I missed two revolutions, and I am only turning 30.
I know that for many people, this is not how the story is told. But, together with climate urgency, it explains some of my frustrations.
In this text, when I say revolution, I will simply mean a radical progressive change pushed from below, which was impossible to achieve by stretching the existing institutions and which, just before they happened, would be considered impossible by large sections of the population. (So no socialism required here.)
First it was the anti-austerity movement between 2011 and 2013 in Portugal. These were years of constant spontaneous actions and organizing, together with activation and radicalisation of existing organizations. In its peak, it mobilized more than one million people to the streets in a single march.
In perspective, 1 million people make up 10% of Portuguese population. Back then, my language skills were limited, and I wasn't expecting something as big. Right after the protest I went home and checked: I did not encounter any other mobilization that put more than 10% of the society to the streets. This was most probably the largest mobilization in history.
This "detail" went mostly unnoticed among the organizers.
Only after the fact did I comprehend the opportunity missed. The movement was gaining momentum. The people were angry and motivated. And the organizers (I was vaguely involved, but quite non-influential at the time) made them go to some non-confrontational square in a mediatic march, and then sent them home.
The mayonnaise was ready, but we were using the wrong recipe. The vision of the leaders (people and organizations) were too narrow compared to the capacity and possibilities history provided them with.
It was a missed revolution. It happened in front of my eyes, and I let it pass by.
Then came the Gezi uprising. This is not the place to analyse Turkish politics. All I want to say is that it was very clear for many of us at that point, that pulling Tayyip down was a real possibility. And his fall would be a revolution according to my working definition above.
I was involved as much as possible, although almost everyone I met seemed to have felt that they did less than they should have.
During the revolt, I had very little idea as to what would bring the movement forward. Some groups simply focused on recruiting, some on propaganda. Many new collectives emerged.
As many other activists, I had some ideas about what we should have done to be better prepared to Gezi. However, sometimes I ask myself: Are we better prepared now if another uprising were to surge?
It was a missed revolution. It was in front of my eyes and hands, and I don't think I fulfilled my political responsibilities.
It happens very rarely to someone, to be so close to (you could almost feel the breath) and so much involved in a revolutionary possibility. It happened to me twice, and I failed twice.
To some extent, we failed twice. But this post is about my personal frustrations with my incapabilities, so I'll keep it within that limit.
The terrorist attacks in the West are escalating. Corporate power is going off the roof. And no one really thinks that refugee flow to safer zones would ever slow down. On top of this come droughts, storms, food and water crises, epidemics - the "usuals" of global climate change.
Ironically, in this period of history when we seem to be marching faster than ever towards barbarism, we are also seeing a series of unprecedented revolutionary possibilities opening up (and then closing).
Not so many politicians seem to know what should be done. I, for one, have too little ideas in comparison to the challenges we are facing.
But what keeps me awake at nights is this: There will be more social turbulence in the near future, this is a certainty. (These turbulent moments might be for the good or for the bad.) I don't feel that we are collectively prepared to sufficiently address them. And, while trying diverse tools and approaches, I don't yet know how to get ourselves ready for them.
I would be ultra-lucky to have a third chance. And I would be devastated if I lost it the third time.
PS: No political party bankrupted after Gezi, they all claimed their interpretation of the situation was and is the correct one. None shut down saying they failed to seize the moment. Food for thought...