This initiative is about developing the case for deeper forms of activism, informed by an inquiry into the relationship between the personal and the political.
Beyond Activism starts by acknowledging that however broadly we define activism and activists, what we are doing is clearly not enough, and the solution is probably not more of the same.
Whether it is climate change, corruption or human rights, sometimes we win the battle we set out to fight, but we rarely change the battlefield, or find a better working metaphor than war. After many decades of campaigning our challenges still arise in the context of a political economy built on consumerism and indefinite growth, despite living on a warming planet that is losing resilience and where the sixth mass extinction in the planet’s history is already underway.
And the combined effect of a debased political culture, dizzying technological change and relentless news makes it hard to understand what is going on – just generally. Sometimes we push all our awareness aside in order to work on our current project. Or we try to channel this awareness, but remain in a frenetic action-panic mode which results in even less time and ability to think clearly about what we are really doing.
So with this project we would like to create some space. To step off the relentless wheel of activity, fundraising, fighting – just for a while – to ask some questions:
What happens to the thing we call activism when we engage with, and from, the real ground of being human? When we do our work not just as ‘activists’, but also as parents, friends, lovers and more.
What happens when we look at the underlying psychology and tacit spiritual commitments that motivate our actions and those of our perceived opponents?
What happens when we realise that our methods – such as assuming binary oppositions, presenting facts to our targets, and expecting them to rationally adopt the course of action we propose – may be based on the same unexamined assumptions about human nature that helped create the system we’re trying to change?
In short, what happens to activism when we wake up to the depth of the connection between the personal and the political?
Beyond Activism is therefore an enquiry into three related awakenings:
We wake up politically and desire to change the world for the better.
We wake up spiritually and grasp the limitations of changing society without also changing ourselves, and begin to sense the depth of that connection.
We wake up to the challenge of creating a new world where the development of our inner lives is part of the source code of a new political economy and social imaginary.
For the first few months we’re going to be reading, talking to activists, and sharing what we find: on this website, and at a public meeting in the spring. If you’d like to share your thoughts on the subject, we’d love to hear from you.
This initiative, beginning in December, is led by Anthea Lawson.