Going further in the work of decolonizing DAF and cultivating mutual aid
[It] would be so brilliant, if that’s what Deep Adaptation Forum was doing was like, bringing people in who are you know, traumatized by the idea of collapse, so people who are collapse driven, who tend to be white middle class people… it’s a space where they can breathe a sigh of relief, we can talk about it, but then guide them to that understanding [that] the best way to have a loving response is to be literate on fascism, because that’s not a loving response, and then learn how to take care of one another. And the only way to do that is through the decolonization. And then get to the point where you really want to see how people do mutual aid.Heather Luna
I joined the Deep Adaptation Facebook group originally in December 2018, after reading the DA paper, but I wasn’t attracted to discussing anything so did not “follow” the group (i.e., DA posts did not appear in my FB feed). I had already joined Extinction Rebellion by then, and reading the DA paper just confirmed my decision to do so. I became actively involved in DAF after after joining the core team as Communications Coordinator in September 2020.
Regardless of where I work, my intention has long been to create more mutual aid in the world, and learn to function without needing the state. This way, we can all face our common predicament together, with the right kind of resistance and care.
When I arrived in DAF, I had a honeymoon period at first. It all felt very different from XR: I found people in DA much more reflective, more willing to be vulnerable, and more open and reflective about the topic of anti-racism and decolonisation. I was also impressed by things like people warmly welcoming a NYT journalist in the DA Facebook group, and spontaneously sharing many resources with them.
However, I gradually found out that things weren’t so different, after all –that they just played out in a different way. DAF is more white, middle class than XR. There are more appearances concealing reality, so it takes longer to see what’s really going on.
Ironically, while I was running workshops on white supremacy culture in DAF, I witnessed these patterns at play very clearly in the network. For example, groupthink: I tried to have conversations around whether it even makes sense to talk about collapse with others, given that this can be traumatising, and it’s important to think about how promoting this and encouraging its continuation could create harm. But I wasn’t allowed to have these conversations. Or fear: it was because the core team was afraid to confront me about ways they thought I was not meeting their expectations that I lost my job as Communications Coordinator – which was unjust.
But then, again, these patterns are everywhere around us, so there’s nothing special about DAF. And this is why it’s important for people to disrupt the status quo, and point out these aspects.
From this experience, I’ve learned that you can’t take at face value what people say is going on in a network or organisation, or that they are being fully honest with you. I now feel a lot wiser, and better prepared for these things. I’ve come out the other side feeling a lot of empathy for everyone, including myself, because of realising the extent to which these white supremacy patterns are within so many of us, particularly those trained under Western conditions.
In the future, I think I might prefer not to work in an organisation again, but rather stay in some sort of coaching or consulting role for people in organisations. I could help others gain a new perspective on how they do things, and be fully honest, without compromising my integrity.
My vision for DAF would be to keep bringing in people who are driven by the collapse-narrative, who tend to be white, Western, and middle-class. Then guide them towards understanding that the best way to have a loving response to collapse is to:
- to recognise that the goal is likely to be learning how to take care of one another and keep each other as safe as possible;
- to understand that the people most likely to help us do this are the people who have benefited the least from the global system we are under;
- to see that racism and colonisation keep us separate from just such people (thus making us vulnerable to ecofascist solutions / leaders);
- that once we deal with our separation, and have developed relationships with those who benefit least from the system, we will know where to put our power and privilege to resist and undermine the system, and we will know how to take care of one another and keep each other as safe as possible.
But right now, particularly in the DA Facebook group, there’s no such vision or guidance of the kind.
As part of the above vision, small affinity groups of 4-5 like-minded people could gather within DAF for support, political education, and to challenge one other to go through the above steps. (An example of an early challenge would be knock on neighbours’ doors.) A facilitator could provide an anchor for accountability so that the affinity groups do not stay within their comfort zones. Stories of the challenges could be shared among the network of groups.