Activism and ... Luxury

IssueFebruary - March 2016

Oh wow. ‘Activism and luxury.’ Very good. No specific question for me, just whatever comes into my mind....

I feel the word raises great feelings of guilt! I suppose I feel I should never enjoy luxury. To be an activist, one rejects luxury: while so many people have so little, that you can have luxury is anathema. It undermines everything we’re trying to do.

Having said that, I do luxuriate in my sofa, and my TV, and my glass of wine.

I suppose one of the greatest luxuries I can remember is receiving a Nintendo Gameboy when I was in prison.

That was just the height of luxury – to have this (to me) brand-new technology as a gift was incredible!

It certainly caused problems as well, in terms of different people wanting to borrow it, the privilege it brought with it.

Yes, I enjoyed it. I loved it!
- Man, Oxford

Erm, you’ve got hot running water. And you have a bath! That would the two main things that come into my head when you say ‘activism and luxury’.
- Man, Helensburgh

Getting a bed for the night on a several-day march instead of sleeping on a church floor.

A cup of tea at the right moment, after walking a long way or cycling a long way on a protest.

Having people respond when talking to them about a march passing by, having them really willing to engage.

For instance, on the march from Edinburgh to Faslane six months before the referendum, some of us were cycling and because we weren’t walking, we had the luxury – there, I used the word! – we had the luxury of stopping and chatting with passers-by in the street who were all up for talking about politics at the time.

We could go on ahead, and say: “Do you see this march coming along?” and chat to them about what it was all about.

The word ‘luxury’ came out naturally there!

We had the luxury of time, which you don’t have on marches, you don’t get much time to engage with the public. Sometimes we might go past loads of people and they don’t know what we’re doing.
- Man, Peak District

Oh! What comes into my mind is gentrification, particularly as a Londoner. The idea of areas becoming more luxurious and therefore suitable for some people and not for others. There is a lot of strong feeling about this.

If you live opposite a place where they are taking a year to gouge out a basement, and you don’t know exactly what it is, but it must be big if it takes a year, luxury comes at a considerable social cost to everybody else. Environmental costs, from the resource point of view, the noise pollution point of view. They have probably hired people from outside the area to do it as cheaply as possible.

There’s a lack of control over many of those areas that comes from a lack of political will and the constant deregulation, pernicious deregulation, changing regulations slightly so things don’t have to go through any democratic process. There are so many areas where the government is trying to relax the rules – to put it simply, so their friends can make more money.

And they don’t care about the social costs. It’s hard to stomach, and hard to fight. Activism is needed on so many fronts. When you really have people in power who don’t give a shit; when society doesn’t mean anything to them.

They don’t want their luxury affected. They think they have a mandate. It’s a question of democracy versus activism!
- Woman, London

See more of: Activism and