Activism and ... Running away

IssueJune - July 2016
Comment by PN

It doesn’t feel like the right combination of words! Activism is not about running away, it’s about running towards.

I have often felt like running away, I suppose, like the nervousness before you’re about to enter a base or something.

- Woman, Leicester

I think what comes to me is ‘not taking responsibility’. Day to day, in my day-to-day living, with various aspects.

When you first said it, what came to mind was: Never!

- Woman, Tunbridge Wells

I can remember being at Manor House underground station in London, and there were these stickers on the wall which were from a far right group and they were all about the banks being owned by Jews. I started peeling them off the wall because I found them offensive.

These two guys came up behind me and asked why I was taking them off, and I said: because I found them offensive.

It turned out that it was them who put them on the wall. Which was extremely scary.

So I said: Well, I just don’t agree with what they say.

They said: You shouldn’t be taking them off the walls, we have a right to express our views.

The train came and we all got on the train.

And they sat opposite me.

And I thought: Oh my God, I’m going to die now.

And then it got to Finsbury Park station (the next station) and I thought: What am I going to do?

I waited till I heard the beeping of the doors and they started closing, and I ran through the doors and I got away.

Looking back, what I wish I had done is: I wish I had had a talk with them and tried to discuss with them why they were doing what they were doing.

There was maybe an opportunity there which I didn’t take. We were in a public space, and there were people around, and we could almost have had a conversation about it.

- Man, Cambridge

I struggle with the word ‘activism’. It always seems to belong to other people. The organisedness.

The running away I think about is nothing to do with activism.

When my kids were small and I was in a disastrous relationship, one day I said I was going to the library and went out of the house, and instead of going to the library I got on a train and I went to London for the weekend and I stayed with some Iranians, actually they were Kurds.

And I ate good food and had good conversations and I didn’t want to go back but I had to.

It was like a desert where there was no intellectual conversation and then suddenly, with these Iranian friends, there was.

It wasn’t just politics, we were talking about films and stuff, what you talk about after dinner.

Most of them I never saw again. The girl I saw again. The boy actually committed suicide later.

I remember that lovely little interlude. I thought: ‘This is what life should be like’. But it wasn’t.

- Woman, Hastings

Well, the first thing that came into mind was a UK Uncut demonstration in Oxford Street.

It was a protest at the end of the day, outside a Vodafone shop.

There were 10 to 15 of us, and there was lots of energy, and we just decided to do an impromptu protest.

There were police following us and someone I didn’t know was arrested.

And a friend and I de-arrested him! It was the first time I’d done that, and it felt quite dangerous and good.

And we got him to run away – ‘Run away! Run away!’ – and he did, and he got away!

And it was quite a good way to end the day.

- Man, London

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