I WOKE up this morning wanting to sing a song of praise to a young person. Her name is Elin Ersson and she saved a life. She used careful, clear, non-violent direct action to halt the deportation of an Afghan back to Afghanistan from Sweden. The live stream video she made has gone viral, and with it the images of what courage looks like.

Courage is messy, leaky, shaky – but also compelling. Watching the video, hearing her, in a language which is not her mother tongue and without expletives, telling the steward, her neighbours, fellow passengers and the world now watching, reaches in deep. She is compelled to take action. She has prepared. She has done her legal homework. She knows the rules for airlines. And she is terrified. She knows the first rule of disobedience is civility, courtesy and in the social media age, reporting as accurately as possible. “Please don’t take my phone away from me” she says.

She says “please”.

It’s a strong piece of drama.

It is said that the one thing Nelson Mandela could not abide above all else was a lack of courtesy. It’s about ensuring we do not become what we hate; combatting incivility with civility; violence with non-violence; hate with love.

Others on the plane can also be heard saying “please” to Elin. They are pleading with her to allow the deportation.

A man mansplains ... “It’s not the pilot’s decision.” He’s wrong.

Elin: “The pilot can decide not to go.”

A man with an English accent says: “I don’t care what you think. What about all these children who you – YOU are frightening.” His voice is not wavering or anxious but sneering, bullying, threatening. You can hear his finger jabbing at her. He snatches the phone from her. His violence mimicking the scene against which she is taking her stance. The mask of the system of violence which is deportation has slipped thoroughly and it speaks with an English accent here.

A flight attendant returns the phone.

Elin: “So, an English guy just got really angry and stole my phone, but a flight attendant was really nice and took it back and gave it back to me.” There is a round of applause from passengers.

A Turkish guy calls out: “We are with you no problem.”

Elin is now in tears. A football team stands up with her at the back of the plane. Courage is when you think you might throw up for fear and sheer exposure as you suck the shame of the system and body politic holding such clinical brutality in place, into your own body and take your stand.

A flight attendant explains that the man will now be taken off the plane, together with Elin. She keeps her cool, her voice shaking and shaking, then steadying again, then shaking and says she will leave once she has seen that the man has left too.

Flight attendant: “The important thing is the rules, right?”

Wrong. The important thing is that there are rules which are in place to protect human lives, and the pilot, when called out by a 22-year-old student, follows these rules.

Despite the gut-wrenching fear and screaming of socialisation and norms which tell young women, especially nice young women, to “put up, shut up, don’t rock the boat”, Elin is calm, clear, intelligent. Using legal means at her disposal she reveals the structural working of violence and the selfish complicity which holds evil in place. She takes on those structures by precisely not lashing out or screaming abuse; she shows a better way, a way which affirms life and dignity. And her action is so compelling that others move into positions of solidarity. She changes people in a matter of 3 minutes and 22 seconds of the live stream, into those who are with her and those who are against her action.

The National:

She may well have been following other groups who have protested and campaigned using various means, including non-violent direct action, to have the flights halted. She is very young to be so wise.

For years I’ve been part of collectives, and social media alerts to charter flights in the UK which deport en masse, and part of campaigns of emailing, phoning or tweeting airlines to ask them to exercise their right not to deport. But I’ve never knowingly been on a flight when someone was being deported. I’ve been on some, though, where families were being prepared to be united and those scenes of joy at airports are amongst the most amazing life has yet offered me. A good friend of mine got chatting to two guys on a flight from Dublin to Rome a few years back. She discovered to her horror that they were being deported. That chance encounter changed her life. She didn’t live stream a protest as it was too late and at that point in recent history live streaming wasn’t an option. But she did become a leading campaigner for people seeking sanctuary in her country and what she has since achieved has brought dignity, relationship and solidarity into many lives.

Elin’s example and that of my friend show that this is not an isolated case. There is always a better alternative to deportation, to detention and to destitution. The amazing resistance marches against gun violence and climate chaos in North America, their savvy use of social media, have left me with delight. Last week Cllr Kim Long wrote a thread exposing the violence of the asylum system and used the profile this gained to shout out her support to those organisations who have been standing in the breach for destitute asylum seekers for decades (Right to Remain; Unity Centre; Refugee Survival Trust; the Integration networks; Scottish Refugee Council; Positive Action in Housing and many more). Many young millennials crowd into my own social media feeds on a regular basis with their creative campaigns and requests for a wee bit of advice or support.

We live in cruel times, and courage is made in times like these.

I woke up this morning wanting to sing a song praise to the courage of a young person.

Alison Phipps is Unesco Professor for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts, ambassador for the Scottish Refugee Council and a board member of the migration justice organisation Right to Remain