Battling On
from No Compromise Issue 22

by Keith Mann

It'd be great to hear one day that someone had discovered a cure for Burn Out. This is a horrible condition that affects those wonderful people we all know and love who but who simply can't do it anymore. Too determined, perhaps? Trying too hard? Aren't we all? The key to the problem - and it sure is one - lies in recognizing when to take the foot off the peddle, while still doing enough to satisfy that destructive urge to do more than we can manage.

There has to come a time when we all need to take time out to sort our own lives or to re-focus our efforts on projects more manageable. It isn't a crime or un-vegan, and it doesn't make you a deserter. If that's what needs to be done so you are still an activist in 20 years time, then that is what must happen. I beat myself up mercilessly for years while resisting an increasing need to step down a little, but I have it, for the most part, controlled now (although those around me might disagree).

And there was the time I got raw at someone a few years ago because he walked away from a campaign we were working on to do something more fluffy and less confrontational. He is still campaigning for animals and likely always will be, but he left us with more to do than we could manage at the time (although we did manage and finished what we started), and it put this invaluable campaigner into a new light in my mind. I will always feel he let us down, but that's something for me to get over, even though I fully understand his not wanting to have the police on his back constantly and looking for ways to take him out or mess up his front door. That on top of all the other associated traumas, trials or tribulations that come with investigating and irritating the kind of people and institutional pastimes and perversions that we do can make life hard and wont be sustained by many for long. But then it doesn't necessarily need to be.

We need to keep ahead of the enemy by constantly changing tactics and finding new ways to expose, irritate and interfere. With some thought, the list is endless. Doing so keeps them fearful of our every move and keeps us fresh and prevents stagnation. It’s stupid not to! We all have our limits and it isn’t a competition to do more than someone else. All we can and should do is the best of our ability, and that in itself is an invaluable contribution.

I was lucky in an odd kind of way, because I got an enforced break from the ever-mounting responsibilities and pressure of work I'd built up for myself over a number of years, when early one morning, loaded with incendiaries somewhere remote, I ran into the law-in-waiting.

That's not to say the next eight years were a breeze. Life isn't like that wherever you are, but it had its high points, and there were successes along the way in spite of the obvious restrictions of prison. The seven years I spent in prison actually add up to eight away from home between arrest and release, due to having spent a year on the run in the middle of it following my escape. That broke up the stretch nicely, giving me other angles to approach those targets for the time I had until re-arrest (which was always just around the corner given some of the angles I opted for!), and that made dealing with that stage of my life easier. Escaping from prison after months of planning, too, also reminded me that anything is possible and achievable if you want it enough.

It is important to always look at the wider picture too, to remember that we aren't alone in this and that there are many others battling slowly on in their own way and each contributing a minute amount to a bigger picture. What we do on a day-to-day basis never seems enough, and those days that are filled with so little, yet are filled to the max, are the most frustrating. But as long as we try, or are preparing to, they are all as important as the full-on demos or the big raids, however little we achieve!

We are ahead of our time, and we are in our primacy as a movement, still finding our feet and testing the water, but how we are motoring! It would be harder for me to miss out on being involved in the advance we are seeing into the world of animal exploitation than to give it all up for something less aggro. Little of what we do is selfish, but this is the one time when we need to be, in order to survive and thrive.

Do what you do to suit yourself, and do what you are best at and want to do in your own time. We have a lot of years ahead of us, filled with the emotional trauma of seeing others suffer and feeling unable to impact sufficiently on it. We must pace ourselves now to be able to deal with that. There is no shame in managing your input; if doing so means those around you have to adapt, then so be it. If it sends other good people off in all directions that need not necessarily be for the worst.

Do something positive today. Tomorrow, think of something else.

Forever together, for the animals

Keith Mann