Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Dearden, the director of Global Justice Now; a democratic social justice organisation that helps individuals, activists, and marginalised communities to learn about the political world we live in. Members are encouraged to question the system, raise their voices; and to defend their freedom of speech (human rights).
The organisation is known for their ferocious campaigning against TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), and CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). Global Justice Now is committed to an environmentally sustainable, future resource-based economy. This can be appreciated through their promotion of Ecotricity- a company that specialises in selling eco-friendly electricity that is generated from the sun, the wind, and the sea; as well as green gas, which is made directly from grass.
Take Back Radio: The Changing Scene of Society
Transcribed key excerpts from my conversation with Mr.Dearden on the 13th May, 2017:
Betshy X0: So what is your opinion about the current, how can we say… commotion that the UK is going through?
Nick Dearden: We are really worried. We’re worried that the UK is in a dangerous state at the moment; and you see a rise in hate crimes,and racism, and so on. But you also see an increasingly powerful government that seems able to ride roughshod over any opposition in parliament, or in the country… That’s frightening because when you have very powerful governments like that, and you have people scared to speak out and oppose; you get really bad policies… The change we are gonna go through in this country over the next ten years is going to be enormous. I mean, we are essentially rewriting our constitution and leaving the European Union. We are rewriting huge swathes of law. We are deciding how to do things differently, and for that kind of process to work well so that it benefits the majority of people; there needs to be really good education, really good debate, really good participation, really good opposition. You know, we need to discuss this as a nation.
– We need to take action.
– Yeah. And my fear at the moment is too many people are being put off taking action because they feel their voice doesn’t count… you know, if you disagree with anything the government says then you are an enemy of the people, you are an enemy of the state. Um, and in those kind of circumstances, that does not make for the kind of policies and changes that I think most people in this country (however they voted on the referendum) probably want to see. You know, a fairer country with better public services; where people are more respected. Where the communities that have been dealt with so harshly over the last twenty, or thirty years… you know, old industrial towns, mining communities and so on; that have been marginalized, have had their voices taken away from them… you know, we wanna see changes so we can live in a better, truly democratic society where people can share the wealth that’s produced more equally. And I think if we want that, we are going to really have to fight for it. Because things are moving in the opposite direction at the moment, I would say.
– Indeed, it seems that society at the moment is very divided. And this division is very strong, and people are becoming very passionate about different sides of the scene. When you speak about oppressed communities like the mining community, and I would also add to this the artistic industry (we see a lot of talent, but very little opportunities); do you think that these changes taking place… this movement, this fight, this involvement in our, well yes, raising our voices… Do you think this will have a positive impact in the future of the economy?
– I think it has to. Because you know, the changes that our economy is gonna experience again by leaving the European Union in the next few years, it’s gonna be massive. The impact it’s gonna have on arts funding, cultural funding, education funding, science funding. This is all potentially frightening stuff. I mean, there are different ways that we can do it. There are different ways that we can exit… And if we want an exit that preserves artistic spaces, cultural spaces; that preserves our educational whether it be FE, HE; whatever our educational system… and improves it; We are going to have to fight for that very very loudly.
And I think you know, you raise a really interesting point about arts and culture… Because in this country for too long; those things have sneered out a little bit. They are thought of as luxuries. The kind of things that you know, “yeah when we can afford them we’ll worry about those things”. But they are essential to creating a democratic and participative society, where people can get their voices heard. The arts and culture themselves need to be more democratic, more localised; so it isn’t all about the Covent Garden Opera House in London. It’s about funding people to make their voices heard in a different way throughout the country. And you know there is one thing at the moment that gives me… I mean, a lot of of what I am saying is quite frightening; but there is one thing that gives me enormous hope, and that’s how when I go and talk to young people, I find them very angry at what’s going on, very confused by what’s going on. And I think that what you’re gonna find over the next ten years, twenty years maybe even… is those people really tried to make their voices heard in lots of different ways. Not just formal politics, but by creating a culture of resistance. A culture of fighting, a culture of opposition, a culture of creating new forms of living together in society and so on. And that’s really exciting because look, the last time it happened in a big way in this part of the world was the 1960s. And the culture, and the music, and the art, and the literature of that time changed everything; for everybody in a better way, I believe.
– Yes, a lot of people nowadays always refer to the 1960s as the real initiator of what’s happening today. The good thing is today we’ve got the Internet, and it’s becoming a powerful tool for any kind of movement. When you speak about young people, I agree with you. I can see also that they are more open to the elements of multiculture. They are curious, they want to know more. They want to learn, they want to see what the older generations rejected. So, when you say we are building, quite possibly, a future generation of resistance… Does this mean that revolution is about to enter the market? It’s going to become mainstream?
