I’ve been to two Rebellions. The first time I went as a steward, and didn’t know anyone. Stewarding was my way of dipping my toe into the world of activism. I was present, but most of my job involved telling tourists which way Buckingham Palace was, rather than bringing down the systems of power and finance which perpetuate the climate and ecological emergency.
The second time I came as part of XR Buddhists. I crossed the threshold of arrest. I helped to organise a mass meditation in Trafalgar Square. Working with others, I helped publicise what we were doing on social media. But the moments that stuck with me from that Rebellion weren’t the big semi-planned ones, they were the spontaneous ones.
One morning towards the end of the Rebellion we were meeting for a check-in in Parliament Square. I was still processing my arrest and night in the cells. This Rebellion had happened with London fairly empty (due to COVID 19) and I worried we hadn’t reached as many people as we might have. Sometimes in the middle of actions, I can feel fretful about whether anything is changing. All of that was swirling in me as I met with a few other XR Buddhists that morning.
Parliament Square was almost empty, there were a few people around for the Faith Vigil. And up two trees there were a couple of brave protestors who had been there for days. Police officers stood around at the base of the trees. It was an attempt to isolate the protestors in the trees, to make it harder for people to communicate with them and to send things up to them. And so we chose to sit among the trees, among the indifferent police. It felt a bit awkward going and sitting among the police. Even though I know there is no reason I can’t meditate under the tree, I was still very conscious of the police presence. We sat there, and connected with the trees, with the ground, with the activists above us who had spent the night on their own, in front of the Houses of Parliament.
After sitting for a while, Joe suggested we could call up to the occupied hammocks and offer some words from Joanna Macy. One of the protestors looked out over her hammock and said she would like that. So we mic checked this quote up to her:
“This is a dark time, filled with suffering and uncertainty. Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world. So don’t be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear, because these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth of your interconnectedness with all beings.”Joanna Macy
It was a beautiful moment. She told us we had made her cry. It was a moment of connection with someone we could barely see, but a way of recognising the pain and hope that we felt. I wished I could have given her a hug, or some hot food and a good coffee. But we did what we could.
To come to a Rebellion is to grapple with the hopes, the grief, the anger, and the attachments we have to change. It isn’t always easy. But it offers an opportunity to connect with others in big and small ways. That can be powerful.
Mikey is a member of XR Buddhists UK
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