Was on a zoom (no surprises there) during the week and an entrepreneur talked about how she wasn’t an activist, she was an activator, she wasn’t a protestor, she was a producer. I admire her work, tenacity and innovation. I loved her re-frame to see herself and help build a bridge for others to see her contribution to the world as adding to balance sheets and midwifery for a new world she is co-creating. Her name is Yasmin Grigaliunas and her imagination for people, planet and purpose has made the World’s Biggest Garage Sale.
I think all activists are activators. As activists we inviting others to join us. We are creating opportunities to participate and demonstrate what it is being called for to emerge out of what is not working into the light, to offer a glimpse at what the future might look like. We are seeking often to unlock hearts and minds, to shift thinking to action, to build build and grow movements that will alter the course of history and are unwilling to accept that things will go on as they always have done, that the small incremental changes or even retrofitting isn’t enough. We are seeking changes that shift underlying assumptions, expectations and the behaviours that keep the status quo in place.
You can always tell if activists are getting traction because the push-back arrives. The ”yes but” , ” it wouldn’t work here”, “not quite the right time” messages start to escalate into gaslighting. It starts as messages like You’re crazy. Don’t be so sensitive. Don’t be paranoid. I was just joking! … I’m worried; I think you’re not well. And then turns into wholesale fake news and this is something the activist needs to be wary of as go about changemaking at scale. Whole populations get marginalised, treated like they don’t belong, they are defective, have a message, experience that must not be taken seriously and needs to be ridiculed, diminished and can’t be accommodated by those holding power. This is also a sign that the power is beginning to shift. It is a dangerous time. We are in these times and the most profound example of this happening at scale is in the USA with their elected officials around the pandemic.
But they are not orphans in their experience.
Marginalisation and coveting the other as outside the norm, the preferred worldview of those in power is familiar territory to First Nations the world over. It is familiar to the early environmental activists, in Australia my mind goes to those who held the Franklin-Gordon river system in Tasmania. The power of making something invisible, visible through the photography of Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis. Through the eyes of these two Latvians, the whole world got to see what was at stake in this World Heritage area.
Activists have all kinds of ways to bring what they can see to help others to see as well – I think this is what happens when we activate. We make visible to others what we can see.
There seems to me to be preservation, reservation, conservation but most of all imagination so we can all see ourselves into the future. When I think about preservation, what we are preserving is often set with something else – alcohol, salt, sugar perhaps – we know it needs some kind of protection to last. Sometimes it is buried and hidden away to come out at the prescribed time. Maybe there is something you need to preserve right now so it can be reclaimed in the future. Reservation is more about setting aside, keeping something in its original state, protected and saved up for a rainy day. Conservation is about helping things last as long as possible, it often includes rationing and eeking out the supply slowly and maybe also include some rehabilitation back to a natural state. But it is imagination that transforms and transcends – to see something that is not already there. In these times when there is a convergence of crisis, it isn’t going to be enough to adjust and tweak. It is time to be radical.
Calling yourself an activator and an activist is a radical act. We are all co-creating our future every day by the choices we make, by how we hear and respond to fake news at the personal level and in the global arena. Our activism can start small with noticing the beauty around us, calling out gaslighting and initiatives that take us to the next level of radical. It might begin with a small step, like taking a photograph, or recycling something and beginning your piece of the circular economy, but whatever it is – this is a time for imaginations to produce and protest.