Protest in the Pandemic 7

The outcomes of resistance are not always what we intend for them to be. It is not always easy to re-engage after disappointment and everyone has their limits. Non-violent movements and protests are in many places met with police and/or military brutality. Sometimes the risks of opposition are too high and political frustration turns into apathy. This week we discussed struggles of care and resilience and looked at how others try to find hope to continue.

7 الاحتجاج في الجائحة

Persistence & Resilience

This reading circuit has been a much needed space for us to reflect on this current time, to observe as everything unfolds and listen to how others make sense of the present and envision the future. The Black Lives Matter protests were central to our final discussion, building on the last, as we set off to find ways to deal with protest fatigue and hopelessness and the inevitable ups and downs of resistance.

The protests in the United States had a global impact, spreading to some countries and sparking important discussions in others. We talked about the different feelings that were present within the protests in the Netherlands; warmth, connectedness and support but also tiredness and responsibility. The nature of these specific protests is revealing that they are about sustained action and they refuse to be a one-time occurrence with no follow up, this is where the sense of responsibility fits in. Affirming that Black lives matter is also not new, in fact it is far too long standing and this is why tiredness is valid and support is needed more than ever. There is more to this than the fishbone of politics; the anti-racist resistance is multi-layered, it is personal and it is sensitive. We reflected on the ritualistic aspects of protest, those forms of protest that invite us to look inwards and create our own turning points. There is something about kneeling for 9 minutes that touches you on a deeper level and plants the seeds for a much more urgent commitment.

We talked about language. A new normal is being established as we speak and with these changes, our words also need to be updated. We considered that people who may not always have the language to speak out against injustice and how something as sneaky as racism needs some guidelines to be called out and addressed. The vocabulary has been growing rapidly in recent years and now we are able to name many things that previously we would have only felt but not been able to express. We listened to stories about people finding language to match experiences and experiences to match language and how powerful those moments of fusion can be; to find one’s feelings articulated by another and to hear your voice amplified by others.

But all these voices bring their own waves of energy, sometimes light and sometimes heavy, an energy that now radiates from our screens. As we reflected on all the work still to be done, what also emerged is the importance of caring for our own minds and bodies. We looked ahead to the institutional work and emotional labour that will pave the way for an anti-racist society and all the energy that marathon will require. Still, there is a fatigue we could not ignore. It comes from a loss of purpose or hope; being unsure if anything will change in time.

This brought us to contemplate the idea of temporalities. On the one hand there is the immediate demand for justice and on the other there is also the infinite demand. Even though the process will take time, and is far from linear, there must be a starting point. And so we asked, how, when we have been tired for decades, do we keep going on knowing there won’t be immediate results? Thinking through temporalities can be hard and so we wonder if there was a way to not have this hierarchy where people have to wait their turn for justice. We thought about planting seeds again and how it keeps us active in the present while simultaneously projecting ourselves forward. In the meantime, we can continue to find hope in the organizations that try to fill these gaps; creating space while we “wait”. We came to reflect on Adrienne Maree Brown’s words, “Transformation happens in cycles, convergences and explosions […] we are faced with so much loss, we have to learn to give each other more time to feel, to take turns feeling what is happening and around us. That is what we are creating; a world in which we can feel ourselves and each other and do less harm and generate more freedom.”

Here are some crumbs of wisdom we shared with each other as the final session came to an end. A few coping strategies for persistence and resilience:

* Try to make every day count, try to have relations that are nurturing and not antagonistic. Try to support each other, send out supportive energy and not think about egos or competition. Think more about cooperation and collectivity.

* No matter what happens on the journey, there are things you can hold onto that ground you. Set intentions with consciousness and become committed to that consciousness as it feeds into all your actions and conversations. Think, how can I be kind in this?

* Find grounding in art.

* Anchor yourself in community but also don’t forget to have fun with your community. We can count on each other and we can also laugh together.

* Know when to take a step back. Rest when you need to and check in with each other and vocally express your appreciation for others.

* Keep a few characters in your pocket to help you navigate uncharted waters, to be able to step out of your own mind and take control of the unfamiliar.

* And last but not least, remember the kindness of others, those you have met and those you have not met. Document the kindness of strangers. Savour and spread the joy.

We would like to thank everyone who participated in this reading circuit, it has been truly wonderful. We hope you can find comfort and grounding in these ideas we shared together in a month, three months or even years from now.