Off-Wave and Get-Together

In November 2019, the project ‘Zähne putzen’ organized the first Off-Wave Get-Together in cooperation with the platform #By2020WeRiseUp in the commune Lebensbogen near Kassel. This event was embedded in the Off-Wave, which was also proclaimed in cooperation with #By2020WeRiseUp by ‘Zähne putzen’ between the first two action waves: An offer to use the mostly exchange-logic-free and uncomplicated structures of our community network to explicitly take time for what was missed out in the action time or for topics that were (newly) created.

The Get-Together in Kassel

From November 14th – 24th we explored and felt with each other, cared for each other and, as far as possible, lived collective care. We created spaces of listening, sharing and trust. We cried, laughed and rested. It is difficult to express the intimacy and complexity of many moments in short words, but perhaps we can capture what resonates within us. Over the ten days there was a varied programme of workshops, work spaces and self-organised times. Instead of describing the individual workshops in detail, we would rather share our core knowledge and further questions with you.

Care and mindfulness are political

In the vast majority of social circles, communication, mindfulness and the sharing of emotions do not find much room. The situation is similar in activist groups. These topics often fall behind, time is too short, people are too exhausted or other things are supposedly more important. We take care of our topics – if at all – as individuals or they are distributed as tasks to teams, which then have to take care of them. Mostly women, inter-, transgender and non-binary people take over these roles.

In the rarest of cases, help is provided collectively. Very few have experienced how they can deal differently with themselves and with each other – and how responsibility for this can be taken. By moving these issues, we have come to two essences:

1. self-care is political. As long as the object that burdens us, i.e. things like environmental destruction, police violence, social discrimination etc., is political, it is also a political space if we want to deal with or simply recover from the feelings, experiences and traumas that result from it.

2. new structures of collective care are needed. The individual should not stand alone with his or her issues, he or she needs supporting, supportive and absorbing structures and a greater awareness on the part of everyone, so that caring for others does not become a service and/or a burden that only a few are willing to take on.

Some of us have started to think about how these structures could be established.

We also want to overcome the performance-based thinking patterns that are often found in activism. For we often reproduce in our own circles what we criticise about ‘society’. This requires more space for inner transformation and not ‘only’ for people with ‘high’ suffering.

Recovery creates conflict

The shelter of the Get-Together and its possibility of recreation led many participants and partly also the organisation team to express inner themes and injuries that were otherwise not present. The Get-Together became a supportive space for common care and learning through and with personal experiences. The sharing of this experience has shown once again: we are not alone with our issues.

We are not alone

In addition to the fantastic learning room, the Get-Together was also a space for getting to know each other and networking. Once again we realized – we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and the project we might have been looking for a long time already exists. But many groups do not know about each other and use different terms for what they do. We call it sustainable activism, other ‘care revolution’ or neighbourhood work. Here we want to learn more from each other, especially in a peer education sense.

Learning from the process

We all learned a lot from the Get-Together. The organization in a relatively short period of time was challenging and took some of the organizing team to the limit. For upcoming events we would therefore like to take more time for the organisation. Despite or even because of these challenges, we are all enthusiastic and grateful for what has come about. We see the process and our reflection here as enrichment and potential to grow further and to be effective together.