Episode #161 Plan. Pause. Reset: Real Steps to Radical Transformation with Eva Schonveld and Justin Kenrick
The world is changing: we all know this, but knowing what we can do, how theories of change actually apply… that’s harder. Eva Schonveld and Justin Kenrick are deeply embedded in applying the theory of change in ways that work and from which we can all learn.
Eva is a climate activist, process designer and facilitator. She has co-convened the Transformative Conflict for Transition Network summit, supports sociocratic system development, decision-making and facilitation in many contexts including Extinction Rebellion Scotland.
Justin is an anthropologist and activist from Edinburgh. He is a member of Extinction Rebellion Scotland. Since 2009, has worked with the Forest Peoples Programme, supporting communities to secure their community lands and determine their own futures.
Long term friends of the podcast, Eva and Justin live and work right at the leading edge of change, exploring and testing ways to help people move into the flowing, more vulnerable, less triggered spaces that allow for genuine inner change, and therefore change in our outer relationships. The spaces this work creates are essential to the move to a future where people and planet flourish.
In this first Accidental Gods podcast of 2023, we explore the things that make our hearts sing, and the ways Eva and Justin’s work is transforming communities around the world, with a particular emphasis on their homeland of Scotland, where Independence feels a breath away.
Manda: This week, we’re talking to friends of the podcast. Eva Schonfeld and Justin Kenrick have spoken to us twice before, first in early lockdown and then a year later. And in both cases, they were doing transformative work in Scotland and around the world, in terms of actually applying the theory of change to how we get from where we are to where we need to be. Eva is a climate activist, a process designer and a facilitator. She’s co convened the Transformative Conflict for Transition Network Summit. Supports sociocratic system development, decision making and facilitation in many contexts, including Extinction Rebellion Scotland. Justin is an anthropologist and activist, also from Scotland, also a member of XR Scotland, and since 2009 he has worked with the Forest Peoples Programme, supporting communities to secure their community lands and determine their own futures. And he’s working closely now with groups in East Africa. And Eva and Justin, working together, have achieved an extraordinary amount in terms of understanding and exploring what it takes to bring us all to a level, where we can connect and communicate from our heart minds rather than the head minds that have got us into the mess that we’re in. There are so many beautiful things in this conversation, and it feels to me an absolutely perfect start to 2023.
Manda: So people of the podcast. Please do welcome Eva and Justin from Scotland. So Eva and Justin, friends of the podcast, Happy Hogmanay. I can say this because you guys are in Scotland and you know what it is. So for our Scottish listeners, I don’t need to explain. And for everybody else, Hogmanay is New Year in Scotland and it’s a much, much bigger deal. First footing people; that you have to bring a lump of coal over the threshold; and that can’t be a very old thing, but it definitely was a thing when I was a kid. Hogmanay is much, much bigger than Christmas ever was. Until you get out into the rest of the world and discover that it’s the other way round. So happy New Year to everybody else in every other part of the world. And Eva and Justin, welcome to the podcast. Welcome to 2023. This is the year where I really want to look at the solutions. I think we’ve narrowed down the problems with the old system quite effectively. I think we now are at a point where we know roughly what the solutions are, we just need to create a systemic whole; of a systemic solution base from which to draw and the routes by which to get there. So as a starter for that, my question for 2023 is: what makes your heart sing and where does that take you? So, Eva, we are going to go to you firstEva: Thank you, Manda. Lovely to see you. Lovely to be here. And a really lovely question as well. And I find it hard to answer because lots of things do, and quite a wide range of different sorts of things. And so I’m finding it hard to find the one. The one that comes to me right this second is the work that I’ve done with plants, around kind of intuitive herbalism, which is quite a long journey that I’ve been on around sort of rediscovering maybe a more indigenous, certainly a more direct way of relating to particularly healing plants. And where that takes me is very close to the beginning of that journey. Reading a book on a hillside on the Isle of Eigg, on a kind of macha. So lots and lots of little flowers that were coming up. And just the sudden revelation from the book that maybe, maybe the indigenous knowledge and way of relating to plants wasn’t completely gone. Maybe it was somewhere that I could find it and maybe I could make a relationship with these other beings in a more sort of direct way. And that certainly came to be over years of exploration and practice.
Manda: That’s so beautiful. That so makes my heart sing. Because as far as we understand it, all of our understanding from plants came from the plants and so it’s all still there. I remember doing an ayhuasca ceremony,long enough ago that I can talk about it. And anyway, it wasn’t in the UK. With a young man who was 23 and he’d apprenticed with his uncle when he was 12, and so he’d had the full, you know, 12 years apprenticeship almost, and he had spent two years in the Amazon alone. I wouldn’t last 20 minutes alone in the Amazon, I think. Learning from the plants. Just asking them what they needed to teach him. And he was astonishing. We play at shamanic practice in Western cultures and then you meet the real thing and realise it’s a very, very different experience. But that doesn’t mean you can’t open it up. It’s gorgeous. And I have one question. My memory of Rum, Muck and Eigg was of being eaten alive by midges; I remember nothing else about them. I’m sure they’re absolutely beautiful, but the midge… What time of year were you there? Was it not in midge season? Or was it just a very good day?
Eva: You’d have to pick your place over in Cleadale, which is the kind of far end of the island from the harbour, there’s normally a breeze and for whatever reason, you know… They’re there, it’s like you don’t get completely no midges, but it’s totally doable. And yeah, I think Rum is particularly bad, is my understanding, not having spent a long time.
Manda: Yeah, yeah. I remember we used to sail a lot when I was a kid and I remember Rum vividly, because all of the graffiti in the public toilets of which, you know, every wall in the door were completely covered. And everywhere you went, else in Glasgow, it was, you know, obscenities about A loves B and whatever, you know, physically impossible acts. In Rum, every single bit of graffiti was about the midges. It was astonishing. So you get in and you’re out of the midges and all you can do is write about them. But Eigg… We’re coming to you in a moment, Justin. Eigg is a community. They’ve bought out the island haven’t they? There’s a community of people living there, working it regeneratively, as far as I understand.
Eva: Yeah, Yeah, they are. They’re doing great. It’s the same with any community, you know, It happens in fits and starts. And when people have got enough energy and when someone’s managed to get a grant in or whatever it is; but there is an amazing sense of, you know, this is a community who are doing that. They’re working together, they’ve got a plan and they’re thinking about the future. So they’re planting trees for fuel that certainly some of them won’t be using, but their kids will.
Manda: Right. Yeah.
Eva: That’s that’s the dream, I guess, is that is that we’re looking to the future and and laying the ground for a good life for our children and grandchildren, even if that means we don’t get that immediately ourselves.
Manda: But our ancestors did that. Yeah, they planted whole forests that they were never going to see. They built cathedrals. It’s that thinking, thinking in long term, is something that we’ve maybe lost, but clearly some people still have. Thank you. That’s glorious. And it’s so lovely to imagine you really connecting to the plants. So, Justin, we are coming to you in a minute. But while I’m thinking about that, how do you connect to the plants? Do you do what I would consider to be shamanic journeys or dreams, sitting with and allowing to come in and then practising to see what works? How does that manifest for you?
