Activism and exhaustion

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

'This whole project is physically and mentally draining... There is a lot of pressure here. Activism is exhaustion.' - Charlotte Discombe, 2020

Thinking about exhaustion. Photo Credit: Charlotte Discombe.

I am knackered.


Physically and emotionally knackered.


For the last 87 days, I have been thinking about, doing and writing about Call Us Angels.

In fact, it has been longer than 87 days. I have been worried about the impact of the ecological crisis on our world for what feels like a lifetime.

Even on days off, when my body refuses to move, refuses to fight, refuses to learn and refuses to sleep, I am still thinking about Call Us Angels, and how the effects of climate change will impact gender disparities.


This day-to-day worrying is exhausting. Activism is exhausting, and this realisation has never been more clear to me than in this project. Throughout Call Us Angels I have felt physically isolated, not just because the project coincided with the pandemic lockdown in the UK, but also because my fellow angels are living on Instagram. Although over 400 (and counting) angels follow the Call Us Angels Instagram account, where we share ideas and start conversations about the relationship between gender and the ecological crisis, I have yet to feel a real-world connection with a fellow angel. I have not been able to physically share the burden of this activism. The burden of Call Us Angels.


How do I keep on going?

'Action is the antidote to despair.' - Alberto C. Jimenez & Adolfo Estalella

I've been reading a lot about other activist's experience of exhaustion. Most have spent whole lifetimes fighting for an equal world. I take solace in this fact; if they can do it, so can I. It makes me feel less alone.


Without activism, without Call Us Angels, my whole life routine would collapse.

Daily vlogs have intertwined the project with my personal life. It has become a coping mechanism for dealing with the creeping doom of climate change and the ecological crisis, so much so that I worry that if the project stops, if I stop making my wings, then so will I. I feel a guilt in this; I have become swept away with the routine and security of the project, and I worry that by talking about this, these personal experiences will outshine issues of gender and the ecological crisis.


Maybe I am just not strong enough to focus solely on the project and the issues at hand, rather than my own personal experience of it? Maybe the world will never change? Maybe I should just give up?


There are many days where giving up feels like the only option.

Protesting to save our planet. Photo Credit: Wix.

Sociologists Alberto C. Jimenez and Adolfo Estalella explore the possible creative impact exhaustion has in protest in their paper entitled 'Political exhaustion and the experiment of street'. Through ethnographic study, they followed assemblies of the Spanish Occupy movement in 2011, joining meetings discussing future action and interviewing protesters about their own experiences of exhaustion. What they found was that 'exhaustion [...] is a complex social form, where tiredness, hopefulness and indeterminacy coalesce in the sustenance of a social and political project' (Jimenez & Estaella, 2017). Exhaustion becomes the nourishment for political action. It makes you feel like you're almost there, that you're making a difference and so you have to keep going.


Could my own exhaustion keep Call Us Angels going?


I hope so. I guess we'll have to find out.

Work Referenced:


Call Us Angels. 'Day 84'. Instagram, 2020, https://www.instagram.com/call.us.angels/, (Accessed: 2020).


Jimenez, C. Alberto & Adolfo Estalella. 'Political exhaustion and the experiment of street: Boyle meets Hobbs in Occupy Madrid'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 23, no. 1, 2017.

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