This is not my most subtle or eloquent piece of writing, but I feel strongly that it needs to be said. I think there are many people who feel the same way about wanting to help solve problems in their community and their country but find few and unsatisfying responses from local and national organizations. This is true of political and completely apolitical organizations.
For Activism and Against Campaigns
I’ve been inspired by the terrible and exceptional events of the past election year to renew my search for a way to be involved in a cause. I want to relieve my sense of powerlessness and support education and activism. However, when I search the websites of many well respected organizations, I look under “ways to help” or “become involved” and there is a very short list.
The only options for activism seem to be:
1) Donating money or fundraising
2) Wearing a specific colored ribbon or T-Shirt or wristband etc.
3) Volunteering to do mailings or calls (see #1)
4) Working to elect a politician (see #1 and #3)
5) Occasionally waving signs to a) #1 or b) #4
I don’t have a lot of money to donate to an ever more chasm-like pot, so I am not interested in donating or fundraising. The practice of fundraising seems to me like the snake eating its own tail. The snake never seems to get anything and is always hungry for more. Similarly, at many organizations fundraising just pays for more fundraising, or some squishy notion of “awareness”. People become aware for the moment they see your red/pink/purple/yellow ribbon and then they walk away, go home and forget. We went beyond the age of awareness with the expansion of the Internet more than a decade ago, two decades ago. It’s time we moved on from awareness to action.
Protests are a common next step and they do galvanize people and gather us together. However, we still end up relying on making political demands and campaigns to carry out the work. I want to actually do something, not increase the number of votes for someone else to maybe do something. Besides, candidates are only elected every four to six years, but people are living with problems every single day, problems which we may have solutions to in our own humble hands and hearts and minds. Why does any activist with a passion for a cause want to put more effort into elections anyway? More fundraising means more campaign spending means more media coverage. Full stop. Campaigns do not actually do anything. All that money and all that effort would be better spent on solving problems.
In the case of bigger problems like universal health care and climate change, isn’t there some research and information gathering required for that? Are all these organizations suggesting that none of their volunteers have the intelligence or skills to support research efforts or the many other skills for work that needs to be done to actually DO something? With issues which are more complex and not localized, we can refuse any work that doesn’t lead towards a direct solution.
We are all fed up with politics as usual and I think this is where people who voted red, blue, green or not all can find common ground. Let’s move on to solving issues instead of politicizing them. Instead of blaming elected officials or lobbying them to be the ones who will make a difference, we can make a difference. I am college educated, have some decent writing skills, plenty of time, and a willingness to share my time and skills for free. I would bet there are thousands of people like me. Let’s stop campaigning for candidates or for a cause and start doing something.