Perhaps you started organising because you wanted to save your hospital. Now you have a letter confirming demolition is cancelled. Too many locals made too much noise about it. Are you winning? Yes; for now. What if none of the actions worked and you’re watching a yellow bulldozer turn the hospital to dust. Are you losing? Yes; for now. So what does this all mean? Well here are some of my thoughts on winning and losing; for now.
First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.
I’m not going to argue with Gandhi, he obviously knows a lot more than me. What I will say is these four stages unfold slowly, sideways and round the ways until you get to the winning part. So if you’re still waiting to taste victory, it will take more time than you think and a lot of action to get you there.
Release the party balloons
Perfection is a stick with which to beat the possible.
Victories are temporary and almost always compromised.But for the love of everything good, release the balloons when things go in your favour; no matter how small. The idea that no one should celebrate until we all can, is a perfection that can only give disappointment.
Just because the train is not at its final destination, doesn’t mean you can’t smile at stops along the way. Everyone who won marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples and abortion rights for women in Ireland should celebrate. It’s fudging great. At the same time, there is a long way to go for LGBTQIA+ rights and women in Ireland; that work doesn’t stop.
When we find fault in everything it gives too much space for us to quit or never start. It makes us despair, and despair does a lot of good for nothing. Being critical is vital, but how much do we spend talking to acting? It can make us enemies of each other, rather than focusing on the real fudgers. It means a lot of people choose not to work with us because it all feels a bit like this…
Challenging our movements matter. It is the only way our work will truly create the world as it should be. But can we work with our differences and unique contributions so that all of us can bring a collective solidarity to our work in changing the world? This requires real engagement.
Hope, and my theory of eye-rolling
Hope, the heart of our work, can make people do this.
For those unfamiliar with this look, it is called the eye-roll. The word hope generates lots of eye-rolling. Eye-rollers say it’s because hope is nonsense and nonsense irritates the fudge out of them.
While nonsense is irritating, it is not a nonsense to state the world would be a lot more terrible were it not for the actions of activists, campaigners, organisers and leaders. Their actions come from a courageous hope that change can happen. Eye-rollers are dismissive, judge or uncomfortable by this. My theory is that this comes from a place of insecurity. Eye rollers often don’t do a whole lot more than eye-roll.
The moral of this story is don’t be put off by the eye-rollers; stay courageously hopeful. It is your most powerful demonstration of resistance.
Uncertainty brings hope
We never did save the bees, they just haven’t gone extinct yet. The win/lose argument we so often talk about is distracting gobbledegook. Sure, sometimes the action chicken is not only plucked, it’s roasted. No amount of effort or good intentions will make that chicken cluck again. Some actions should end, or we need to start over. A lot of the time, however, the bees, and hospitals and everything else that matters to us, will need us to continue to fight for them. We never win or lose forever and there is a lot of hope in that.
We stand a chance of bringing about a better world because of you and the millions like you, so thank you. Thank you for all you do to make this world better for all of us. Thank you for taking your learning seriously. This, we hope, is just the beginning of our relationship: We have much to do together.