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Dissonance to Disobedience Workshop!

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

On 10th July we ran our first workshop as ‘Disobey’. We gathered a group of interested friends in a disused house in South London and spent the day trialling the ideas we have been developing for the campaign. There was an amazing energy about meeting in person again with new and interesting people, and we spent almost 5 hours together going through the ‘dissonance to disobedience’ workshop we had designed (and eating chips)…

After a round of check-ins and introductions we began by asking “what do you feel is fucked in the world, but people tell you is how the world has to be?”. Here we gave space for people to speak about things they cared deeply about. Answers included shit jobs, cat calling, neo-colonialism and racism, lots about capitalism and money and ‘how short bugs lives are’. In small groups we went on to discuss “who is it that tells you that” and “why/how do they tell you?”, drilling down into the specific people and institutions who insist change is not possible and reflecting on the emotions and power-play behind this. We collected all these ideas in a mass of posit notes and several mind maps. Next, we invited people to reflect on how they felt, and explained that the feelings of frustration, overwhelm and discomfort described were expressions of our dissonance. We named a few common responses to dissonance such as suppression, surrender, downplaying, dissociation, detachment, despair and delaying and asked people to reflect on which of those they could relate to in their own lives.

We stopped for a lunch break, giving us an opportunity to socialise, eat and be outside for a while. When we came back together, we proposed the idea that to move away from our dissonance, we must become ‘disobedient’. We chatted about our associations with the word ‘disobedience’ before giving an explanation of our twelve principles for good acts of political disobedience; collectivity, community-orientation, groundedness, embodiedness, anti-coloniality, historicity, curiosity, imagination, chaos, consciousness, care/ love and liberation.

Last came the creative part! We invited everyone to set aside all inhibitions, cynicism and practical constraints by getting together in groups to invent creative disobedient actions which tackled one of the issues raised at the beginning of the workshop. Everyone chose from post-it prompts giving each group a tactic, location, and some random resources to work with. There was loads of laughter and exited, imaginative ideas flying as people bounced ideas off the prompts and each other. Collectively we came up with three extremely and original, playful ideas, ending the day with high energy and motivation. We finished with check outs voicing our reflections and feelings at the end of the process. Afterwards, a group of us crossed London to attend the tail end of a Kill the Bill protest.

The participants were very positive about the day and we remain in touch and have met socially several times since, to build relationships for long-term collaboration. We learned a lot from the day and it made us excited to keep developing this and other workshops. We reflected that more time was needed for witnessing feelings which the workshop provoked and that it could have been more clear that experiencing dissonance is a positive first step towards self-knowledge, rather than something to be ashamed of. We also want to do more work bridging the disobedience values with radical action design. The day was long, and we felt parts of this workshop format needed to be broken down. We are exploring the idea of creating a comprehensive series of workshops and talks to bring people into the campaign. This would include an actions design workshop, a workshop capturing our criticism of the schooling system, a workshop exploring conscious and radical work culture as well as a workshop purely on the idea and narrative of dissonance to disobedience! This will form an important part of our continued front-loading work in the coming months!

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