, to put them in practice when conflicts arrive, and then to improve our labour of activism which advocates a shift to the best known socio-economic system of our age: the Resource Based Economy Model.
You might disagree with these lessons, or perhaps you have encountered some different ones. Please share your point of view. Thanks a lot.
Beware of your ego and be conscious
- We have a viable alternative to this system, but we still live inside it, in a certain scale. So, be aware that your activism can't become a burden for you or your surroundings because your health and survival are essential if you are going to give your brains and time to do no less than change the world!
- This is a volunteer movement in which each activist gives what she can and desires to, and that effort is appreciated by the group.
- Group efficiency is met after hard work and long experience. In fact, you should notice that cooperation and collaboration need a non-ego-guided learning process.
- Remember: we respect people, but not ideas nor opinions. We don't follow the authority principle. Your actions or views are not you. Simple idea but difficult to internalise.
- We want to change the world. The way of wealth distribution, the monitoring process, the production system, the social organization, the culture, religions..., this is what we advocate for a global and integral change. Complex. Difficult. We know that the shift needs a global change of perspective by spreading relevant information to reach a critical mass. That is, a well-prepared and informed minority who will get global acceptance of the new paradigm. If you haven't realized that this way might be longer than your own, work with patience. The fruit has to be planted, watered, illuminated and fed in an appropiate manner, but it will only fall when it is ripe.
- Be patient also with your fellow activists who are learning something you already know. It's just a walk; being two steps behind or ahead doesn't make you better or worse.
You've got the power!
- No matter what you believe or have been told, if you have an initiative that will bring the society closer to an RBEM or even a better proposal, you will find here the most open place to build it. The most cooperative and well-informed people. But as we say, "If you propose, you endorse." If you can't find time to work on your idea, it will also be very difficult for anyone else find it.
- This movement does not demand anything but what you are willing to give; we are thankful for it, and the sky is the limit for you.
Don't get frustrated
- Understanding a tool for socio-economic organization that would work hugely better and, nevertheless, seeing the world becoming more violent, unfair, and irrational and seeing so much unnecessary suffering emerging all around, is really very frustrating, but remember that knowing a solution is halfway to solving the problem. Such complex changes need someone who enlightens the way. Precious destinations never were easy to reach, but knowing that our proposal is viable is also inspiring and encouraging.
- The reduced oligarchy has been working through generations recording in everyone's brain a whole model that endorses their own interests and values, and has done it with magnificient success, thanks to the system design itself and the education and mass manipulation tools. Entering such a biased scene can seem frustrating also, but... Hey! there's also a place for realistic optimism here: you have suffered the same indoctrination, but you are here. And using critical thinking you have arrived at different conclusions. And you are definitely NOT ALONE.
Don't be violent or use violent communication
- This movement is like any other human group, with contradictions and biases, but we aspire to stop falling into those old mistakes. Let's be inclusive and rational. The alternative we share is not deceitful, so there's no need for aggressiveness or impetuosity to be spread around. Ideas are not imposed. They are shown and submitted for validation. In this process they are improved and our common knowledge is enriched.
- Listen. Open new ways, sow a doubt, make questions..., remember that you share a lot of goals with every human being. Imagine your future within an RBEM in your environment, and build that vision.
- Don't be violent to yourself either. We all make mistakes. If we do more and risk more we certainly will fail more. I read somewhere that 90 percent of the mistakes we commit in a lifetime are to hide former (less important) mistakes. If this is true, let's commit to learning from our mistakes instead of covering them up.
Take care of your travel companions
- We aren`t here to make new friends. Activism is not a social club, but that doesn´t imply that we must not be aware that we share efforts in making available a common goal even though we don´t necessarily share the same vision of how to reach that goal.
- There is no "us and them", or "us versus them", frontiers, geographical chapters, nor other artifitial divisions. It's just one "us". A continuous system of relations.
Don't let the trees hide the forest
- Each of the ego conflicts in the movement has resulted in a motivation decline of the group and a breach in activism capacity. Sometimes this is a price worth paying. Sometimes it's not. Consider it.
- If you have been personally compromised, take some time to breathe and get perspective. Listen to yourself and also ask around to enrich yourself with other points of view before getting burnt out and leaving the group bereft of your valuable contribution.
Be the change you want to see in the world
- Even though we are not used to functioning without leaders, gurus, hyerarchies--without competition, without profit, without dogmas, using the scientific method... if we want to show that this model works, we must force ourselves to learn how to put it into practice even though we might not be so quick or efficient in the early stages.
- The goal is very important, but if we don't act with consistency in the process of transition it is very unlikely we will build up a global socio-economic system with such characteristics, and much more improbable that we know how to sustain it long term.
Presumption of innocence
- Communication and language, very often not in one's mother tongue, creates ambiguity. Always assume the best intention and be open to interpretation unless/until proven otherwise.
- Don't try to solve conflicts by e-mail or writing posts. Missunderstandings are more frequent in not-oral communication when arguing. Text hardly express mood, tone, intention... making it more complex to really understand.
Enjoy the walk!
- This can be a space full of true freedom and collective enrichment.
- Up or downwards, with roller skates, on a kite, with the crowd, with the few, chatting on education, learning permaculture, designing a lecture, writing an essay, translating, in english, en español, auf deutsch, building a FeNi battery prototype, drawing, making pictures, composing a video, learning how to build a windmill, opening knowledge, software or hardware, moderating a meeting, developing a web site, talking to your loved ones, listening to strangers, understanding, asking... any way you adapt your work to your activism and experience, enjoy the pleasure of rolling up your sleeves to allow your work and ideas to provoke a significant change. Savor the tremendous delight of trying to stare Life in the face without losing your smile.