Tag Archives: COVID19

Year of activism #38

The vernal equinox has just passed and the days have started to get longer. A new year of  begins. In my part of the world green arrives, with winds and rain. Inland and north they are noticing more emu chicks than ever, a sign of a wet spring and in the farms near me, plenty of twins and triplet lambs in the fields, a sign from the northern hemisphere transplanted here that spring is in fine form. COVID19 is starting to wane in the neighbouring state of Victoria and has claimed another victim, their health Minister. I watch their leaders on the news and see their Premier getting thinner by the day, and wonder if the Cabinet has mental health practitioners on hand supporting them.  It has been a year since their first bushfires started and relentless public health and safety ever since – must be like being in a war cabinet rather than governing for peacetimes.  Everyone in the state of Victoria working to eradicate an invisible enemy.

Friends on zoom calls, beaming in from the US talk about prepping themselves for their elections and whatever the aftermath will bear. They talk of being worried about civil war … and there is that word again War.  It keeps turning up in conversations and I turn my attention to the warrior, the one who is ready, willing and able to put their body on the line to get into the kind of strife that may lead to taking up arms.

Warriors come in all forms and have a range of weapons.  The warrior against waste, might be the seven year old who chastises an older relative for having single use plastic in their home. The warrior for racial justice might be the rap singer mobilising with their street theatre comrades performing to stop traffic. The warrior for gender equity might be in the HR department building a skillful runway for equal pay with built in court appearances, board table presentations and union allies. The warrior activist, is often characterised as having violent tendencies, courage, embattled and aggressive, the one who can take one for the team.  They are the ones who have the role of stepping into the fray, no longer willing to stay on the outskirts, they point out through their actions what is not right and set a course to bring that injustice to the fore, often making what was invisible, visible and therefore inviting others into seeing what they can see.  The mythical Amazon female warriors seem to have a basis in reality according to new evidence reported in the Washington Post a few years ago. I am looking forward to the lessons that will come from this that may shake up assumptions about warriorship and women.  When activists disturb assumptions there is a fair chance disruption will follow and warriors will emerge, and when those warriors are not the usual suspects even more assumptions can turn tables.

I am inspired by warriors, those willing to put their body on the line to go into battle to not just make things right, but to make the injustice right for whole populations, species, habitat, communities. That they are willing to hold the space so others can do what they must do behind the scenes and inoculate  make it safe for others to get on with what needs to be done to ensure the battles can be won behind the scenes.

In my home state of South Australia, the example that comes to mind in these pandemic times, is the battle to save our state owned and funded pathology services. I am grateful to those who fought that fight and kept the service in public ownership. I believe when the books are written about what worked in the pandemic, public ownership of these services will be featured. Privatisation is a weapon of neo-liberalism, and on this occasion it was neutralized by keeping our pathology services in public hands.  The unsung warriors of the public sector, I hope will get their medals when the time comes.  And I am remembering that Amazon and amazing come from the same root – to cause surprise and wonder – and that is what a warrior does – surprises and when unveiling assumptions, makes us all wonder and question what we were holding onto and why as we then get into a tug-o-war about what we will hang onto and let go of.  Here’s to the surprising and wonder-full warriors – from US Court judges to babes in swaddling clothes.

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Year of activism #13

Privilege means I get to stay home to work, live and play. Privilege means I am still getting paid, have a roof over my head, get to see the faces and voices of people I care about, have food in my cupboards, access to fresh fruit and vegetables, clean water, have fuel in my car, continued access to primary health care because not all the resources are being deployed to COVID19 … and the list goes on.

I am in South Australia in a seaside location on Kaurna land. The place is known as Sellicks Beach and in Kaurna language is Watiwali. There is hardly a place on earth that could be more safe. In South Australia we have one of the lowest infection rates in the world, our experience of distance is probably helping with that, our tradition of caring for one another is probably another help (we have one of the highest rates of volunteering in the country). We are also generous givers, the recent donations to the bushfires are plenty of evidence of that, and those with less household incomes gift more of a percentage of their income than those with higher incomes. 4 out of 5 Australians donate to the not-for-profit sector in time and/ or money. (There are plenty of reports to back up what I am saying, but for those who want the facts you can check here and here and here to get you started.) Activism can start at home – there are always letters to write, postcards to send, phone calls that can be made. I have an expectation that staying at home will give the activists less likely to march the streets, a chance to make their contribution in a new way. Instead of scrolling through your facebook feed or spending another hour on Netflix have a look at what you can offer to others and use this time to build the future we need on the other side, going back to business as usual is not an option for our shared home on this blue dot. That is one way to address the privilege people like me have.

I was reading Arundhati Roy’s take on COVID19 in India, I encourage you to read her reflections and test against your privilege. She describes this pandemic as a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. Her call to action is to walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

Like Doctor Who in the Tardis, what do you see through this portal? A more equal world lying on the other side where there is a guaranteed minimum income, where there is free child-care, where hotels house the homeless, where those stranded on boats get health checks and taken to hospital if they need care. I long for a world where no one dies alone and nursing homes are not concentration camps for the aged and infirmed. Gender diversity is celebrated into the tapestry of a mature society and we all get to appreciate one another without constant references to our sexual identity. Where isolation and quarantine restrictions are self-imposed because we go to our rooms when we need to take a breath and settle down so as to cause no harm to those around us.

