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It only takes one person on a bridge
Changing the world happens one honk at a time
Just one person. On a bridge.
That’s all it takes to change the world.
On Saturday morning last weekend I found myself being chauffeured from Glasgow to Edinburgh in that peculiarly Scottish type of weather called “utter pish”. It is not a proper storm demanding a cosy day indoors, nor calming snow wafting along the tarmac, nor gentle drizzle that refreshes the soul. Rather, you have a cool and blowy rain that invades your clothing, yet doesn’t quite demand putting on the most serious outdoors gear, but nonetheless absolutely precludes any use of an umbrella.
Furthermore, making my way to the rendezvous point involved the physical equivalent of breaking the sound barrier or running the 4 minute mile, but I will eventually overcome the shock of getting up before 8am. Indeed, there is a perverse joy in knowing that only dedicated patriots will turn up in a windswept supermarket car park on a hideously dull and damp February morning.
Before we had even moved off I had been amply rewarded for my early start (for a “crack of noon” enthusiast), having met a number of very top notch patriots in the cafe. The idea of having to complete a government track and trace form in order to buy a hot chocolate would be a comical absurdity if it was not so seriously tragic.
A police surveillance van was parked outside and a few officers were present. Whatever big trucks were involved I do not know, for they did not congregate at the supermarket, and we were slightly spread out by the intervening traffic lights before joining the M8 motorway.
The Zello push-to-talk app provided the background commentary of UK patriots on the move everywhere. Voice has an emotional impact that text lacks; the passion, hope, and excitement of having agency were palpable. The regional accents from the multiple convoys were notable for their cultural harmonics around the scale of freedom.
I lived in Edinburgh for many years and my younger daughter was born there. It is a place that tugs on my heartstrings, both beautiful and austere at the same time. Signs to familiar destinations whizzed by us, but are now tinged with the grief of genocide and the horror of dictatorship. The surrealist world of the past two years has severed the past; there are only mental tourist trips to that era via memories and photographs.
Atop each bridge were people waving, as well as some banners on show. Those passing by in the convoy beeped their horns, and those who had come to mark the occasion by standing in the cold rain seemed ecstatic to have us pass by. We have never met in person, and would not recognise each other in the street, but are connected by a fanatical drive for liberty.
These are moments in which history is being made, and everyone participating knows it. We are taking up our own authority to protest and resist this nightmarish power grab. I am optimistic about the future, and confident about my own safety, but am under no illusions about the fate of resistors to tyranny in the past. No matter what happens to us as individuals, we can be sure we live (and maybe even die) with dignity.
The police had been stopping people joining the motorway who were displaying large flags poked out of car windows. Given the very blustery weather this seemed a reasonable safety measure: if a flag tore off on the wing mirror of an adjacent car, for instance, it could cause an accident. A ripped wet cloth on your windscreen is not something to be laughed at when skidding sideways at 70mph.
Arriving into Edinburgh triggered the usual panic about parking, but we were soon enough sorted out by joining a fellow patriot from Perth in his van. He told us that he had joined the convoy in honour of his father who was a Japanese POW — and told his son that he had fought for the right to speak your mind without fear of persecution.
We assembled for a protest march around Edinburgh, which turned the focus from individual action to group presence. I will curate and assemble a photo montage of that event separately. It feels like the place is dying when compared to the vibrancy I once knew; streets are too quiet, too many shops closed, too many cowed and bowed people.
What I realised afterwards was that my “best” photo of the day wasn’t any of the “obvious” ones. There were plenty that had interesting subjects, and were carefully framed, thus capturing the zeitgeist. For that matter, if there was an honest press corps, a few could easily have been front covers of the next day’s newspaper… not that we would have needed to march if such a thing existed.
For me the figural moment of the day was that single person — let’s call them “Bridget” — on one lonely windswept motorway bridge. Why so? Every other encounter was a collective one, and no individual represented an indispensable part of the endeavour. “Bridget” was different: without her the passing convoy cars would not have been “activated” by honking. She caused a state change that will ripple around.
Bridget turned that one bridge from a “non-honking bridge” into a “honking bridge”. Cars that did not belong to our convoy would have heard the commotion, and it would have reinforced that there is dissent from the mass psychosis. This is how we break the lockstep, by denying it the desired uniformity of consent and compliance. Bridget made a measurable qualitative difference as just one motivated person.
It wasn’t just Bridget acting on her own, of course. In my car it was “just one honking driver”, and “just one equipped photographer”. The world changes with an endless sequence of “just one…”. The antidote to authoritarian collectivism is coordinated acts of individual resistance, however small or seemingly insignificant. Bridget was the essential “one” in WWG1WGA, and now you are the focal “one” by reading and sharing this message on behalf of us all.
As participants in the movement we get a different perspective to “professional” photographers and journalists who don’t “go on the journey”. Many times I have seen “pros” capturing marches standing on street furniture with long lenses; but they never get the same interaction with the crowd.
I often get asked what camera I use, but it is less important than even what shoes I wear. After all, it was the shoes that actually got me to the scene, so they arguably have a greater contribution to the final result! What really matters — if you want to change the world — is that you “be a Bridget” and turn up. The rest of the world will honk back at you, but you need to stand up first.
Just one person.