Activist Diary #5

In an hour and a half I board the coach from Exeter to London. Tomorrow I will be in Parliament Square with hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, for the declaration of Extinction Rebellion. Others who, like me, have realised that drastic measures are needed to wake up the governments of the world to the worsening ecological crisis -particularly to climate breakdown.

Of course, as a whole our governments know what is going on. They would rather sacrifice many of our lives than take on the hard and initially unpopular work of global system change that is so needed. If we were in their shoes, of course we would do no better. Changing our politicians within the current system won’t help us respond to this drastic emergency. With compassion and assertiveness, we rebel against our governments, and we do it civilly.

This starts today.

I feel petrified but exhilerated to be travelling to London at this important time. Today I put my habit of social anxiety aside. I must. Today is part of a wider series of events and trends globally that speak of a turning point in modern global history, and the stirrings of a mass mobilisation of people willing to peacefully ‘fight’ for their lives, as well as the lives of other species on this planet.

What we are beginning to witness, what we must help to manifest, are the rumblings of a leviathan of a movement that is projected to be far greater than the mobilisation of the Allied forces during WWII, and more decisive.

So how do I feel? I feel disappointed in humanity that I have to face these days that make me so anxious for myself and deeply fretful about likely future scenarios that my nieces and nephews will be growing into. I feel angry and bitter towards folk in the street that I walk past every day, their apparent obliviousness to what is going on as they consume, consume, consume. I feel angry and sad.

I feel resolute, after spending time with my blood-niece recently, that I will do what I can to help change the course of history at this pivotal time, even if that means being arrested for peaceful direct action, blocking the roads that taken us in the wrong direction for far too long.

I feel resigned to this potentially difficult path of civil disobedience that lies ahead of me. I feel wearied by it ahead of time. But I also feel the stirrings of a warrior within me. That warrior that must awake within me to carry me forward beyond the limited behaviours of my life that have carried me thus far. That warrior spirit that must awake within all of us if we are to truly rise to this deepest challenge of our times.

Once this spirit begins to awaken, joining with others in Extinction Rebellion, there is a great feeling of shared purpose, a joyful and deep purpose, perhaps the purpose we were all born for in these times.

It is this joy I want to share with you. I feel it only in moments, but I suspect that it will grow.

And grow and grow and grow.

The launch that was as soft as a feather

Tomorrow is the soft launch date for my first product -a spreadsheet for activists. By ‘soft launch’ I mean in this instance that I was going to give it away to family, friends, and those who have helped me out with market research.

But it isn’t ready.

It isn’t ready because I have been spending all my time on Extinction Rebellion. I’m not bitter and I’m not resentful. Extinction Rebellion (XR) is teaching me a lot of skills -skills that I have never gained from any ‘regular’ paid job. People skills. Software skills. Management skills and leadership skills. These are all skills that will help my business.

Moreover, I am in the thick of the XR movement. I am learning about other activists, what makes them tick and what information may be useful to them. I never consciously engage with my fellow rebels from a place of market research, but I know that subtly, these interactions will later inform my understanding of my business audience, for which I am grateful.

I haven’t failed to launch my product. I’ve actually sent the bare bones of what I have so far to a good friend of mine. I did that today, so I launched a day early. My new plan is to keep relaunching after every short burst of feedback from a friend or a few. To reiterate this softly softly launch until it gets bigger and harder. Until next year when I intend to be in a position to charge for it (that plan hasn’t changed).

Do you think I failed? I don’t think so. Here is my launch: soft as a feather.

