Issues with issues
Union Election time is here once again, and though I’m not standing, its taking up a lot of my time right now, so I apologise if posts are becoming infrequent.
Amongst all this, I’ve also had to find time for various meetings recently, including one about Khaled, a Bradford student currently trapped in Gaza and unable to return to study. During this meeting, one of the speakers stated that “If South African apartheid was the defining issue of my generation, then Palestine will be the defining issue of yours”. Sophia helpfully wrote two words on the paper we were using to communicate silently: “Climate Change”.
On one level, Betty Hunter, General Secretary of PSC, was probably right: Palestine is the scene for many of the worst human rights abuses of our time. No other people group has been so thoroughly abused, dispersed and humiliated across the last 6 decades (and six it shall be next year, when Israel stages massive events worldwide to show what a wonderful country it is). No where on earth is the suicide rate higher than in Gaza (even discounting those who travel across the Green Line before killing themselves; the ones we do hear about).
But if we are to talk in terms of the political issue that will affect each and every person born on this planet recently the most, then it should be clear that Palestine is not that issue. Perhaps in a way, it could be poverty. We lose so much because of Africa’s poverty and studies of undernourishment in Latin America have proven that the intelligence of a significant proportion of the population has been reduced by lack of nutritional food intake in infancy and childhood. But poverty is not a threat to all of us.
Climate Change, however, is. It will affect people in Africa and Palestine, Latin America, the UK, the US, it has killed thousands in a single year’s heat wave across Europe, and it will continue to do so. Not one child born today who lives past the age of 5 will be able to escape the effects of it, and not one child in the West over 5 will fail to hear about it. Indeed, some parents believe their children are being forced to confront Climate Change far too early in life, yet this is hardly likely to change.
People who are prepared to commit to a single issue are great people. Their dedication, especially when the spotlights go out, or spin around to something new, continues, and much is owed to them. But to lose objectiveness on the scale of their issue is quite an annoying tendency; all the more so when they start to bring in competition between campaigns when none is called for, and where humanity as a whole would be better served through ‘joined up thinking’, ‘holistic approaches to injustice’ and ‘intrinsic analysis of problems’ that connect them together at their roots, rather than fighting each separate appearance of a problem on the surface.
Last night I was at a meeting where different possible proposals for the future of Climate Camp were given. I went through a list of different actions which all took place, mostly independently, on Monday October 8th. These included the Parliament Square Fence Incident, a blockade of USAF Fairford (the main UK B52 base), an occupation of Manchester Airport (no one missed their flights, but the message was still clear) and Greenpeace camped out on top of Kingsnorth Powerstation, future sight of a new coal-fired power station (the lunacy!).
I introduced the final thing which happened that day as “not really Climate Camp, but vaguely related. Its really a lot more of a NoBorders victory, but Camp can claim some of the credit”. Another activist rebuked me: “Don’t separate NoBorders and Climate Camp, they’re all part of the same movement”. This was actually quite an inspiring thing to be told off for. This kind of thinking makes all these movements so much more powerful.
The collective ‘we’ becomes more powerful when we see each others struggles as being the same, without losing sight of the scale of each individual struggle. Though we struggle for everyone’s sake against governments and corporations intent on wrecking the planet, for some the first thing on their mind is their own personal safety, and we could still have a nuclear war.
In the earliest months of this century a term was created: “the movement of movements”. It defines into one the plethora of different movements which are capable of finding common ground, while remembering that they are each uniquely important to different individuals. When the stand alone, they make their point, but when they stand together, they probably have about a billion members, if I can claim one sixth of the world are part of some or other social movement/struggle for real justice. We are strong, not because we abandon our own issues for one key struggle, be that Palestine or Iraq, or something wider like Worker’s control or the state of the Climate, but because we recognise each others struggles as intrinsically connected to our own. Long may the unwritten coalition of issues, campaigns and campaigners continue.
To all the movements of The Movement!