"To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing." - Raymond Williams

My new heroes

by Shaun Chamberlin on July 25th, 2011

I recently heard an interviewer ask someone who their heroes are, and was struck by the lack of names that came up when I asked myself the same question (although Dr. James Hansen now springs to mind…)

But now I think I have one, having discovered the brave story of Robin Bank (AKA Enric Duran). He is a Catalan activist who spent the two years to 2008 taking out loans totalling nearly half a million euros, and then donated all of the money to various social movements working to build alternatives to our unequal and suicidal economic-political system. His video message revealing what he had done and explaining his motives is posted above. I consider it one of the most inspiring stories of insight and resultant action that I have yet heard.

Edit – Dec 2011 – A new video has been posted in which Duran speaks about the ‘Catalan Integrated Cooperative’ project – this complements his ‘financial civil disobedience’ with the hard work of practically demonstrating his thoughts on viable alternatives.

And another new hero of mine is revealed below the cut.

…Incidentally, having reflected on my initial struggle to come up with examples of my heroes, I think that it may have been partly due to being in the very fortunate position of actually knowing and working with some of the most inspirational people I know of. I don’t think of them as my ‘heroes’, but I have some seriously awesome friends :)

The other hero I’ve recently discovered, and would like to introduce you to, is
'Bidder 70', Tim DeChristopher, who is facing up to ten years in jail for following his conscience and successfully protecting ‘Federally Protected’ land in the U.S.A. His story is told in the below news clip:

Edit – Jan 2012 – An honest, unguarded interview with Tim has just been published in Orion magazine. It has deeply affected me and significantly changed my thinking on how I use my time.

“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul” – Edward Abbey

  1.  Martin says:
    25 July, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Both these guys are new to me, but I totally admire what they stood up for and the potential sacrifices they have made. I hope there are more people with the balls to really make a difference. Makes me cringe at the people who think that recycling and changing light bulbs is the beginning and end of being ‘green’.

  2.  Luca Sichel Turco says:
    18 October, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Well the two examples are admirable but a bit extreme.
    One person that is more in line with what I’d love to be able to do is Nathaniel Mulcahy of WorldStove (http://worldstove.com/about-2/#). His personal history is amazing. But apart from that, what he’s trying to achieve for the environment and for poor people in developing countries is very remarkable. And he’s playing by the rules of the system. Which you can consider limiting..
    To me he is really inspiring.

  3.  Shaun Chamberlin says:
    22 October, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Thanks for your comment Luca.

    The two examples I highlighted do show extreme personal commitment and bravery, which is why I find them heroic, but in truth I find them a lot less extreme than the mainstream system which is destroying the ecology that supports all life on Earth.

    I’m not sure that you can get much more extreme than that! Sadly that is what is considered normal these days, so such acts of non-violent resistance seem only appropriate. As Martin said in the comment above, perhaps this is what being ‘Green’ calls for in our times, if we want it to be anything more than a consumerist badge.

    Having said that, there’s no need for direct action to be illegal. As a friend of mine (and direct activist) often says, if you think the world needs more socks, then knitting socks is direct action! I do feel that we need to supplement campaigning and lobbying (asking others to change things) with actually getting on with it ourselves. That’s what the Transition movement is all about of course.

    And also seemingly what Nathaniel Mulcahy is all about. I hadn’t heard of him before, but he seems a real star, as you say :)

    As Bill McKibben put it recently:
    “we aren’t the radicals, the oil companies are the radicals. Exxon and BP; they’re willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere to make a living. We are the deep conservatives trying to preserve the ecosystems we depend on and the lives of our communities.”

  4.  Luca Sichel Turco says:
    23 October, 2011 at 2:28 am

    Hello Shaun,
    thanks for replying to my comment. It is quite rare to receive acknowledgement in many blogs/sites and that is one of the main deterrent to participation (at least to mine).
    My definition of the actions of the heroes above as extreme was not a reference to the consequences of their action on their targets or society. I don’t think a bank losing a few euros or the disruption of an auction are extreme. I was referring to the consequences to themselves. But there is no denying that going to jail to send a message is a very powerful action that speaks very loud.
    I am glad I had the chance to introduce you to Nat Mulcahy. When I first found out about his project and his efforts I was so profoundly humbled I felt at a loss. It compelled me to change the way I looked at my life. And to act on it.

  5.  Shaun Chamberlin says:
    23 October, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Glad to discuss with you, Luca.

    And I hope you sent a message to Nat – there’s little better than hearing how you inspired someone to change their life for the better of the world :)

    ps I’ve got heroes coming out of my ears all of a sudden! I just read about Pierre Rabhi.
    Howard Zinn’s advice springs to mind:

    “understand that the major media will not tell you of all the acts of resistance taking place every day in the society, the strikes, the protests, the individual acts of courage in the face of authority. Look around (and you will certainly find it) for the evidence of these unreported acts. And for the little you find, extrapolate from that and assume there must be a thousand times as much as what you’ve found.”

  6.  Luca Sichel Turco says:
    29 October, 2011 at 4:13 am

    Hello Shaun, another extraordinary person. France seems to be producing a lot of amazing thinkers and political (in the true sense) leaders away from their renowned bureaucracy.
    And if we are seeing so many heroes around it must means both that the society is ripe for change and that change is badly needed.
    I hope all their efforts with our help will produce the momentous force that is needed.

  7.  hoon says:
    11 November, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    You can also add as heroes Jamal, a Malaysian subsistence fisherman fighting to prevent the outright destruction of the mangrove wetlands in West Johor in Malaysia and Choo, his comrade in arms who is a marine scientist trying to do the same for the seagrass beds. The more recognition these fellows have the better. And people need to hear about them

  8.  Shaun Chamberlin says:
    14 November, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks hoon, do you have a link to any more information?

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