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A Magazine for Sheffield
2016 starts with a multi-headed dragon of catastrophes facing us - climate chaos, economic slump, war and terrorism. You name it. Ordinary people just can't be expected to deal with this. Some simply ignore it. Good luck to them. Others work for positive change. The comment that comes to my mind is, 'If you're not angry, you haven't been paying attention.' We need people who are righteously angry at the 'leaders' who have brought us to disaster. When I was younger, I was idealistic. I remember the first time I was welcomed into the home of some activists. They may not have called themselves 'activists', but let me use that term for now. We were probably collecting banners for a peace protest or a green campaign. Their house was a crazy, energising, half-organised mass of leaflets and books. I really admired these lively people, who set out to influence opinions and improve things. So I came to Sheffield because it's known as a progressive left wing city. I read inspiring books like Days of War, Nights of Love: Crimethink For Beginners, Karl Marx and Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. I'm no expert, but I began to see the bigger picture, the epic drama of good against evil. I decided to devote my life to positive social and environmental change, in a general way, at least. How people view such campaigners is tainted by negative media stereotypes. Ever seen a story featuring a decent socialist? Remember Rik Mayall as an anarchist in The Young Ones? That was great alternative comedy, but part of a flow of unrealistic, grotesque portrayals, making it harder for people to choose activism. They hesitate to join demonstrations and hear activists given nicknames like 'Wolfie' (Citizen Smith). The ridicule piled on Russell Brand and Jeremy Corbyn in the last year is just more of the same. It seems that the powers-that-be do pay attention to the protesters, and they're angry. Good. They deserve to be. As we rolled over into the new century, positive activism had a few brief flowerings, but nothing really permanent. Then the financial crisis hit Britain around 2008. I'd say this was the nearest, in our lifetime, we've come to a collapse of capitalism's 'logic'. And, quite rightly, it's produced a blossoming of activism ever since. Problems are easier to see than solutions, but I feel there are major connections between the multiple forms of activism I'm talking about. To me, acting for change is part lifestyle, part unpaid work, and part encouraging others to do the same. No-one can tackle everything, but awareness raising and mass movements can be a force for good. It's a path worth following. So in 2008, when YouTube and Facebook were still new, a group of people set up a website to publicise activist groups and activities in Sheffield - Alt-Sheff, from 'alternative' Sheffield. It's run voluntarily on a near-zero budget, with expert support from Sheffield-based green webhosting co-operative, Webarchitects. Keeping the website up to date, ethical, consensus-based and locally-focussed takes time. It's not perfect, but it helps people to connect, in activism and friendship. Committing to work for positive change has to fit within the realities of daily life. You may face difficulties, from activist burnout to police spies. People write books on how to deal with this stuff. For me, the rewards are worth it. I feel that in my little life I've tried, a bit, to make the world a better place. I could have done more, but there's still time. The people I met years ago are probably still radical, still campaigning. I really hope so. Respect to them and to everyone who takes up the battle. As Gandhi said, "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Let's work for social change in 2016. Happy new year from Alt-Sheff. DIVERSITY FEST FUNDRAISER Sat 23 Jan, 7.30pm | Royal Standard, St Marys Rd A beautiful and lively line-up of music for Sheffield Diversity Fest 2016, singing out unity and mutual respect between the communities of Sheffield, celebrating our diversity of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age and abilities. Featuring Sushi + Treebeard + Silver Darlings + Madge Woollard and Globologist. CURRENT AFFAIRS CLASS Weekly from Thurs 7 Jan, 10.30am | Victoria Hall Methodist Church, Norfolk Street Social, environmental, political and ethical issues will be discussed in an 11-week course, run by tutor Paul Boizot for the Workers' Educational Association (WEA). As it progresses, the topics covered will be agreed by the group. There's a fee, but it's free if you're on certain benefits or tax credits. )

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