bamse | 28.07.2004 15:36
Held at Bilston Glen Protest Site, 1-4 July, 2004
By An Organizer
First of all I’d like to thank everyone for coming and helping out to make the gathering happen! I had a great time myself and everyone else seemed to enjoy it as well. I am a bit disappointed with the lack of effort from some people, who I understood wanted to help out with the preparations, but except for that everything went over my expectations. I’d especially like to thank the people who turned up a couple of days before the gathering to help out. And I also want to point out that this review is based on my own experience of the gathering and is in no way meant to be an objective view of it. It’s also a very small excerpt of what went on those days. And I won’t tell you how many we were at the gathering in numbers, as that’s impossible, as we’re all unique and therefore can’t be counted.
The day before the gathering was supposed to start we organized a film showing in Edinburgh. It was meant to contain two films, but after a misunderstanding we ended up showing just one film, “Surplus”. The showing was quite well attended and people had different opinions about the film. Some criticism involved the lack of women in the film. Myself I found the film quite disappointing, lacking in deep critique and even seemingly promoting the Cuban regime as something good! And films are always an alienating medium, no wonder the lack of response and dead looks on people’s faces when I asked if we should start the film over because the sound didn’t work at first.
Over to the actual gathering. The first day was planned to just be a reception and planning day, but since all that was taken care of quite fast, we decided to have the discussion “What is green anarchy? Why anti-civilization?”, originally scheduled the day after. The discussion contained, among other things, people’s opinions on the differences between the anthropocentric and biocentric worldviews, the differences between green anarchy and other forms of anarchism, the opinion that civilization is everywhere and that there’s no escape from it, whether or not we’re sentimentalising nature and opinions on the origins of civilization. It became clear during the discussion that people where coming from quite different point of views, some people addressing the totality of civilization while others just had problems with some of it.
The next day started with two discussions “Gender and violence” and “Beyond veganism”. The “Gender and violence” one started off in a big group, discussing mostly why men are more likely to use violence than women, and after a while we decided to split into smaller groups. The group I was in talked about how we deal with violence in our communities, how many chances we give people and whether we emphasize on physically fighting the system or on building communities. The one conclusion we came to was that communication is the key to solving a lot of problems. During the discussion a lot of interesting and heart warming thought was shared. After that some of us regrouped to have the “Beyond veganism” discussion, which some other people already had had earlier. With a group consisting mostly of “freegans” (people who eat animal products from skips and animals who live wild) and very few totally vegan persons, we talked about whether or not it would be possible to survive in the north of Europe on a wild vegan diet, if we would rather die that kill an animal in a survival situation, health aspects of a vegan diet, whether we want to try to become wild animals again following our instincts or if we thought morals was something good. We also discussed what “living naturally” means or if it’s even relevant, and what the differences are between killing an animal and a plant.
In the afternoon we went for a foraging walk held by a local storyteller, who works with educating children about nature. He shared some of his knowledge about various plants, how eco-systems work, how to tell if a woodland is ancient or not (which Bilston Glen, according to him, is) and some history about the area, all in a very entertaining and funny way. In the evening we gathered around the campfire for the workshop “Visualizing collapse”, a discussion about how to deal with a possible future ecological and industrial collapse. Almost everyone seemed to think that an ecological and industrial collapse here in Europe is very likely in our lifetime, and I have to agree that it seems very possible. So we talked about what to do in that case, the likely necessity of fighting for your own survival in competition with others, how the state and ruling class is going to treat us anarchists and the importance of learning survival skills. Quite a lot of people found the discussion too theoretical, depressing and pessimistic, but to me it’s very important to try to visualize possible future scenarios so we’ll be better prepared to deal with them.
The morning after most of the women went off to have a “Women’s health” workshop. As I’m a man, I joined some others in trying to make fire primitively. We used the bow drill method and managed to get smoke going quite fast. But then we where interrupted by one of the worst hail-rains I’ve ever experienced, and thunder and lighting along with that. We all cuddled together in our communal spaces until it stopped. A bunch of us then continued with a workshop called “Biotechnology and other advances of the mega-machine”. We shared thoughts and ideas about biotechnology, nanotechnology, surveillance technology, new laws of control, the proposed new ID card for the UK, and how to fight all of this. We didn’t really make any conclusions about how we fight this in the best way; we just agreed that we have to keep on trying with different methods. Some people shared inspiring info about the fight against GM crops here in Britain in general and against the big biotech company Bayer in particular. Another division amongst us also became clear; that some of us see technology as something inherently authoritarian and unequal, and that we therefore have to get rid of it altogether, while others thought that technology in itself is not the problem, it’s how we use it. In the afternoon I participated in a workshop called “Nature awareness”, where we played some games, tried walking silently and generally had a fun time. Was really nice with some running around and playing after all the talking. In the evening most of us where too tired to do anything but sit around the campfires.
The last day of the gathering some people started to leave. Others of us had a “Primitive shelter building” workshop, which resulted in three different very cool constructions made totally of what we could find around us in the forest. The workshop also included cordage making. Some of us went off for a while during the workshop to have a look at and buy stuff from Re-pressed distribution, before they we’re leaving. Later on we had a spontaneous discussion about “Science”, can’t remember really why we started talking about that, but I guess it was just randomly happening from brains working on full speed. Anyway, some of us thought that science is just one way of looking at the world and not a very good one, basically just about trying to control everything and that we therefore should try to get rid of it. Others thought that we could use the “good aspects” of science to make the world better. We also found ourselves caught in contradictions arguing against science with arguments from one form of science, anthropology in this case. Lastly we discussed whether we should and/or need to “clean up after the industrial society”, planting trees etc, or if we should leave that for nature to take care of, and if planting is not just a way of controlling nature. Later in the evening we talked about “Creating a nomadic tribe”, which sprung from the great feeling of being in this big tribe during the gathering and wanting this to continue. We realised that we had too different opinions on how we wanted this tribe to be though. Some people visualized a tribe travelling by vehicle between festivals, protest sites and the like, while others (including me) wanted to see a hunter-gatherer tribe walking around living of nature, fighting the system and showing another way of living. But we couldn’t agree on whether to go to the warmer, less wild, southern parts of Europe, or the colder, wilder, northern parts. Just have to see what happens in the future, we where quite a lot of people who’re aiming for this way of life.
Some people who came for the gathering had managed to interpret the flyer saying, or somehow got the misinformation, that we where organizing some kind of anarchist festival, and where quite disappointed at first finding what they called “yet another conference”. But in the end they seemed to enjoy themselves quite a lot apart from the workshops.
Want to talk some about why I think this gathering turned out to be a success in my eyes, why we had such an open, relaxed and stimulating atmosphere. First of all I think that everything being free played a big part. As the gathering was held at a protest site we didn’t have to pay any rent for the land. We also managed to get all the food for free by skipping, nicking and donation. Not involving money creates a sense of freedom, which is destroyed the moment money gets involved. Secondly, there was a good level of organizing, anarchy when it’s working at its best. We didn’t have anything booked at a certain time (fuck the time!) People took responsibility to help out with the stuff needing doing, like cooking for example, when it needing doing without some people having to work their arse off. And thirdly, that people brought so much energy and initiative!
Finally I’d have to say that getting the idea of organizing this gathering, carrying it through and experiencing it, is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done!