It’s undoubtedly far to soon to begin digesting the conversations, ideas and actions that evolved during the course of the EdgeRyders conference and #EdgeCamp, I’m currently sat on a train heading towards Paris on my way home to London.
When I arrive, I don’t think I can quite bring myself to walk back into the reality I left behind, invariably the meetings in Strasbourg have already altered my relationship to the place I left. Before heading home to Lima Zulu, I intend to go to the top of center point, a large tower with a panoramic view of London. I’d like to at least in terms of physical perspective emulate my experience of EdgeRyders in the city I currently reside. I’m not expecting clarity from this, I just don’t think i’m quite ready to go home and continue with the work I left behind.
I feel like for many of us this conference was fairly transformative, not in terms of altering intention or direction but the essential experience of meeting a group of 150+ individuals who came together with a shared understanding for geopolitics, complexity and the responsibility we each have in changing the course we’re currently on. Coming at a time of increased global frustration and general paralysis, I think we all needed this.
I experienced a colossal shift in my perception and relationship to the EdgeRyders project this weekend – prior to attending the conference I had felt limited by online communication, was perplexed by the network questions myself and Gaia were attempting to ask in our report and I couldn’t quite locate the hook, the offer of EdgeRyders. I felt suspicious of it’s relationship with an institution as large as the Council of Europe and was concerned with how my life experiences shared here would be used – I see now that the intentions are sincere. I can see that the conference was a representation of its internal limits, that the goal of “how Europe’s young citizens could claim a stronger influence on our common future – and a larger share of the social responsibility that goes with it” laid out is one that can be taken up by working together. For this EdgeRyders has produced a unique burst of energy and the ideal network of individuals with which to approach the work ahead.
Perhaps beyond this I can only identify small fragments of experience, things that instantly stuck out because they’re reflective of emotions, solutions or pertinent aids to my current line of inquiry. It’s my understanding from having run events with this level of intensity that it can take literally years to realise the full force and impact such a singular event of this nature can have.
I’ll attempt to work to some kind of chronology in sharing my thoughts; during the first days of the conference I had a sense that I was witnessing the semi-naked levers of power in action. It surprised me the high degree of humility demonstrated by the policy makers that did attend. The frank honesty of Gilda Farrell in announcing the CoE was indeed a large slow moving bureaucratic machine, that it was something that needed to be addressed. It was clear that this was difficult territory for officials to participate in – confronted with a large group of young energetic, talented and highly networked individuals, gathered in a single place demanding answers; was obviously a new experience for everyone in the room.
Their very presence in this context seemed to cast them in the role of lightening rod for the rooms general contempt for those who currently hold power. Which struck me as problematic and indicative of the way much of us attempt to interact with power. The difficulty embodied in acting out the role of lightening rod can only have been reinforced by the twitter wall that hung totemically in the background of the conference, behind the heads of those speaking, a live testament to the real conversation taking place in the room and the multiple layers on which individuals were communicating - for the most part it seemed beyond comprehension.
I became cognizant at this point that collectively, we in the room had already built; new ways of working, new spaces and new tools but it was the combination with this space that bought it into stark contrast with the goals expressed through the European project, which were historically exhaustive in ambition, regardless of recent struggles. Its vast scope and vision, for freedom of movement and peace in Europe set a tone and focus for the scale of the things we will need to consider building and maintaining going forward.
This point was further reinforced in the following days, during the “Can the internet build big things?” session and again during Vinay’s Black Briefing session on Sunday with his articulation of an unstable #peacebubble in Europe.
It was also this session which hit me with a new fundamental consideration, in Vinay’s statement “if you do not understand international trade network theory, any attempt you make at radical political change will get screwed” - primarily due to the current system which allows for the rerouting of resources, much like the passing of packets across the net. This is an epic stumbling block.
On the last day of the conference, early in the morning I bumped into Lucas, we walked together in the rain to #EdgeCamp, in that time he described the issues of “Darks Mountains Pessimistic Little Brother” session from the previous day. Individuals had taken issue with the seemingly sociopathic approach with which societal collapse had been discussed and the confusion summoned by the issues of ketchup and ‘tourists as food’ . He went on to explain he wanted to run a ‘lateral thinking session for activists’ that day, proceeded by a quick fire explanation of how lateral thinking can and should be used.
It struck me that this was a thinking process I have intuitively adopted, most likely through osmosis from those I grew up around but it wasn’t until I had the process described to me in brain hacking terms that I could consciously reconcile this with my own mental process. This style of thinking has always been an uncomfortable sticking point for me, particularly in highly charged political discussion with peers. Moving forward this has given me an exceptionally useful framework with which to expand discussion, beyond reading all personal statements as components of a succinct ideological position but rather as a mode to advance past classic judgements which typically lead to stagnation in dialogue.
The thread that seemed to run concurrently throughout the conference for me was a question of narrative, in part due to on going conversations with those present but it was also articulated frequently by others I didn’t know. We questioned whether we should seek to build a new grand narrative, what we would wish to articulate in telling new stories and how we could begin to execute on this in a way that’s reflective of the highly distributed and decentralised way in which we now work together – again quite a task in itself.
Nadia remarked to me at some point during the 4 days that she felt she’d “found her tribe”, I think that’s a sentiment I share, never before have I felt such affinity with so many, compounded by a growing sense of possibility – I have no doubt that the collaborations that grow from #LOTE will shape the next decade of the work I do.
This seemed to be reflected in the way we actually worked together during and outside of sessions, at times this was entirely seamless - Ola later described this to me as perfect flow. After coming up with a plan for the Co-Monasteries over dinner, we went back to Nadia’s to put together a document – our ability and the ease with which we set to work, found us finishing each others sentences within half an hour of working together. In reflexion the high degree of shared working practice with others for me was unique, I commonly work in this way on various projects but never before have these working methods gone so unspoken and resulted in such rapid results.
It seems we have all been cultivating similar practices in relative isolation.
For now this is the limit of my recollections, I’m back in London, in my bedroom, trying to restructure this post into something readable. I’ve spent the week catching up with friends, attending reading groups and trying to stay on top of neglected work. I’ve noticed in the short time I have been back that somethings changed in me and perhaps I can’t fully locate it but the ideas and conversations I had during #LOTE have been flowing into everything around me.
I’d like to say thank you to everyone that was involved in organising, attending and making Edgeryders happen, you have achieved something phenomenal in bringing us together, in a way that cuts through a prevalent alienation, and you did this with sincerity and honest intentions. I have never witnessed such an act on this scale before.