I am pretty happy we have decided we can’t have it all. We can’t have a growth at all costs economy and roofs over everyone’s heads, health care and education. We have to make choices and in Australia, despite a neo-liberal government, through the power of democracy of organised lobby groups and advocacy like unions and business councils, the elected officials have been strong armed into turning our taxes, reserves and capacity to raise debt for the greater good. I think this is our best collective selves turning up to meet the virus and I am hoping it gives us all a taste of how quickly public policy can change things – we don’t have to have months and months of referendums and navel gazing to do the right thing. Organised collectives in touch with their members and the everyday lives of what matters working together is possible.

What I see through the portal, is more collective action, more radical generosity, more radical localism, more cosmolocalism. We can push reset very quickly and this pandemic has demonstrated that in some countries or we can ignore it and some countries have done that too. In the post pandemic world those countries who have been able to see a more collective future will be stronger and more agile. I fear for friends and communities in the USA where planes are still flying, and where the idea of the collective is generally weak, and collectives are not as well organised. We know that sometimes David can beat Goliath (deep bow of gratitude to Cesar Chavez and Marshall Ganz) and this is a time where individual actions build the collective safety net for this and future generations.

The humble soul staying at home is making the world a better place and that is the activism essential for this day and collective action needed for our times. We are being apprenticed into the a new way of thinking about what it means to support our most vulnerable and we will need the practice for a bit longer so it sticks and builds the collective muscle memory and we have a point of reference when we get to the other side.

Year of activism #12

Activism can take so many forms – you don’t need to take to the streets or shout from the rooftops. Being a public health advocate can be as simple as washing your hands, staying home and getting a flu injection – they are the actions I have taken this week along with millions of others around the world. Joined up actions that create a movement of well-being and saving lives is exactly what activism is all about. My personal favourite action this week has been neighbours popping bears in their windows and bringing to life We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a 1989 children’s picture book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

I have been reflecting on entrepreneurship as activism this week when some of my closest entrepreneurial spirits have been working over time to invent, pivot and create what is needed in these times to keep women’s businesses afloat, build community, strengthen bonds and embed the legacy we want when we come out the otherside. We don’t want business as usual, or stimulus packages to support industries that have used futures. We want this time to be a gift to our planet. We want to honour those who have died and will die over the next month by being better, bolder, braver. We want our national heroes to be the doctors, nurses, immunologists, medical researchers, cleaners, cooks, teachers, emergency service workers, medics, supermarket staff, drivers and carers.

Going back to business as usual will not cut it. We can’t go back we must go forward, and in this time get in place what we need to be ready to come out the other side with at least the beginnings of the foundations of what we want to see. Imagine if, we gave everyone a universal basic income? Imagine if, we had revolving credit in the hands of communities, think credit unions at the local level or superannuation funds investing in local infrastructure instead of creating off shore shareholder value. What about community co-ops of childcare workers supporting families in their neighbourhood? And power generation owned and used where the sun shines and the wind blows? Many of these systems improvements have started and are incubating – but now is the time for capital to invest in these initiatives to help us all take a step closer to a community led and community owned future. I know there will be times when national and regional leadership will always be needed as this pandemic illustrates, but imagine the strength of a more community connected when this happens again.

Like so many I tune in to Jacinda Ardern each day as I can’t bear to hear the bumbling and incomprehensible communications from my national leaders. I figure New Zealand is just a few days ahead of us in Australia and her clear, consistent and compassionate words help me to know what to do and also I feel like I get a masterclass every day in how to communicate in a time of fear of anxiety and how to deploy the ordinary in these extraordinary times. I loved seeing her set up her home office, show video of factories making masks, taking questions from children, sitting on her couch in her ”putting her toddler to bed” clothes – these are all comforting and contrasting to complicated and convoluted messages that don’t make sense from some of the other leaders they pop up on my screen. I am deeply encouraged by all the acts of neighbours working together and creating new pathways, although I feel quite isolated in the physical community I have moved into, I am deeply connected in time and space to family and friends all over the planet, it is not quite the same.

I am feeling a bit tired and a little teary most days, despite working from home for most of my working life it hasn’t involved so much screen time and I am not in the car travelling to and from appointments and airports. This has given me an insight into what I love about being in a car – seeing the coast line, listening to books and organising my day around when I am still and when I am in transit. I had the great idea to spend a day in the car and drive to different beaches and take a meeting at each beach and this really lifted my productivity and my spirits. I got to see the beauty I was missing, and the landscape that holds me, feel the warmth of the sun through the windows and the liberation of travel. No one was harmed I stayed inside the car and I began to imagine car parks as co-working spaces!

