My mind’s telling me I’m not quite the activist. My mind’s telling me I need to do some proper research before I start writing anything about this. But here I am, writing about Máxima Acuña de Chaupe.
A couple of days back, a dear Peruvian friend sent me an article about this woman and her stand for justice. Bullied, beaten, scared for her life and the life of her family, seeing her refuge being burnt, watching her farm animals being robbed and killed, brought to trial, accused of illegally occupying her land, facing expulsion and imprisonment, Máxima stands her ground. All four-and-a-half feet of her is standing her ground.
Máxima peacefully protests as the American-Peruvian mining conglomerate Yanaconcha does whatever it can to dig for gold. Three years into her stand, the Peruvian appeals court strikes down the lawsuit that almost gets Máxima and her family imprisoned and fined. A couple of weeks after the court’s decisions, she is again attacked by workers and security personnel of the Yanaconcha mine, and the house she is rebuilding is again destroyed.
With help, she collects 150.000 signatures, protesting against the Yanaconcha intimidations, becoming a symbol of hope and courage for women, indigenous people and rural communities.
The latest update I can find tells of another break-in late last year, rendering Máxima’s recently rebuilt kitchen destroyed.
Why am I writing about this? Not to prove that the world is full of horrible places with horrible people. I don’t believe it is. I believe that Yanaconcha’s actions come from people who subject themselves to illusory fear, and in doing so become slaves to the urge of control and dominion.
I see this slave in me sometimes, often after I unconsciously followed an urge to defend myself against something or someone that my mind had imagined as dangerous. I am more alike than “those people” than I would like to admit. So I’m not writing to point a finger. I’m writing because Máxima’s story reminds me that we are responsible the moment that we know. News like this comes not from a world separate from ours. Our decisions, actions and purchases directly speak to other parts of the one planet we inhabit together. Our hunger for cheap energy for instance, drives companies in Europe to ship coal from Colombian mines where people work in appalling, demeaning and dangerous conditions.
At present, it mostly takes peace organizations, activists and politicians to bring topics like this to a bigger agenda, often to find themselves in a snake pit full of different ‘stakes’. And it takes peace organizations and politicians because we fail to see (or choose to close our eyes to) the power in our wallets.
It’s becoming so easy to switch between energy suppliers, banks, food sources, health care insurances —you name it— and things are becoming so transparent, it’s almost ridiculous that we still sponsor companies pursuing profit-maximization through whatever it takes.
But I’m also not writing to guilt-trip you or myself into better buying behaviour. I too still endorse practices that I’d rather not endorse. In addition, the world has become so complex, it’s becoming impossible to trace every step of every thing that reaches my hands. Yet at the same time, it’s becoming increasingly easier to make conscious decisions. In 2014 for instance, it took me ten minutes to switch bank and energy supplier. Those ten minutes had been on my to-do list for God-knows-how-long. With ‘all of the things going on in my life’, I had let my mind turn those ten minutes into a real hassle.
Bu the more I see, the harder it’s becoming for me to choose ‘convenient’ over right, and the easier it’s becoming to go the other way.
I’ve come to see that we cannot live by principles without, somewhere along the line, either making choices we don’t really want to or changing our principles so we can ‘live up to them’.
I gave a card to the genuinely welcoming airplane crew of my last flight, not knowing if and when I would meet them again. I connected with two really nice Scottish people as we were waiting for our flight, not knowing that one of them would write me today to say that my website reminds her of what’s important in life. I filmed the clouds as we flew, not knowing if I or someone else will ever use the footage to make something beautiful.
I’m writing now, not knowing exactly why, not knowing if and what it will spark in whom, knowing only that I’m following a spark and that it feels good to do so.
So that’s why I’m writing.