From Saturday, September 9, 2023 at 12:00, Extinction Rebellion is blocking the A12 highway in The Hague, between the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate and the temporary parliament building, until the government complies with its demand: an immediate stop to all fossil subsidies. Our director Laura Hassler spoke at the support demo on September 9. Read the transcript of her speech here:
Musicians Without Borders: we’re musicians, activists, and organizers, using the power of music for social change and peacebuilding, in places of war and armed conflict, and with people who have had to flee their homes because of war, violence, poverty, and climate disaster. Musicians Without Borders stands proudly with Extinction Rebellion.
As an anti-war organization, we know that war, systemic racism, and injustice are born from the same contempt for Earth and all living things that also fuels climate destruction.
As a music organization, we also know the power of music—to strengthen empathy, to reduce fear, to build solidarity, to give courage, to heal and connect, to help us keep ourselves both gentle and determined.
We just sang People Have the Power, and I’d like to share some thoughts about power. Here’s an English word where the Dutch have correctly created two words to make a distinction: the difference between macht and kracht. And exactly that difference is, I believe, at the heart of the struggle for the survival of life on our beautiful shared Planet.
Macht comes from outside forces: from wealth, from physical strength to control, from an externally created need to have more than others, from an out-of-body desire to dominate. Perhaps also, from an emptiness, where kracht should be living. Macht does not share, except for its own win. And macht hardens the shell, to hide the emptiness within.
But kracht. This is the life force, the power from inside. Kracht is the power to stand defenseless in defense of others and of the truth. Kracht can take on suffering, for the good. Kracht opposes unjust actions, not the people who commit them. Kracht leaves open the space for change, does not need to destroy the other, but leaves the space open for the other to emerge.
To me, the ultimate expression of this concept of kracht lies in the power of nonviolence—nonviolent action, nonviolent resistance, nonviolent witness, nonviolent social change. And there we have another word game. Because, both in English (nonviolence) and in Dutch (geweldloosheid) we have words that explain what something is not. While the ‘original’ terms from the Indian resistance against the British were Satyagraha (holding firmly to truth or ‘truth force’) and Ahimsa (the principle of showing peace and respect for all sentient beings) and therefore, doing no harm.
I grew up in the shadow of the nonviolent civil rights movement in the American South: Martin Luther King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bayard Rustin, and Ella Baker were household names and colleagues and friends of my activist parents and our community. And what I remember most, from those brave civil rights activists, what touched my young activist heart, what set me on my life’s path, was the singing. Singing that connected, singing that stood up to fear when attacked, singing that put the beauty of those voices right up against the ugliness of hatred, exclusion, and violence. Singing that communicated something powerful—something krachtig: that we stand together for the greater good, that we are not afraid, that we shall overcome, and that people do have the power.
And, to be honest, overcoming does not always mean winning. We cannot control the outcomes, only our actions, believing and trusting that good actions will plant the seeds of good results, whether or not we see them as soon as we would like. And, so many years later, this is what I see in Extinction Rebellion, what I see in you—this insight, this wisdom, this spirit, that I had feared was lost—but those seeds came up, and here you are, here we are…
And, whatever the outcome, this is the best place to be: with the changemakers, the musicians and poets, with the visionaries and the activists and rebels, with those who might seem to be machteloos, but who are krachte-vol.
People have the power.