– Let’s see, but I think that for too long now we have lived without a serious counterculture, you might say, in this part of the world. Everything that’s been produced, every form of… art that expresses dissent or resistance, has been commercialised very radically; and you know, brought into the mainstream in a way that people don’t feel they have their own space or culture any more. And I think this might be about to change. And I think that is absolutely a revolutionary spirit. If it takes hold.
One of the big things we have been discussing through the Brexit debate is borders. What’s the role of borders? And of course, many people who voted to leave the EU believe we should control our borders and there is a strong anti-immigrant sentiment out there at the moment, we know that; but what I find when I speak to young people is actually they don’t have that sense of borders. The idea that it’s really important for sovereign states to control immigration is far far far less important to them that it is to an older generation. That’s absolutely revolutionary. The idea that to move around the world to experience different lifestyles… it’s almost a human right. It’s a civil liberty. It’s something we are allowed to do because we are allowed to do it quite outside the impact it’s gonna have on the economy or what corporations want or so on. This is a revolutionary idea; just as is the idea that young people are increasingly experimenting with gender…These ideas will radically transform the world. So it’s very important for us, I think, to help those people create, and preserve the spaces where they feel able to voice their opinions, to voice their dissent, to voice their resistance.
– So, you mean that we should all encourage, as much as we can, freedom of speech? And defend that kind of right.
– I think very much so. That’s why I am down here in Plymouth today. Cause the event we are taking part of “Take Back Control” is all about that. It’s all about trying to think differently. I was just in a session now, and somebody was saying: you know we sometimes foreclose, we sometimes prevent ourselves from thinking as imaginatively as we need to do. We prevent ourselves from dreaming. We fear things aren’t possible any more. We bought into the logic of an economy that says the only thing that’s important are the rules of the market. The only thing that’s important is how much money you can make. The only thing that’s important is whether a corporation wants to stay here or leave because of environmental law or whatever else. This isn’t how we should begin to think about society. We should think about the kind of society we want to build… on a local level: “How would I like my community to work better?”, “how would I like us to produce food in a fairer way?”, “how would I like us to produce energy that’s more renewable and also fairer to people that have to choose between heating and eating?”.
– So we could say that we are at the moment at crossroads. That it could go either way, and it is our job to continue to fight for what we really dream in the future. When it comes to Brexit, um, obviously it has triggered so many things. Do you think that just as it has triggered a lot of chaos in society, it has also triggered the passion that burns inside this side of the scene? The underground society of the UK. Those who for a long time felt they were not being heard, now they feel that they can be heard; that they can make a change.
– That’s what I really hope. Because you know, I’ve been involved in campaigning and activism, and trying to change things for about twenty five years now. And for a lot of that time, it seemed like nothing was ever going to change. Like we didn’t have an effect on the political establishment; and people were forgetting the giants on whose shoulders they stand… and previous activism and campaigning. Who abolished the slave trade, who got votes for women, who got votes for working people. We forgot all of that. And I think, possibly, in some of the chaos that’s been created by this vote; people are again beginning to think “you know what, society doesn’t have to be like this”. It doesn’t have to exist like this”… I hope despite some of the bad stuff that’s happened, one positive thing is precisely the idea we can change things; and in order to change things in a way which is positive… You need to get involved.
– So when it comes to directing younger generations towards the key points that will build a foundation for these future strong changes, when it comes to the curriculum and education; do you think that it’s currently effective in the way that they are being introduced to these new concepts? All these new ways to question their world. Not just their existence, but also their authority, their religion. Do you think all these key points will ultimately lead them towards the path of social change and construction?
– We need very radical changes in the education system. I mean, the changes that have been made over the last ten years or so have really been disastrous in terms of closing down people’s ability to criticise, and think differently. I was lucky. I went to a comprehensive school, you know, twenty five years ago at a time when people were really encouraged to think differently… What’s happened recently with educational reform… you are being conceptualised… as if the only point in you is how much money you can make for someone in the world.
Everybody should get an equal chance to education. Everyone should get an equal chance to try and develop their potential, and so on. So that’s going in the wrong direction, and there are many people fighting that, but look, one of the things we are trying to do is offer education outside the classroom. So we are running more popular, political education courses. One of them is called “Demand The Impossible” It’s about bringing people together, especially people from less privileged backgrounds.
– So whilst we might not have all the answers, we have a lot of questions; and we want people and younger generations to continue creating more questions. To not conform, not take everything the government is saying as truth; but rather really look deeper into what goes behind all these decisions that are being made, and how these could either potentially help us; or again, it could just simply send us back to where we are not being heard. And that’s why it is so important, right?
– Exactly, that’s exactly right.
- Global Justice Now
- Wikipedia: Global Justice Now
- Take Back Radio: Changing Scene of Society
- Wikipedia: Ecotricity
- Take Back Control Plymouth
- Ecotricity: Our Energy