Why the real question isn’t ‘Who are you?’ but ‘Who are we?’
A reply to someone who asked “Who are you?” to the many Romanians who’ve not yet come out to actively take part in the country’s largest environmental and civil rights movement in history….
“Captain Planet I deeply appreciate and respect your questions. They’re questions being asked by many of those taking part in activities and events across the country and around the world in support of Salvati Rosia Montana. They’re questions that deserve answers – but also tell us as much about ourselves, the movement, our country, and this moment, as they try to discover about those you’re asking them to.
Is it unusual that people aren’t becoming active and involved in the movement? Of course not. Is it strange that perhaps the majority of the country still don’t really know what it’s all about and what’s happening? Not at all. That’s quite obvious and natural too. Are there ways we could more effectively reach out to and engage people, and perhaps some things that would be beter for us not to be doing? Yes, in fact, there are. The movement has been doing many/some of these, but there are many more, and some principles and values that may be useful for us to internalise, if we really want a. this movement to be successful and b. for it to contribute to something new and better in Romania with c. the overwhelming majority of Romanians (or at least very, very, very many of them!) becoming involved.
Learning from Movements Around the World…and learning from and knowing our own people, society, history and culture:
Movements for social change (environmental, social justice, economic, political, civil rights, liberation, etc) are not new. There have been thousands. Very many have been successful. Many have not. And often: success comes over time, not at once, and even movements which have risen up and then collapsed, have also helped to contribute to deep, significant transformations and change over time. What are some things that might be worth learning / drawing from movement around the world related to engaging broader society / populations in a movement:
First and foremost, and perhaps the most important of all. If you want people to become involved in a movement, always, ALWAYS treat them with respect and dignity. Don’t insult. Don’t belittle. Don’t talk down to them because they’re not as righteous, wonderful, mobilised and active as you are.Treat people with respect and dignity and act with respect and dignity. If we want something better for the country for the future: let’s make it a reality today in how we act towards and treat each other.
B. KNOW YOUR CULTURE, PEOPLE’S PSYCHOLOGY AND HISTORY
The present didn’t come out of nowhere. It has a past. Romanian citizens have lived through many moments of being ‘promised’ something better, only to see it not happen (or not as clearly and as immediately ‘real’ for them as they’d like). They have been lied to by politicians, and manipulated by many. At the same time – there is a tremendous amount of deep wisdom, deep understanding, and deep…integrity, beauty, culture, in Romania. It’s a ‘depth’ that doesn’t just ‘jump up’ right when you want it to. Drilled into so much of our society over decades people have integrally learned to be disempowered, sceptical, and not to believe in themselves or each other and their ability for change (at the same time, you’ll see people across the country ready to volunteer, to help out, to show hospitality and kindness. Those who think life is ‘one’ or ‘the other’ or ‘black and white’ may be sweet, young and naive, but more experience in life will show an incredible bouquet of colours, and why it can be challenging sometimes to know how to engage with it all). Two of the best books I ever read to understand psychology in Romania were ‘Discourse on Colonialism’ and ‘The Coloniser and the Colonised’. Neither was actually about Romania, but they touched on such deep fundamental aspects that are so deeply present in the society that they were well worth reading. If people want to mobilise, inspire and encourage people to take part, in any society, country,culture in the world, we need to deeply know: what is it within people’s culture and individual personalities that holds them back, makes it difficult to get involved, or gives them fundamentally legitimate (and sometimes not as legitimate) cause for scepticism. Then: we need to also draw upon the deepest and most beautiful within that psychology and culture, what people value, what they know / feel to be true, to mobilise and engage them. Gandhi understood and did this brilliantly in India (and it happens to be his birthday today – October 2nd). For those who dismiss this, it’s worthwhile remembering he – together with many others – built one of the largest movements in the history of humanity, a movement people were directly involved in, a movement which overthrew the most powerful empire the world had known in the centuries leading up to it. For those who quickly dismiss…read, learn and discover a bit more. You’ll find it both empowering and inspiring.
The movement so far in Romania has been truly extraordinary. Beautiful, creative, inspiring, courageous. If we want it go grow further and reach those not yet involved, we need to be creative, and deeply dive into knowing psychology and culture, and finding positive/empowering ways to reach out to people.
