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Diary: Normalising the Unusual
‘So will you now be organising a cycle ride to Ende Gelände, the mass action in Germany in May?’
Filled with emotions and exhaustion, 125 of us had just reached Paris for the climate negotiations in December after a five-day ride from London, and all I wanted to do was crash in a corner, and not think of any new project that involved ‘logistics’ or ‘meetings’.
After catching a little sleep and recovering some energy, we rethought that suggestion. We saw the need to capitalise on the surge of energy coming out of the Paris negotiations. Brainstorming began. Cycle Ende Gelände started to become a Europe-wide project aimed at strengthening the movement of co-disobedience.
During the Paris negotiations, civil society broke down so many national borders and united around the belief that a more just and sustainable world is possible. It felt incredibly important to sustain the feeling of being part of a wider alterglobalist movement.
With a few others, I started building the skeleton of the activist cycle ride that would reach the climate camp in the east of Germany. We used our differences in personalities and skills to complement each other.
Too often, I notice my own imagination being impeded by the short time frame and uncreative space where activists meet. Through this cycle ride, we aimed to create a safe space where everyone could express themselves, give themselves time to allow ideas to emerge, be inspired by the natural environment and rediscover their creative imagination.
The journey to the direct action camp felt so crucial to me. I wasn’t worried about what we might face in terms of police violence, or concerned about who I’d build an affinity group with. What I was seeking was the courage to shut down one of the biggest coalmines in Europe with people I trusted and had connected with over days of pedalling and struggling, days of talk and of laughter. Natural affinities were built that I believe will last way beyond Ende Gelände.
Through this particular space that we all helped to create, I saw elements in me and in those around me evolving. Although everyone experienced these days differently, a common thread seemed to develop between us all.
A certain level of pride in ourselves and a sense of achievement – that we could take on much more than we initially thought. This sense of strength and inner leadership is so important for me because, if we are going to be serious about our fight for global justice, we have to believe from our deepest core that we can and will do it.
Although I sometimes struggled with the deconstruction of the hierarchal habits I am so used to, and I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone in terms of the physical and mental effort demanded by the ride, I soon felt an inner strength develop that was produced through the power of the collective.
Not all the problems within our ever-changing group could be solved, but together we all did our best to work through them.
I learnt to spend hours cycling with people who were very different to me, of different ages and from different spheres of life, with radically-varied political views. I learnt how to adapt and be more tolerant of others.
Writing this a few days after the ride came to a close, and after we all ended up taking action to shut down the coal mining industry in the Lusatia region, I feel more alive than ever. I am prepared, once again, to go a step further.
The system we live in is not sane. We are cutting down the trees that are our lungs, sterilising the earth that grows our food and separating ourselves from our own societies.
I feel driven by the desire to reverse this by normalising what is unusual, by taking on projects such as the cycle ride to Germany, with very little money to buy us comfort, staying with people we have never met, and going and taking down one of the most powerful industries in the world.