Launch of free curated spreadsheet for activists on 30/10/18 -but only if you give me feedback :-)

Email me at matthew.tehanu@gmail.com to get your free copy of the spreadsheet. I will only be dishing them out until I get 50 engaged respondents -that’s fifty people who give me constructive criticism to feed into the next version. These respondents will get free updates on this product for life, and this product will always be free to active members of XR and Rising Up! (You know who you are). Everyone else, if you wait until January, you’ll pay for it. 🙂

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It’s going to be messy, but I don’t care. I’ve waited for too long to get a product out into the world. What better date to launch it on than the 30th October? This will be exactly one year since I started the Epic Tomorrows blog and exactly one day before the announcement of Extinction Rebellion in Parliament Square, London. Extinction Rebellion (XR) is the NVDA movement I am involved with and for which I co-edit the blog extinctionrebellion.org

XR is the movement that, using the vehicle of mass civil disobedience in London this autumn, resulting in multiple arrests, will demand of the UK government that carbon emissions are reduced to zero by 2025, to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown, and that a democratic citizens’ assembly is created to bring about this decarbonisation.

Due to spending all my time organising for Extinction Rebellion, my blog-business development has fallen by the wayside -or so I thought. Trusting the process of my unfolding life and business, I can now see that that all my experience of activist organisation over the past few months has directly informed the development of my ideas for information products for activists.

On 30th October I will soft launch a free version of my first information product, a curated spreadsheet of websites useful to activists, simply made with MS Excel, with a guiding document on how to use the spreadsheet. It will be messy, it will be a work-in-progress, and it will only contain a couple hundred entries, but I am confident that I have wisdom, empathy and experience enough that many activists will find this to be a useful list. Since I have been hanging around with a lot of climate activists and vegans in recent months, and have recently made the change to total veganism myself, this first free version of the spreadsheet will be weighted in these directions.

I am a generous person (ask anyone who knows me well).

Anyone who gives me significant constructive and honest feedback, (not just, ‘hey, great spreadsheet’ or ‘this spreadsheet is a pile of shit’) will get free updates of this product for life. I have come far enough against the odds to know that eventually, this will be a resource you will feel blessed to have access to. It will take me a little while to get it to that level, so bear with me. More than that -I’m asking you to help me build this thing. If you help me build it at this early stage, you’ll always be a part of it and you’ll never have to pay. If you are an active member of Extinction Rebellion, you will also never have to pay.

In January 2019 I will start charging for the product.

The theory behind my product, and behind Epic Tomorrows, is that disconnection is the final cause, or the umbrella feature, of much catastrophe in modern globalised society, including the likely collapse of global civilisation within the next century. The extent to which we connect and re-connect is the extent to which we can mitigate the collapse and turn it, broadly speaking, into a managed transformation into a more advanced version of human society.

For the activists amongst you, like myself, the need to connect and re-connect is particularly urgent for you to be an effective activist. A key element of this connection is to those information resources that help you ACT! Being an effective activist also means being a healthy person of course. You know this, but you probably struggle with putting it into practice, like I do.

My free spreadsheet and accompanying guide (try them out) will eventually expand to include all these areas of connection and re-connection for activists:

1) Activist to activist (community building)

2) Activist to wholeness / potential, of theirself

3) Activist to basic sustainable physical resources 

4) Activist to wholeness / potential, of regenerative culture

5) Activist to informational, emotional and other resources

6) Activist resource to activist resource

7) Activist org / movement to activist org / movement

There is urgency for ecopreneurs such as myself to disrupt the precarious situation of neoliberal globalised capitalism in enterprises which re-connect what neoliberal capitalism has helped disconnect. This re-connection can help subvert capitalism into a more sustainable and relocalised version of itself, into a truly regenerative culture. This culture isn’t ‘socialism’ by the way, although some socialists I’ve met are friendly to my vision.

If I can kill three bloated corporations with one stone, as the saying should go, and help activists with system change, help set an example for ecopreneurs for system change, and provide a basic living for myself in the meantime, then Epic Tomorrows is serving its purpose.

