Monthly Archives: September 2005

The gratification of volunteering

I am still chewing on the ACE issue, but I have now thought about it, and am considering leaving a political project is like splitting up a love relationship, but in ‘Zeitraffer’ (fast motion).
Reading the letter I got from ACE after I left, it was astonishing that it rather pointed out mistakes I made and seemed to slag me off, and chatting to somebody left me wondering why, when you leave a political collective, people rather send letters out critising volunteers than “Thank you for all your help in the past years” notes.
If i would write a “good-bye” letter to myself, than I would have pointed out all the good stuff I have done and which I am proud of, along with a “you are always welcome back” note, rather than critisism.

But apparantly, with political projects you never get that. You never get a “Thank you for all your help, time and resources expecting nothing in return” note.
Talking to other political people, they experienced the same.
That’s why I also think leaving a political project is like splitting up in a former love relationship – it is pretty irrational and emotional and not based on logic.
Political projects seem often to experience leaving them as hurtfull, too, maybe even as a criticism of their ideology and politics.
Blaming individuals leaving, seems for political projects often the sole solution to carry on without changing anything and without reflection nor evaluation, trying to give sense and fulfillment and pride and reason for the people staying behind continuing with the work.
So I wondered when and if putting money, time, energy and resources into a voluntary project (political or unpolitical) would be worth it for the individual, or for me in particular, worth enough to put several years of lifetime into it.
So this is what I came up with:

It is worth volunteering if you get something out of it like:
– learning new skills
– meet new friends and have good social relationships
– gain more self-confidence out of successfull projects
– get attention
– get praise and positive feedback
– solidarity: give and receive
– new links to new projects
– outreach/PR
– mutual aid: give and receive
– learn conflict resolution/mediation
– responsibilities
– trust
– references
– communication increases
– expenses paid e.g. travel or food
– use of resources also for private use and personal projects
– invitations
– helping other people

The Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE)

After the G8, I resigned from the Autonmous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE). I felt pretty much associated with it since I first arrived in Edinburgh six years ago.
But now I feel pretty exhausted and burnt out.
It seems to me that the centre demands endless supplies of efforts, enthusiasm, motivation and resources, without ever giving back anything or too few to its users.
One of my philosophies was that, if I myself put lots of energy, work and resources in something, than others will join eventually to realise the project and then to share the benefits of it with everybody getting their equal share.
With ACE, I felt like often, if not always, that it was a lone battle which wasn’t rewarded at all, apart from using ACE as a mail address for communicating with political prisoners and other political projects, it did not seem to give me much, though many of the groups based there, did.
I tried to extent the political video archive, but whenever putting in originals, they were lost or stolen. When putting in copies, people did not borrow them, but wanted to give them away, and did so. I did never get any financial support for any tapes to put in, so I gave it up after putting in about 10. I do assume that copying all the videos, printing and photocpying out the desciptions and a catalogue would have probably been about 100 pounds or so, but of course it could have been stacked.
I tried to sort out mail and magazines sent to Counterinfo , which has its mail address at ACE, but there wasn’t actual enough office supplies to sort it, the ones there were, were often faulty and old und sometimes even rusty, and everything had to be noted down, but hardly anybody ever did it, it was more demand than action. And the steady flow of foreign language magazines were interesting, but hardly anybody ever made use of it, particularly not for Counterinfo, as this newssheet alwys came out rarely, did not have enough editorial space, and often the news were too old. Counterinfo eventually seemed to become less important with the rise of the world wide web and news websites such as Indymedia , especially Scotland Indymedia.
One also disillusional thing was the organisation of the Foot and Mouth event. Although it was a good street party, the conference, the Mouth bit was disappointing, except for the playbus. It took almost a year organising it, and then the outcome of the conference was limited, so I think political people in Edinburgh are not that interested in political theoretical discussions. Not to mention the difficulties with having a women’s space in the conference.
ACE feels draining – often too dark and too cold, the heating is broken and the water system leaks. Indymedia was based at ACE, but often, when calling for a meeting, Indymedia volunteers and interested people would become less and less, over time, till meetings consisted of myself only.
I hope that now, that Indymedia Scotland is based at the Forest, the meetings will be better and a new second life will be blown into the project. It is nice to know that the Forest is open almost every day, so people coming early do not have to wait in the cold and the rain, there is a nice cafe with warm food and hot drinks, toilets and entertainment in the building, and even wireless access. The cafe is also good for combined projects such as film screenings, discussions, and little projects such as speaking tours and similar, and it attracts a wide range of people, from non-political to environmentalists, and also the cafe is based beside the university and has an art gallery, a free shop, piano, music, library, vegan and vegetarian food. (Although I have to admit that the food has stayed pretty much the same for the last past five years there). There is not that much which can be done without a cooker I guess, and for not having a cooker, the Cafe has really made the best out of the possibilities.
But the main reason was the G8. I just did not feel there was much – nor any support from the ACE collective for the G8 mobilisation. Not many members of ACE tunred up to the anti-G8 protests or even helped supporting these in any way. ACE offered its back room, but there was never any support for using it effectively. I was getting very angry, when the computers donated to ACE about a year and a half ago, the Imacs, are missing now their CD-Rom drive and other parts and are more or less unusable. When ACE got them donated I was pushing for buying hard disks for all of them, having an install workshop and then setting all of them up. Now individual Imacs have been taken by individuals or other projects and out of the centre, and only one of the formerly six ones is set up in the centre. That really makes me angry. Again, ACE wanted to save money.
The same with the high-speed internet connection. The money was given from Dissent to install it and set up a computer network, but it was never used – nobody really cared about it.
ACE also got a donation to move. I tried to find nice buildings, and one which I would have found ideal, as it had heating, 2 kitchens, was freshly renovated and ina former trade union building. As this opportunity wasn’t taken up, which was the last opportunity really before the G8 to have any new premises to support the protests with crash space, cooking facilities and similar. I got so angry – especially with the academic armchair anarchist fraction in ACE, that i decided to resign.
Now i got a letter basically telling me that I got unsubscribed from the email list, should pass on the keys asap and trying to defend any criticism of ACE as the fault of the inidvidual.