Eva: Yeah, it’s a really good question and it was a really perplexing one to me, sitting there on that hillside. I was trying, I’d kind of been shown that there was this possibility… and actually I did want to say just really quickly that that whole journey with me started with reading about ayahuasca. And at that point, you know, 25 years ago, it was not, as far as I’m aware, available in the UK at all, and I desperately wanted to have that experience. So my way in was through indigenous plants here that, you know, not psychotropic but just normal. And my teacher, who’s just a great guy called Nathan Hughes, who works in Nailsworth, Stroud, somewhere in that area. Shout out to Nathan if anyone wants to do this work – he’s a really good teacher. And he started talking about doorways. So doorways in. And it’s different for different people. So you might use imagery, you might use music, you might use drumming, you might use dreaming, you might use smell. But what it’s really got to do with is like sinking into, going really deeply inside and really sensitising yourself to what you’re receiving, and being willing to receive something. So to begin with, for the first couple of years, for me it felt like it was kind of imaginary. I just decided I was going to trust my imagination. And then over time, it actually became really strong and almost sometimes physical. So there was no doubt to me that I was suddenly feeling something in my body. So it’s a journey and it doesn’t happen instantly. Maybe it does for some people – it didn’t for me. But it’s just so exciting. It’s so exciting and so like it takes you places you haven’t expected and the sense of real true exchange and connection; between you and a being of a completely different species is what I consider magic. It’s just absolutely magical.
Manda: Yes. Thank you. And I think it may happen immediately for people who’ve grown in indigenous cultures where there are no boundaries. But I think for Western people it does take a couple of years at least, of just being prepared to go with what is. And it’s one of those things, when we’re teaching anything in this field; shamanic work or animal communication or anything like that; is to go with and trust the process. And trust the people who tell you that if you do this, three or four years from now your world will be different. But in the beginning, you do feel like you’re making it up. But that’s okay. You made up this thing, when you could have made up something completely different. So then test it out and see what works. I love that. Thank you so much.
Eva: There’s a beautiful Sufi quote that our imaginations are given to us to be able to experience God. And it’s like that’s what they’re for. It’s like we can make things up, we can deliberately make things up. We know when we’re doing that. But it’s learning the discernment. Like, no, I didn’t just make that up, that was a real feeling. And yes, it kind of is imaginary, but it kind of isn’t. And there’s a blurry line there that gets less blurry or maybe more, I don’t know. Anyway, Yeah, great stuff.
Manda: Yes. And you learn to trust, I think. Is you learn to discern the things that feel true from the things that you have made up. Because making up, projecting is still a thing, but they become very distinct things quite, quite quickly. This is glorious. I had no idea we were going here. I thought we were going into Scottish politics. Thank you. So, Justin, what makes your heart sing and where does it take you?
Justin: Well, listening to you both does exactly that. And I’m kind of, I’m really moved by that feeling of inherent health, the kind of well being that opens up to us and the connections that open up when we listen and pay attention. And how severely we’re trained out of that and trained into thinking we’re alone and we’re isolated and we project our fantasies onto the world around us, rather than we pick up on what’s really going on. So even just like listening to you both, it’s like, well, here we are in relationship and that relationship, and then anybody listening is in relationship with us too. And in that kind of we-ness, that between us is where it all happens, rather than the kind of isolated being. So, you know, we had a couple of folk from Eigg staying last night with us, a couple of the crofters there, and they were talking about the energy system and improvements they’re making to it, and various disasters, which is what the stories of community always have. You know, it’s like, you know, but the disasters are where you learn and where you grow and so on. So it was lovely having them last night. We lived there for about a year on a croft and it’s actually where I went to when you ask that question originally to Eva. I went to being on a cliff edge there, kind of doing a vision quest for a couple of days and just standing there, looking out to Rum actually, and up to Skye and then out to Barrow and just standing there for 48 hours.
Justin: And the strongest sense I had…So there was the kind of the clouds and the movement on the sea and the land, and the sense of ancestors and community of being; so plants and creatures and all of us. Kind of all of us humans being just another creature and just another plant really. And just like all of that going back, the way… And just that very strong sense of… We talk about trying to make history and we don’t need to make history, we just need to make community. If you make community, you don’t have to make history. Making history is all about trying to recover the space for community. So forget about making history. That’s not…it’s what you’re called to have to do sometimes, but I don’t think that’s what matters. What matters is actually just that living and community and so on. And actually, when you talk about Hogmanay, I was remembering, because we’re going to Iona next week for a week, Eva and I, which is great. And I grew up there, when I was little. And I remember going, on one Hogmanay, going with Mark, who was the postman then, he and I canoed over to Mull, which is about a mile. But at night, with a big sea under a moon, you know, last day of the year…it was obviously foolish, but it was amazing. Canoeing over, with the whisky, with the coal, to get to Camas and to bring that there.
Justin: So, yeah, that made my heart sing, that kind of canoeing over big waves at night under a moon. Yeah. So I don’t know… I guess the other place I went to, listening to you both, was going back… I was in Kenya a few weeks ago aMount Elgon and I can talk more about that later. But just remembering Cosmas Muranga, he was talking about there being no boundary. So he’s in his seventies. He’s a really eloquent speaker. In fact, I could send you a five minute video just made of him and others speaking. It’s a really beautiful video from which you could maybe add on to this; but he’s talking about there being no boundaries. There’s no boundaries. There’s just no boundaries between us and other creatures and other plants and so on. I don’t think the film picks up on that, but when we were interviewing him, that’s what he was talking about. It’s just the need to not get caught up in this bounded world that we get taught to live in. It’s all relational. Here we are. It’s all possible.
Manda: That is glorious. Thank you. Thank you both. That is so rich. And yes, definitely, please send me that video. If we can’t tack it on for some reason, if there’s a link, we can put the link in the show notes and people can follow it. So’m hearing community and no boundaries as being part of what carries us forward. Particularly the no boundaries. In our solstice…we do a three way podcast; me and Della Duncan, who runs Upstream podcast, and Natalie Nahai of The Hive. And Della was saying that one of her Buddhist teachers, I think, oh no, it was it was one of the indigenous teachers from North America; who was saying that one of the problems of our culture was that our religions emphasised cosmic duality. So there’s Earth and there’s a much better place somewhere else, so it doesn’t really matter if you mess up the earth because you’re going to the other better place. And individual salvation. And that regenerative spirituality emphasised cosmic unity, so the no boundaries, and collective liberation. And what you’ve both been talking about seems to me to be within that latter sphere. I just love the idea of canoeing from Iona across… That’s just glorious. But the seas can be very big there. Very brave. But I suppose you’ve got a full moon, you’ve got the moonlight. It must be just truly magical. And that sense…this takes me to two separate places. I would really like to talk to you guys about community, partly because you’ve lived on Eigg and you’re busy building meta communities in Scotland. But just before we head there; I am still trying to read through George Monbiot’s Regenesis, which triggers me so much that I just get to the… I don’t have the headspace,I’ll do something else. And partly I completely get the first half; of here are the problems with the world’s food system; Yes, it’s a disaster. Anybody would agree I think, now. Anyone who listens to this podcast, that industrial farming is horrible and unnecessary. But where he goes to next, which is basically we need to feed ourselves by growing food in big stainless steel vats and completely, you know, everything becomes super industrialised to the point where we’re not actually using soil to grow it anymore. Is the bit that blows all of my gaskets and I just can’t cope with it. I am also aware that the treasure is in the trigger and that I should look at my own triggering and see where it goes to.
