Nicola Paris: But we aren’t activists

I started focusing full time on supporting nonviolent resistance when I saw the impact that a small amount assistance could have on a community fighting back.

I did this because I found it nourishing and it felt valuable, but also I saw a need — a need that would only increase as we saw greed and corporations dominate our political processes — meaning action outside of the system — civil resistance was not only necessary but needed to be grown, nurtured and deliberately supported.

And so it has grown. Since 2012 when CounterAct was conceived, when working on the ultimately successful campaign to protect the Kimberley from a massive gas refinery, I’ve trained thousands of people. I’ve watched many campaigns blossom, some win, but, just as importantly, I have seen many people step into their power. Realise they have agency. Many of them what we’d call “unusual suspects”. They have included priests and farmers, national party voters, grandparents, people impacted by gambling, and early childhood educators. Lawyers and doctors and nurses and teachers.

The amount of “mainstream” people stepping into civil disobedience is both remarkable and not. Its clear to many that current political systems are failing us, as are the institutions that are supposed to protect us and the environment. Unions can seem remote and disconnected for young people (shout out to Hospo Voice as one of those bucking that trend), large environmental non-government organisations are still calling on people to sign petitions to “save this important thing” simply to build their lists… directed to conservatives who don’t care… The broader progressive movement seems to bring out speaker, after speaker from other countries advocating for civil disobedience as part of a bigger strategy — and yet, crickets, from our risk averse charity sector, when it comes to boots on the ground, or supporting civil resistance.

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