This weekend, the environmental action group Extinction Rebellion launches its latest wave of protests seeking to make responding to climate chaos the organising principle of all political parties and governments. In response to the latest IPCC report, which began to catch up with the perspectives of XR and the Deep Adaptation movement, XR reasserts its view that we are already within an unfolding disaster and must act to reduce harm, save what we can, and uphold our values in the process.
“Act now because it’s too late,” is also the message I conveyed in the XR handbook. It is too late for reform, for delay, or for pretending we can fix our environmental predicament – but it will never be too late to do the right thing. I even attempted a poem about it – “thank God it’s too late”!
Skeena Rathor is a founding member of XR and a governance member of the Deep Adaptation Forum. She introduced my opening speech at the launch of the international rebellion two years ago. Her courage in saying what needs to be heard and calling us to be our higher selves is immense. Perhaps that is why she featured in this recent music video on Chamunda. I am pleased to share on my blog her invitation to men to join the peaceful rebellion that starts this weekend in the UK. In this letter she conveys the emotions that move her and others to defend Life.
This letter is a plea and comes from a dream that I had over summer solstice.
But who am I and why and how could this request possibly be part of what is yours to do in this moment?
The main ask is in bold below.
My name is Skeena. Skeena Rathor….I’m brown skinned…..My family is from Kashmir – the place of the oldest running conflict registered on the UN agenda… I was born and raised here in the UK…..where the streets of our London council estate were also not safe for a brown child. Still, safety wise it was easier for my parents.
I am the Co Founder of Extinction Rebellion’s Guardianship and Visioning Circle which in speaking to you remotely and without real invitation feels like a tricky admission. I think we’ve done some great things and I think we and I made some mistakes.
And here we are three years later and the world is burning just as we imagined it would. Species are dying at an accelerated rate just as we imagined they would.
Brown and black children are mainly the casualties of our genocidal and ecocidal economics, more and more so every day and this is still only in our imaginations and may not touch us because deep down weve been told the black and brown children are worth less than the white.
But then more than 4 million children in the UK are hungry… and how many are poisoned through the airs, soils and waters?…..our children are also in a mental health crisis, an addiction crisis and a powerlessness and manipulation crisis.
I’m a mother of 3 girls. Maybe you’re not in a relationship with children. It doesn’t matter. I know you carry the mothering principle and instinct like all living beings do and just as much as I do…because like me you are here to create, nurture and protect.
But then ok….I hear you…. There’s so much other crisis in your own lives, in the lives of your beloveds.
AND as men….. I think you have suffered a devastating severing from one another and an imprisoning of real self. Its been different from the pain of women but just as real.
From the moment you were born the world responded to your cries less than they did the cry of girls – fact – and then you were told you weren’t allowed to mourn your losses and cry too passionately…. not allowed to express your rage for fear of scaring people…. not allowed to be too close to your brothers or sisters for fear of wrongness …..not allowed to be equally important to your children because apparently your not as important for the children…. not allowed to rest for too long, not allowed to play too hard, not allowed to love wildly….. not allowed not allowed – you’ve been DISALLOWED.
Only recently, from my dear brother Ianto Doyle, I learnt the word misandry. How embarrassing as a Liberation campaigner…. I had no idea. I’m sorry …. so sorry because I think when sometimes we sisters talk about patriarchy we make you wrong. More disallowing,
So I see that your beauty, your strength, your vulnerability and your tenderness is in a stranglehold just as mine has been.
How do we come back together?…. What is it that we need to do together?… Be together?…. Feel together? What would you do?
For now, I had this dream –
To open this Rebellion,
on Sunday the 22nd August at 5pm,
As an OPENING CEREMONY of direct nonviolent action……together with my sisters of colours and cultures with our men in their fierce care and protection of us.
There will be three tributaries – the women (FINT – female, intersex, non binary and trans) , the men and the more than human reps, all arriving from different directions.
We are going to the heart of the violent system to make a stand and say stop the harm and heal the harm. We are describing it as a Co Liberation action – being in the body of my freedom as your freedom and your freedom as mine.
I want to ask you to stand in front of us…. as men connected in one unbroken line ….and turn around together, in each other’s arms, reunited to face the truth of this system.
I want you to protect me and my sisters from what will come towards us, just for a moment and only until you need to.
I want the whole human family in its diversity to stand together – to create a picture of the reconciliation of the human family in the web of life, a picture of deep solidarity and kinship… and so much more than this, more than a picture…. an experience… for all of us…. of a family undivided, in FIERCE LOVE.
Outside you, holding you, will be mixed rebels and then the Co Founders of XR and Black men as the least arrestable, outside them will be representatives of the more than human – the great web of life.
Together we will look like an amphitheatre of life protecting life.
I wonder what you need to stand with us and for us?
I can only face tomorrow if you can face it with me. Otherwise its too much.
Theres a vast ocean of crises aren’t there? Its hard to know which one to turn towards, which one to face….
But this is where I am calling you all in…..im calling you into facing some crisis with me….because
Mostly…. I see us still trying to turn away from all of it….facing none of it….. I’m scared, that because we have our backs turned away… we can’t really see what’s coming…..
With our backs turned ….we are even more vulnerable and fragile…..and we are already more broken, more disconnected, more disembodied, more dislocated….than we have ever been before….eons of traumas have come home to roost in our bodies, in our lifetime….so we turn away….
And who has our backs if we are all facing the other way? Who has your back? Who has my back?
I mean real back. In full physical presence. From metaphor to real life….. I want to get real with you….for us to feel something real together….our power…our freedom…our interdependence…our belonging to one another….in real time….in full life force.
We need each other so very much. With our love in action.
My privilege and your privilege costs lives every day…..every day life dies because of the systems we are locked into….we are part of the machinery of death and destruction.
Most days, I wake up with this despairing guilt sickness in my stomach, knots of helplessness and anguish…. and then often I hit what feels like a rip tide of grief…. in hearing my children’s voices and thinking about THE Children ….. there is some escape and I can get upright….in being with beloveds there is some more escape….enough to lift me into my resistance…. in the day my resistance includes joy, dance and laughter but I often go to bed with the same sickness. I wonder how your grief and rage is for you.
I know I’m not alone in this pain. I know you know so much of this pain. I know as men you carry a version of my pain. I don’t really know what your version feels like for you.
I want to attempt a mass recovery WITH you. I want to embark on a journey of epic restoration WITH you. I know…… we need to hear more about what it is you need and dream of.
I want us to begin something on the 22nd August. 2021, the anniversary of the Haitain Revolution of 1804, the only successful revolt of black slaves.
Please will you start something with me, by protecting us.
We do this in protection of all of us…..especially the children – the children of all species, our children, my children, your children.
With fierce love and prayers for your power and mine to rise and face what is here.