Manda: But I listen to you talking about communities that grow and communities of plants and communities of the earth and the unbounded ness. And I wonder where each of you are in the ways that we can reconnect that matter. I’m guessing with Eva, it’s herbs. And with Justin, you’re talking to people in places where there is still living memory of cultures that are connected, if not cultures that are still managing fully to connect. And whether you could both speak to reconnecting. And if you want to tell me that I’m completely wrong and that growing food in vats is a good thing, so that I can read Regenesis and not be totally triggered, then that’s grand. So Eva, let’s go to you first. How do we encourage people to to find that place of no boundaries?
Eva: Yeah, I was wondering maybe of taking it over to Justin first, because you were just speaking to Beau about this, like refinding our connection and the way that it’s not easy for us as people who’ve grown up in a very colonised situation.
Manda: Lets do that. It’s not easy, but we need to, you know, we’re the people doing the damage. I’m guessing the people you speak to in East Africa are not using 12,000 kilowatts per annum of power. And you know, we need somehow for people in our culture to, you know…my default is always the single mother with multiple kids under the age of ten. Or in our current culture, you know, people who are struggling to eat and feed themselves and their families and heat their houses, how can we reach them? So Justin, go for it.
Justin: Yeah, That’s so many different places to go. Yes. The single mother. It’s important to remember that our culture is designed to make you feel isolated as a parent and feel totally dependent on others and without having people there for you. It’s a really unusual way to bring up even ten kids. I mean, Cosmas has 32 kids. But normally having kids is having kids in community, with people around who actually want to take care of them for you if you don’t want to take care of them. So that’s a normal human way of being. Kids are wonderful. Whereas in our culture they’re turned into this kind of weight that you’re carrying, however lovingly and all the rest of it. So there’s a real…just picking up on that last point. And the other thing, just about boundaries. So what Cosmas is talking about is the lack of boundary between us and plants and animals around us. But he wasn’t talking about a lack of boundary. And the important thing is, I think for me is we get taught about kind of utopia and dystopia, whereas what we need is topia. Which is I mean, utopia means no place and Topia means place. So we don’t want utopia. And dystopias and utopias are what we tend to deal in when we’re writing books about how we move forward or being on podcast or whatever else. It’s utopias and dystopias and actually we need the topia, we need the boundaries.
Justin: But they’re living boundaries, they’re living relationships. So they’re not a sharp boundary of me and you in opposition. They’re me and you in relationship and me and you and us in relationship. So topia is really important, boundaries are really important. So for the Ogiek of Mount Elgon, there’s the areas that they’re living in and the areas the ancestors have lived in and their connectedness through kind of divination; and through the bees and through the plants and the cattle and the elephants and so on. There’s all that connectedness. They’ve got a very strong sense of where where one clan is. Each clan has a river, they’re named after the rivers. And the rivers, that water source coming down the mountains from the volcano, the extinct volcano, is kind of like what binds them together and keeps them apart at the same time. And that sense of what connects us being what also keeps us separate, is I think kind of quite crucial in there. And I’ve not read George’s Regenesis, but I guess the key thing for me is paradox. And I think we’re well trained into working out problems and then finding solutions, and that doesn’t really work. So we kind of jump from one thing to the other; and it’s like staying a while in the midpoint between those, so that you do see the disaster of our industrial food system; but you don’t make that the starting point, and then you create a whole nother industrial food system.
Justin: You know, you start from actually moving that out the way, opening up and going, okay, where is the bit of land that we can grow food on? Who needs to be nourished? What’s the land being wasted for now? Who needs care? And how do you grow community as you grow food? So there’s a whole… There’s a very different way of coming at the solution, which is it doesn’t start from the problem. It starts from what gives life, rather than what is destroying us. And I guess I have that sence also, coming back to the 1.5, you know. There’s a need to see that the way that we’re doing things is totally unnecessary. It’s not just wrong and destructive and the rest of it, it’s not necessary. So within the frame of the world as we’ve got it, you’ve got to produce this vast amount of electricity. You don’t need this vast amount of electricity. You need to have land back in people’s hands. And Scotland is an example of where land is all taken into the hands of very, very few. But in the UK as a whole, you have a very colonial system still operating, with the aristocracy and the rest owning everything. And then a few, the rest of us, scrabbling around against each other beneath that. So there’s just something about recognising the problem is so severe, that if you were to shift that out of the way, the solutions mushroom up from the ground. And so you can… There’s plenty of land to grow food on. There’s no need for that vast amount of electricity or power.
Justin: So you can come down a cliff edge from the kind of emissions we’ve got to the amount of emissions that we can can afford. So you can, this is where I would disagree with lots of people that I think are doing wonderful work on various WhatsApp channels, that you’re on Manda too. Where there’s a lot of, you know, telling the truth about the climate emergency… I’m absolutely with that. Totally. But that’s different to telling the truth about what we can do and how we can be. We can’t solve it at all within the system. We can drop off a cliff edge if we choose to live differently, and we therefore can stay within and reverse. So just either believing the system as it is will save us, which is obviously insane. Or believing there’s an alternative to the system is another form of insanity. So I don’t know, Eva, whether that answers any of that. That was where I was going to, listening to Manda when you passed the ball on to me. But if I can pass it back to you in terms of responding to Manda’s question.
Eva: Yes, I’ve got a I’ve got a traffic jam of thoughts. Remind me of the question. How can we connect? So about connection, wasn’t it, and connecting people who are not connected yet.
Manda: But you can take it wherever you want to take it. Because you know, Justin has begun, he’s opened up some really interesting avenues. And if you want to follow some of those. Because I think the avenue that really stuck out for me, was we tend to think in terms of problems and solutions; that linear, complicated… And actually we have a complex system. And so when Justin said thinking that the old system is going to save us is is obvious insanity, but also thinking that it can’t is equally, and that there is that space of changing who we are and how we are that can take us off the cliff edge to something different. And perhaps you could speak to that. But if it takes you somewhere else, let’s go with where this takes you.
