Newkind is an annual conference designed to inspire and activate the next generation of global change-makers and social justice champions. Over six days in Marion Bay in Tasmania, the festival hosts discussion panels, workshops and practical skill development sessions that are focused on helping people make a positive impact.
In the lead up to the festival, Erfan Daliri, founder of Newkind, spoke about creating social change with Grok.
Change can be quite confronting for people—even for myself sometimes. I think oh do I really want to know, because then it puts me in a situation where, if I don’t do something, what does that say about me? And so some people just don’t want to engage with something that might change their mind.
Exactly. It’s about us changing, it’s about individual initiative and us initiating the change that we want to see in society. So in that sense, Newkind is a proactive kind of approach. It’s just us, getting up and saying that we want to do something about it. It’s both inspiring and confronting. Because people are like “oh, I’ve gotta be the change”.
What does this festival mean to you?
For me, this is all there is to do in the world—that’s how important it is. If we take a look around—not just at climate catastrophe, but refuge crises all over the world, of the economic injustice of much of the population living below the poverty line, at mental health and domestic violence statistics in our own country, and the situation of Indigenous people in Australia—if we are really honest, there is a lot going on, and we all need to put our pens down and go, “actually, maybe we need to address this”. And for me, Newkind is everything we should have been taught at school but weren’t.
Part of the work that you do is about eliminating economic extremes, can you tell me more about that?
The system of capitalism, as it stands, is an inherently flawed system, but only slightly. It’s like a car with its wheels un-aligned—it’s okay, at a slow speed. A hundred years ago, the pace at which society was moving, the flaws weren’t apparent. Now that we’re moving faster and faster, that misaligned wheel, is all of a sudden very damaging. All of these systems were designed hundreds of years ago, to maintain (what was believed at that time) to be the balance of power, the “just” way that things should be. It was designed to keep the rich and educated in power, and the lower working class in their space. Now, those ideologies no longer work, and we say “we’re all created equal” but our economy hasn’t caught on.
Have you always been passionate about bettering society?
My father and mother have both been engaged in social justice and community development. Before I was born, my father, who was a refugee from Iran, was doing that in India. It’s always been in my family line and it influenced my upbringing. You’re here to serve humanity, you’re here to make the world a better place, that’s what we’re all here to do as human beings. Everyone wants to do good, everyone wants to make the world a better place, we’re all good humans who want the best for everyone. But society does a really good job of making us feel like we’re a cog in the system, but have no power to change the system.
You’ve spent some time working for Amnesty International and beyondblue, has that changed your outlook on society?
When you’re working at an organisation like beyondblue, doing research on a mental health project, and you’re interviewing child soldiers, when you watch Blood Diamond, it impacts you in a different way. When you’re working with Amnesty International and you’re meeting and talking with refugees about their life stories, the news looks different to you—it feels different.
You’ve spent a long time working in the community development space, are things getting better?
Absolutely … As a whole, we’re definitely better off. What’s painful, is the process of growth, which is what we’re going through. The horrors of climate change and economic injustice—these things have been around for many years. Things that weren’t apparent to us two-hundred years ago, are the things that we are now aware of, and we are fighting for now. This is just the further refinement of human civilisation, we’re evolving, and this is just the process of becoming more mature—we’re going through adolescence, really.
I really like that analogy. I wonder what our mid-life crisis will be like.
If society works well, hopefully we don’t have to have a mid-life crisis. Let’s try and avoid that.
Do you think that the Australian political system would benefit from longer terms, or does it need a complete rework?
The entire thing needs to fall apart, and that’s exactly what it’s doing. If we don’t have any biases, and we remove ourselves from our culture, and our class, and the colour of our skin, and we look at it objectively, the system is corrupt and has failed. There is far too much connection to the corporate sector, our politicians should not even have them in their phone books much less on speed dial. The entire system of bipartisan politics is a failed construct, and if you look at places like the United States, that is showing exactly what it looks like—the hyper-extent of democratic capitalism. You have class warfare, race warfare, you have one-in-four children and one-in-eight adults on food stamps, and forty per cent of people living below the poverty line. That’s what democratic capitalism gives you.
In terms of who is in and who is out, less and less people are caring about it. No one is really interested in voting for the lesser of two evils. We have the trolls of the Liberals, and then Bill Shorten only just slightly behind them, trying to be a little less terrible than they are. It’s a farce. When you have an economic construct that leads people to take for themselves and look after their own, then our politicians will do the same, and they’ll take bribes and create unjust policies. We need to become proactive, we shouldn’t wait till it’s too late.
Do you think part of the issue, is that we don’t have enough time to reflect? People can often be very anxious, stressed out and fearful, and there are many of us that don’t get any time to reassess what drives us, and what’s important.
Absolutely. They wake up to an alarm in the morning, drive to their job, they have bills that are outstanding, mortgages and rates to pay. Of course. If you try and explain to that person that they shouldn’t be buying food in plastic packaging, they’ll tell you where to go. They don’t have time to think about it.
What advice would you give to someone who is passionate about social change, and wants to be involved, but doesn’t know how?
Just care. When you care enough about something, you’ll work out what to do next. And that’s all we need to cultivate in young people. If you care long enough, and hard enough, and deeply enough about something, then you will get new ideas, which might lead you to read a new book, or to something else, and everything will change. If you can get people to care deeply enough about nature, or about other human beings, that’s all you have to do, they will work the rest out.
The Newkind Festival runs from February 19 to 24 2019, for more information head here.