Email me at matthew.tehanu@gmail.com to get your free copy of the spreadsheet. I will only be dishing them out until I get 50 engaged respondents -that’s fifty people who give me constructive criticism to feed into the next version. These respondents will get free updates on this product for life, and this product will always be free to active members of XR and Rising Up! (You know who you are). Everyone else, if you wait until January, you’ll pay for it. 🙂

 

Ideas #3 (maximising edge)

DEEPLY SUST: sustainable events management. Don’t you think it’s a good name? Use it if you like and please feel free to credit me. This is just a vague idea I had for a company. Festivals, even the most ecological ones, have dubious sustainability credentials. They involve the transportation of materials and people from miles around, sometimes even from abroad, to all converge on one poor overburdened location before being transported all the way back again. A truly sustainable events management company would look at how different festivals and events could better network with each other and share infrastructures and materials. It would also advise events and festivals within a given region or even nation on how to organise and synchronise calendars for maximum efficiency, skillshare, custom and positive ecological impact between all. Additionally, lasting legacies for all local communities that hosted festivals and events would have to be looked at. How about that for sustainability?

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‘REAL BOYS’, ‘REAL GIRLS’ and ‘TRANSREAL’: Where are the magazines for real girls and real boys, and for that matter, trans kids and the genderwild? When I walk into a big newsagents and look at the magazines sections for children and teenagers, I want to throw up. They are full of damaging stereotypes, plastic toys and the usual bullshit obsession with celebrity. I know that isn’t what every child wants, but somehow, because it’s what most children have been convinced they want, this vacuous culture revolving around Barbie and Action Man -like stereotypes still dominates. Apparently there are no risk-taking entrepreneurs in the children’s magazine industry. Where is ‘Real Girls’ magazine? ‘Real Boys’? ‘Transreal’?

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CO-OPETITION: My idea for a co-opetition is a competition that rewards co-operation over competition at every step of the process. I understand this is a paradox. It would take some clever designing to create motivating and sustainable co-opetitions with prizes. I know there are people doing this already, and maybe I / you can join them. We need innovation to save the world from ourselves, but innovation does not just happen in ruthlessly competitive contexts, as the hyper-capitalists would have us believe. Innovation happens in regenerative community contexts, indeed it must if society is to survive.

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POSITIVE SCENARIO MATHEMATICS: Where are the software designers and mathematicians working together with ecologists, permaculturists, alternative financial analysts, energy experts and complex systems theorists to design scenario planning apps for the lay person, and the activist or business organisation, ensuring the greatest positive ecological impact of all our trajectories, in ways which reflexively weave as many human life-paths as possible into well defined mutually agreeable outcomes? Come on people, get to work!

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ECOMOVES: Where are all the companies that offer to clear houses and bankrupt business premises in the most ecologically sound ways possible? Including the recycling and ‘upcycling’ of objects and materials and selling for profit, using the timing of moving to new homes and premises to introduce more sustainable practices and materials as standard? These companies could build up databases of sustainable clients and businesses with which to woo their customers, providing much more than standard removal and installation services.

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PSYCHEDELIC CARE-HOMES: Where are all the psychedelic carehomes? I mean the ones playing 60’s and 70’s music, the ones with space hoppers, magic mushrooms, meditation, radical politics and all the other signs of the counter-cultural revolution? I haven’t visited any care-homes for the elderly in a while, but the people who turned 18 in 1960 are now aged 76. Are the more alternative and radically left wing elderly types being catered for? Are they being catered for enough?

Jin-ku #1: 13/9/18

Jin-ku is my own invention. It is an adaptation of the haiku form: the traditional Japanese poem that is comprised of 17 syllables in three lines of five, seven, five.

In haiku, one tradition is to tell without telling (a Zen-sounding phrase, and haiku are influenced by Zen), especially in relation to the natural world. There are so few words to express what you want to say, but this restriction is transformed in the challenge and the beauty of alluding to a season or natural event obliquely, sparsely, carefully and with great focus. It may be wasteful in such a short poetic form to use the word ‘summer’, when you can write about the blackcurrants that only fruit in summer.

Here is a haiku by the Japanese master of the form, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694):

In the twilight rain

these brilliant-hued hibiscus —

A lovely sunset.

So what is a jin-ku?

A jin-ku is even more restrictive than a haiku. (It is important that the ‘jin’ is strongly pronounced.) ‘Jin’ is the Kurdish word for ‘woman’. ‘Ku’ is a slang word for ‘friend’. ‘Jin’ resonates strongly with me as a feminist, as Kurdish women are leading the way for women in the Middle East. See my earlier post on the revolution in northern Syria.

