Activism, inconvenience and where do we go from here?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what is going on in Canada related to the “war” between the Wet’suwet’in peoples and we supporters of them, versus, I guess you’d say, the status quo. I imagine many people in Canada share feelings similar to those expressed in the following Facebook post. I’m sure many more people in Canada will be increasingly upset as the railroad and highway blockades continue. It sounds like most rail service in Canada is being halted by blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en..

From an Anti – protester pipeline thoughts i read this morning – “Quick figuring on the cost of rail stoppage goods and exports….. 1.4 million per day. Take this directly out of any money earmarked for first Nations people. Wonder how they would like that restitution??? Day 8 with refer running in my front yard, sympathy is now at zero….”

I came across this article, Why Protests Are Necessary, Even When They Inconvenience People, that provides a great discussion of this issue. Following are some excerpts.

We associate civility with being polite, but at its heart civility is deeply concerned with justice. To be civil is to care for your community, for your neighbour, for people you don’t know. To be civil is to be concerned with true equality, which means one must also to be invested in the work of dismantling racism, homophobia, the patriarchy, ableism, economic inequality, corruption, persecution of Indigenous peoples, violence and more.

Advocating for the environment is fundamental to these issues because the marginalised are the first to be hurt by climate breakdown.

We know that polite dialogue alone does not create change, because marginalised communities have been talking about these issues for decades, their voices largely ignored. Oppressed people are already hurt by climate breakdown both globally and locally, and so the notion of what it means to be a good citizen must evolve with this knowledge.

Protest is public and disruptive by nature, which normally leads it to be unpopular at the time it is happening. But it is important to remember that these protests have always been concerned with making the world a fairer, safer, and kinder place for everyone. With the benefit of hindsight we see these protests for what they really are: ordinary people doing extraordinary things to improve the world around them. Every advancement of society and human rights has been fought for and hard-won, and these fights have often inconvenienced bystanders at the times they took place. Society still has a long way to go, which means inconveniences must continue. But, as time continues on, we will remember these moments differently when we look back on them.

By kneeling silently, Kaepernick was acting in the same dignified way civil rights demonstrators did in the 1960s: Students sitting quietly at lunchroom counters until they were dragged away, matrons shoved into police wagons, children being fire-hosed: All were quietly resisting what they believed was a societal wrong…

I want to be really clear on this: protestors do not want to be protesting. People who protest are people who want their voices to be heard and action and reform to happen. Groups that organise protests are doing so in response to the fact that nothing is being done to dismantle injustice. They have tried other tactics, they have tried dialogue. Protest is an option that is resorted to because people are desperate for change, and those in power are blatantly ignoring them.

Ultimately, I know protests may make your life more of a hassle. But please try to remember that protestors know this too, and they are only acting because they want you to be able to live in a thriving world. The fight for human rights is always messy, but people are trying their best.

Right now we’re in urgent times, and we have to act like it.

Why Protests Are Necessary, Even When They Inconvenience People By: FRANCESCA WILLOW, Ethical Unicorn, sustainable living and social justice,October 08, 2019

A fundamental question now is what are we fighting for? Where do we go from here? We should acknowledge Indigenous rights to deny building pipelines. But much more than that, we should see this opportunity to upend the status quo and build just communities for us all.

I’m really glad to have met Ronnie James when he joined us for a vigil in Des Moines, Iowa, in support of the Wet’suwet’en people. He gave me permission to share the following. He was writing about a dual welfare system. But the last two paragraphs apply to any of our status quo systems, which is really important to consider at this moment. Something I’ve written about many times myself.

The widely documented existence of the dual welfare system is a debate I see too often. It usually stems from not having knowledge of it, but spirals into defending it because of the “benefits” to society, and it’s proof of working hard to gain positions of power that you use to make legislative level challenges to protect that position. “It’s only natural” they say.

That thinking depends on the flip side of the coin being that social safety net systems are there only for those that don’t work hard enough to get positions in the system to tailor it to their needs.

Both positions ignore generational wealth, as was lectured in class, as well as systemic racism, classism, and sexism.

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James

To this day we have not come to grips with fundamental injustices our country was built on, the cultural genocide and theft of land from Native Americans, the enslavement of African Americans and the legal justifications of bestowing rights and privileges on white land-owning men. The consequences of these injustices continue to plague our society today. And will continue to impact us until we do what is necessary to bring these injustices to light and find ways to heal these wounds.

Peace, social concerns and Native peoples, Jeff Kisling
This entry was posted in civil disobedience, decolonize, Indigenous, Uncategorized, Unist'ot'en, Wet’suwet’en. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Activism, inconvenience and where do we go from here?

  1. kwakersaur says:

    Pretty much everything I know about this comes through the television news media (CBC/CTV) which I know is unbearably middle-class and despite the people of colour are used as newsreaders predominantly white. And so I know I’m not getting the whole picture.

    But it seems to me that when protesters take action (especially far from the point of contention — like here in Ontario where I live) claiming to be supporting the Wet’suwet’in those claims are at least in some ways problematic. There seems to be internal conflict between the hereditary and elected chiefs. Now I am pretty sure the elected chiefs are a creation of the India acts which has not been terribly kind or helpful or empowering. But nonetheless we have — as with any situation as with any community — multiple voices.

    And little old me with more doubts than answers.

    • jakisling says:

      I appreciate what you are saying. For me, in Iowa, USA, far from British Columbia, I’m not concerned about the details/internal conflict you mention. Rather, I feel these pipelines should not be built, no matter who is actually stopping the construction. We have to keep fossil fuels in the ground, so we don’t want any more fossil fuel infrastructure.

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