Jacinda’s advice, to have a bubble to be in during this time of your loved ones, is truly clever at so many levels. It will contain the viral spread to smaller groups, it keeps mental health and well-being in tact, it shares the load of alone-ness and gives definition and promise of a time beyond these days when we come out of our bubbles. It is inspired. I am grateful to be have been invited into a bubble that includes other generations. If you have a teddy bear pop it in your window this might be the most profound act you can do in these times for the well-being and health of our planet, while our scientists go on a hunt for the vaccine.

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Year of Activism #11

Well that was one crazy week …. and this one has started the same. It is nearly 5pm and it is the first time since I woke I am having time alone.  The COVID-19 might be bringing social distancing, but it is ramping up connectivity, creativity and community in virtual places and spaces.

Activism can take many forms and the arts have always given us so much to learn from and in these times we will get to see and hear many more ways the arts will help us through and then be there to help us heal. Famous musicians are holding desktop concerts, offering to play a song from Facebook requests, others are reading stories to children and doing tours of their gardens or record collections. There seems to be no end to all this talent oozing out from screens. The digital divide is real, and for some this isolation will be deadly for their mental health if not their physical health.  The poverty gap will be exposed and the veil will drop from features once considered taboo topics like universal income in Australia and universal health care in the USA. The women leaders around the world are showing how to communicate effectively to build the trust bank and sure up public safety. German Chancellor Merkel gave her address with poise, simplicity and clarity. Jacinda Adern from New Zealand held a conference for children as well so they could ask their questions. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reminded everyone of their humanity and we are not invincible. The death rate from the virus is as high as 70% male; when Tesla said the “future is female” he might well have been onto something!

I have chosen this week to do some sonnets for my post. They were first invented in Sicily in the 13th century and I was most inspired this week by the Sicilian’s who took to their rooftops and little balconies with their pots and pans and musical instruments to cheer each other up during the isolation. They need a bit of work, but to keep my promise to myself to get this out today I am leaving them here.

I am using Elizabeth Barrett Browing’s to her beloved Robert this sonnet which we all can remember a line from as my re-writing guide. Here is what she had to say:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
In these times, our whole species is under attack from something not even considered alive and are mainly thought of as being on the edge of life. When we fall in love the intoxicating effects can leave us infected and we find there is no cure except a barrier, a distance or an inoculation or a joining with the other. COVID-19 has fallen for us and we have to find ways to ward off its overtures. Like a narcissist it only cares for itself and how it can replicate, infect and make us its home. I have been musing on the Sonnet it is making to us:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee with anxiety, tears and fright
My nodes reach is far and out of sight
For each virion being finds an ideal space.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and ultraviolet light.
I love thee freely, as a promiscuous Knight:
I love thee purely, with agnostic Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In every age and with age old faith
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost cares, – I love thee with my breath
Touches, coughs, sprays of my life – and if God choose,
I shall love thee more with your death.
I am also reflecting on how the virus might be a gift, called up by Gaia to help knock some sense into us. There will be friendly fire, collateral damage, but it might be a small price to pay for a long term benefit for our planetary home. These dark thoughts fuel fear for many. They are also the crucible of incredible acts of generosity and innovation. I have spent most of this week creating in the garden, in virtual teams, designing new ways of working and connecting, dreaming up ideas and finding ways to feel peace and joy and celebrating the incredible community that holds me. What might
Mother Earth’s sonnet to us, be in these times?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee with all my being, dark and light.
My oceans and land til out of sight
For each one of you unique in place.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need for sun and moon light.
I love thee freely, yet you cause my plight:
I love thee and I ache from lack of Praise.
I love with a passion you do not use
In my hills, valleys and in good faith
I love thee with a love you do not choose
With all my powers, I love thee with my breath
Gifts you throw back – and if Gaia choose
I will still love thee with your death.
I want a sonnet that expresses how I feel about the people around me and people I don’t know even. These people are so varied and are everywhere. This is an incomplete litany:
The lady next door who left a bag of fruit and vegetables on my doorstep, enough to make several meals.
My pals in developer and co-op land who I worked with to create smartcitizenry.com during the week and who have been distributing notices to neighbours offering their free support.
My ‘sisters’ in social enterprises and collaborations who have worked with me to design responses, influence public policy, draft up models for innovative responses to help keep businesses and jobs flowing.
To a senior community member who said how much he wanted my input and common sense and ideas to support an industry.
A young man who is living abroad sharing news of his love and life in these times.
An old friend in Italy telling me about the way her town and friends are using neighbourhood flash mobs (at a distance from balconies) for recognition of health and emergency workers
My immediate family for checking in on me
…. and I could go on and on …. this past week I have had a harvest – a cornucopia of kindness, which leads me to my own sonnet to those extraordinary and ordinary humans who have and continue to enrich my life.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee for your kindness, and to delight.
For what starts with grit and ends with grace
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight
I love thee carefully, as we strive to ignite:
I love thee purely, as we turn to r(a)ise
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my celtic faith.
I love thee with a love twas mine to lose
With my gained saints, – I love thee with my breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and if She choose,
I shall love thee better until death.

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Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash