Broadly seen, Awareness is the practice to be aware of each other. This regards other people feelings and needs, as well as the different power dynamics and forms of discrimination in our society. We live in a society that is characterised by unequal power relations. People have advantages (privileges) and disadvantages (discriminates) based on the position on the position in this unequal society – whether exercised intentionally or unconsciously. No human being is free of prejudice and discrimination in dealing with others. Therefore, conscious reflection on this must occur with each individual (Critical Self-Reflection).
Awareness for us is a practice to oppose any kind of discrimination, violence and boundary violation and trying to support those affected by it. Behaviour that injures others or violates their boundaries, such as sexist, racist, antisemitic, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, classist or comparable assaults, will not be tolerated before, during and after the action or in any spaces related to the action.
This means that awareness as a political practice must not only focus on interpersonal relationships, but also on social structures that promote or enforce discrimination and violence. Accordingly, the goal of awareness is to uncover and unlearn internalised ways of thinking and acting that have a discriminatory or transgressive effect and recreate power structures, while at the same time showing solidarity with those affected.
Awareness as a group responsibility
Even though there will be designated Awareness people, we have to keep in mind, that awareness is the responsibility of each and everyone of us. We want to encourage everyone to critically self reflect. What are your needs? Where are your boundaries?
Examine your socialization and your own positioning in society – especially in those areas where you have privilege – so that through this awareness you can be more mindful and are more able to act in discriminatory situations. Develop mindfulness of how you reproduce these biases and be sensitive to different levels of knowledge in conversations. Your socialization also plays a role in how you behave (habitus) and how you speak. Therefore, reflect on your dominance or reticence in group situations. Let others speak, listen and respond to others. Be careful not to let your speaking portions get out of hand. Preferably use firstperson statements when naming your feelings and needs, e.g.: “XY’s statement hurt me. I feel the need to talk to you about this situation / I need peace or distance.”. Avoid phrases already interpreted by you, such as, “Your behavior sucks.”
If you sense that a person is not doing well or is uncomfortable, approach the person and inquire if support is wanted or if something is needed. Try to create a space where unspoken things, such as worries or fears, can be addressed or where people are given the opportunity to withdraw. Take the pressure out of situations as much as possible and be empathetic with the people around you. Also be mindful of your own capacities. If you do not feel able to support others at the moment, rather support yourself by pointing out your impressions to other people and asking them to ask.
Be aware, anticipate and respect other people’s boundaries. This is especially true in situations where you have difficulty assessing the needs of the other person. If you are unsure about another person’s boundaries, ask. Don’t insist on justifications or rationales but accept the needs of those around you as they are presented. You know your body best. Don’t let other people tell you how you feel. Remember that you behave differently in intoxicated situations and know your own limits.
Awareness in Criticism
In all issues around awareness, none of us are perfect: misgendering can happen to all of us, we all occasionally misuse words, we all sometimes work beyond our capacities, don’t see the needs of others or unintentionally cross boundaries. The question is – how do we deal with it when it is pointed out to us?
When others point out mistakes to you, don’t get defensive right away. Take a moment, breathe deeply, and consider that the person is addressing you, is usually also a sign of trust. They trust you to be able to deal with the criticism and to change – even if this may not be reflected in their voice tone. Pay attention to your body, especially if the criticism was harsh and hurtful. You (or the other person) may be triggered – this often happens. If so, it is often good to wait to respond until you are calmer. Allow yourself the time you need, often some exercise helps. If you can’t or don’t want to respond right away, it usually helps to communicate when you can come back to the topic: For example, “Okay, thank you for telling me. I need a moment to process this. Can I talk to you about it again in half an hour?”. At the same time, it’s helpful not to expect the person who addressed you, to have the time or energy to engage with you further. In such cases, feel free to contact the awareness team.
Gender and gender-appropriate language
We have learned to assign a sex or gender (such as “non-binary”, “male”, “female”, …) to others based on external characteristics in a split second. However, a person’s gender is a complex context that is not determined by externals and often leads to incorrect assignments. It can be a very painful experience to be assigned the wrong gender. The establishment of the binary gender system that prevails today is one of the definitive tools of colonialism and patriarchy. The claim to assign a gender to other people has a long history of exploitation and violence. In German and many other languages, the “generic masculine” continues to be common practice, meaning that masculine address is assumed to be generally appropriate for all. This, too, contributes to making non-male persons less visible. A good principle here is: You don’t look at others for their gender. To avoid accidentally or negligently assigning the wrong gender to others, the following measures can help: Use the pronouns a person wants (“he,” “she,” “they,” …). If you are unsure, you can always resort to gender-neutral phrasing: “That person over there …” instead of “Him over there…”. Depending on your relationship of trust, asking for the pronoun can also be an option – but note that in individual cases you could also unintentionally put people under pressure to come out. Also, when addressing groups, a gender-neutral formulation is almost always the right choice: “Hello everyone…” instead of “Dear ladies and gentlemen…”. Gender and especially transition is currently staged by the right as a political battlefield. Note, therefore, that many terms sold to us as “normal” approaches to talking about gender also function as codes in other contexts: For example, talk of “biological” or “natural” gender can be used to underhand extreme ideological positions, or even to purposefully steer the conversation in a direction that allows shoulder-to-shoulder opposition to trans people.
Classism is a form of structural discrimination based on social origin. Social origin is influenced by the possession of different forms of capital, for example, economic, social or cultural capital. What is recognized as respective capital is determined by privileged people (those who possess this capital) and is subject to a bourgeois (classist) perspective. People who come from precarious backgrounds or whose behavior, or language do not conform to classist expectations experience devaluation in this process, while people with a middle/upper-class background tend to be affirmed and empowered. In an environment like the climate justice movement, which tends to be dominated by middle/upperclass socialized people, this can lead, for example, to affected individuals feeling uncomfortable, insecure, or out of place, limiting their speech patterns, taking on unwanted tasks, or even avoiding participation. For the conference, this means, for example, not assuming that everyone has enough money to be here in a relaxed way, not taking knowledge of academic or scene language for granted and explaining it if necessary, and also being aware of one’s own positioning (and ideally also the positioning of others) and questioning it critically.
If you want to use drugs (including alcohol and nicotine) in spaces you are sharing with others please note the following: Pay attention to other people around you and make sure that they do not feel disturbed by your consumption. Consider possible smoke and related odors that may be perceived as unpleasant by some people. Use ashtrays and dispose of litter appropriately. Come to the action rested and sober. Other people are relying on you! Know your limit.
Do you want to support our awareness-structures?
Please come to our awareness plenary regarding the support during the Action Days (Monday – Wednesday) on Sunday, 9:00 – 10:30, at the HUS (Rathausstraße 19-21 1010 Wien).
The awareness room during the action days (Monday – Wednesday) will be the W23. Unfortunately, the W23 is NOT barrier-free.
If you need a place to chill out, we are planning of providing a chill-out space at the Alte Mensa which will be barrier-reduced. More information following soon.
Contact the awareness structure
If you have any questions or want to join, please write to: email@example.com
In addition, the awareness structure can be reached at the following number: +43 677 615 894 25. From Friday – Sunday the number will be supervised by the awareness of the Power To The People Conference, from Monday – Wednesday by the BlockGas awareness.