We define community as the people who live in the same area. There are many differences between us, yet living in the same physical area means we have some fundamental things in common. We share the same streets, buy our food from the same shops and often have the same landlords or work in similar jobs. This means that we often suffer from similar problems, such as debt, poor housing or unemployment. Despite this we often face these problems alone. We believe that if we support each other we can deal with our problems collectively.
Living in the same area is the basis of our community. Yet the gender, skin colour and economic situation we were born into means we are treated differently in society. We have been privileged and oppressed in different ways and to different degrees. To have privilege is to have an advantage over someone else, where arbitrary categories of difference (such as skin colour) are taken for real and meaningful ones. Our society works in such a way that those with privileges can better their individual situation at the expense of others. We believe that where we are privileged we should seek to remove the inequalities which give us this arbitrary advantage. One way of doing this is by seeking out the leadership and guidance of those who have been most affected by oppression.
The institutions and social systems that make up the world we live in are created and maintained through the relationships we have we each other. Yet they work in such a way that we end up participating in and maintaining a society of inequalities that oppresses us. We are pitted against each other in every aspect of our lives, whether it be competing for work, access to food, shelter and other resources. The institutions and hierarchical systems keep us on the floor limiting our capacity to love, share and grow. We can build alternatives where we share our resources, address everybody’s needs and defend ourselves legally and physically whenever we are under attack. These alternatives can be built through collective action, and must rest on creating relationships with each other that are based on support, care and equality.
We believe that our lives are at stake and that we should not be forced to ask permission to save and improve them. Instead we find ways to directly and practically improve the day to day conditions of our lives and of our community. If we are hungry we should take the food we need from the supermarket shelves, or we should grow it ourselves. If we are threatened by bailiffs the police will not help us and we must call upon our friends and neighbours to stand with us.
We aim to find ways that support our community through the day to day struggles of living in this society. We aim to meet people at the point they are at rather than recruit them into joining us. We are not a vanguard and we do not have all the answers. We don’t want to act on behalf of anyone else and we are not trying to start another political party. We want to open a space where our community can communicate openly and freely and where we can re-learn how to support each in every way and in every day of our lives.
The aim of RHSG is to open a space for the community of Forest Fields in which people can discover the issues they share with one another. Understanding our shared needs and making personal connections can lead to collective action against and in spite of the structures which cause pain in our lives. We aim to create spaces that will tackle issues in ways that develop individual and collective control rather than allowing institutions to manage us. We will continually search for ways to empower people to collectively support one another through the sharing of information and direct action.
We define mutual aid as the voluntary sharing of resources, ideas and skills. Through this sharing process our knowledge, experience, skills and resources are magnified, and as a result our community becomes stronger. Volunteering together for each other’s benefit builds a web of trust which binds us together. We get to know our neighbours and learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, where they can help us and where we can help them.
We believe that we work together without doing so in ways that make some of us ‘more equal’ than others. We aim to work in ways that nurture each other, rather than create new forms of oppression. This starts from acknowledging how each person’s experience and ideas are valuable. We are not starting from a position where we believe we are able to diagnose the problems of those living in the neighbourhood, or prescribe fixed solutions. Our neighbourhood is diverse, problems are often multi-faceted, and people are the experts in their own situation. Instead, we aim to respond practically and flexibly, in ways that are based on listening and learning. We must be prepared to follow the leadership of those who have been disenfranchised by the society we live in. We must not allow leadership roles to crush other people’s autonomy.