Saturday, 11 January 2014

Become an activist

Become an activist, Activists are people who see the need for change, improvement, and motivation on a large scale. They are people driven by passion, keen to share facts they want understood more widely, and led by a vision for a better future. Activism comes naturally to some, while for others, it's something that is thrust upon them as a result of particular experiences or upon learning about something they passionately believe needs to change.

Whatever your reason for wanting to become an activist, you have the ability to do so no matter your age, your means, or your background. Having the belief that you can make a difference and that you have the power to do something about an issue are at the heart of creating change for the better.

Establish what you can do for your cause. If you're reading this, it's assumed you've found something that inspires you to action. Whether it's morality, politics, the environment, the education system, the local community garden, or the global economic system, it's important to refine the elements of your activism so that you have focus points and so that what you do is manageable. Of course, what you define as manageable is entirely up to you but be sure that you have the needed energy and time resources available to pursue your activism to the extent you'd like.

Ask yourself how much time you have, whether you want to do a little or a lot, and how confident you feel about taking different approaches, such as simply talking to other people you know through to addressing whole crowds.
While it's great to think big, it's also important to think small and gradual. Incremental change can be as important, and often more enduring, than massive change that happens quickly and disrupts people in a major way. Think through all the possibilities for slowly unleashing change through your school, workplace, community, town, region, country, or the world.

Source your passion. Passion often comes from a sudden realization that changes your life forever. Dr. Mildred Jefferson recalls when she realized, "Yes! I am my brothers keeper!" and she went on to a lifetime of Pro-Life activism. And once the realization hits you, it is what will stoke the embers of your activism, even at the lowest points when you sometimes feel like giving up.

Passion derives from awareness. Once you're aware of something in the world that you believe needs fixing, changing, or overhauling, that awareness will dog you constantly and cause you to see the need everywhere, bringing a sense of responsibility with it.

Always believe that you can make a difference. There are occasional arguments that start "How much good can one individual do?" that then collapse into a self-piteous retreat into it all being too hard and resorting to maintaining the status quo. Avoid that type of despairing thinking because one dedicated and persistent person can make a difference. Laurie David says that the "solution is you"[1] and that is an important mantra to keep in mind when it all feels overwhelming.

Be realistic about your own needs. Activism may be about changing thinking slowly rather than achieving the actual change you'd like to see. In this case, it is wise to understand the possibility that during your lifetime, you may be at the front of simply paving the way for eventual change than viewing it actually occurring. Understanding this can help alleviate a sense of frustration, doom, and resentment about your cause.

Amanda Sussman says that the very first question an activist needs to ask themselves is: "Are you happy with striving for an ideal, even if you never reach it? Do you need to see immediate progress, even if it's small, to keep you going?"[2] She suggests that you need to decide whether you're a radical activist or a reformer activist. The radical activist is someone who needs to continue pushing for fundamental change and will use such means as protests, boycotts, alternative summits, etc., and generally tends to be wary of those people who sit in the institutions they want changed. On the other hand, she says a reformist is happy to work with those in the institutions they'd like to see changed, using to tools of democracy to work within the existing structure to force social or political progress.[3] Yet, to complicate things even more, Professor Anthony Weston then posits that radical change is often an inside job![4] He points out that not all parts of the system will resist you and that there are multiple ways to use the system for change, "right now and right in the belly of the beast".[5] With these theories about the role of activists in mind, make up your own mind how you're going to define your approach and whether you're change from within, or change from without, and how that will impact your approaches.
Naturally, Sussman's approach presumes you're living in a democracy. If you're living with an authoritarian or totalitarian regime, working with the tools of that regime probably won't get you anywhere.

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