Rebel Stories: Drumming Activism

By Les

Les with his drum

In my occasional climate activism sometimes I sit quietly. Sometimes I make a noise, drumming with a Samba inspired band. It’s been interesting observing the feelings that arise in these two very different approaches of resistance.  With quietly sitting in the ‘wrong place’, anxiousness arises for me from the feeling of vulnerability but this is calmed by holding the reasons for protest in my heart, the suffering of others and the faint hope that change will come.   

With samba drumming the same reasons drive me,  although anxiousness here is less about vulnerability rather than will I keep time and do I know the tunes!  It’s hard to keep up with the youngsters but the energy from the music and the friendly tribal connection and common goal to reduce suffering fuel me.  

It was even more interesting to be asked to drum, albeit slowly, with the XR Buddhists.  We gathered at the start of the day at South bank and watched Ben Okri’s amazing grass art (‘Can’t you hear the future weeping?’) get floated on the Thames.  Then we came together in a grounding practise with an exercise to focus why we were here,  a huge friendly Krishna from Montreal joined us for a while and kindly shared food from his pedal trike with us. 

We, about 15 of us,  set off in single file,  a very slow silent procession all dressed in black each bearing banners about Barclays Bank along much of Fleet Street.  I was at the back beating the drum slow and loud.  The sound really reverberated between the lovely old buildings and many came out of shops, offices, pubs etc. to see the strange procession,  some stared blankly,  some smirked,  some smiled approvingly,  some shouted ‘get a job’, or ‘save the Whales’ etc.  I had figured there may be some distractions so quietly chanted in my head to help keep time.  I chose to use the mantra “Oṃ Āḥ Hūṃ Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hūṃ” striking the drum good and hard on Om partly because the length suited the timing but also because it had personal significance for me.  I could say a lot about the mantra but roughly it’s about bringing body speech and mind to the guru Padma who brought Buddhism to Tibet.  The Vajra word means thunderbolt but also compassion.  I imagined my beater striking down on the drum like a thunderbolt,  it certainly felt that loud.  I hope that some could sense the compassion that brought us there that day. 

 We spread out and sat meditating quietly with our banners both in and outside of Barclays Fleet Street branch.  The police showed lots of interest but eventually let us be.  I imagined it must be uncomfortable for the bank staff,  needing a job,  bills to pay,  kids to feed,  but with us there highlighting their employers relentless support of ecocide. Many public took leaflets and chatted with our outreach folk,  some hurried past annoyed.  I feel uneasy annoying folk,  but then see the increasing reports of climate breakdown.  The suffering that brings is here now and long endured in the global South and much more of it ahead so I will quietly, non violently but sometimes loudly keep challenging this broken system.  

Sadhu

PS: I bank with Triodos 🙂

Posts and articles are the views of their authors and not necessarily of the XR Buddhists group.

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