The many faces of activism

I’m not long back in from facilitating a 2 hour ‘information meeting’ for the Steiner School Leicestershire Interest Group. As meetings go it was relatively straightforward – no crucial decisions to make, no deeply embedded history of conflict and so on. The group’s very recent, and I got into conversation with them about building their awareness of their group dynamic nice and early to avoid it setting in stone.There was already a high level of awareness which gives hope that this group may thrive.

One thing led to another and I volunteered to facilitate the meeting. The brief involved all the usual things about getting the task done in the allocated time (the task being giving people a chance to find out more about Steiner education, to get up to date with the project to open a Steiner school in Leicestershire, and crucially to have an opportunity to get involved). The more demanding bit was to do this without reinforcing the existing group dynamics of the project – a core group of 4 families doing all the work. But with a sincere and open approach it wasn’t that hard. The meeting went well and new volunteers came forward to offer skills, time and resources. There was also the option to make tentative offers – in other words an offer that was dependent on receiving appropriate support, mentoring and skill sharing. It would have been nice to see more offers, but as many people still haven’t decided whether the school is for them that’s not too surprising. I’ve shared some of the evaluation comments below this post.

For a moment I considered whether this was really Rhizome work, not that I don’t facilitate outside of Rhizome. No, the question was “Is it really activism?”. I think the answer has to be ‘yes’. For some of these parents it’s all about building a better world for their children. Quite literally – a creative, humane educational experience that build world-changing values and attitudes in the next generation. This, as well as having had a baby in the last year reminds me that there are so many more faces of activism than the ones many of us are familiar with. It’s not all petitions, banners, marches and ‘lock-ons‘. There are countless folk out there working away to build alternative social structures. So here’s a few to interest and inspire:

The Association of Radical Midwives is a resource to allow women (and their partners) the empowering birth that many aspire to but few get.

There’s also a growing homebirth and freebirth movement. Despite recent media campaigns here in the UK to undermine the strong reputation for the safety of homebirth.

I’ve always been inspired by the midwives of the Farm, an US commune that started out as a hippy convoy snaking its way across the USA on a journey long enough that several babies were born en route. The women of the Farm became self-taught midwives (well, with a little help from supportive doctors along the way) and have gone on to challenge a lot of current birthing assumptions, such as the need for significant medical intervention in a breech birth. This DIY approach to life has a lot in common with other elements of activism.

And of course then there’s the home education movement and the related but lesser known unschooling movement, vegan parenting and so much more.

And that’s just the early years – hundreds of people pioneering ways of living that fulfil their ideological view of the world. Activism? I think so.

Pick any other aspect of life and dig around and there will be an activist ‘scene’. You get up in the morning and there’s folk campaigning for different daylight saving hours. You eat breakfast – foodmiles, localism, organic, veganic. You go out – transport, local amenities and so on…

It’s both humbling and inspiring to think that by the time you turn on your computer (open source software, corporate domination, conflict minerals….) to start your day’s work as an activist or someone building the capacity of activists you’ve already connected with this much activism.