Eva: Yeah, I think creating that space where we’re able to think freely and creatively together, is one of the things that we’re kind of after with these assembly processes that we’re working on. And it’s not easy to make that space, because as soon as we come into contact with people who think differently to us, we tend to be triggered. So we either get into a kind of like aggressive, you know, you’re wrong and let me tell you how wrong you are, because I know, you know, I know better. Or, you know, a move away of kind of like, oh, just get me out of here. I don’t want to listen to this. And it’s unusual to notice that you’re… Or you could zone out. That would be another that would be another good strategy for avoiding that difficult, uncomfortable space, of here’s somebody whose life experience and life positions means that they think something really different to me. So the ability to stay with that discomfort and ask questions and be curious, is unusual. And most of the spaces that we create to talk with one another are very time band. We rarely have meetings for more than 2 hours, and there’s rarely any kind of culture building within them, that encourage us to notice when we’re in reaction and help us think through or provide kind of options of tools for how we could deal with that, when we notice it happen. And all of that slowing down, deepening, listening, jumping to curiosity rather than to reaction; that’s what we need and that’s what we are trying to find ways of creating. In people who haven’t said ‘Ooh, I want to go and have deep conversations with people’ they’ve just said ‘there’s an assembly happening in my community and I’m interested in what’s happening there’.
Eva: So it’s a big challenge, because quite a lot of what I just described is fairly, if not counter-cultural then certainly not culturally habitual. And when we start challenging our cultural habits, it can feel uncomfortable. You know, doing things differently, having a silence when we’re used to filling the space with sound. You know, all of these things are difficult for people. And yet I feel that, well, A, we don’t have any choice! We just have to. You know, for me, I just have to I have to go to those places which are uncomfortable for me when I’m a facilitator. And in a way just being real about that, but saying this is not necessarily going to be super comfortable, but we’ve found that it’s really helpful. And, you know, kind of you don’t have to do this. It’s just a suggestion. So what I’m trying to learn about is how you bring those slight, just steps, towards a different way of being together with one another. In language and in a kind of sense of presence, I guess, that won’t trigger people into reacting to me wanting to put them into a state where maybe maybe we won’t react to one another, in quite the same way.
Manda: So can we move more deeply into that? Because this feels like treasure. I know you and Justin hold long weekends, where you offer these spaces online, so people can come from different parts of the world. Can you talk us through, first of all, what you do and more what happens in these spaces? Because you’ve described in general terms and I wonder if it’s possible to get a bit more granular, so that people have a real sense of this is how it works. And perhaps this is what the rippling impacts are on our reality, on our observations of the world as it is, and on the structures that are holding the old system in place. Does that make sense as a question?
Eva: Yes. Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, we’re currently well, just recently and I think this is the strange thing about having started… Our project started within a month of the first lockdown. So everything had to happen online. We’re working more on the ground in Scotland now and in East Africa and more in person. But I think those online spaces are really, really, really lovely. And I almost feel like going back again to this kind of indigenous experience and having heard that for many Indigenous elders, there’s a sense of communion with people, potentially on the other side of the earth. That they really trust. They know that that’s a meeting. They know that that’s a communication. And it almost feels like Zoom has been kind of given to us, because we can’t trust that, as a little slice of being able to experience that and have the evidence given to us immediately. So when I feel and I often have done, really surprisingly strongly felt connection with somebody or with several people in a meeting. Where they’re in different parts of the earth and yet somehow we’re really, really together. And everyone’s saying, yes, I felt that too. And it’s like…so I’ve been playing with meditating and allowing myself to feel that sense of connection, even though I don’t get that immediate feedback. And I don’t know how long we have Zoom for, you know. There’s all the kind of collapse scenarios that lots of people are kind of envisaging, which I think will be fairly accurate at some point; means that we’ll lose that instant feedback.
Eva: But if we have used it to build that muscle, then we we may be able to plop into that pool of distant, really strong connection. And so just to answer your question about the kind of practicalities of that. We’ve done different things, but I think the most powerful thing is so simple. And again, it comes from indigenous practices. It’s called lots of different things, but it’s basically it’s a council circle. It’s a circle where we go around, we know the order that we’re going round. Everybody has their time. Ideally, it’s not timed. Ideally, people can speak or hold the space for as long as they want or need to. And ideally we can keep going round for as long as we need to. So the thing about time is really interesting and we ran as one of the online things that we ran, I think since we last spoke to you, was a 24 hour round the world meeting that was pretty much contiguous and followed the sunset round, I think it was ten or 12 different communities. So we would arrive around about sunset in Indonesia and that group would take over and talk and then we moved on. Yeah, it’s too long ago; I can’t remember the order and my geography is rubbish.
Eva: And it was an absolute marathon, but it was an attempt to create a kind of space which wasn’t going to stop. Where we could carry on talking. And we hear so much from people who are not constrained by a kind of Western mindset, that that’s how you meet. You meet for as long as you need to meet, and if you need to go and sleep or look after the kids or whatever it is, you know, maybe the kids are there too. It’s like the boundaries are much freer and the time can just roll until the decision has come. And constraining ourselves in the way that we do, and we kind of have to in this way of living, is an incredible barrier to us really being able to sink into the kind of depth that we’re talking about. But there’s something of an echo of that that happens in the council circle. And it’s partly because there’s a very, very short and simple introduction; which is that we each know when we’re going to be speaking. We’re each going to get the time that we need. And we’re going to, when we speak we’re going to speak from the heart. So we don’t rehearse. We don’t prepare. We’re not expected to be clever. It’s just whatever comes. And sometimes that can be not very much, and sometimes it can be a real surprise.
Eva: And we are welcoming it, whatever it is. And if when we’re listening, which we’re doing for 90% of the time, we’re listening from the heart. So we’re really trying to hear the kind of good intention of each person and what they’re bringing and when we’re speaking, we know we’re being listened to like that. And there’s something about just that very, very simple kind of ritual container for us taking turns speaking, that makes it go so deep. Not every single time, but most times. It like, starts kind of like the first few people are maybe not quite sure. And then it just seems to like plummet and people are really sort of speaking their truth and everybody in the circle is hanging on their words. And then, you know, it’s beautiful. It’s absolutely beautiful and so simple and anybody can do it. Another thing that we’ve developed is a little one page resource called Deep Decolonisation Circles, which we can give you a link to. And it’s just a sheet which describes that process and then suggests that we could use it to… we could have circles on topics. And this is something that we’ve practised several times. So we’ve had a circle on education. We have a circle on death, we have a circle on food. And in each time we’re looking at both how my experience of that has been colonised. In my experience, how do I see that as being colonised? And that can be really different for different people.
Eva: And then also what might be a step that I could imagine taking, that would be towards decolonising that experience for me. And it’s really important, that kind of inner reflection, but also the outer reflection. Like how am I going to take this into the world, even in a small way? Or maybe in a huge way. But yeah, those conversations were super rich and really deep and and vibrant and helped me in my process of noticing. Because what our privilege does to us and our colonisation does to us, is it just makes massive blindspots. Where we just think that this is normal and we don’t see how abnormal it is and in so many factors of our life. But it also gives you a sense that actually our human nature, our real selves, aren’t that far underneath. And it’s not a lost cause. It’s not like we can’t heal from this. It’s not that it’s a tiny job and it’s something we can throw off in an instant, but it’s a journey that’s incredibly exciting and joyful, as well as being painful and rough at times. That is towards wholeness and health and joy and connection. And why the hell wouldn’t you want to start that journey? You know, even though you know, bits of it are going to be tough. So yeah, that’s where I go to.
