Change Everything: “We can no longer act like each of our struggles are single causes” (video + text)

Text of a speech originally delivered by Kassie Hartendorp at Oil Free Wellington‘s Change Everything flotilla & rally, December 13th 2015.

Tēnā koutou, talofa lava, malo e leilei, kia orana, bula vinaka, aloha!

Tēnā koutou ki te whenua, ki te moana, ki te hunga mate, ki te tipuna.

Ko Ngāti Raukawa te iwi, nō Te Whanganui-a-tara ahau. Ko Kassie tōku ingoa.

Tēnā koutou katoa.

I acknowledge our land, our waters, our ancestors, our passed. Kia ora to the organisers, fellow speakers and to all of you here today. A special shout out to those on the water – you are more coordinated than I and I appreciate it!

My name is Kassie Hartendorp, and I am speaking here on behalf of Fightback, a group that is based on ecosocialism and socialist feminism. Like others here, I want to speak past the talks in Paris, past surface level solutions to a deeprooted crisis.

If there’s one thing socialists love to hate – besides bosses and landlords, it’s conspiracy theories. But it is not a conspiracy to say that the wealthiest 1% have control over the resources and production that has accelerated climate destruction. It is not a conspiracy to say that the demands of profit are currently centred over the needs of people, and of the world around us. It is not a conspiracy to say that the richest Western powers have made decisions that have benefited their position, and destroyed areas they deemed as unworthy. The poorest, remotest and least resourced people of the world have been the first to be affected by these decisions – and narratives around racism and colonialism secure the structural demise of indigenous communities, people of colour and superexploited areas of the world. These aren’t conspiracies, they are just the everyday truths of our existence.

We can no longer pretend that the impacts of capitalism and colonisation are benefiting or even neutral to our planet. We have a system that is based on limitless growth, of unceasing accumulation with the destruction of natural resources and communities being the consequence of this. There have been many arguments made by ecosocialists and activists worldwide that a healthier planet cannot go hand in hand with the logic of the market and endless private profit.

We can no longer act like each of our struggles are single causes, existing in a world of their own. Our fights for social justice, the rights of women, sexuality and gender minorities, beneficiaries and low paid workers are all interconnected with the need for systemic and sustainable change.

We can no longer place all our faith into individually merely recycling more and driving less. These small changes aid us on our way, but they cannot measure up to the structural damage being caused by mass producers and players – which will continue to undo our everyday work.

We need change. We need change that meaningfully acknowledges the kaitiakitanga and mana of tangata whenua in Aotearoa, as well as indigenous people of the world. We need widespread decolonisation that unlearns the language of our colonisers and tears down the systems that have overwritten our ancestors’ knowledges. I am hopeful and romantic that we could have prevented environmental catastrophes earlier, had those knowledges not been destroyed. We need practical action around the idea of interconnectedness. Of us to our environment of us to one another. We need bold challenges to the machines of capitalism – brave actions towards harmful companies and defiant stands against complacent governments. As a well resourced country, we need solidarity with those who are in danger of their communities being uprooted, flooded and displaced.

Our power doesn’t come from talks in closed meetings, among the elite. It doesn’t come from spineless world leaders, biased corporate interests, or parties that propose to ‘green’ capitalism. It comes from a groundswell of collective desire for a world outside of the narrow confines of capitalism. It comes from feet planted firmly on the ground, buckled into boats, refusing to move, on behalf of our unborn grandchildren. It smells like the leaves of Tāne-mahuta, and feels like the waves of Tangaroa. It sees us as a connected Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa, of likeminded islands that must nurture and protect each other. Our power comes from manaakitanga and tino rangatiratanga. We cannot undo what has been done, but we have the power to change what happens next – and that power is in all of you, in all of us together.

He taura whiri kotahi mai anō te kopunga tai no i te pu au
From the source to the mouth of the sea all things are joined together as one

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