Activism, and the magic of names.

suffragetteThere’s a lot of celebration going on this week, about the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave “the vote” to some property owning women over thirty (and almost all men over twenty one!), and celebration too of the audacious work of the suffragette movement. Now, I’m going to position some argument in phraseology I do not emotionally align with, ok? These women broke both law and convention, caused terror and loss, and took a militant stance toward achieving their desires. They chained themselves to barriers, and to each other. They burned things down, blew things up and committed suicide in pursuit of their aims. These are our heroines. And they won the rights they were fighting for, and history – as we all know – is written by the winners.

Move along the bus, toward the present day, and we find similar qualities in folk opposed to ecological destruction. We call these folk ‘protesters’. In the mainstream press they’re generally reviled, and in the courts they’re generally found guilty of criminality (just like, in fact, the suffragettes). Anti-frackers, road protesters, hunt protesters, save our woodland protesters, anti-nuclear protesters… all protesting. It’s worth considering that one day these people may be lauded in the same way the suffragettes are today. Those who stand against the immoralities of their “betters” are always at first brutalised in word and action. They did it with the abolitionists, and with the suffragettes; now they do it with the eco-activists.

I think there’s a magic in words. Words have power. Words inspire and create change in the world.

Protest is filled with negative connotations. It’s all about being against something. On the other hand, the word Protect – with just the changing of one letter for another – is filled with love and care and positivity. If we could effect a change in the current lexicon, and replace eco-protest with eco-protect we might in a moment change the narrative. Suddenly, when reports speak of action by individuals engaged in promoting a mindset change about pollution, about climate change, about clear-felling rainforest or species extinction, they are using different parts of the emotional spectrum.

In America they’ve already grasped this truth. Water Protectors, they call themselves. And over here, protecting our water aquifers is the key reason for many people engaging in opposition to the fracking industry. They too are protectors. They care, and that’s why they engage. Caring is a positive word, like protector. These words hold a different energy to ‘protest’. Words have power. Once we begin using words as magical things it matters where in the grey between black and white they stand. Next time you are ‘protesting’ against something, try holding the identical position in a framework built with intentional magic. Be a protector.

[This waffle was born in the melange of this week’s celebrations and a meeting I had recently at Mission Lifeforce, a project I urge you to take a look at] /| bish

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