Manda: That’s, that’s glorious.
Justin: Just very briefly, so there’s one thing there about when you’re describing that circle, when somebody drops, then everybody drops. So it doesn’t really matter who it is who does that. When somebody drops deeper, in terms of what they’re saying. So we can all speak kind of with uncertainty and or with certainty or whatever, you know, ways that aren’t actually helpful. But when you hit the kind of vulnerable, flowing spot of being honest and looking inside and looking out at the same time, then people resonate with that. So that’s kind of how it works. It kind of waits for somebody to be real and then everybody else gets real. So there’s just the true thing that happens. And it’s that thing about inherent health. That’s who we are, really. So as soon as somebody breaks the taboos that say this person is important or this person isn’t important or this person is oppressed or this person is… When that’s broken and you’re actually just speaking from the heart in that way, then you drop.
Justin: And I think the other aspect is that you’re, what Eva was describing there, was looking inwards at how colonised we are and how oppressed we are by colonisation. Whether we’re supposedly benefiting or supposedly not benefiting, we’re none of us are benefiting from this. And though there’s all sorts of politics you need to take into account, in the real experience of dropping into the place of shit, my privilege is such a destroyer of myself, let alone others.
Justin: So there’s that second part. So there’s that dropping; as soon as somebody does that, they give permission to everybody else. The second bit of acknowledging the harm that’s happening to oneself through colonisation. And then the third one, which is that tiny step you’re talking about, Eva. So what’s the tiny step you’re taking? Because it’s not about big mega plans for industrial this or global that or whatever. It’s just what’s your next step? What’s the next wise step that you need to take? And so that all those three moves are ones that kind of break the boundaries, but make the connection and allow you to resonate and to strengthen and deepen the soil. So you create really fertile soil for… really what we’re doing, it feels to me, is creating the soil from which community and society can can nourish and flow, rather than always putting tarmac down and saying, we’ve got to get to that place over there. It’s too desperate! Hurry! You know, we do that as NGOs and movements and so on. We’re so pursuing the end game that we miss the fact that we’re destroying the place on the way. So it’s just paying attention with sensitivity to that. And that’s totally magic. And it’s really normal. It’s just what humans do when we haven’t been colonised into a historical trajectory, but we’re actually just living in the present in relation to our ancestors.
Manda: Beautiful. Eva, you wanted to come in?
Eva: Yeah. Yeah. I’m guessing that’s what might be one of the kind of foundations of your triggering around that kind of grand plan, is that with George Monbiot kind of leaping to that. So this is what we’re going to do. When actually what’s needed is a much more fundamental change. I often talk about this iceberg. And then Justin says nobody knows about the damn iceberg! It’s an analogy that somebody looking at systems changed used. And the top of the iceberg poking out of the water and that’s the stuff you can see; and you can make changes there and they’re good changes to make, but the rest of the iceberg is pretty much unaffected. And right down at the very bottom, right under the water, are the kind of fundamental values and beliefs and kind of like those really basic assumptions about who we are. And if you can affect those, the whole iceberg changes. It’s something to do with if you get really fundamental, then we don’t need the big plan. We just need the next small wise step. And that’s something that Vanessa Andreotti talks about. Yeah, just there’s a real resistance to the Big Plan. A real insistence that what we need is to be present with one another and connect and take our next small, wise step. And that’s all. And then we can review and see what’s next.
Eva: And we move along like that. And it’s hard, you know, people talk to us about it, or we talk to people about our work, and they go, okay, so what’s democracy going to look like? And I’m really reluctant to say. Because partly because I don’t know. And partly because even if I do have fantasies about what it might look like, it’s like that’s just me. That’s just something I’ve come up with. What we need to do is get there together. And my big grand vision will… I think there is a role for for, you know, inspiring visions. But I think much, much more important is us walking that path together and finding out what actually works for us. Because it may look really different. It’s bound to look really different from what any one individual thinks. And I guess that also goes back to that kind of sense that if we get the conditions right, collectively we’re much wiser than any one individual of us. If we set the conditions right. It’s not about mob rule. It’s about going to death together. And then this kind of wisdom of us can come out.
Manda: Thank you. There’s so much that I would really like to go into on this. However, I’m aware time is moving on. This is very parochial of me, but I am sitting in England watching Scotland, it seems to me, edging towards the potential for independence. And the potential then to be a very different political place than just simply being the rump end of the United Kingdom. And when I very first met you, as you said, it was just into lockdown; and you were running a series of conversations with the idea of feeding into a people’s assembly, with the idea of feeding from that into a citizen’s assembly. With the idea of feeding into a constitutional convention. And I completely hear you that we don’t know that democracy has to arise out of that process. But at some point, we need to make the shift from the current political system to something that actually works. And I heard Justin also… We spent the whole of last summer, Faith and I, running Thrutopia Masterclass. And the name came from a paper that Rupert Read had written; where we don’t want dystopias; dystopias from a writing point of view are really lazy, because it’s really easy to work out how bad stuff could be, and you just basically carry on where we’re going. And it looks like a hybrid between The Road and The Handmaid’s Tale and it’s not good. And the Utopias are pointless, because there’s always a jump where something magical happens and then you’re in the good place, where everybody thinks like the reader and the writer and all is harmony and glorious and wonderful and beauty breaks out across the world. And that’s an interesting thought experiment, and it’s completely useless in terms of getting us from here to there. And so our Thrutopias are: what are the actual steps? And even if it is, what’s the next small step? Having some kind of a light at the end of the tunnel, of and at least we’re not heading where we were heading before.
Manda: Our trajectory is different. What is the light that leads us on? And in the iceberg metaphor, in writing the iceberg is the reader only ever sees the tiny bit, you know the 10% above the surface, but the writer needs to know the 90% of the iceberg underneath, or there is nothing to act as the platform. And in writing terms, I know that I have never yet got to the light at the end of the tunnel that was there at the start of the book. But it drew me forward, until the branch point came where it was obvious that I wasn’t going to the light I had been seeing and was instead going to a different one. So I think there is value in holding up, even however unclear it is, a light of difference. So I’d be interested to know what that is in Scotland. And also whether I am just reading a lot of very hopeful blogs. Because I also read Craig Murray, who’s deeply unhelpful but still wants independence. So, you know, I’m reading a fairly wide range of things, of what are the steps? And what if we were to create the best of all possible worlds, if a lot of very regenerative, thoughtful, deeply open and flowing decisions were made now, where do you think Scotland could get to? And I know there’s lots of we don’t knows, but in an ideal world, what would be the light that we would offer people at the end of the independence tunnel? From where we’re standing now and and accepting that by the time we get there, the light may have moved.
