Vine & Fig Tree Disarmory – Innovations for proactive resistance

Vine & Fig Tree Planters have been trying to develop tools and innovations for proactive resistance. Stephen Hancock calls it our disarmory. Of course, we are not working from scratch, we are reusing innovations from nonviolence, feminism, liberalism, socialism and anarchism, and through dismantling and deconstruction it becomes possible to create new tools.


Grapes and Figs

Initiate rather than protest

Proactive means “initiating change rather than reacting” (Collins Dict.). Reactive resistance, or protest, somehow binds itself to the opponent, and makes them the focus, then appoints them as leaders asking them to do the job. Achieving the actual aim, momentary or locally, proactive resistance works as an invitation rather than persuasion. The idea for proactive resistance comes from combining Gandhi’s civil disobedience with his constructive program; but also from the critique of reactivism in the gay movement (Michel Foucault) and in feminism (Judith Butler). For us one problem was that the “protest mind” indoctrinated how we viewed the context of political work so it was hard to resist the urge to react and protest.

Gifts rather than influence

Instead of thinking we have the power, or even the right, to change people; we are offering our tools as gifts which might be used in ways we would never imagine. We are thankful for being able to use innovations from other groups. Social system theory states that one system (society) can’t influence another system. One main function of creating a system is to avoid and also protect itself from control and information overflow from other systems. But a system can decide to use energy, tools and innovations from other systems. We then offer our innovations, our reflections, our spirit, our friendship as gifts to our opponents and other resistance groups. For this gift to be valuable to another community we have to develop something which might be more versatile than what we have been using until now. We need to test it carefully ourselves, and work as self critical innovators rather than trying to persuade. Failure is an important part of innovating.

Becoming “we” with the opponent

When the military police and we in the Vine & Fig Tree Planters where eating figs and grapes together we become a “we” with the police. Together we undermined the dichotomy “us and them” which make a solution quite impossible. Later on the military police called us and promised to replant and take care of the vine and fig trees. As planters and citizens, we confess being a part of the nuclear threat and the mass slaughter of people in Iraq and other places.



Mobile society

Vine & Fig Tree Planters are one society among others. We are trying to undermine methodological nationalism where Society is synonymous with nation-state. We have our government, the coordination group, we are mobile: forming from our different communities, moving on to a weapons factory, into the police station, through court and into prison. Some of us believe we are living in societies and communities rather than in one Society.

Unburden the gardeners

Grass root-groups depending on large group meetings and informal networks often collapse, or make participants into an audience or exclude them, when the resistance grows beyond a certain point. We are trying to unburden Vine & Fig Tree Planters by avoiding using the whole group for making decisions, solving conflicts or problems.

Post-complaining community

We are not criticizing each other in the large group. Instead we are using small working groups, like Coordination Group, Power Intervener, Agenda Group and other groups for practical tasks. Even in the small group a negative approach could burden each other too much. To don’t get the spirit of complaining and protest into the group, one proposal was to give positive criticism before negative. Another was to reformulate negative criticism as a possibility for change until we are sure we will have a disagreement.

“No spectators”

Inspired by radical artists, like Burning Man in the Nevada desert, we are trying to avoid making participants into an audience, into silent listeners. Through the use of different small group tools and by making plenty of time for informal chats and conspiring, people are invited to become active participants.

Per Herngren
2006, version 0.4

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