If you are reading this blog, you probably already have a certain sensitivity about the situation of non-human animals in our society. It is even likely that you have ever considered taking another step and mobilizing yourself, in whatever way, to try to change things. Much of the messages that are launched from the environment by animal defense are aimed precisely at that: getting more and more people to dedicate time and effort to this serious and urgent issue.
A basic question is “what to do” and this is where all the debates enter, more or less deep and more or less honest, about which strategy is more effective, what issues should be prioritized and, ultimately, where to go. At this point, it is appreciated that the myth of the single and definitive strategy is being banished more and more, and that it is increasingly understood that there is no master key or red button to reach the end of animal exploitation, but rather The problem is so big and it works at so many levels that we need to deploy a multitude of projects and ways to combat it. We are going from understanding this issue with a centralist mentality to approaching it from decentralization, which enriches discourses and practices, and greatly reduces the struggles to see who is right.
Another basic question that is perhaps less on the table is “how to do”. How do we choose our strategy, how do we form the groups, what is the process for the development and implementation of new ideas, how do we distribute the tasks, how often do we review and assess our own operation, etc. It seems that these issues are not so relevant and our impression is that they are not usually given the importance they have. The great speed at which the groups that are so difficult to create disappear may have a lot to do with all this. Because, where do you learn how to set up a bus or how to work horizontally?
Although some people have grown up and developed in different environments, most of us have gone to state schools and have absorbed thousands of hours of television during our socialization, and just like we have suckled speciesism, from our earliest (and most vulnerable) childhood They have gotten into our heads that we need leaders, that for whatever we have to face there is a specialist to turn to to solve it for us, that we distrust practically anyone who is not our own family, that things are as they are and we are nobody to pretend to change them, and a lot of ideas that, although they seem ridiculous, we carry more inside than we would like.
When it comes to organizing ourselves collectively to defend other animals, all that substratum ends up emerging in different ways. That is why we need to do specific work to counteract this education and promote values and practices that are beneficial to us if we want to relate in other ways. The greatest learning comes from practice, but we have to be very vigilant to realize things and be able to correct or, better yet, prevent certain dynamics that can end up dynamiting the project. Although it is not our objective to break down here all the internal problems that a human group may have, to illustrate what we are talking about, we may be referring to things such as ego fights, inability to reach consensus, lack of rotation in tasks, bad habits communicative, etc. At the end of the day, we are not prepared to interact horizontally or collectively take care of common interests, so it is obvious that we could do a little work on it and equip ourselves with skills and tools that we really lack.
But we better back up a bit. There are not a few people that we have met in all these years who want to get down to work for the end of speciesism but do not really know where to start. They may not meet like-minded people in their area or do not fit in very well with groups that already exist, for example. That shouldn’t be the end of anything, just the beginning. A somewhat uphill beginning that will require creativity and persistence, but a beginning at the end of the day. Actively seeking or provoking meeting spaces will surely not be the most desirable task and, at the same time, it may be one of the most important.
Laying clear foundations, in which all the participating people recognize each other, that are realistic and balanced with the dedication that can be put into the project, will save us a lot of headaches. Wanting to go all out when later we will not be able to be one hundred percent, or settle too easily having the desire and availability to do more, can wear us down in not too long. Also embarking on a project that does not convince us at all, thinking about changing it little by little to make it more consistent with our own interests can be frustrating for everyone involved.
The same goes for the ways of working. We need clarity, consensus and a commitment to comply with what has been agreed. If we organize ourselves in an assembly, it should be there where matters are really discussed and decisions are made, not in other more informal spaces where not all the people of the group can be present. Do we meet in person? Do we have an email group? Do we create a channel or group in an instant messaging service? All possibilities are open, the important thing is to make decisions based on the real needs of the group and make it clear for what and how each tool will be used. How do we share information on the topics we are dealing with? Through what channel do we express our opinions and discuss them? How are the agreements made? If we do not make these points clear, it is easy for informal leaderships and power dynamics to appear that will have negative consequences for the health of the group.
This is one of the points where we need to do a conscious and constant work of self-analysis and learning, because organizing ourselves as equals is not something that is given to us in this hierarchical and hierarchical society. For this, periodic internal evaluations can help us, in which we can talk calmly about the functioning of the group, the dynamics that occur, the roles that each person is assuming consciously or unconsciously, etc. So we can see if we need to change some attitudes or ways of organizing ourselves.
Speaking of ratings, that is precisely one of our most useful tools. Reviewing from time to time our objectives, our strategies and tactics or our concrete actions, is a healthy habit that immediately shows us its usefulness. We need to fine-tune our projects, only by walking the path will we be able to realize what aspects would be good for us to reinforce, which are superfluous, what changes in the context force us to rethink things, etc.
The balance between the individual and the collective is also usually a point of friction (and even more so in a historical moment so individualistic and so uncooperative). Ensuring that individual moments in the group can coexist with the common spirit is not always easy, but it is not at all unattainable. Even when it comes to detecting and changing dynamics that are valued as negative, it is important to delineate, as far as possible, where individual responsibility begins and ends and where collective responsibility begins and ends. Is it a problem generated by the specific behavior of a person? Does the mismatch come from the reactions that occur within the group to certain situations? Can we change one way of working for another and see what happens? Are individual concrete attitudes that are leading us to this point? Can they work?
In this section, and although it may sound obvious, we see it essential to include an assessment and work on gender relations within the group (we are now talking about gender without excluding other types of issues that deserve specific treatment, such as, between others, racism). We do not see it necessary to elaborate on this, but we do highlight it, since, unfortunately, we are still very far from being able to say that we have completely eradicated from within our movement some scourges such as machismo or racism.
As we said before, the greatest learning will be given by conscious practice, combining action with training, keeping our minds open to criticism and ideas and wanting to improve in our day to day life. What we are doing is very important and we cannot afford to be conformist.
* To read more about this topic, ‘Activists from horizontality’ wrote a booklet entitled The force of the collective. Notes on self-organization, which has been published by eight four editions and you can download free pdf from here