Justin: And I love the way you put that about having a picture of where you’re going, but being willing to let go of it, that really creates the imaginative space. So it’s not just about being present to each other. It’s also the imagination that you were talking about right at the start of this; that imaginative looking to the future and envisaging what’s possible, but then letting go of that to move to what’s emerging rather than sticking with that. So that’s what I was hearing, what you were saying, and I really love that as a way of framing it. So we’re not staying hooked with just the present, we mustn’t look outside our locality or what’s happening right now. But we’re not also hooked onto some grand plan that we have to stick with, which leads us astray. So I love what you’re describing there. And I guess in terms of the question, well, Eva was talking about process and the need for process to be good between people. And that’s really what we’re focussed on now, is creating assemblies which can have really good process. And that for me is the route to a Scotland that is regenerative rather than one that is not. And I guess just to kind of background this slightly, so when we were talking before we’d been involved in the Climate Assembly that the Scottish Government ran, after we pushed for it, we’d campaigned for it, we’d secured it, and there was huge amounts of learning from it. Both the learning that you can trust 100 ordinary, randomly selected citizens to make good decisions. You can absolutely trust our human nature to be sane and loving. But also that you really can’t trust a system when it’s in control of that process, to do anything but make sure it gets nowhere.
Justin: So we learnt two fundamentals that I guess we could have known before, but they were shown to us and they were really helpful. So we are working towards this notion of assemblies locally in place and then building towards the kind of people’s assembly, is the picture. But as you say, who knows what will happen? But that’s the picture. And I guess in terms of… One of our sons recently saying, who lives in London, was saying, you know, people down south think of Scotland as just, well, it’s not really anything different until suddenly it wants independence. And then it’s like, oh, you shouldn’t go away from us. Why are you doing this? Why are you abandoning us? And these are lovely liberal people in the South who seem to see Scottish independence not as some of us breaking free of a colonial system and helping to demonstrate how we can all collectively move ahead. But seem to kind of want us all to stay in there in a kind of system that is colonial and broken. Even just the voting system’s insane down south, you know, it doesn’t allow for any change to happen.
Justin: It’s really quite extraordinary. And that the recent report Gordon Brown brought out for the Labour Party, you know, says nothing really in terms of change. There’s nothing about changing to proportional representation systems, nothing at all. So the great alternative down south; we had Corbyn and quite a lot of radical possibility before and that might have been a moment when Scotland didn’t go for independence but went for something collectively for all of us, which is fine. But that moment isn’t here just now. Whereas there is a moment where independence yesterday, the polls are showing like a move towards 54%, 56% for independence, since the UK Supreme Court, you know, a couple of weeks back told Scotland that it could not decide for itself whether it wanted to be independent or not. England can decide that Scotland can have a vote on independence, but Scotland can’t decide on that. So this notion of a voluntary union, which has been underpinning the relationship in theory for a couple of hundred years, has gone really. That notion that Scotland is a willing partner in a union. Which kind of was behind colonialism, Scotland was part of that whole colonial process. Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland to some extent, or everybody was dragooned into colonising the world.
Justin: And that last colony of the UK on top of England and Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland is still in place. That’s that colonisation process of appropriating power to top. So I guess, to answer your question about where might we go, it’s pretty clear that we will go towards independence. That’s the direction of travel, just like devolution was the direction of travel in the nineties. It was obvious that’s where we were going, even though the establishment said that’s not possible. And it’s obvious that we’re going towards independence. That’s going to happen whether the UK government says yes or no. So the issue isn’t really that. The issue is what kind of independence? And if it’s just another state with a neoliberal infrastructure, that is exploiting people and saying it will do something nice about them, and exploiting the earth and saying it will take care of it, then there’s really very, very little point. The next battle around independence will be, on the conservative part, they’ll be saying we need to get power down to communities; that shouldn’t be with Holyrood, with Edinburgh. It should be out in the communities. That’s what they’ll be saying while they mean completely the opposite. And then you will have people like us and the communities we’re working with kind of going, yes, we genuinely need the power to be with communities and not in Holyrood, not in the centre in Scotland. There’s been a big centralising of power in Scotland towards Edinburgh, which has been really unhelpful.
Justin: And despite the politicians and the civil service and so on, the way the system works here has still got the neoliberal underpinnings. They still completely buy into the whole story that some people need to exploit others in order for any of us to do any good. I mean, just the fundamental story that we’re told, is bought into by those in power. It’s not bought into by Scotland as a whole at all. The mood in Scotland is very, very social democratic and welcoming of refugees and wanting things to be really sustainable. So the potential here is huge, but there’s no potential if we follow the same governance system. So we need something really transformative, which is what we’re looking at and working with. And people seem to be really positive to do that; to actually move for an approach which says, okay, we’ll take care of ourselves and we’ll support others to take care of themselves; rather than we’ll have something big up there that will look after us, when it never does. It exploits.
Manda: So a question then, for either of you. On a recent podcast by Della Duncan on Upstream, she did a really interesting two part look at the green transition and how the greening of the global North will be an utter catastrophe for the global South. And as part of it, she quoted a tweet that has since been deleted from Elon Musk saying, We will coup whoever we want, get over it. And and so now he’s using what used to be a noun, the noun ‘a coup’, by either the US state or now just neoliberalism in it’s business form, he’s using that as a verb. And I’m wondering how we make the transition, because I hear you, that simply going from one neoliberal administration to another, it’ll be better, but it won’t be good. And that what we need then is to allow the social, democratic or even democratic socialist concepts of Scotland really to flourish. And I could imagine it being really linked to the Scandinavian countries and to Iceland and that sense of real community and deliberative by design. Have you a sense of a process by which that could happen? I’m thinking partly because I’ve just finished one book and the next book is going to have a significant Scottish component, because I am and I can. And I’m really curious as to how I would write a non-violent but effective transition from a state where as soon as business/neoliberalism/predatory capitalism, whatever we call it, sees there’s a significant political entity, it makes sure that it owns it. How do we free ourselves of those constraints? Have you any sense of a process by which that could happen in an ideal world? Either of you.
Justin: Yeah, I guess. I mean, just jumping in. So we all need to do this. It isn’t just Scotland, obviously. This is the world as a whole. And the way it works is that those with power pretend that they’re the majority. And then there’s this funny little place called Rojava or Zapatistas or Kenya or Scotland that is trying to do something different. And actually we are 95%. And then you are a tiny place trying to make a difference and we’ll squash you. So the trick is to do it the other way round; is to make it really clear that we are connected and it is us collectively who insist on a fair world where we’re taking care of each other. And there are those few, it’s basically what we’ve been calling possession. It’s an insanity. It’s really it’s just absolutely mad to to be living like that. It’s really crazy. And it’s, Yeah. But in terms of Scotland, I mean, I’m thinking about the global justice movement. It’s often talked about the need to put lots of funding from the global north to south. And that’s crazy. This notion of money going south to to governments in the global South who are there by virtue of coups or by virtue of being acceptable to the musks of this world. There’s a need for land to be returned to people in Africa and in Asia and in South Asia. There’s a need for resources to be returned. There’s a need for all of that to come back. There’s not a need for the same extractive forces to happen, the same pushing off the land and then some money being donated back.