To make friends of women means, not to oppress them, and to become as self-aware as possible about strains of patriarchy that exist within us even as the most enlightened of men and women.

The jin-ku form is comprised of only 13 syllables. 13 because all the haiku masters were men. They had the relative freedom of expression of 17 syllables, whereas the women of their time are relatively obscured. Thus by ’13’ -also representing the 13 moons of the year; the banished natural rhythms of Earth and of women; that number made ‘unlucky’ by patriarchy -women, gender rebels and male allies can show that beauty in poetic form can flower under even stricter conditions than the haiku.

Just as women have been forced to express their truth in highly restricted circumstances throughout much of history, so the highly restricted jin-ku form can bear the most telling and profound fruit, and be a site of poetic resistance to patriarchy.

Women, gender rebels and male allies are free to write jin-ku, but a jin-ku (the singular and the plural use the same description) to be truly a jin-ku must:

  1. allude to patriarchy and / or the liberation and self-governance of women
  2. continuing the tradition of haiku, be rooted in nature

The 13 syllables can be divided into various forms. This is something to play around with. In my first public jin-ku, I have gone for a 5,7,3 structure:

By the wild river

still reaches God machines’ noise 

-drown Him here

If you would like to write some jin-ku and send them to me, I will publish them here on my blog on the 13th of the month. I reserve the right to offer editorial suggestion before publishing.

I hope that together we can build a tradition of jin-ku that will one day overtake and supersede the haiku tradition that has been dominated by men.

The Women Who Have My Heart

They are scattered around all over

When I bump into them

I remember worlds that were set in motion

Moving within me still

But now alone, I had forgotten

Who helped create them

Until I briefly see their faces

Or stop to chat awhile

I never intended strongly enough

Or always wanted their freedom, first

These women that I never began with

Yet I cannot deny the sorrow

That wells up like liquid nitrogen

Love is something I recall

In the recollection always warmer

Warmer in my dreams

Than ever it could be for real

Square in The Face and The Voice in The Night

Square in The Face

Rise For Climate is an international movement that today will see over 850 rallies happening around the world to demand climate justice from governments and corporations.

This is a great initiative, but will it be enough? Extinction Rebellion goes one step further. As members of XR we are employing mass civil disobedience (for instance, road blocks) to demand action NOW.

Sometimes I get accused of being miserable, of not knowing how to have fun, even of being ‘square’. But these people don’t see when I’m dancing around my flat or in a trance playing jazz dance on my electric piano. I may be square to some, if square means wanting to live meticulously in a way which improves the suffering lot of the species -including humans- on this planet. A lot which it is very reasonable to project will worsen due to climate breakdown in the coming decades.

I only appear square at face value because I am looking civilisation square in the face. You don’t face me by calling me names. If you dare face me, look at the dying civilisation reflected in my eyes.

 

The Voice in The Night

A few nights ago, in the middle of the night, a man’s voice stated to me plainly,

‘I didn’t know about it. Nobody told me.’

He was referring to climate breakdown and he was referring to the Extinction Rebellion.

I think this man has a job which involves some manual work. I think he works in engineering, but in some kind of assistant capacity. He is fairly switched on about trends in society and politics, but he knows next to nothing about climate breakdown (or what he would call ‘climate change’).

This man is indicative of the massive problem we have around climate breakdown -that most of even the most intelligent people in society are not aware of it.

This man’s voice was a warning to me. He was calling to me from the future. He was asking me to try my hardest to get through to him now, even though the whole machine of industrial civilisation wants to prevent our meeting and our communicating.

 

Activist Diary #4: Out on a limb

A few days ago I returned from a short trip to the wild west of Cornwall, where I had given two talks on Extinction Rebellion, the activist campaign run by Rising Up! of which I am a member.

Talking first at Penzance, and then at Porthtowan, I was really out on a limb, geographically and psychologically. I had never given the talk alone, and had only once before delivered it (with a co-activist).

