Special Edition: Who cares, do you care, do we care?
I had the immense pleasure of joining the Friends of Europe as a Young European Leader alongside politicians, academics and (very few) journalists and activists.
Each year there are two seminars for EYLs to discuss the future of Europe. This seminar in Lisbon (Sep 7–9) was hosted by the City and we discussed the challenges of food and fuel crises, climate crisis and how governments should respond to the pressure from poorer, hungrier, and colder citizens.
This EYL40 autumn seminar hosted a series of sessions mainstreaming climate action in all policies. This was handy for me as learning more about climate justice has been a personal goal for this year.
What I did
Housing out reportage
I highly recommend viewing this whole thread! Also, for any conference organisers who change location and bring people from outside the country to that place, I highly recommend arranging something like this. Only a few people out of 50 attending the seminar showed up for this but we got to report back to the whole group about our experience.
I did lots of social media reporting.
I was on “peak” documentation mode because the City of Lisbon had organised private viewing of the City Hall and it was aboslutely exquisite.
What I learned
Growth, perspective and effective change in mixed spaces
My biggest learning from this community gathering was how much I had been missing being around people who weren’t all activists. Though I find my little bubble very cosy, motivating and comforting, it also makes me feel isolated and worn out. The constant strive for perfection, the calling out first rather than calling in, and the illusion that we’re surrounded by people who think or should act as we do makes me feel like I’m far removed from the reality I never want to forget. As a pragmatic activist, I really appreciate being in spaces where not everyone agrees, and there is room for me to learn and grow as well as share and nurture other people’s understanding of the issue. It can be frustrating for sure and sometimes you make yourself vulnerable to harm by placing yourself in these places but I’ve found it on balance, invigorating for me. The EYL community has politicians, academics, policy people, investors, and fewer activists and journalists. Everyone believes in a progressive Europe but not everyone sits on the same side of the political left and/or agrees on the best way to get there. There is a certain trust in the community which I found warming. It made me want to invest time in both understanding what it is like for people who are in political office and also being vulnerable and sometimes listening to and not reacting to insensitive or discriminative statements. I assume good faith and practice calling in with generosity. I don’t think everyone who has experienced marginalisation has to have that reaction (I would never prescribe responses to lived experience) but it’s how I’ve been raised to be. And I think these communities benefit from having people like me, who can take it and not internalise the harm and engage in the education process.
We are bound by our world views and we all need a context shift.
Climate was a big theme for this year’s seminar in Lisbon. I perhaps know the least, and the least involved in climate justice work. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important — it’s just that I’ve chosen to work on gender and racial inequalities and especially healing justice for survivors of gender-based violence as my “ناصب العین” (Urdu via Arabic for mission of life). This year, I decided to learn more about the climate justice movement and sought out activists, working groups and reading lists wherever I could. So, let’s get back to this moment. I’ve burned out so significantly this year that I promised myself I will take a step back, listen more, talk less and just be present at gatherings and conferences. I’m sitting through this discussion on climate crisis, and the conversation is going in circles around every single country in the world apart from those in Europe or USA (the single biggest C02 contributor). Countries like Egypt, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, Brazil, Russia and the continent of Africa get mentioned as if they are the reason the world is where it is but not a single European country gets mentioned in a gathering of European leaders. After listening to this for a good 45 mins, I had enough and had to say something. The phrase “decolonising climate justice movement” kept revolving in my head. I think everyone in the room was well-meaning and you can see it from the response I get at the end but people get stuck into their own frame and this frame was “the problem is over there, not in Europe”. It’s all of our responsibility to expand our world, learn more, challenge our frame and decolonise the way we think about these issues. And it starts with an open mind. You can see my rant:
The power of narratives.
We talked a lot about the power of narratives — for shifting norms, sparking the warmth of empathy, rousing the spirit to action and bringing people closer to those they have distanced themselves with.
I do a bit of this work at Chayn and I really want to do more. Do you have any recommendations for things to me to read, watch or people to follow?
What am I being seen as?
I had a very interesting encounter during the housing crisis tour in Alfama. I tweeted this at that very moment.
I kept thinking about this comment. I was that person. Even though in my head and with my intentions, I’m not dehumanising or disregarding the local residents — they don’t know that! To them, I’m just another face with a phone or camera in my hands clicking away. To some extent, this cannot be avoided on a personal level. While we can be careful and respectful of people living in the cities we travel to, there’s something about the nature of modern travel that makes the entire arrangement very transactional. Is that the non-stop selfie taking, the “burger and avocado toast” tourist all-day-brunch places replacing local food establishments or the sheer number of people who are now able to travel due to cheap flights and AirBnb that is to blame?
Raquel Tavares is a great singer by the way and you can find one of her songs below with the video being shot in Alfama — her own neighbourhood.