Sometimes I’ve been working with people, friends, who have very different ideas. For example, people who might say, sort of jokingly, but maybe they’re serious, that it would be fine if all people who worked in corporations disappeared. Angry anarchists; people who identify themselves as anarchists, I mean.
For me it’s not about the people, it’s about the systemic influences on people.
When I was abroad last, I worked together with people and we could agree on what had to be done practically, but we couldn’t agree on these more abstract issues.
I would try not to stir things up, while expressing my own opinion. These are abstract questions; we don’t know the consequences of what we do.
I try not to get too worried about that kind of disagreement, even about politics that seem to be offensive. I do address it, but I realise that people don’t come to your opinion because of what you say, but because of experiences in their own lives. Maybe in 10 years they will remember something I’ve said when they have a certain experience in their own lives.
Occasionally there are currents in the political party I’m involved in that are not as libertarian as they could be, and we have arguments over the simplest things. For example, the issue of designated drinking areas, where drinking is forbidden.
Often you find that one of the biggest splits is over what people see as the causes of violence against women. If people see it as an economic malaise, or if they put it down to the existence of sex workers and pornography.
Sometimes it’s worth tackling. Sometimes you just put up a token argument, without trying to change the other person’s mind, just to show you disagree.
When I started volunteering at a political centre, I met people of all sorts of different political persuasions. I’d never heard of situationists or anarcho- pacifists before, and I came across more violently minded anarchists and Trotskyists (who I did already know about – I don’t want to seem completely ignorant).
Though on the one hand there was a great diversity of opinions, the centre was also a space in which there was the greatest acceptance of my point of view that I’d ever experienced.
I had a sense of shared purpose and felt comfortable, and I learned a lot. It would have been harder if I’d declared a particular allegiance and argued for it myself, I suppose.
My current volunteering is completely different. There are people who have very different ways of seeing the world, especially the non-western and Muslim world.
I find it very difficult. I don’t want to talk politics with them because I don’t feel a shared understanding.
I think in all these kinds of situations I tend to keep my head down. If it was too difficult, I’d just not work with a group rather than confronting people.