G8 reflection booklet

On Indymedia Uk and the ResistG8 list, there was a call for submissions for a “Reflections on G8″ booklet.
I have submitted one of my write-ups, but it seemed to never get printed – and maybe never will, because the style might be too simple and modest. (Inner beauty, apparantly that’s what “modesty” is called in Chinese! According to BBC Learning Zone).
So, I put it up here on my blog, because that is why I have it, isn’t it.

Ode to the cleaners! A local perspective after the G8.

It is now the 20th of July, and the big hype is over. Most of the activists were quick to leave, a few stayed to clear, tidy up and reorganise the spaces and to take on responsibility in fulfilling promises made by other people.
The few activists left to tidy up other people’s mess were not the bigmouthing, theoretical and ideological proofed academics or wanna- be intellectuals, who are so quick in telling everyone what to do and how – yet, exactly these had disappeared early.
No, most of the reliable, hard working people present, were the silent, unobtrusive types, and most of them were female, who kept themselves usually in the background a lot, who talk less and work more, and have earned my total appreciation, respect and admiration for what and how much they worked, how reliable they are, whilst also doing one of the least acknowleged, but one of the most important work: tidying up the mess left behind.
Maybe it is the fear of repression, the lack of excitement or the exhaustion as reasons for most of the activists to leave within 3 days after the last protest.
So now it is a case of tieing up loose ends to find people disppearing into nowhere, not answering emails nor telephone calls. The lost and found items are still piling up high in various places, many activists are disappearing far away to other places on the planet into holidays, the prisoner support group is hardly working yet, two people remain on remand in prison, court cases start in august, september till november, and already a call has gone out to note down the glorious successes of “The Movement� at this years G8 protests.
Too early if you ask me.
So, there will be enough people talking about the successes of this mobilisation, so I will neglect this, and just say it was brilliant so many people coming up to Scotland.
Beforehand there was much of a discussion, that counter mobilisations confronting summits locally would be obsolete – I do still believe differently, and it certainly made sense to us. For the G8 protests, it has made all the difference in the world, here in Scotland, to have international and country-wide support from activists.
It was good activists from all over actually coming here, not only to protest, but also to create and publicise feasible, practical alternative non-hierarchical views and projects.
Especially those helpers, who came up to half a year early, they really made a huge difference, but also the activists coming even one month earlier, or a few weeks or days, they gave much incredible support by the practical work they did. Without them, the convergence centres would not have been possible and without them, there would not have been the brilliant start of the protests with the Cre8 community garden possible, which was the best reaction possible to the mainstream media villifications, and without them, we would have been stuck with publicising, with resources, and with places.
It has so far been an incredible good experience locally for us. In fact, so far, there seems to be nothing better than having a G8 summit in your local town, as you can still sleep in your own comfy bed every night and everybody from the activist scene is so incredibly friendly and takes care not to piss the local activists off – which is a very big advantage compared to mobilisations into other towns, where often, people and activists not yet known might find it difficult to be included and trusted.
After the protests, it is also hard to tidy up, in the respect, as you need to dismantle the dreams and visions connected with the places, the places standing for an alternative, better future we long for, the places symbolising mainly positive experiences for us, images for a possible world not foccused on making as much money as possible, but actually based on caring for each other, based on solidarity, mutual aid, respect, responsibility and freedom.
We are also able to continue with a new little Indymedia Centre now in the basement of the Forest building (tel: 0131 225 6885) in Edinburgh.
I dearly love this place already, not for what it actually is, but because of its already young history, for where it came from and how it got started. This is keeping up the spirits.
An experienced, wide and far travelled activist stated with relief after the clean up when leaving:

“For the first time after a big counter summit mobilisation, I actually feel we have left something good behind for the locals.�

-AB, Edinburgh-

Katrina relief effort is the ultimate consequence of capitalism

Seeing the victims of the hurricane Katrina begging for help from rooftops with no water nor food gets me so angry.
The world’s richest nation and yet no help, just army for days.
What the fuck is going on?
Have we already approached the century of barbarism?
Good to hear that at least Food Not Bombs and Infoshop and the anarchists have got their act together.
Good to see New Orleans Indymedia still up with uptodate newswire and breaking news, and supported by Houston Indymedia, too.
But hey! did we not have this before?
Senseless stupid office burocrats shuffling off responsibility whilst making decisions – or no decisions – resulting in thousands to die?
I hate capitalism.
Seeing hundreds of busses underwater whilst no transport for the poor out of New Orleans.
Seeing the army protecting shops whilst people die in the streets because of hunger and thirst.
I hate capitalism. And I disgust the US system. No health care, no transport, not even free food, no accomodation, not even in catastrophic times. Just money that counts.
Profit over people in its most extreme forms.