On Creative Disobedience, by Bairbre Flood



So today there’s a few of us up in court in Cork today for resisting a water meter installation last summer. As Karen Doyle, a community activist puts it, if convicted ‘I’ll wear it as a badge of honour!’

The water metering programme was foisted upon us as part of a privatisation policy that people never agreed to. Communities, who weren’t consulted by Irish Water, the government or the gardai, had no other option but to physically resist the installation of meters.

Nothing too new about the wishes of people being ignored. Whether it be the sale of our oil/gas to Shell, the give-away of our fisheries, the bank bailouts (which our grandchildren will be paying off) or the deliberate running down of our healthcare and housing system – we are systematically denied the right to choose and civil disobedience is one of the few routes left open to us.

Civil disobedience helps to focus communities on concrete actions rather than endless debate. I’ve lost count of the number of people who said to me ‘I’m not political, but…’ and then go on to give an amazing political analysis on water privatisation or community action. Civil disobedience is creative disobedience as it often exists in an incompletely-realised state. It is the vision of change – often impractical, seemingly-impossible. Activists, like many artists, exist on the fringes of society. No-one says ‘I want to be an activist when I grow up.’ Few mothers would encourage their children to have that dream. There are no Jobsbridge schemes for creating a fairer world.

Like Howard Zinn says, ‘Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience – our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves and the Grand Thieves are running the country.’

Here’s to everyone round the country who’s standing up, sitting down (at their computer), organising in their communities, writing, singing, teaching, painting, healing a new vision into reality. All those putting themselves forward in the election, writing articles, postering, knocking on doors – not because they want a cushy job in the Dail, but because they want a real change in the political system. And all those working tirelessly in whatever capacity they can to change our society. We’re all part of this creative disobedience.

And when we go into court today, we know ye all have our backs.

Bairbre Flood