Perry Walker writes:
In the German state of Bavaria, not far from Munich, is the city of Augsburg. In 1898, Augsburg was the birthplace of the theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht. Marie-Pierre Leroux, my wife, an artist, and me went to Augsburg in February this year. We were taking part in the Brecht Festival.
The focus of the event was a park in the city called Rote Torwallanlagen. The ecosystem of the park contains 49 species, from root-knot nematode to the hooded crow and from hedgehog-tick to ground elder. The event brought together a subset of these species, represented by humans. Marie-Pierre and I took on the role of Buchnera aphidicola, bacteria that have lived symbiotically inside aphids for hundreds of millions of years.
Our job was to create a constitution for the park – a first step towards the ecosystem becoming the republic of all living beings.
The thirty of us present started by discussing topics like ‘Safe Space’, ‘Food’ and ‘Equality’ in small groups. Each group came up with a preamble and articles to go into the constitution. These were then discussed and voted on by all of us. One species, one vote.
Not easy. The ‘Safe Space’ group said they wanted “A park free from human norms” – but acknowledged that as humans they were seeking to impose that norm.
We all struggled to see things from the perspective of More Than Humans. A member of the food group asked, “If I, as a snail, eat a plant, is that an act of aggression?” “No”, came one response, “because you are only taking what you need. That’s why we used words like ‘subsistence’ and ‘sufficiency’.” That remark too was countered: “I’m an insect. If I only take what I need, I’ll have fewer children.”
‘Equality’ was also tricky. Did it apply to the organisms themselves? Was it OK to say in the constitution that all species were equal in rights and dignity? Or was equality really about political representation, about equal representation in the Parliament of Organisms. (On such a parliament, see our other blog)
Our group – the English speakers – was given the topic of ‘Freedom in movement’. We thought freedom too human a notion, and changed the title to ‘Migration and Harmony’. We also wished to put into the preamble the notion of ‘Migration as a way of being’ (for More Than Humans).
The articles we proposed were:
- Humans stopping or forcing mobility disrupts harmony
- Humans should Leave More Than Humans their space
- Humans should Respect boundaries
- Humans should Acknowledge co-existence
Most articles were voted through, but not all. A proposal to minimise cats in the park was defeated. So was a plea for all creatures to become vegan.
Club Real, who organised the event, will now consolidate our work. It will be presented to the first Parliament of the Organisms, which will meet for the first time, probably in the park itself, in June.
Arundhati Roy, the Indian writer and activist, famously said, ‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’ This was such a day!