C. EARN TRUST & CONFIDENCE….AND INSPIRE
For people to become involved they often need to be able to trust. In Romania, trust is often at a minimum. Trying to convince people to become involved (even for something as simple as a demonstration), may not be that easy – if they don’t know you and have a reason to trust you. Here, the movement, and every single one of us as individuals, has a responsibility to earn our society’s and our neighbours’, friends’ and family’s trust. “But I’m doing something that’s right! They should come out and join in if they care!”. Yes, that’s true, but if we are really committed, and really believe in this, and really want to succeed, we need to take those extra steps and think: how can we act, how can we behave in a way, how can we develop the movement in a way….that earns people’s trust and makes them feel inspired.
D. CONVINCE PEOPLE SUCCESS IS POSSIBLE AND THE CAUSE IS WORTH IT
One of the most powerful keys to success in any movement: when we’re able to convince people that success is possible, and this is a cause that matters. The ‘Catch-22’: the movement can succeed if people become involved; people need to believe it will succeed to become involved. How do you reach that ‘clicking’ moment, that ‘turning point’, where it begins to escalate (even with students coming back now, which could make numbers much larger, the movement could very easily go either way. Larger numbers of students might make the movement more ‘exciting’ but it could also turn others away and ‘marginalise’ the movement overall if it’s not careful. What might be important to think about: engaging students is absolutely excellent and important. Let’s give equal attention to engaging the broader population, especially: adult professionals / parents / grandparents). Convincing people success is possible doesn’t happen overnight. It takes perseverance and also social education and awareness raising. We can show and make visible: i. successes from the past in Romania and ii. successes from movements in other countries. This can also help inspire and educate people … and encourage them to take part.
E. “THIS IS ABOUT ME. I WANT TO GET INVOLVED” – It takes deep listening
One of the most important ‘success moments’ of any and every movement is when it’s able to get people (made up of each and every citizen) to feel: this is about me! I want to…I NEED to get involved. Yes people have many different issues they’re thinking about. Yes many people are distracted by the realities of our daily lives. Yes for many people..they see so many problems in the country, and they don’t particularly feel connected to “Rosia Montana”, when they have so many worries they’re struggling to deal with themselves. When Marilyn Manson was asked ‘what he would say to the people of Columbine’ (where some blamed him and his music for inspiring the shootings at the highschool), his answer was: “I wouldn’t say anything. I would listen. That’s the one thing no one is doing.” The demonstrations and the meetings, actions, events, sign painting, hard, creative and inspiring work that leads up to them are…awesome. Amazing. Exciting. Exhilarating. When you’re in the middle of them they feel…incredible! And we wonder: why isn’t everyone joining. For single mothers or fathers trying to take care of their kids while working one, two or three jobs; for the average person in Romania trying to make do with incredibly poor salaries; for pensioners who don’t have enough to live and survive with dignity; for those facing the reality of gas prices going up AGAIN while salaries are stagnant or for very many declining…that excitement isn’t felt. And is it true that “if we want to change those things we need to start somewhere! Rosia Montana in a way is about ALL of that! About no longer allowing government and state corruption and incompetence. About solving those things by using the resources of the country to benefit the people of the country.” Yes. In many ways it is. But: if I want someone to know, to feel that, I may also have to first show the respect, the deep authenticity…of listening to them. Of their challenges. Their problems. Their thoughts, dreams, concerns. Then…if I listen deeply. Authentically. If I truly understand. Then, perhaps…I can have a discussion with them, together, where we see: You are Rosia Montana. I am Rosia Montana. This IS about us. About our future. It’s about wanting something better. It’s about courage. It’s about demanding but knowing that we also have to get involved to CREATE dignity. And yes: it’s about craziness. About crazy, wild, wonderful…hope. Believing in ourselves. Believing in each other. And I’m asking you…I’m asking you to believe with me. To trust with me. To walk with me. And I will walk with you. I’m not asking you to come out and get involved just because I thin it’s important. Because I want YOU to. I’m asking you because I want to get involved to help and support what you care about, what matters to you. Because I am rising with you.
