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You might be a radical militant [and that's totally okay]

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
You might be a radical militant [and that's totally okay]

Many months ago I was sitting with some friends at a pub. I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but for some reason I found myself protesting the idea that I was both militant and radical. “I’m not that radical, really.” I protested.

One of these friends, in his sage wisdom, replied. “No. You believe in the abolition of authority, putting an end to our reliance on oil and just wrapped up a week-long occupation of an oil pumping station, but you’re not really that radical or militant.”

I immediately realized his sarcasm-drenched verbal eye-roll was absolutely right, but the whole thing brought up a good point: Why was I so reluctant to accept the words “militant” and “radical” as public descriptors about me?

Over time, I noticed that it wasn’t just me: I often see the people I engage with rejecting the terms - even using them to attack, blame or lessen each other.

The truth is that as activists [or land defenders/other preferred descriptor] we have forgotten the root of these words and their intended meaning - so much so that we’re now buying in to the police narrative about what they do or should mean. Narratives that are always going to be negative, because the state strategically aims to divide and criminalize dissenting groups.

And those narratives can have lasting impacts.

When I first started organizing a couple individuals told me [separately, but on the same day] that I was militant. They had no qualms about using this word to describe me to others.

It would have been a non-issue had the spin been remotely close to neutral, but as it was “militant” was made to have a definitively negative connotation. It was something to fear and be wary of instead of denoting resolute and organized.

Unfortunately it set a lasting precedent for how some people would approach me - or even if they would approach me. Whether they meant to or not, those two individuals helped create divisions where there previously weren’t and didn’t have to be.

Fortunately not all is lost: we can battle divisions by reclaiming these words and even celebrating them - but first we must deconstruct them.

So what does the word militant mean to you, at this moment? What images come to mind? What feelings or associations?

Now try comparing those to the definition.

Militant [mil-i-tuhnt]: “Vigorously active, especially in support of a cause…having or showing a desire or willingness to use strong, extreme, and sometimes forceful methods to achieve something”.

None of that specifies an action or activity. It doesn’t even stipulate that a militant action must be forceful or “violent” [another very stigmatized term we’ll get in to another time].

All it does do, really, is relay that you're willing to support your position with action - even if it puts you at risk. That your actions are laden with intent and meaning.

But who doesn’t want their actions to be laden with intent and meaning?!

Likewise, “radical” simply means “change from accepted or traditional forms”. Right now, divesting from oil in favour of renewables is radical! At one point, the vision of an 8-hour workday was a radical idea – one which militant action helped realize.

In other words; being radical or militant isn’t inherently bad [or good] – that connotation still relies on context and interpretation. There is no shame in being direct and effective, or bright and original.

Frankly, we need more of these people. We’re up against some seriously advantaged opponents. We’re the underdog team here, and in a lot of cases it’s a matter of life or death.

To not take that seriously, to not throw everything you have at it, that’s what’s shameful.

We need more people committed to the cause. More people with determination and stubbornness; courage and intelligence.

Let’s stop allowing the state to shape our opinions of each other.

Let’s stop letting people tell us how to be or not be.

Most of all let’s realize, and then celebrate, who we are and who we can be.

Repeat after me:

I’m a radical fucking militant and that’s pretty awesome.


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kai (Trish Mills)
Hamilton and Toronto ON.
Member since mars 2013

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