In February this year I’ve been part of the Pirate Party movement for 4 years. It has since its start Sweden spread to over 60 countries in the World.
It almost feels like yesterday, at the same time it feels like a lifetime away, and in ways it is. In February 2009 a close contact of mine shared a news letter. It announced that the Pirate Party had gained over 1000 new members since the previous news letter, today I don’t remember if that was a month or a week apart. For some unexplained and very unexpected reason from my own side I was compelled and signed up to become a member.
I remember this month as the month of the Pirate Bay trial, #spectrial, I remember listening to the lives of 4 innocent men get ruined by the Copyright Mafia, on the radio as they were trialed. Being familiar with the technical terms and what a lot of it meant I laughed during the trial, a lot of us did. We laughed because we knew how ridiculous the accusations were. To us it was like suing the post office for shipping the most drugs trough Sweden, or suing a car company for hit and run accidents when their cars were used as a tool in a crime. As a service to spread illegal substances. The Pirate Bay was the serviced elegedly used in copyright infringement crimes, no one was ever trialed and convicted for using the service this way, there wasn’t a crime but someone had to pay and they would have to pay big. It was time for the movie and music industry to statue an example.
The trial went on, in April they were convicted. This resulted in demonstrations and manifestations all over, and especially in Sweden. At this point I found myself already deep within the movement that was started. I helped arrange the local manifestation over night. The verdict also attracted a lot of new members, more than we knew what to do with. When 44,000 new members trickle in within a few days to a political party, in any country you know that something big has happened.
The Election to the European Parliament was due in early June. Together we pooled our resources to bring as much information to as many people as possible. More events, meetings, manifestations. I helped found the local wing of the Youth Party where I lived. I ended up being a manucipal leader and vice constituency leader. This was me doing what I always do, I took charge of a situation where help was needed and put in a lot more work than I probably should have.
I remember the night of the Election, working up to it we had gone through a lot and effort on a large scale was put in by a relatively small group of people the last few weeks before the Election. Even that last day had been stressful to get all the voting bills out to all the booths in the area. As the numbers of the election came in my brain had already shut down, it was rebooting not knowing what would follow. My goal for the past few months had been that night. I was not aware of the numbers coming in that gave us our seat in the European Parliament, non the less we got in. With what ended up being two seats.
3 years earlier I had burned out, there had to that starting date of my engagement in Politics not been anything that got me up on my feet and energized in near the same way. At the same time I had to constantly work for balance. I can not say that the first year gave me much balance. However I survived and kept getting stronger.
Through the Pirate Party I got in contact with the people who started the Telecomix net activists group. I became one of them during the summer of 2009. Worked 24/7 during the disastrous election in Iran, this was immediately after our own election in to the European Parliament. Out of the ashes into the fire.
We worked on keeping internet communications open, getting information out and just as important getting information in. People who participated in the demonstrations in Iran had been shot at and could not go to the hospitals because they would be carried away by police, for participating in the demonstration. We set up a forum with different languages for tips on how they could take care of their wounds. Or at least save themselves for the time being. We had nurses and doctors “on call” in chat rooms to help people out. Those nights, weeks, were more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced since. I do not know if we actually made a difference, but I hope we did. And we kept working.
I was Anonymous. Sometimes I am anon, sometimes I’m maloki, sometimes I’m Marie Axelsson. I was very proud of my anonymous work and still am. It is not at all destructive.
Overloaded I disappeared for a while, I needed a break I needed to get out of the misery that I was surrounding myself with. Emergency help can be rewarding but also very draining.
During the fall of 2009 I decided together with a friend that we’d candidate together. Candiate for the Swedish Parliament as representatives for the Pirate Party. First it was the internal candidacy. My main focus was to lift others, if we were going to get into Parliament we had to do it together, we had to focus on working together. Each and every vote for every candidate we had would make a difference in the end.
I never wanted to take a vote from any of our other candidates within the party, I wanted for people who might not vote to vote for us, and people who’d vote for another party to realize that directing their vote on us could make a difference. My goal is always to help a common goal, you will most likely never see me work to only help myself. My reward is seeing other people evolve and develop.
As I am recounting this, I realize that a book could be written about what happened. Let me continue. The summer before the election and the last month in 2010, election in September, were as any election very intense. I traveled a lot and met so many people. I ran into people I knew since years back and thought I’d never see again. When the election was over, and our numbers showed us that were weren’t as close as we thought a lot of people lost the drive and the energy. We needed a break, we deserved a break.
Some took longer breaks than others, and mine has been almost almost 2.5years now. I got a job, an amazing job. I got to work together with Peter Sunde (former spokes person of The Pirate Bay, one of the people previously mentioned on trial) at Flattr. I had been evangelizing their service while I was campaigning. A way to pay artists for what they give you for free. A way to support what you like, no matter what it is. At a set fee per month, the amount you feel you can afford. This was something I could get behind and I did. I worked at Flattr for a year. That too was an amazing year. It included a lot of networking with people using the service and trying to make other people interested in it. I traveled a little, most at my own velocity because I wanted to share the word, I wanted to spread it. I mean when you go on a conference during your vacation to talk about your job? I was dedicated.
My work at Flattr completely ties in with my 4 years of piracy to me, it was an important year and what they do is an important step “in the right direction” where we get to choose who we pay for a movie we see, or a piece of music. A lot of the contacts I’ve tied is with other pirates across the globe.
To catch up to today, this Saturday I went to join a demonstration against the actions again taken to stop The Pirate Bay from existing. The Pirate Party has for the past 2 years supplied internet to the service. The culture sharing platform of our century.
When lobbyists are trying to strong arm someone into submission, that dying dinosaur… Let’s not get into it. Short story: The Pirate Party received a letter where the copyright industry threatened them with criminal charges over providing bandwidth to the Pirate Bay.
During the demonstration there was a speech. A speech that moved me deeply, more deeply than I expected anything to move me during the demonstration. The speech was held by Christian Engström, Member of the European Parliament, representing the Pirate Party. It didn’t only move me, it brought me to tears and I had to struggle to not start crying big time.
What moved me the most was these words (roughly translated)
This is a discussion that a number of Swedish Politicians and political activists the past few days have had to talk through with their families: How impending is the risk that they’ll have their lives ruined and have to move out of their house? What is the chances of getting sent to jail and have to be away from the family for months, or years? These risk assessments had to be made by normal Swedish political activists this week.
It made me realize that I’ve been hiding from the burden (taking on other burdens instead) that I could have shared with my fellow pirates. The burden that needs to be shared for no one to over exhaust themselves or kill themselves. I want to share this burden again, I am here with you and we’ll carry on this fight together.
Hopefully my 4 years of Piracy will become a lot more… Thank you everyone who’s been part of them thus far, good or bad all the experiences have made me the person I am today.
And thank you to the people who will be part of the years to come even if I do not know you yet.