Sunday, 13 December 2009

Tales from the Dark Side of Transition

Last month I wrote up an Open Space session from the Transition East gathering in Diss It was called How Best To Tell the Story of Transition in the Present Media and Culture. Six of us from Norwich, Framlingham, Saxmundham, Downham Market and Cambridge recognised that one of the greatest challenges we face is the glossing over of the dark and difficult parts of Transition. Nor is there any medium, even within the Transition movment itself, where these experiences can be creatively expressed and treasured. We have to create our own media was one of the conclusions we came to.

This week as one of our contributors was unable to post it was an open-space week for anyone to write in, keeping Copenhagen in our sights. Next week I'm going to explore some of these shared difficulties and find some ways of making sense and beauty out of them. To kick off here is Ed Mitchell from the Transition Network on a "dark side" encounter he had at the Wave last weekend:

" I'm in London visiting some mates and going on the Wave march, and found myself in the pub last night, facing three of my best mates, all pointing their fingers at me, telling me that nothing could change, and why was I complaining as we have it so good, and no-one has time for this hippy shit, stop berating supermarkets - they are an effective way of feeding a population etc. etc.. And then I fell into conversation with a chap who had overheard who decided he would tell me that it was my fault for having these silly eco ideas and the government taxing us all to death for this nonsense was because of me stirring up this nonsense and it was all nonsense etc. etc. I asked where he got his information from - had he ever seen the graphs indicating CO2 and global temperature? No he hadn't. It had all come from the papers. And actually, he couldn't point to a single piece of information that actually had a fact behind it. (To be fair to him, it did look like a little light went on in his head at that point).

They all looked so angry.

I was gutted. It made me never want to bring it up again, put my head back behind the parapet and try to pretend that I didn't know all this stuff, and didn't care, and saw our privileged lifestyles as some form of natural selection like others say, and stop moaning. But I've never found myself at ease with the way things are, and can't do that. You can't de-remember this stuff. And this stuff you can't de-remember puts you at odds with an alarming number of people.

And then they said 'well what are *you* going to do about it?'. I spieled off a little list of things I thought they could easily achieve as well, but they said they didn't have time for that (e.g. clubbing together with 4 households and bulk buying your staples from a co-op), or that people didn't want to know their neighbours, and for every thing I said, they had a reason not to do it, or not to bother. Or that it was just a middle class throwback, and OK for some etc. etc. Even when I talked about projects like community tree planting days, free for all, couple of hours on a Saturday, they tutted, kind of knowingly, knowing it was pointless.

It was a total brick wall.

I'm familiar with opening difficult subjects with groups of people, so it wasn't a totally new shock. It's that it was my mates; totally aware of what is going on, keenly aware of the illusions of control the government spin to us, radio 4 listeners, and generally with very low carbon footprints anyway. Because it was my mates I could say that they were in denial. There was some shrugging. Maybe. But so what?

So I'm shedding a few tears of frustration, feeling a little isolated, reaching out to someone else who knows how this feels (you right now).

But what did I learn?

How can I bring this up without raising people's hackles so much next time? What angles are there to encourage people to do projects while not making them feel angry or guilty or like they are hanging out with middle class hipppies? How can we navigate the dark side? Actually, they're not in denial, they're in 'grief'. Different approaches for different people (denial, anger, grief, acceptance, action)?

In fact, perhaps I can only thank them for giving me that chance to process that experience... (?)

Hope you don't mind me dumping that on you! I'm tempted not to send it and see this as a therapeutic exercise but I'm a relentless extrovert, so can't help but share it... and I do feel better now... :)

Ed "

Thanks Ed for sharing (and daring!) And if anyone else has some Transition tales to tell . . .this is your blog!

No comments:

Post a Comment