Stepping outside the bubble to save the globe
A talk first held earth parade of Extinction Rebellion april 2021.
written and read by Bjeno Vlot
Hello lovely people
Take me by the hand
Strong and in solidarity we stand
Fight for climate justice.”
The first time I heard that song, I was at the blockade in front of Rijksmuseum. October 2019. There was no good reason for me to be there.
Yes, I cared for the climate. I had partaken in some climate marches. The first one being in februari that year. You know, the one where Amsterdam was flooded. By lots of rain. But above that, by 50.000 people. Who found climate important enough to be on the streets.
There was no good reason for me to be there either.
I was just taken by the hand by people who had proven to be my friends, by people who had proven their will to do good. I find that inspiring. I like to be part of that.
I wasn’t there because science told me to go. I wasn’t there because I was scared for my future. I was there because I like to be part of a movement that tries to make the world better. Because I knew there was something with the climate. I didn’t know how bad it was.
And like I said, I really had no good reason to be there. I know why I went. As many of you know. I am a christian.
I was part of Christian Climate Action. Which in England is older than the Extinction Rebellion. But when XR started, CCA or Christian Climate Action. Decided to be one on one part of XR.
I think I can remember my first encounter with XR. That was the climate march in Den Haag. I saw a group of people with coloured flags shouting. What do we want, Climate Justice. When do we want it: Now.
My first reaction was. Shut up and walk. It’s a march. Democracy is a numbers game. Not a shouting contest. What did I know. I didn’t know.
Only later, I learned about the 3,5 percent. And disruptive actions. And there I was . at my first disruptive action at Rijksmuseum.
When the day began, I was sure I wasn’t going to be arrested. But after a few times hearing
‘we are here, standing strong, in our rightful place’ i decided to stay. Not because of the words . But because of the vibe of the people. I stood next to people who I had never seen before. And they treated me as a friend. And they were people who were showing their will to act and do good in this world. I find that inspiring. I want to be part of that.
That was the moment the little story of ‘me’, became part of a bigger story of ‘we’. I already had one of those. Because I was, and still am, a proud member of christianity. A bubble that I have lived in since I was a baby. But their extinction rebellion became my second bubble .
What about facts. Yes, what about it. After the week of actions I went to a heading for extinction talk, where I was explained how bad the state of the climate actually was.
There is no doubt in my mind that it’s true. Not because science says so. Not because of what we see in the news. But because governments and big business try so hard to pretend to work on solutions, that the problem must be real. And probably worse.
And then I thought, okay, if this is true, why are there not more people aware of this. And why are not more people joining the actions.
Are they stupid? Do they not care? Are they frozen by anxiety? And I concluded: none of the above.
As a person who has studied religion, as well from the inside as from a scientific perspective. And also because I am a poet and a lover of stories. I came to the conclusion that facts (or telling the truth) do not automatically lead to doing good (or act now).
People don’t change, or fight for change because of facts, but because of story. Or meaning.
And in that regard as Extinction Rebellion we tell the right story. But we don’t always tell the story right. Because for the story to be told right, it has to be told in a way that resonates with the audience. We know how to hype the people already inside of our bubble, but we fail to reach the people outside our bubble. For those outside the bubble we bring facts, but no meaning.
And that’s not strange. But needs to change. Because we need more people. Democracy may be more than a numbers game. But we need a certain number to bring change, and that number needs to be up, so we can not only rise up, but also speed up.
Because what do we want? climate justice. When do we want it? Now.
As mythology teaches us. We are all part of two important stories. The story of me. That is here, and now. It stretches from birth to death or maybe from conception to deterioration, but it is limited. Our genes, our upbringing, our experiences and our desires. The story of me (the ego ) is limited by time and place.
We are also part of another story. A story that is bigger than the story of me. It is bigger because it is the story of everything. It goes way back to a time beyond time and will proceed , in whatever form into eternity. It’s the generations before us, the ages and stages of history. It’s the story of our human and non-human predecessors the world they interacted with. The cities they build that, the knowledge that is lost or passed on to us from ancient times. The traumas that can be perpetuated throughout families and societies. It’s the nature they cultivated, dominated and exterminated. And those processes, that story, will continue long after we are gone. and even the mere memory of us has Faded away.
