But first you must save the people

An act of rebellion could be for many different things. To save healthcare, to save the forest, to push a new democracy forward, to declare freedom even when others say you don’t deserve it.

It doesn’t work, however, if you forget that it’s for the people. Even when you’re trying to save the Earth or the animals from the people.

I learned this lesson from Jane Goodall. She said she has worked all her life to protect the great apes she studies. They tried all kinds of things: laws, regulations, national forests, security forces, fines, and so on. But people would still cut down the forest for their cattle and to farm. People would still hunt the great apes in the bushmeat trade. It wasn’t that the people were evil or didn’t care about the apes. It was that they were quite correct in that their survival mattered more than the survival of the great apes. Their children deserved to grow up healthy, fed, and happy.

And rather than fight this or to try and push an absurd point of view that great apes are more important than people, Jane Goodall focused on the people. Making sure they had a good income by protecting a nature reserve. That the people felt they were connected to the apes as a matter of heritage, of their unique place in the world of guardianship and caretakers to humankind’s closest living relatives. Once she started to help the people save themselves, then the apes were protected.

We have to remember this in every act of rebellion we take. It is not for abstract ideals like freedom, or for governance or for healthcare. It is for the lives and livelihood of the people that we fight for. Our relationships are sacred and worthy of protecting and once we center those relationships first, the rebellion becomes that much easier to fight.