By Ben Barker / Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin
“There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause…with such women consecrating their lives—failure is impossible!”—Susan B. Anthony
As an activist and organizer, I concern myself with the work of getting people together to change the world. A necessary part of this is striving to see activists bringing all of their respective gifts and forms of commitment to the table. With strong ties between strong hearts, the path to lasting social change is begun and sustained.
My time as an activist has shown me that connecting to and keeping relationship with allies is an invaluable aspect of movement-building. For some years, I have tried to organize in my local community. Here lives a diverse array of strong-hearted activists with gifts that, while amazingly unique, serve to mutually support each others’ efforts. There are herbalists, musicians, writers, environmentalists, socialists, feminists, gardeners, and political organizers, all of whom work towards a more sane and just society. The hope I’ve placed in the power of all of them coming together does pay off, though it is no small task to help guide the momentum into fruition.
A more immediately gratifying example of this has been my experience in working with the international social justice and environmental movement called Deep Green Resistance (DGR). For the year and a half that I’ve been involved with DGR, I have witnessed discipline, strategy, and character on the part of it’s members that is deeply impressive. Further, I’m honored to work on the organization’s staff, and as part of this interviewing many potential recruits. It has not been lost on me that, while most who want to join share the same basic goal of liberating the earth from industrial civilization, each brings wildly unique gifts to put to use along the way.
The background of activists within Deep Green Resistance varies as well. As the organization states, “DGR is made up of writers, community organizers, janitors, parents, grocery clerks, musicians, feminists, teachers, farmers, dishwashers, artists, caregivers, laborers, and students.” I often work with members on projects, and I am aware and in awe of the beautiful and dynamic lives each lead, of which their work in the movement is but one part.
Sometimes, I worry about losing connection with these allies. My knowledge of the incredible possibilities of what we can make happen by working together carries with it also the truth that we could once again be separated and isolated from one another. Indeed, between working jobs to pay rent, raising children, and tending to personal hobbies, it can prove hard for some to find time for involvement in the activities of DGR.
So, I try to hold on tight. I ask, is it our communication tools that need adjusting? Are people being treated well? What should be done to retain them and engage them? Clearly, these questions can be overwhelming for one person to grapple with and rarely do answers do emerge simply because they are summoned.
This yearning to keep intact the community is present every single day and enough so that I eventually began formulating a response that is at least partially adequate. I tell myself: People come for the fight, but stay for the culture. The task of organizers then becomes creating a healthy culture of resistance for the fighters to live within.
Those who seek out Deep Green Resistance are usually not lacking in a will to fight, as one might guess by the movement’s name. The explicit goal of DGR is to “deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet.” This is not the place for those with feeble politics or wills. But, while DGR seems to offer a place for the warrior inside us, we must ask also if it is welcoming to loving human beings. Friendship is a cornerstone to any healthy community, and it will take these bonds, these strong ties, to do this intensive work alongside each other.
In the end, I cannot force anyone to stay in the movement, or to use their gifts in a particular way. I wouldn’t want to, anyways. They will stay if they want; if the community is healthy and has the potential to really effect change, they likely will stay. So, I ask you, my comrades, what is it that makes this culture of love and rage, this tightly-knit community that can fight back against the dominant culture and win. How can we encourage this and turn it into reality? Throughout every day of doing this work, I will also ask myself these questions. As long as it takes.