To those of you who are here for the first or second time, who have come to hear what this movement has to say for itself, I want to say this: if you’re looking for reasons NOT to get involved, you will find them. There will be some disorganisation. Someone will speak too harshly, too dismissively. Someone will make a statement that is not supported by the facts. There are, if you are looking for them, dozens of reasons not to get involved. There are also a few good reasons to get involved. Believe it or not, you’ll have fun. You’ll learn things – things about the world that you didn’t know. Things about yourself that you didn’t know. You’ll build on the skills you have, and – hopefully – share those skills with others. You’ll also learn skills you didn’t even know existed. All this will be valuable to you in the rest of your life, at work and at home. Now’s a good time to quote Hillel the Elder, the Jewish thinker who died just before the year Nought.
“”If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”
On top of his questions, I ask you these.
Who is going to hold governments to account? Do you trust the media and the opposition to do that? Who is going to hold corporations to account? Do you trust the media and the regulatory agencies to do that?
And the biggest question -for me anyway – who is going to build a local culture and society that is tough enough and smart enough and connected enough to cope with the changes that are coming? Only us.
To those of you who have been in “the movement” for a while, who are at home in its rituals and traditions, I want to ask you to see these traditions and rituals with new – or rather – old eyes. I want you to try to remember what it was like to be new in the room, where you hardly knew anyone, where the language and format seemed strange. You stuck around, and got used to the Way We Do Things around here. But unfortunately, others didn’t. We have not grown as we might have, if you think of all those who have passed through these doors once or twice, and never come back. Sure, some of them were never going to stick around. They were looking for Quick Fixes, Final Answers, they were tourists. But other folks would have stuck around – if they were welcomed, if they were asked what they already knew, what they could already do, if they were given a task that fitted with their time and energy and confidence, and given a buddy to do it with. You’ve survived the obstacle course that is ‘getting involved’. Please remember that it is there, and both dismantle the obstacles and offer a helping hand to others.
Finally, to those who are on the point of leaving. I’m gonna start with a quote from Bruce Springsteen, from his song “Bobby Jean.”
“And I’m just calling one last time not to change your mind
But just to say I miss you baby, good luck goodbye…”
Maybe you’re having to leave because life has changed- you’re moving city, or you’ve gotta increase your hours at work, or now you have to look after a sick relative.
Maybe you’re feeling exhausted or demoralised – you’ve given all you can give and it’s someone else’s turn. Maybe you no longer believe the group you’re in can achieve its short term goals. Or maybe the group doesn’t have any short term goals and that’s no longer acceptable to you.
Maybe the unresolved conflicts and personality clashes that are a part of ANY group of humans have gotten you down. Maybe there’s now a lack of trust and empathy that can’t be patched over.
Whatever the reason or reasons, I want to say this – thank you for what you have done. Thank you for the hours spent, the energy you’ve put in.
Go, do what you have to do, reflect and chew over what has happened in the months or years you were “involved.”
Remember, you can support this movement with money, or letters to the newspaper or an hour here or there. You won’t be at the centre of things, you won’t be learning and doing at the pace you have been, but that pace is never sustainable indefinitely.
If there comes a time when you are able to come back, and learn and do, then please do.
There’ve been some good comments/critiques of this already by private email, and these will, I hope, find their way into the comments box…