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I Loved Being Part of the Delegation

Re-evaluation Counseling is a solid organization, with a solid theory and powerful tools that are needed by individuals and organizations working on solutions to global warming.

At COP21, over and over, we heard young people, Indigenous people, people of color, women, activists, and representatives of coalitions tell us that our tools were exactly what they had been looking for. People were attracted to our theory, our attention, our listening skills, our friendly tone, our ability to connect with and welcome them, our inclusive gatherings, our kindness, and our diversity. We are an attractive group, and activists are curious about us.

I loved being part of the Sustaining All Life delegation—following the lead of two working-class women;1 getting to know other RCers from around the world; discharging fears, isolation, hopelessness, and despair; and going out into the conference with the other delegates as a united, disciplined force. All the work Co-Counselors have done in going public with RC was apparent in Paris. We were less scared; bolder; less confused by racism, sexism, and classism; more confident about our theory. We could function in the midst of chaos (in this case, in a police state, post terrorism) better than ever before.

I had the good fortune of staying close to Diane Shisk and assisting her with whatever she needed. She led us extremely well, through a lot of unknowns and changing rules and conditions. She was firm and correct and stayed on task.

I also got to connect with individuals from around the world:

  • I heard a presentation on the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and how it’s causing the oceans to rise and flood cities around the world.
  • I listened to women from the Pacific Islands talk about the recent super typhoons and how we must limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius or many islands (including theirs) will go underwater during our lifetimes.
  • I listened to many people talk about how rich capitalist nations are outsourcing CO2 emissions to poor nations. For example, China burns coal to power factories that produce cheap things for U.S. and European consumption.
  • I listened to activists from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Africa talk about how severe droughts are turning their lands into deserts, damaging their countries’ agriculture, and causing malnutrition and potential mass starvation. And while we were in Paris, epic amounts of rain in Chennai, India, triggered the region’s worst flooding in over a hundred years, drowning the city of 4.8 million. The affected people were not victims of mass shootings or killed by ISIS, so the international news hardly covered it.
  • At the airport a group of Syrians told me that water shortages in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey had killed livestock, driven up food prices, and forced 1.5 million rural residents into the outskirts of overpopulated cities in Syria—just as that country was exploding with refugees from the U.S. bombings in Iraq. All this, combined with high unemployment, bad government, and U.S. interventions in West Asia had helped to tip Syria into violence.

Speaking of violence, the night before I left for Paris, I edited a section of an article that Diane and Tim had written on terrorism and COP21, and I added the following paragraph:

“No human is born a terrorist. No group of humans is more prone to terrorism than another. Humans are pushed into acts of terrorism and other violence because of the unbearable conditions they are forced to endure. During this particular period, people of West Asia who have been terrorized for generations by destructive Western military interventions are acting irrationally by committing violent acts of revenge. ‘Terrorism’ is the desperate acts of individuals. ‘War’ is organized violence, funded by the public and waged by professional militaries. While neither is rational, humane, or defensible, the latter is far more destructive and lethal.”

I went to Paris as an RCer and an Iranian Muslim woman. I was happy that the Sustaining All Life team was staying at a hostel in an Arab and African working-class neighborhood. I felt at home. I had decided in advance that I was going to say greetings in Arabic, As-salamu Alakom, to every visibly Muslim person I came across and to make eye contact and smile at every woman in a hijab.2 I wanted my actions to be a contradiction to the hatred with which the world has been targeting Arabs and Muslims. At night I could hear the police sirens, loud and scary, in the neighborhood where we were staying. During our stay the French police carried out a hundred and twenty raids in eight cities across France. Thousands of Arabs were arrested on suspicion of terrorism.

When I came back home, I did report-back presentations on COP21 for immigrants’ organizations and at the New York City Mayor’s Office. I mostly spoke about RC theory and why it’s a necessary ingredient in building mass movements and a more intentional economic system that values sustaining all life, not profit.

Azi Khalili

International Liberation Reference Person for South, Central, and West Asian-Heritage People

Brooklyn, New York, USA

(Present Time 183, April 2016)

1 Diane Shisk, the Alternate International Reference Person; and Wytske Visser, the International Commonality Reference Person for the Care of the Environment
2 A hijab is a traditional head covering often worn by Muslim women.

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00