Imagining Karl’s activist voice

To me, thinking about my survivor mission after I escaped from our submerged car in February 2016, I imagined what Karl would say about bringing my grief into community activism. Karl was an activist — through and through — so I could confidently predict his response in a given situation that called for an activist response. He loved what he called (and misnamed) “skulduggery”. He loved to “stir the pot” politically. Often when we worked together as consultants in community engagement contexts, I had to keep a close eye on him, or I’d find him in a corner “fomenting revolution” with the locals (which might not be our brief as social planners).

He’d cheekily retort that he was “building social capital.”

 Karl’s “Giveaway”: environmental and social activism

Rachel Remen has introduced into common parlance the word “Giveaway”, used by Native American Indigenous people to describe what we alone have to contribute to life, our reason for being, which must be discovered throughout our life. Our Giveaway imbues our life with a sense of meaning, belonging, and direction.[1] In our wider rural community, Karl and I, as Nimbin eco-village residents and owner-builders, were proud “Protectors” of the land at the nearby Bentley Blockade, a powerful residential protest against coal seam gas mining on prime agricultural land. We had also “locked the gate” on our property against gas mining.[2]

I blogged about the Bentley Blockade throughout 2014, with Karl acting as my research assistant.[3] So part of Karl’s Giveaway was as an environmental activist. On 15 May 2014, as we were driving to buy a tent so Karl could move to the Bentley Blockade encampment, we learned that the mining company’s license had been suspended. Skilled activism triumphed in that battle — a battle close to Karl’s heart.

My photograph below shows Karl standing at sunrise at the Bentley Blockade in May 2014.

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Karl’s early activist beginning

As I reflected on Karl’s unique “activist” qualities (street smarts, eyes-in-the-back-of-his-head, suspiciousness, scepticism, discernment, astuteness, and curiosity), I began to see a path forward for my new road safety activism. It was easy to imagine a reply to my question, “What would Karl do here?”

His friends loved his kindness, gentleness, patience, and listening skills and I knew, from our conversations, that he felt he was kind and helped people (one of his humble aims). I also knew that he embodied his Giveaway in other, less poetic ways. Karl’s unique version of activist skulduggery (he was a bit of a ratbag) lived on in my heart as I embraced my road safety activism challenges from mid-2016 until now.

Notes

[1] Remen, R.S. (2015). “What is Your Giveaway?”, “Walking the Path”: Rachel Remen’s blog: http://www.rachelremen.com/walking-the-path/ (19 August).

[2] See: http://www.lockthegate.org.au/

[3] See: https://www.thebentleyeffect.com/; see also: https://sarkissian.com.au/emboldened-bentley-blockade/

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