Occupy Savvy Exclusive! One of the coolest things about activism is that it doesn’t have celebrities – it has role models. Recently, we put 7 poignant questions to five of the world’s most inspiring women. These women hail from Iceland, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and for their profound actions, deeds, words, generosity, heart, and perseverance, we deem them “wahine toa”.
In Aotearoa, New Zealand, we describe a fearless woman of soul and substance, as “wahine toa”. This very loosely translates to “woman warrior.”
The Maori dictionary explains it as;
wāhine: (noun) women, females, ladies, wives.
toa: (stative) be brave, bold, victorious, experienced, accomplished, adept, competent, skilful, capable.
But wahine toa is even more; to us she is;
kaitiaki: (noun) trustee, minder, guard, custodian, guardian, keeper.
ūkaipō: (noun) mother, origin, source of sustenance, real home.
She is “atua” in the sense of; “a way of perceiving and rationalising the world”.
If it were audible; we could almost hear our ladies blushing through the screen. The truth is; they deserve every accolade we can give them, as they live this wild journey called life to the fullest, inspiring so many of us to follow their path, by discovering our own.
These next few days, you will see the same 7 questions posted here, again and again. But you will see vastly different answers. All of a unique and immeasurable insightfulness that is a gift, as a reader, to absorb.
Part One saw us publish the heartfelt words of Turtle Island, Canada’s Min Reyes.
Part Two was an exclusive interview with Iceland’s very own Birgitta Jónsdóttir.
Part Three was an introduction to Aotearoa, New Zealand’s Marama Davidson.
In Part Four we cover an Occupy Melbourne institution that rightly went viral; an original “Tentmonster” – Australia’s Sara Kerrison.
The proverbial meat of this article is going to start unconventionally. By making you wet yourself with laughter. In case you missed it back in December 2011, it is our great pleasure to introduce: the Occupy Melbourne Tentmonsters.
Hands down, the funniest Occupy video you will see. Melbourne Police walk into park in order to evict protesters… fb.me/1boUuBmLz
— The 99% (@AllOccupyNews) December 4, 2011
If you’ve taken the 4 minutes out of your day to watch the above; you will be shocked by the contrast of what happened next. Apparently the Melbourne Police didn’t get the joke. Their retaliation was swift, brutal and left an innocent young girl who had lightened the world with laughter, an extremely public victim of the self-evident Police State.
The sickening assault circled the globe. In one fell swoop Melbourne Police did their international reputation irrevocable damage. The grassroots fallout was instantaneous.
Within hours the entire Occupy movement was expressing both their outrage and their empathy with Sara, then swiftly replicating the “tentmonsters” tactic in spontaneous solidarity actions worldwide; spawning “International Wear A Tent For Human Rights Day“.
There were no longer just tentmonsters in Aussie. They sprung up in locations as far flung from Melbourne as possible; including the Occupy National Gathering (2012) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. In Occupy DC… and at Occupy Santa Cruz, California.
There were even tentmonsters in attendance at the famous Occupy Oakland Port Shutdown II. (Pics courtesy of CIAbook) They even popped up on livestreaming legend Oakfosho’s Ustream, the following January.
With these serendipitous events, Sara was unwittingly thrust into the global spotlight. A Wikileaks activist and Bradley Manning supporter, she had fought injustice but never sought to be the public victim of it.
True occupiers have an innate ability to turn attacks on them into personal and societal victories. Sara did exactly that, putting her profile to good use. She is now a co-litigant representing Occupy Melbourne in the Australian Federal Court in Muldoon Vs Melbourne – a constitutional case that is testing fundamental principles of political communication and freedom of expression.
As Min Reyes said in Part 1 of this series (paraphrasing); the movements come in waves, each a little bigger than the last, all blurring into each other until the individual banners are meaningless and meld into one.
In Part 2 Birgitta Jónsdóttir described the revolution as an ongoing process; where we needed to abandon ego-logy and embrace ecology.
Part 3 saw Marama Davidson deliver the stark reality; we can no longer attempt to be the human boss of Earth. Such wankery is running us into utter ruination.
Here follows Sara’s insightful answers to the same 7 questions we put to the other wahine toa featured in this series.
Q1. Occupy Savvy: Strong women abound in the Occupy and Idle No More movements. Did you ever foresee that you would contribute as meaningfully as you have, to such momentous events?
Sara: Occupy Melbourne was the real catalyst of my participation in social
change. I immediately recognized something in Occupy, some truth in life
and myself that had always been missing and that perhaps subconsciously I
had always been searching for; a sense of community and a belief in my
inalienable right to direct the outcome of my own life. I definitely
didn’t plan to get so involved, but the moment I experienced it I knew
that here is something that EVERYONE deserves to feel! It is moving to be
involved in something much larger than yourself.
