The Things I Learned At Glastonbury Festival

It’s been already over a week ago that I returned from my first ever visit to a music festival: Glastonbury 2016. It was the same week that the unexpected news broke: the (slim) majority of British have decided that a political union with other countries brought more constraints than benefits. In short, Brexit happened.

As many agreed, Glastonbury was probably one of the best places to hear these revelations, together with a mass of like-minded, mostly young, affectionate, and visionary people. So rather than add my personal rant about the referendum results to the flood thereof on social media, I wanted to share what this week of turbulences actually showed me.

So what could I possibly learn while singing to my favourite artist and bathing in masses of mud-covered people?

Coldplay Watermark

To understand better, I have to explain the circumstances under which I was able to attend the festival. Instead of affording a normal ticket, I was able to volunteer at Glastonbury. For a few shifts behind the bar, I was able to get free entry to the festival and secure staff camping. That in itself sounds too easy to not make everybody want to work at Glasto. But the particularity lies with the organisation I volunteered for. Workers Beer Company is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and have been recruiting volunteers for festivals for just as long. I say ‘volunteers’ because we do not get paid wages. All the pay we’d get for our work gets directly donated to the organisations we represent, all of which are  political movements.

Oops, when did this get political? I had some loose ties to CND (the guys trying to scrap Trident), which gave me this amazing opportunity. And while I was surrounded with political (-more or less-) activists in our staff camp, as well as utopists all over the festival, it made me re-think the multitude of issues humans face on this planet. And it dawned on me.

Environmentalism is a luxury problem.

Hang on, hear me out here!

Yes, if we do not change our lifestyles, we will eventually be unable to sustain our species on this planet – sooner than we think. Yes, we should probably sort ourselves out, and fast. Yet – how can we look at others and judge them for not affording organic foods or buying plastic packaging or not recycling, if they might face poverty, homelessness, exploitation, depression, disability, or pain? The ability to care/do something about our natural environment is a lot easier for some than others, thanks to a relative wealth and privilege that white/middle class/able-bodied/mentally stable/heterosexuals benefit from. For other people, there is still so much to fight for before they reach the stage some of us are at, and we don’t notice that.

Hey, this is not a shaming post. I don’t want to shame people like me, who just grew up with a little bit more luck, and make them feel bad. Hell, no! We are, and should be, grateful for our circumstances. And I don’t want everyone to throw their things aside and campaign for housing, or disability benefit this instant. We have all chosen our calling, and we should stick to it proudly. We cannot spread ourselves too thinly, or we won’t get anything done.

A Glastonbury Watermark

Many people, many issues.

So what’s my point?

In the aftermath of the EU referendum, a wave of realisation came over a few people in my company (me included). We have been so preoccupied to think 3 steps ahead, that we didn’t see the next one right ahead. That without a unity of people, the struggle for the things we believe in will be much harder. That without a favourable governance, our actions will remain droplets in the ocean, instead of changing people’s lives permanently. And that to evoke change, we have to take action, instead of just using our words to talk to those who already chose to listen.

How many young people were devastated to find that the vote they did not cast could have made a difference?

Despite the individual fights we are fighting, there is a big picture that all connects us. And it is this connection that is one of the most powerful tools we can have. One isolated zero waster can achieve absolutely nothing. Yet, once we connect – on Facebook, in blogs, with news media, organisations, on the street or on TV – that’s when the magic happens. And we shouldn’t be afraid to make our issues political. After all, it is still laws that govern people’s everyday lives, and policy that dictates the standards we live by.

There is still a lot to fight for, in all aspects of life, and it is really hard to keep track of the big picture. But we should aim to reach out to others and respect that they have a different set of priorities to ourselves. Because at the root of it all, whatever we do, who ever we support, whatever our actions, we all share the same vision of a better, fairer world.

Quote Kopie

Not only fitting, but also one of my Glasto memories.

PS: Oh, and if you went to Glastonbury, or plan to go next year: Take your rubbish and your tent home, or I shall personally bash your head in.


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