Justin: So that complete rewriting and up turning of the world in that way, and connectedness between people in different countries doing that. And I guess our bit in Scotland, a little bit of that, because we need to do that wherever we are, is to be looking at how do we return the land to the people? How to return decision making power to the people? How do we do that across Scotland? And then how do we have examples of that, which we can then weave together into a national assembly that can then propose an approach to this, which does say we’ll take responsibility for our lives? We won’t be dependent on this machine of a system. Which I mean, looking at it crudely, it takes the future away and gives a bit of it to us all now. You know, so we do get some goodies from it. We get some iPhones, we get some stuff from it now, and it mortgages our future and the future is shortening all the time. So it used to be that it would mortgage like 100 years ahead. You know, in colonial periods, you’d be taking all this stuff from the world. But it was further. And what I have found over my life is, you know, when I was a teenager, I could see this whole place collapsing, but nobody around me was seeing it collapsing.
Justin: But now everybody’s seeing it collapsing. So the world is a very different one. Negatively, because the whole thing is collapsing, but positively in that we’re not a couple of nutcases, you know. Which is what I was seeing as a teenager, when I was saying this system cannot survive. People were like, Well, of course it can! And now people can see that. So we’re at that moment of truthing, where people, as you were saying at the start of the podcast, want to see solutions, want to see ways forward. And I would say that the clear solutions are around cultural, economic and political change and we’re looking at political processes that can actually allow people to make decisions. And we’re now trying to understand the economics of it. That’s something Eva’s been really focussed on. Is how do we create ways of feeding ourselves and warming ourselves, specifically in place, that can allow us to take back control to communities. But the third bit is the culture bit. Who are we? And when we realise that we’re not these people in our heads trying to control others, but we’re relational beings, who want to ensure each other’s wellbeing, that that’s a very different basis to come from.
Manda: Thank you. This is feeling so exciting and so full of potential, and I have to say it makes my heart sing to think that independence is going to happen one way or the other. Though I do have to point out to you, who live in Scotland, and I am endeavouring to move. I have one arch Tory friend, who is very high up in the hierarchy. And I asked him probably about a year ago about Scottish independence, and he looked me in the eye and he said, We will put paratroops on the streets of Edinburgh before we will ever let Scotland have independence. And I said, But why (name deleted)? And he said, Because we can’t let them win. And it’s that level of, you know, this is a person in his seventies, but they are still basically on the playing fields of Eton. And they’re still in that level of thought.
Manda: So I’m just letting you know. But I will come north and I will be hurling bricks at tanks if that’s what it takes. However, leaving that aside and assuming that we can find a peaceful way forward, if only because the use of force is part of the old paradigm… Eva, Justin landed you in it, by saying you’ve been thinking about the economics. And I think economics is an extremely exciting thing, if only because it’s how our current world power structures are aligned; that you have to grow the economy, you have to get people to buy more stuff they don’t need in order to keep the people who have power in power. And finding ways to dismantle that would be fantastic. So, Eva, how would you go about dismantling that? In whatever way you want to address it…
Eva: Yeah, I’ve grown up with a fairly high level of innumeracy and very frightened of the whole economics word, even though my understanding now is that in its very simplest form is it’s like, how do we meet our needs? You know, and to make it that straightforward is really helpful for me. So one of the things that we have been, the sort of threads that we’ve been pulling on for a while, and it’s a difficult one. And it is in a way, contrary to everything we just said, a bit of a grand plan; or at least maybe it’s kind of that North Star that we we are aiming for that may well change as we go along. And it came up, Justin originally thought about this about a year before lockdown happened. And we didn’t talk to anybody about it because it felt so bonkers. It was just like, this is just too much of a kind of harebrained scheme. And then we shut the whole economy down overnight! In a bad way, which left loads of people behind. But nonetheless, we showed that it is actually a choice. So this idea, we’ve called plan, pause, reset. So there is a planning phase. There is a pause of the current economy and then there is a reset which would have conditions attached.
Eva: And the planning bit is really asking the question, how do we meet our most basic needs? Our food, shelter and warmth. Our health. So basically, how could we close our economy down and still keep people fed, warm and healthy? What are the absolute basics that we need? And I’m not seeing anybody, certainly kind of around in Scotland at the moment, and if you’re there I’m really sorry we haven’t seen, we should definitely talk. But we haven’t seen anybody asking this question. We need to drop our carbon emissions off a cliff edge. It needs to happen as soon as possible. We used to have these graphs where the kind of descent was a nice, long, leisurely walk. Well we’re not there anymore. We have a cliff edge to navigate down. How are we going to get down that without killing people? I think it’s absolutely possible and we can’t do it overnight. So that’s why we need the planning phase. How are we going to grow our own food? How are we going to source housing and insulation materials locally? How are we going to get from A to B, when we absolutely need to and we have no other option? But otherwise, how are we going to meet our needs in the local places where we live? And that is a difficult question to ask.
Eva: And I haven’t found many people who are willing to even try to answer it. But I think we need to give even a sketch of what that world could look like, so that we can start considering it. Because for us, the big gap – for me anyway – the big gap in these assembly processes; I have a lot of trust that people in community can think of really, really good things that need to happen in their community, that can make them better for the people who live there. And that they’re going to be really up for thinking about kind of carbon emissions as they do that. But that drop off the cliff edge; I don’t think anyone is ready for, and I don’t know how we get people to be ready for it in time! Which is this awful thing about climate change, is we’ve got this built in time lag. I still feel like it’s worth trying. And I think when people talk about 1.5 being dead, it’s because they are not considering that kind of possibility. And maybe they’re just really sensible to not consider it. Because it does feel a bit impossible. But I feel like this moment that we’re in, is pregnant with change; with waking up really, and people are doing this in all kinds of different ways.
Eva: There’s political awakenings, there’s psychedelic awakenings, the spiritual awakenings. People are questioning things and they can see that the system that we’re in is destitute and doesn’t work and needs to go. And this makes for a lot of kind of ferment and instability. So it can go shooting off into extreme right wing politics really, really easily and is doing. But it can also go shooting off into explorations and projects and experiments in wholeness and regeneration and connection. And I think that all of our job in this sphere, in whatever sphere we’re living in, is to try and instigate those conversations and instigate those spaces. About how can this moment of incredible change end up being a positive one for us as humans, as well as for the other species that we live alongside and we know we care about? We don’t want to take them with us if we’re not able to stick around. So, yeah. So it’s just a sense that there’s a lot of possibility and whatever it is that we say isn’t possible, we really need to re-examine. Because maybe it’s just not possible in this framework, in this system. And things are going to be changing so fast over the next years and decades. Our job is just to try and make that as positive as we can.