But why is that important for us as climate activists? Well, this is why. As an Extinction Rebellion we have really made an effort to be inclusive. We try to serve food that anyone can eat, we invite people of all colors, genders, sexual orientations and even religions. Language is still an issue. But we are aware of it. And try to deal with that as best as possible.
But talking about facts. We can easily state that we are nog appealing to the majority of the population. And we can’t hide behind the loophole that we don’t need the majority, just the 3,5% percent or whatever. Even if that were true, we haven’t reached that either.
I think at this point the climate is such an important issue, that we need all the help we can get. We need to stop polorsing. More on that topic in the talk of Kirsten. We need to activate the silent majority. Because, Like Albert Einstein said: the world is a dangerous place. Not by those who do evil, but by those who look on and do nothing.
That is not because they are stupid, or don’t care, or frozen by anxiety. That is because, we who know, may tell the right story but refuse to tell the story right.
You could say, there are a lot of people who we can’t allow in our bubble. In this beautiful movement. Racist, homophobes, meateaters, misogynists some of you would say kapitalists. Because all injustices are connected. And I can agree with that. But I am a good example that someone can change. Because I used to be all that. I may still be a little bit racist now and then, but mostly, I have changed.
If you want to change the ones you need changing or even hate. Don’t do that by showing them your world, your ‘story. Find a way to step into their world, their ‘story. speak in their language, touch their heart so that you may both come to realize that you are both connected in the bigger story of ‘we’ and the word that deserves our common effort to save it.
I will finish with the story of the Rabbi and the tax collector. It is a story that is a few thousand years old, but I think it is a great story to explain how people can change. Tax collectors in that time and place (Israel), were very much hated. nothing changed, you could say. But wait. Tax collectors in that time were basically con men. criminals. That was nog only the opinion of the people. They themselves knew they were criminals. That is why they took the job. As a tax collector, you could basically ask anything you liked. There was an amount that needed to go to the authorities, but the rest was for you. And the authorities didn’t care as long as they got their cut. But the authorities in that time were the Romans that were occupying Israel, and a big part of the known world. So as a tax collector, you were not only a thief. You were also a traiter. The name of the Tax Collectors was Zacheus. But let’s call him Zach, the Tax Collector.
One day word was spread that a famous Rabbi,let’s call him Jesse, was coming to town. That was what Rabbi’s did in that time, travel from town to town, activate positive change and inspire people to make the world a better place. (basically what we did with aardeparade)
But how that goes with celebrities. Even people who don’t care much for them, when they are in town people want to go and look. So when the Rabbi entered town, he was surrounded by a huge crowd.
Now Zach the Tax collector was also intrigued. He wanted to see this Rabbi. We don’t really know why. Maybe because this Rabbi had a lot of people that wanted to be with him. And Zach, because of his own choices, was lonely. Who knows.
Anyway. There was not really a chance that Zach could get close to the Rabbi. Not only was the crowd too big to pass. If they would see him, they would most likely hurt him. So this is what Zach did. He decided to climb into a tree along the main road and wait.
And as expected, the Rabbi came along the main road. But not as expected, when the Rabbi passed the tree in which Zach was hiding, he stopped and looked up.
And then something really unexpected happened. The Rabbi said: Zach, we don’t know how he knew his name, Zach, I want to eat in your house. And for a Rabbi to come into your house, you had to be special. It was an honour when a Rabbi wanted to eat in your house. And to go and eat in the house of a Tax Collector, the Rabbi could really suffer some serious damage to his image.
We don’t really know what was spoken at that dinner table. But at the end of the meal Zach decided to donate half of his money to the poor. And give back four times the money he took in an unfair way. We don’t really know what changed a con man into a philanthropist. But I believe, when someone steps out of their bubble for you, steps into your story and wants to be your friend. One may find that inspiring. And one may want to be part of that.
Today , I challenge you to be like the Rabbi
I challenge you and myself to be that friend
Take the people from your outside your bubble, even your enemy by the hand
And together, fight for climate justice.