Q2. Occupy Savvy: An ONZ admin says “Activism didn’t radicalise me; the state response to activism radicalised me.” Can you empathise with this statement?
Sara: I completely understand, we expressed a similar sentiment after our
eviction in Melbourne because we experienced and witnessed some pretty
brutal things happen to the people we cared about and to everything that
we had built. It was this experience that was instrumental in making me
fully internalize the gravity of the situation, what they are capable of
and how necessary it is for us to persevere. But in the end I feel that
more important than what radicalized me is what keeps me going, and
perhaps it was anger and outrage that ignited me, but it was hope that
kept me going.
Q3. Occupy Savvy: Activism messages appear to be increasingly penetrating the public consciousness. What is your experience of this awakening?
Sara: My personal experience of activism messages being taken on by the public
was when I wrote a short essay about the need for rEvolution which gained
some small notoriety and popularity on the internet. I was grateful that
so many people related to it because it means that many others are having
similar revelations, and realizing the need for us to OPEN OUR EYES!
Q4. Occupy Savvy: What has been your most satisfying moment of the global revolution, to date?
Sara: Even though it is constantly challenging, and sometimes very painful and frustrating, everything about the rEvolution is satisfying, because no matter what happens you know you are involved in such a worthy cause.
Something that particularly touched me was when I saw the videos of the General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street. I was so captivated by this group of strangers, so hands on and involved, so organized and dedicated to their ideals, and so willing to confront hard and real truths about life and the condition of humanity. I was taken aback, because this involvement was a totally foreign concept to me. When the camera swept across the crowd and you saw all of the people, there was a look on each of their faces quite unlike anything I’ve seen before, maybe it was renewed hope.
It’s a simple scene but it really moved me, and I keep coming back to that memory, to remind me to persevere not just against the injustice in the world but for all the beauty that is possible.
Q5. Occupy Savvy: In what way would you most like to see the global narrative shift, from this point?
Sara: I see sustainable self-sufficiency as a practical foundation upon which all great global change can occur. So I want to see solar panels on every roof in every city, water collections in every gutter, vertical farms on the walls of every skyscraper and community gardens in every vacant lot! If each person is able to provide for themselves their most basic needs, society itself will be inadvertently changed, because we will no longer see each other as competitors, and we will have the freedom necessary to interact more meaningfully with each other, our communities and our planet.
And really these ideas aren’t that farfetched! Every single thing that we require to liberate us exists already within ourselves and on our planet. We possess the most awe-inspiring technologies; we could make our reality here into anything that we want! But somehow along the way we managed to convince ourselves that we must work a wage for someone else to pay back the debt of our own existence, and to buy back our freedom. Well our lives aren’t loaned to us by the big banks, so why do we feel we have to spend our lives paying them back?
Q6. Occupy Savvy: What advice would you give to a woman becoming involved in activism for the first time?
Sara: Don’t get distracted by small things such as the police and drama of activist groups. I’ve seen too many activists get sucked into the vortex of interpersonal politics, and use up all of the energy that could have been spent furthering their cause on fighting each other, and eventually self-destruction.
The same goes for the police. They can do things that OUTRAGE you, and yes they can HURT you, and make you ANGRY and make you want to FIGHT BACK. But don’t, it’s just getting caught in their trap. So be gentle with yourself, and take breaks because if you burn out you won’t be helping anyone.
Always listen to people who have the opposite opinion to you, there is no point preaching to the choir. Don’t try to be a badass, and don’t get paranoid about governmental implants involved in your business, because they probably are.
It can all probably be summed up by this Dr. Seuss quote:
“You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot
with your left.”
Q7. Occupy Savvy: In what way have you seen your country change, over the last 18 months? In what way would you see it change, in the next 18?
Sara: I haven’t seen my country change nearly enough in the last 18 months! And I wonder to myself why that is, what it is that we are doing, or not doing in our public advocacy that isn’t persuasive?
Grand ambitions aside, the change I want to see is within the protest culture itself, there needs to be a paradigm shift within activism. A transformation from specific issue-based approaches, to an approach that acknowledges the systemic nature of our problems here on Earth.
Problems that are inherent in the very structure of the system our societies are built on, and that permeate to the core of its people and so warrant an approach in activism that also deals with the issues at their very source and encompasses the entire panorama of problems.
It’s something that I’ve been contemplating for a while but can’t fully articulate yet, but I’d love to start throwing around ideas with any and all people who are feeling the same thing.
That concludes the fourth part of “Women Warriors Of The Global Revolution”. We thank Sara for repping Australia in this series and for being such a fantastic role model for women in her country. Keep an eye out in the coming days for interviews with the final wahine toa to be featured in this series; a staunch female activist hailing from the United States of America.
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