Everyday Activism

There’s a bad case of dread going around. And it’s pretty infectious. I see one article on social about how the world is going to Hell in a hand basket and it pretty much takes the rest of my day to recover.

I’m pretty sure most people feel this way. What’s worse, it leads to the sense that nothing can be done. That we’re doomed, so why try? Well, guess what? We are if we continue thinking that way.

But the fact of the matter is that if I saw half as many posts on social media about people ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING as I do about people just worrying, things would be a lot better.

That being said, Activism, with a capital A is kind of intimidating. Where does one start? What can you do? Does is it require a new wardrobe?

Anywhere.

Anything.

Only if you want.

Here are few ideas to get you started.

Call Your Local Politician

Often we feel only politicians in federal office make a difference. Not so. Changes on a local level can and do reverberate onto the national and international stage. And, you can affect change far more easily in your city or town than you might be able to on the federal level.

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Do you want a bike lane on your street? Call your City or Town Council Member. Think citizens of your state should automatically be registered to vote? Or want stronger gun control in your state? Call your State Senator.

In case really want to talk to your Congressperson or Senator but just can’t get their attention, don’t worry. You can meet them when they come to town for public appearances through the super awesome Town Hall Project that tracks the public events of elected officials for your convenience.

Ask Someone What They Think, Then Listen

YOU DON’T HAVE TO PROVE EVERYONE WRONG ALL THE TIME IN ALL CAPS TO CHANGE THEIR MINDS. In fact, this tactic is unlikely to change anyone’s mind.

What will?

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Painting by Sumit Mehndiratta

Reweaving our national fabric with radical listening.

Pointing out the flaws in someone’s argument or proving their ignorance creates animosity and deepens the already chasmic divide between us. Being open to listening – which is being open to vulnerability, itself a sign of strength – creates an immediate connection and the beginning of community.

Not everyone on the other side of the aisle is evil. A lot of them are working class victims of exactly the kind of issues we’re trying to remedy.

Switch to Green Energy

But you’re like, I live in apartment. How can I switch to green energy?

Here’s how it works: I buy green energy, but my apartment is not actually powered by that energy. Why? Because my landlord buys energy in bulk at the beginning of each season, or not, for his entire portfolio of buildings betting the price of oil will go up, or not. (Another issue.)

Are you with me so far?

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Ok. Then, my provider, which happens to be Green Mountain, puts whatever mega-wattage of energy I use into the over all electric grid. So while my actual light isn’t powered by the sun, tides, and earth’s movement, I am supporting renewable energy with my money while decreasing the amount of total fossil fuels in the electric grid.

You do not need your landlord’s permission to change to green energy.

So make the switch! You can find green power suppliers in your area here.

Volunteer

I hear a lot of activist put volunteering down as not radical enough and not an effective way to change the underlying issues in our society. That’s crap.

We all know education is the silver bullet to social problems. Spending an hour a week with an underprivileged child makes a huge difference.  Ocean Conservancy Volunteers have removed 249,391,051 pounds of trash from the ocean. Volunteers in India planted 49.3 million trees, IN A SINGLE DAY.

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If you live in New York, check out NY Cares. If you live in California, California Volunteers is a great place to start. If you live in another state, please share your favorite volunteering networks in the comments below and I will add them up here.

Be Bravely Honest

During a recent interview Michelle Obama said, “I think it’s the worst thing that we do to each other as women, not share the truth about our bodies and how they work, and how they don’t work.”

Lately, I’ve cultivated a practice of radical honesty, especially with my coworkers who are from all walks of life. My openness about my struggles with horrid boyfriends, bad jobs, quitting smoking, insecurity, and anxiety has helped to create a space where they also feel safe to talk about these things. And maybe create some solidarity, some sisterhood. When we feel connected to each other, we feel supported. When we feel supported, we are better able to act on behalf of ourselves and others.

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Let’s stop lying to each other in the service of a false sense of perfection, which is really the fear that we will not be loved as you are for who you are. Which leads me to my next point.

Love Yourself

Self love is radical. To love oneself is not narcissism which only takes and never gives. Rather, self love engenders the capacity to love others more deeply and more objectively because our own sense of self-worth is not contingent upon the approval or disapproval of those we love. Or, as in the case of our consumerist society – that which we love, the objects that we often perceive make us who we are when in reality these objects only make us who we are not.

It is a practice, or as Joan Didion  put it in her generative essay, On Self-Respect  “self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth.”

So if you’re looking for a place to start your practice of everyday activism, you could just start here.

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