It turned out that the whole two-day experience was productive but intensely draining, including a fair degree of psychological exposure and vulnerability, and some criticism absorbed because I wasn’t robust or clear in my thinking enough to rebut it. Criticism that would not have been forthcoming, I feel, if I had been better prepared.

Knowing something of the workings of my mind and the human unconscious in general, even as I was going through the whole experience I understood that I had engineered the situation to be a difficult one for myself, as a toughening experience on the extreme western edge of the UK to prepare me for the campaign ahead.

Even before the first talk which I gave in The Lugger Inn in Penzance, I walked right to the far edge of the beach, away from the shops, and literally ran across the boulders piled up there. Slipping could mean a serious injury or worse, but at the time it was imperative to maintain the highly strung mind-state that I had cultivated for that first talk.

Sat on the far edge of the boulders, I delighted in the company of juvenile gulls and cormorants, and practised the talk a little, reading to a brick wall.

Thankfully the audience at The Lugger turned out to be much more engaging than the wall, but they had a toughness to them; perhaps it was their Cornishness. I knew my talk was successful when a few people walked out during the early minutes of the second half of the talk. They hadn’t disagreed with the science of catastrophic climate breakdown, but when I started talking about the necessary solution of direct action to force governments to enter war-time level mobilisation, to reduce carbon emissions to zero within just a few years, in heated frustration they claimed ‘it can’t be done!’

I was glad to get the sign-ups for the campaign at the end of the talk.

The second night didn’t go so well. I was over-tired, and didn’t manage to give the audience much eye contact. I think this led to a lack of trust, which contributed to the break down of the talk before the end, with interruptions turning into a discussion at the wrong moment i.e. before I had a chance to fully explain myself. I got no sign-ups this second night, but at least we were all in agreement that ‘something needs to be done, and soon’. (I can still maximise the Facebook interest that this event generated).

Getting a lift back to Redruth from the venue with the owner of the Vegan Cornish Pasty Company and her partner, was the highlight.

The Cornish experience overall reminded me that Extinction Rebellion and the science and principles behind it, occupy the extreme edge of intellectual thought in this country, even though our contention is that they should occupy the mainstream of intellectual thought, such is the climate breakdown emergency that we are currently facing.

I was also reminded of the human need or drive to express underlying emotions and preoccupations in unconscious behaviours, which can become more conscious if we let them. Personally, I am becoming increasingly aware of a momentum inside me that wishes to act out the extreme, the wild edge of thought and emotion and behaviour. This need to act out the extreme is a reflection of the generally unexpressed urgency of climate breakdown that I see in the denial of the eyes of the people that surround me.

Covey’s 7 habits in activist contexts #1: Be proactive

I know many of you will be familiar with the best-selling personal development and business book by Richard Covey, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

I have enjoyed reading, studying and acting from this book, even though I haven’t yet fully digested every section. I am also aware that a book like this, culturally very American, is a product of a neoliberal capitalist culture which emphasizes personal agency in making change (change for self and community) at the expense of systemic forces of oppression which work against some individuals, for instance those in marginalised minority groups.

Nevertheless, the genre of self-development literature, often overlapping with entrepreneurial and business literature, can be utilised to serve activism and the overcoming of systemic oppression and injustice in society. At least as a privileged white, middleclass, (sort of) male activist, I can utilise and subvert lessons from self-development literature which afterall, on a personal level (the level of the author) often comes from a very noble and empathic place (we can say this much about Richard Covey). We can still acknowledge that there are unexamined prejudices and privilege dynamics in any author, including myself.

In Covey’s book he argues that we must make traits, attitudes and behaviours of personal excellence habitual, if they are to have any effect. For this post I would just like to concentrate on Covey’s first habit which is deceptively simple: ‘Be proactive’. The most ‘successful’ people (successful personally, in community, in business etc) Covey argues are ‘proactive’.