Manda: That’s so glorious. Thank you. And I do want to say, I spent a year at Schumacher five years ago now, and our entire question in the regenerative economics module was how do we create that? We were still hoping for a smooth descent away from neoliberalism. To assist a way of providing for our needs; and our needs, not necessarily our wants; that kind of sufficiency and efficiency aim. And Molly Scott Cato, who’s a Green, was a Green MEP, and I think now is a Green MP and an economist. She likened it to what we’re trying to do is take the Boeing 747 and transmute it into being a helicopter in mid-flight, you know, 3000 feet over the Atlantic. And this is really hard. But then lockdown happened and she said they just landed the 747! We could do this now. And of course, we didn’t then, but we did absolutely prove that it was possible. So it seems to me and we are we are going to have to finish soon, but this is just gold dust. It has seemed to me for a while that changing the narrative is where we’re at. Letting people know that there are ideas that are possible and that the only boundary to them happening is us not collectively accepting that they’re possible. And while we still have politicians who are still screaming about the need for growth, then at some point we just need to stop listening to them. And that partly it’s holding these conversations and holding them more publicly. I am very struck, I was very struck listening to Natalie Nahai on The Hive recently; and she had a conversation with a gentleman who had worked for one of the very big industrial pharmaceutical companies.
Manda: And when he had his wake up moment of really, I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life just, you know, expanding this particular portfolio and selling more stuff to people that they don’t need. And he left the company. A lot of the higher up people who had been his mentors came to congratulate him for getting out, because they felt they couldn’t. They were locked in by the, you know, financial construct of their lives. And I think it feels to me we’re at one of those moments where if we let people, give people permission, to realise that the old structure has gone – it’s not just going, it’s gone. We are wily coyote, way out over the canyon. We just need to look down, but accept that there might be parachutes available if we all joined together to work out what they are. Then it could be an overnight thing. We could reach a tipping point. So I’m really hopeful. And in fact the work that you guys are doing, to build more and more people into these conversations seems really important. So as we close, Justin or Eva, either of you. Can you tell us what you’re going to be doing in 2023 that people either in Scotland or anywhere in the world can join in with, to help promote these conversations and to help bring us to this space that you were talking about, where things begin to flow? The depth where we’re able to be vulnerable in community and begin to connect with people in ways that that go much deeper than we’re used to. Over to either of you for that.
Eva: So we’re going to be running assemblies. Is one of the main things we’re going to be doing. So we have one hopefully in the Northeast in March, and we’re just starting work on that now and not firmed up.
Manda: For clarity, that’s the northeast of Scotland. So around Aberdeen, Inverness ish.
Eva: And yes, specifically because plans are very, very early. And we’re not we’re not wanting to make assumptions on behalf of the community that we’re working in.
Manda: Perfect. Beautiful. Thank you. So these will be in-person assemblies?
Manda: Living, live, in the room, everybody breathing the same airspace, all being well.
Eva: Exactly. With maybe also satellite events or processes so that people don’t have to come to that room if they don’t want to. So finding different ways of including people in that conversation. So that yeah, the big group feels important, but it can’t be the only way that people can engage. So we’re hoping to run a few of those over the next year in different places. We’ve also just developed a training. We ran the first one just two or three weeks ago. It was great. It was really exciting. We’re going to change it loads and improve it as we go along, but it felt like, Wow, this is a real offering to help people get this stuff moving where they are.
Manda: And that was online?
Eva: That was in person.
Manda: That was in person as well. Okay, perfect. Everybody needs to move to Scotland. That’s fine.
Eva: But we will, I mean, what we’ll do is that was a two day, which we wanted to be a three day, and it needs to be a three day. That’s really intensive. And we’re going to develop versions that can be online and that might go over a few different evenings or weekends or something. So that so it is a bit more fitable into people’s lives. And yeah, it feels exciting to have that offering and join together with the stuff that Trust the People do in England. I think it is like we need to be skilling ourselves up for creating these kinds of spaces and processes. And Justin and I have got these two writing weeks before and after Christmas, and we’re really hoping… We might just sort of rest the whole time… but I’m hoping that we’ll get some writing out as well, so that we can share a bit more of this thinking in different ways.
Manda: And if you do writing weeks and you share it, can you give us links to where people could look for the result? Because by the time this is out, you might have written us something. Justin, anything from you?
Justin: Yeah, I mean, just the theory of change there really is that you do it well enough and deep enough and it can have absolutely huge knock on effect. So it’s not about covering lots of places. It’s trying to get what we’re doing, really done well. And then that can be picked up on. So that’s one aspect. The other theory, I guess, is just that I think change happens absolutely in moments. So this isn’t about this long, slow slope. It’s not a long process. It’s incredible preparation. And in a way, you could see the neoliberals spent decades preparing for their moment. And we’ve actually spent decades and decades preparing for our moment. There’s been decades of work done on a really different understanding of who we are as humans, that is much more indigenous, much more emergent, much more real. That’s been going on for decades. And we’re at that point where that can really move into flourishing. But it won’t be a kind of progressive way. It will be an incremental absolute shift that will happen. I guess that’s what I want to leave with, is just that sense of you need to do the work, need to prepare, you to work deeply. But when it happens, it absolutely happens and you seize it.
Manda: Fantastic. What an amazing start to 2023. I really want to probably book it now that we have another conversation towards the end of the year and see where it’s got to. Because maybe the independence referendum will happen in October. That would be amazing. So thank you both. This has been such an enriching and rich and glorious and inspiring conversation and we will absolutely put links in the show notes to everything that people can connect with you. And if we all need to move to Scotland, then that’s a fine thing. Because it’s a big land and there’s not too many people and there’s plenty of room for growing our own food. And it’s going to be great. Okay. Thank you both very much indeed. I am in deep envy of the fact that you have two writing weeks, but I look forward to the results and to talking again. And thank you for being our start of 2023 on the Accidental Gods podcast.
Manda: And that’s it for this week. What a start to 2023! Huge thanks to Eva and Justin for all that they are and all that they’re doing. Scotland does feel a very vibrant and wonderful place, full of potential at the moment, and I hope and believe a guiding light for the rest of the world, as to what is possible when people come together, guided by people of such intelligence and deep connected wisdom. And as is clear from the conversation we’ve had, it’s possible for all of us to get there. We just need to put in a bit of work, a bit of self-examination, a willingness to lean into our own triggers and see the depths of them and to explore the ways that we can all come together beyond the limitations of our paradigm. And that old paradigm is crumbling. I genuinely believe that 2023 is going to be the time when pretty much everyone realises that the old ways of being aren’t going to work anymore.
Manda: And that we have the potential, if we all work together, if we work in communities of place and of purpose that work, to create a new way of being that is so much more than what we have now. That fulfils the needs that we’re currently filling by dopamine hits on social media, and the transient dopamine hits of buying stuff. We could do better. We can find the serotonin mesh of community and bring everything that is human and the best that is human, to bear on being the best that we can be. So let’s take that forward into 2023. I look forward to sharing this journey with you. In the context of which we will be back next week with another conversation.
Manda: And in the meantime, as we move into our fourth year together, huge thanks to Caro C for the extraordinary work that she puts into the sound production of this podcast and for the music that she created that opens and closes our conversations. Huge thanks to faith for the similarly large amount of work that she puts into the website and for carrying on the conversations that we have, of theory of change and of what we can do to help. Thanks to Anne Thomas for tidying up the transcripts every week. And as ever, enormous thanks to all of you for listening. If you know anybody else who wants to be at the leading edge of being the best that we can be and bringing that into the world, as we strive to create the new paradigm, then please do send them this link. And that’s it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.
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