Monday, May 28, 2007

Language

I spent the weekend at a workshop which was for the most part around the language we use as activists, community workers and generally great people. It was an interesting experience and provided time to reflect that we don’t normally have when we are in the thick of crisis after crisis. One of the key things that came up was the power of stories to shift consciousness. Another was the need to reframe the debate so we are no longer arguing about better growth or quality of life but instead we are asking about how people feel working 60 hours a week (we have the second highest working hours in the world). Or how it feels to not ever get a chance to see your kids, when on the defensive to forgo scientific speak and instead to speak from personal experience of the destructiveness of our culture.

When it comes down to it all of us are being fucked over one way or another by the system and those who aren’t are the privileged who will never listen to us anyway, instead of browbeating people into submission letting them tell their own story and planting seeds is much more likely to bring about transformation than a heated debate about GDP. Making people feel vaguely uncomfortable about how they are living is a start and better than making them hate you. As we deconstructed the word sustainability it became obvious that I should try to be explicit with the language I use not letting catch phrases or slogans get in the way of what I’m trying to say. And that my personal belief and story is much more powerful than the leaflets and sound bites we come up with.

There were a few other interesting points but the second half of the weekend was overshadowed by the spies who have infiltrated the activist movement in Aotearoa. The fact that a 19 year old could join an anti war movement and an animal rights network and then systematically report back every single action those groups took for two years is beyond belief. I have no idea how the two could have done it, how students could knowingly work against people that called them friends and how they could have sabotaged people fighting against factory farming and the arms trade. I hope the damage done by these two is not irreparable but it is a severe blow to a small overworked and underappreciated group of activists.

1 comment:

Craig said...

Pretty astonishing tale of woe with the infiltration. Disgraceful. Obviously, nothing should change because of it, but it still sux0rz.

Interesting that you bring up language, your comments indicate a pretty major shift in communicating the issues though, and seem to go beyond language and into strategy... anyway I'll be keen to see this one grow.