E. PERSEVERE…AND GROW THE MOVEMENT
Most movements don’t succeed overnight. They take time. They take thousands of conversations. They take, as the brilliant mobilizer and thinker of liberation Eqbal Ahmad said “out organising, out administering the occupier”. The growth of this movement lies in ten thousand dialogues. Lies in organising workshops, seminars, ‘cafe discussions’ to engage more people – especially also those who don’t agree with us! And always, always treating them, each other, ourselves, every one of us with respect. It lies in training programmes on social mobilisation and civic engagement or nonviolent action to help people learn the skills for how to build the movement. It lies if organising fun, exciting, respectful ways of informing people (exactly as so many are doing! and it’s so exciting and wonderful to see!). It lies in acts of daring and creativity…like dropping giant banners to drape the walls of stadiums, apartment buildings, etc. It lies inside every single one of us. We’ve been active..many of us…for a month. Others have been active for 14 years. Others…over the coming days…will begin to make the decision to get involved. And from dozens to hundreds to 30.000 plus to 5.000 to millions…the movement will grow. If we keep our hope. If we keep our joy, passion, determination, fun, creativity and inspiration. If we listen to each other and are there to support each other both when we’re excited and when we might feel depressed or down. If we talk to our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our neighbours, and convince them to come out and join us.
Some creative ideas:
– prepare information pieces on Rosia Montana and announcing demonstrations and give them to thousands of taxi drivers to post in their taxis
– organise painting sessions with families and youth / children to paint the future they want for Romania
– organise meetings, workshops, seminars and conferences at universities and in public spaces to discuss what’s happening in Romania and Rosia Montana. Try(!) to have speakers that are actually inspiring and constructive, and not just angry or depressing / alienating people! Be ready for people to disagree. Breathe deeply. Respect them. Listen to what they’re saying. And then honestly share what you believe in…and base it in real knowledge, facts and accurate information
– get theatre performers to perform street theatre in the middle of busy streets, in faculties, in malls. Don’t let people know there will be a performance. Start..and build the audience!
– do flash concerts and dedicate them to Rosia Montana
– join those wonderful bicyclists who are biking for Rosia Montana!
– link with TedX organisers and organise TedXs across the country and IN ROSIA MONTANA on Salvati Rosia Montana! In addition to the movement and what’s so amazing about it, address themes such as: how to create jobs and good, environmentally friendly development in Romania’s rural areas; how to create an authentic, democratic state that serves the country and people; how to cultivate empowerment, courage and hope in Romanian citizens; and much, much more!
– engage with local authorities in your area to get them to pass resolutions opposing the project and supporting Romania’s democratic rising
– create a MASSIVE global movement of millions of Romanian’s posting our pictures on FB and on walls of buildings in our cities saying with a sign saying (in Romanian, Hungarian, German, English, French, Spanish…) “I AM ROSIA MONTANA!”
– inspire artists, musicians, performers, film makers to use their gifts to support this movement in Romania, and also to do large or small acts to speak out
– create movements of citizens (including especially students and reaching out more broadly) calling upon citizens and companies around the world to DISINVEST from RMGC and Gabriel Resources and to have them removed from stock exchange listings
There are so many more ideas! In Cluj and in many cities people are beginning to organise weekly meetings to enable people to come together, in large assemblies / democratic forums, and then meeting also in smaller ‘action’ or creativity groups to address different themes.
And…at the end of the day…if I really want to know ‘who you are?’, if I want to find out someones reasons, feelings, what motivates them, what holds them back…I’m not going to do it by making a post on Facebook or the internet. I need to actually go to that person…and listen. With respect. With dignity. Sometimes I’ll succeed. Sometimes I won’t. But then…our movement will grow. And we will know who we are.”
In South Africa, one of the words that most inspired the truth and reconciliation process (TRC) after the end of formal/political apartheid was “ubuntu”: I am who I am because of you. We are who we are because of each other. Every single one of us is unique. All of us are affected by what effects each of us. When we are able to glimpse the beauty in this concept…it will help us in truly building a movement which embraces and is embraced by people all across the country.