“I call Bullshit!”
Firstly, let me start by saying the views expressed in this blog, are mine and mine only!
Putting yourself out there in a space that makes you uncomfortable is bloody horrible and I wonder if I will ever get better at it, or if it will always go against my grain. I fear the latter. I say that because these “presenting” gigs are often driven by old systems in society and structured by old white men that have no interest in any change that undermines their privilege, power or authority. This is not a man-hating rant, though it may come across that way…more of an observation that we have been doing things the old white man way for too long and I think people are coping, not living, most of the time…Women do occupy the old white man space, so I don’t see it is a gender imbalance more of a systems imbalance. The earth is at odds with old white man structures and its been telling us that for a while now.
I am instantly anxious in the conference space and I feel like a child looking for an opportunity to play up. It’s just the “vibe” of the thing. I get that the pseudo leftys are looking down their glasses at a scruffy 40 year old, foul-mouthed gardener that still thinks farts are hilarious! I don’t like having to curb my behaviour or foul mouth and I will inevitably swear (the naughty kid thing again). For me, it’s been a killer of a week doing this “get yourselves out there” shit and me trying to behave has pushed me to system shutdown! Twice this week I thought I would have a stroke or a heart attack. I put my fingers on my neck before we presented and felt my pulse rate at what seemed like 200 beats per minute. I have to keep me telling myself “it’s just your story – that’s all it is”. It’s not that I am hung up on what people think of me, but that I have to engage with this power imbalance of old white man pompous fuckery and lose valuable, practical, ethical farm time to put myself forward in this bullshit way. I did wear my Cleaver Green shirt though. And just on this “conference circuit” thing what is with “paying to present”? I can’t get my head around that. They want our information, our story, our knowledge but we have to pay for that? That alone speaks volumes about the power structures. I thought “unwaged” means you don’t have a wage and you should get in for free because you don’t have a fucking wage! Charging someone and putting a price on someone’s story ….I call bullshit!
We presented at the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) new economy conference which I don’t think it set out to be, but had a lot of academics in attendance and as Anna pointed out not so many of the voices of the marginalised under the existing economy ie poor people. Then again, why would a poor, probably unwaged person pay $90 (I think) to participate in a talk fest. I reckon you’ve sold your soul as soon as you peel off the sticky white tag with your name on it (which I never want to do) and start polite conversation with the person next to you. Sticker on, ok now you’re ready to give up yourself to another old white man process and your message will inevitably be bastardised because money and prestige are the transactions at this gig. I call bullshit! Having to spend 16 hours inside for a talk fest about the earth when we were enclosed by a building, in such great weather, is criminal and I was staring out the window for most of it thinking I wanted to go outside.
The highlight of the conference for me was everyday people that are having or had their “fuck the system” moment and doing really cool things in their community. Valentine (sorry, didn’t get his last name yet) that gave up fighting government and started teaching people on Palm Island real trade skills. He showed me the boat he is restoring and has promised to come and visit our farmlets and I felt his interest in what we were doing was genuine because we had connected before either of us knew we were there for bullshit. He seemed thrilled by the pickles that I gave him that I had in my bag for the radio host. The conversation with him was one of the genuine exchanges in the conference. I say this because I traded business cards, took the congrats, offers to help and yet our facebook numbers didn’t spike – and so far no emails or phone calls. Surely the easiest part of connecting post-conference is liking a facebook page!
Clare, was cool too. She started an economy of sharing in her local neighbourhood around a car she wasn’t using and had a really cool trading game that showed people can share skills and do away with money and still survive. And finally, the highly anticipated conference lunch…normally the saving grace of the day but there was an assumption that the room would be full of vegos and yes I had parsley stuck in my teeth all afternoon. Anyway, we did our thing, people laughed at us trying to overthrow the government with vegetables, but I don’t know again that our message got across which is the same as Pam Warhurst’s “we’re not doing it because we’re bored…we’re doing it because people are ready for change”. It’s not a new concept that change needs to happen now and it must start locally, where we live, helping each other out. I decided about 12 months ago that I had to stop just waiting for my escape from Sydney to live how I wanted to live and live my life here, where I am at this point in time. Food, plants and nature is proving daily to me that community can be restored and that food brings people together because everyone eats! I got tired of talk. I’m still tired of talk. I think people are tired of talk.
I am a “big moment” choker. I choked (as I knew I would) when we did the ABC radio interview – please don’t google it! Our message, aims and “vibe” of what we are doing was largely driven by a script that was prepared from a conversation with the radio producer and myself, the night before. My heart rate was at about 220 when I sat in a chair opposite “the host” and I felt my face go “Barnaby Joyce Red” colour and I couldn’t concentrate….maybe this choke was due to the producer the night before warning me I couldn’t swear like I was to her, on breakfast radio. I told her that on JJJ you always got a language warning and I used to just turn the volume down when I remembered the kids were in the back! The “where is Panania” question at the start of the interview pissed me off and I felt that class thing off the bat…the “I don’t go out that way much” statement that dominates all media representation, political thought and policy direction for south west Sydney. I felt that feeling when people don’t understand what we are doing or why we are doing it. Thank Christ, Anna was there to pick up the pieces of the interview. I did get my photo with B2 of Bananas in Pyjamas fame and said “hi” in a dorky start struck way to James Valentine…oh and someone else at the ABC said that Bankstown Council has told us that we can have a community garden space! First we’ve heard of it! We know that when they do come and sit at a table in Panania and make a genuine attempt to talk to the people that they will abandon all plans to sell off the green spaces for housing, because only a greedy few want it. Why should we waste time engaging people that believe and are employed to believe in a failed system? In the meantime, we aren’t chasing them and planning some more protest planting and a community meeting.
Anyway back outside on Wednesday, feeling comfortable again. I worked with my neighbour pulling out clumps of Clivia (about 30 years old). Gardeners will be wincing knowing what I mean about that chore. My neighbour said I could sell the plants and through social media I met a mother and daughter that were so excited they came back for a second lot and subsequently became our 250th liker on facebook and in the Panania Free Rangers way scored some locally grown orange and mandarin marmalade. This direct and honest communication and interaction with people in our community that come and see the erratic verge and vegies out the front makes people smile – plain and simple. It’s a genuine exchange. No bullshit! Again, it’s about the human connection and a fair exchange or transaction between people, not a contrived or produced image or message.
So to end this little rant, I want to say we are doing one more conference haha! We are planning on making this one funny and kind because that is what we ask ourselves before we do anything. Is it fun, funny or kind?” The theme is about making connections with plants and people. I think because the gig is a “plant crowd” that I won’t feel the need to be anything other than myself. The production may have a language warning!
Going to play outside now…
Free Ranger Jaq