Usually when I’m introduced to someone new, the exchange takes a bit longer than normal. By the time they try to pronounce my name with their respective accents and acknowledge where I’m from, we are halfway into conversation. Encounters like these became common ground since last November, when I went for a meeting with SFLers for the first time. Inside a warm pub in a cold and (as usual) rainy Dublin, I didn’t know I was about to set foot on a path I’d never thought would be possible.
Before starting to describe my experience with SFL, it’s necessary to draw a background. Ireland and Brazil, my homeland, have only a couple of things in common: gorgeous landscapes and a preference for beer when it comes to drinks. Apart from them, and especially on political terms, both countries couldn’t be more different. The public manifestations of patriotism brazilians started to demonstrated back in the beginning of the 2015 protests ended up culminating with the rise of liberalism, which it’s been fascinating to watch even from afar. But our history was never pretty, going from Mussolini-style presidencies to a military coup and a very unstable period of democratic elections. Thus, Brazilians have developed a suspicious attitude towards politicians – but sadly not towards the state… yet. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I became an anarchist, so I was more than happy to see my fellow people starting to go down that road.
Over on this side of the Atlantic we still need to change the mentality of “if ain’t it broken, don’t fix it”. For Ireland, a necessity to distant itself from English control turned into a desire to find a new shelter under European wings. The challenges we, Liberty lovers, face here vary from those we have to face in Brazil, so do the strategies and tactics we choose to tackle. But one thing is for sure: no matter where you go, people mistrust those in positions of authority yet firmly believe the sacred structure holding the three powers together should remain untouchable. After all, isn’t democracy the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time?
This is what I have to keep in mind when dealing with potential new Irish local coordinators since it was also a problem for me at the start. Because of my ingrained suspicious attitude I was very reluctant to accept the invitation to join SFL. Being friends with Brazilian members was supposed to give me an assured trust, but this is Ireland, another language, another mentality. I used to think “I can’t be good at this, I’m not even fond of talking to people I don’t know, let alone convincing them that ‘no matter what you think, the market will provide!’”. It took me weeks of thinking and pondering before accepting the invitation from our (now) Regional Director Rob Duffy, back in December 2016. If it wasn’t for the Regional Conference held in Dublin (in November), where I had my first contact with European SFL, I’m pretty sure I would have said “no” to Rob and wouldn’t be writing this today.
I started and finished the training for the local coordinator (LC) program in the span of a month, and in January I was off to London for the UK/Ireland Leadership Forum. We spent 2 days with other LCs at the Institute of Economic Affairs, learning and putting in practice notions of leadership. To engage in our program is a rewarding process and an opportunity to learn about all Liberty-related things. It’s a process of self-discovery and self-doubt that will leave you wanting for more: more growing, more learning, finding new ways to advocate for freedom and to communicate with others.
I’m telling this because it was what I experienced first-hand, and SFL provides you with incredible chances of being the best version of yourself. We had LibertyCon in March of this year, and since then I lost count of how many friends I’ve made (SFLers and else). We travel constantly, our network has no limits, we are presented with many career options and we always have each other’s backs. You pretty much just have to want it and to work for it. I’m Ireland’s national coordinator now together with my friend Eimhear in the North, and we have a regional conference ahead of us (Belfast, November 28!). The plans are to get as many people involved as we can, and to find new LCs that will bring SFL to the many parts of this island. Apart from that, I intend to finish my masters and start a PhD, but not before giving back to this organisation at least half of what I received, whether that’s in the form of new members or academic knowledge.
Looking back at the past 10 months now leaves no room to wonder how sometimes for your life to change you just need to show up somewhere and find the right people. In doubt, just go.