Human Nature and Community.
We had travelled up by train and walking down the hill towards Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester on Saturday 27 June 2020, the dark grey clouds loomed. Me being the country bumpkin had a walking stick designed for clambering about in the wild. It’s carved wooden bears’ head at the top with a long hazel body designed to catch purchase in long grass and amongst rocks, not clacking loudly against smooth paving.
Already a few sturdy souls were waiting for us at the edge of the square where several trees were managing to grow despite the uninspiring alien landscape. Loudspeakers were set up on stands and the amp set up. Bags of masks, gloves and hand sanitiser set up to give to protesters. The crowd started to gather and grow. Then, it was time to start.
The speakers were very moving, speaking from the heart and the audience patient as some, never having spoken before, fumbled with their speeches on their phones plucking up the courage to speak for the first time. Some had friends come to support, others had come alone, others had brothers and sisters. Some, like me, had come to support their children.
We listened, sometimes with pride, sometimes with anger and sometimes with deep grief as people came and stood in front of thousands of strangers wearing their hearts on their sleeves talking of the pain and suffering they had gone through or were currently experiencing. We stood with the pain, grief breaking in waves as the reality of the current situation was made clear to each and every person present … That we live in a time where some human beings are less important than others, where it is socially and soon to be legally acceptable to discriminate against some law abiding members of our society.
As the speakers gave voice, the energy gathered. You could feel it building between the people, in the ground and in the sky. Finally, one speaker called to everyone present to release their anger, to release their feelings to the sky ….
During the gathering the rain had come in fits and bursts, hoods pulled up and down, umbrellas opening and closing. My own umbrella had been taken used to protect the speakers up on the steps. At that calling to shout to the sky the Great Thunder Beings had gathered, the clouds thick and heavy loomed in above the crowd as it called out to them. As the shouts of thousands screamed out, the sky in turn responded the heavens opened.
The clouds burst.
Off then we went from Piccadilly Gardens and down the street past the Arndale Centre. As we left Piccadilly the water poured. It whooshed off roofs, and swooshed down the roads, streaming along pavements. It bent our shoulders and filled our pockets, it filled our shoes and boots and soaked us to the skin. It ran down our backs, our cracks, down our arms, it curved around ribs, ran up noses, runnelled along eyelids, pouring off the ends of lashes into our eyes. It rained so hard I couldn’t see where I was going but I let the crowd carry me along. The rain hammered down and through it I could hear clapping and chanting ringing in my ears. We were swept along by the noise, the emotion, the energy and the rain.
At one point I had managed to glimpse a rain sodden mouse run along the pavement to my right. It had scampered of to a grid and ran between the grills to cover. There it was, a tiny animal that had somehow managed to make its’ home in the middle of the city shopping centre where there was nothing but paving slabs and glass fronted buildings. I remembered being surprised at seeing it. Amidst the domination of this mighty empire this tiny creature had somehow managed to survive. It seemed very resonant at that moment that my friends, so marginalised were in very much the same position as this mouse! Yet, just like it they too were surviving.
We carried on marching. It carried on hammering down with rain. You couldn’t talk about raindrops, or even ‘stair-rods’. The rain was so heavy and so continuous it was just a sheet of water pouring down on our heads.
That rain and the noise bounced off every anorak, every placard, every storefront, every lamppost and everyone there. The sluice gates had opened and the energy ran through us all like a current. With hair plastered down, make up all but gone, clothes sodden and boots and shoes full of water we marched. Or rather, we sloshed, splashed, and shouted up the road. By the time we had filled Market Street we had reached full roar as we swept past the Arndale. As we turned into the next street the rain had finally run its course and on we marched.
We filled the entire length of Deansgate with no end in sight and marchers behind still chanting as they too passed the Arndale Centre.
‘We’re proud to be Trans and we’re not going shopping!”
Good humoured yet defiant, and in Manchester, possibly in the only place you would get such a mix of down to earth sass, style and succinctness.
What on earth does this have to do with nature connection I hear you ask. Bear with me as we march on….
Thousands of people poured like water through the streets, the rain became a metaphor ladled on in thousands upon thousands of gallons, just in case anyone had missed the point.
As we swept up Deansgate we were a tidal wave. By this time the rain had stopped but we had not. It was an epic story. A great myth played out in the middle of a city. The most marginalised in society had taken their place right in the heart of the city.
The poorest characters of all the fairy stories of the world were right there and they had all turned into heroes.
We poured in to St Peters Square to add our support to the protest at the death of Shukri Abdi. "Say her name! Shukri Abdi!" There too, a few trees had managed to live amidst the concrete. The rain came again and mixed with peoples tears. Once agin I was reminded how both nature and people fight to survive in the harshest of conditions.
It is human nature to find each other, much as lightening will find its earth. In the space of a morning we had lived through rage, despair, fear, laughter, grief and love. We were human beings, being human. In the end it wasn’t politics but basic humanity that drew us all together. How can you look someone in the eye whose heart is breaking with grief?
It had taken many immense courage to step up and be counted. Many had been attacked for simply existing. What is this obsession with what another has between their legs? Why should it matter? Beyond the identities imposed upon us what are we?
We are humans Being.
We are creatures of this world and we all have a right to life, the same as any other creatures on this planet. Every life matters.
Several of the speakers in Piccadilly Square had the same very important point to make. What starts as prejudice against one group today soon changes into a prejudice against another group tomorrow and another the day after that. When we do not speak up for one we soon find we are not speaking up for the many. Not speaking up means we become a part of the problem.
Nature is a minority that has no voice beyond a marginal one given to it by a few humans. Time was it had its own independent voice and the time was when it was listened to with respect. The current environmental disaster and the current human tragedies happening across the planet are happening precisely because we have lost contact with our own selves, our connection to each other and our connection to the land.
From time immemorial we had our native traditions, our indigenous inheritance. Inheritances in whose cultures by the way, where trans people were respected. These same cultures wove beautiful stories about our relationships, both with each other and our fellow creatures, and the land upon which we all depended. We lived among the trees and the trees gave us everything we needed.
We forgot those stories, we forgot about Right Relationship and we, of all nations, made greed our god instead.
As we, as humans of all kinds, screamed, shouted and howled to the sky, the sky in turn responded. It was the most extraordinary thing to witness, experience and be a part of. We shared our tears with mother nature and she in turn shared hers with us. When you are prepared to go all out to share what you have with the land and its beings, it will respond in kind. This is deep magic. This is humanity at its deepest, most resonant and most real.
There, in the heart of a city, nature was present. If you want to connect with nature, connect with yourself, your neighbour and your land and its beings. We are not separate to nature, we are of nature. This is why we talk about 'human nature'.
I, as founder of AST, welcome you ALL to be a part of our communiTree, no matter who you are. Fundraising is now taking place to support communities of people and trees across the world. You can support it by buying ecards, teeshirts or a gift. The tree planting projects don’t just reforest the land, they address the reasons for the deforestation in the first place. They help to protect communities and their cultures and their children from harm. This is the way to turn back the tide, as a green and growing CommuniTree of Trees, People and Nature. I would love you to join us.
This article is dedicated to my beautiful child Viktor who I am very proud to say organised the Trans march in Manchester on Saturday 27th June 2020. Please help us by signing this petition to protect him, his friends, our trans family and wider community because Trans Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, Our Lives Matter. Let's Transform our society on to one of respect for people and planet.
Here is a link an article in the Pink News about our Trans march and support for Black Lives Matter