Covey explains this proactivity in various ways, including the suggestion to ‘always choose a positive response’ to a situation, including stimuli which are part of cycles of addiction. In the context of addiction this amounts to strengthening neural pathways by engaging in creative alternative behaviours in response to stimuli which usually bring about the addiction response. Thus we can see that fundamentally Covey believes in free will -our ability to choose to be better, to choose to grow and change.

The proactive person, Covey argues, has a large circle of influence and a small circle of concern, the latter being the arena of things that we worry about but do nothing to change; whereas the reactive person (that one who is always complaining) has a small circle of influence and a large circle of concern. I have found this model useful but it is simplistic and says nothing of the systematically oppressed person, for instance the drug addict who needs help but is criminalised, who has a small circle of influence, but may also have a small circle of concern, or may have a large circle of concern but because of systematic oppression linked to her gender, colour and background, finds it especially difficult to widen her circle of influence by ‘being more proactive’, as Covey would suggest she do.

Nevertheless, as a privileged activist I can be proactive to raise awareness, campaign and engage in direct actions, in ways which help to reduce the systematic oppression of others, not least by challenging moment by moment the complacent and sometimes addiction-forming responses I exhibit to certain stimuli which may reinforce my own privilege in an unhelpful way.

In a wide sense, we are a culture of addicts. In fact, addiction is at the core of neoliberalist capitalist economics: addiction to greed, addiction to wealth, addiction to status, addiction to beauty, addiction to materialism and addiction to power. Addiction to ‘making a name for onesself’, addiction to ‘being heard’ (by whatever media), addiction to the craving of acceptance by the prevailing society and its norms. Our addictions are fed by the marketing and advertising industries.

‘Proactive people make “love” a verb’ says Covey, whilst ‘reactive people make “love” a feeling’.

As activists, how can we develop the strength and consistency of active love required to raise awareness in ourselves to the height of understanding all our impulses and attitudes, and root out that which distances us from, by culturally raising us above, those that ‘the systems of our types’ (whether white, male, or comparatively wealthy or educated types) routinely oppress, including every non-human species upon this planet?

Breaking chains takes loving awareness, moment by moment.

 

 

Post-Earth psychology and the first Arts festival on Mars

Maybe Elon Musk should be sticking to Tesla and forgetting about SpaceX, but the way things go / are going, it’s likely that a colony will be built on Mars.

As much as I like I can bemoan the state of ‘technological progress’ which seems to be at the expense of life on Earth, whether that technology is on Earth or off it. However, once this dire state of affairs is acknowledged, there is no reason not to accept it and temper it appropriately towards more sustainable ends, however desperate that may seem. And some fun can be found in the despair.

As some human beings strive towards Mars, how can we make sure that any Martian colony does not become a place of privilege and prejudice? It is bound to happen to a degree, but if we lobby Musk from now onwards, surely we have a chance at ensuring that appropriate diversity in the colony is maintained. Not that he won’t have thought of this, but history has a way of falling into old habits.

The first Arts festival on Mars will be crucial. How diverse will it be? How will it reflect a united Earth, back to Earth, potentially making a purifying mirror of Mars, if only temporarily and artificially? Ideally, Mars could become a microcosm of the best of humanity on Earth. But…it could also become many other things.

For the first time, once babies are born off Earth, we will be able to truly speak of a post-Earth psychology. We will be able to observe and discern those elements of human psychology that are dependent upon us living on Earth, and those elements which are not so dependent. How fascinating will be the development of post-Earth psychology!

We should not be distracted from the task of healing Earth and ushering in the next stage of civilisation, post-capitalist, post-globalist, post-communist, post- most of what we are used to in contemporary human politics and culture.

Neverthleless, if Mars is happening regardless, let us go with the flow, as permaculturists, as environmentalists, as followers of the rivers of life. How can we use Mars to the advantage of Earth? It is guaranteed, there will be hidden paths opened up by the colonisation of Mars that although rocky and red, could paradoxically lead to a greater reparation of our dear Earth and the human culture within it. I don’t say this is likely, but it has to be possible. Because so much is possible.