One of my favourite activism quotes is Think Globally, Act Locally. A better planet, a better environment and a better global community is created out of a multitude of small and consistent actions, I stress consistent and I stress action.
In 2015 we had a general election in the UK, in 2016 we had a referendum on leaving the European Union and we’ve recently witnessed Trump win the election in the United States. Every event has been followed by a social media outpouring of passionate opinion and upset feelings. Yet between these events is a sea of inaction on the very issues people claim to care about. As a “doer” I have to say my patience wearing thin.
In the late 80’s or possibly the early 90’s I remember being the only…let me say that again, the ONLY student in my secondary school to volunteer for a community litter pick. It was a pretty big secondary school and the call out was made to every individual classroom. I didn’t know at the time I was the only pupil to put my hand up. I put my hand up enthusiastically and without any hesitation because at the time I was passionate about the environment and hated litter, I was honestly ecstatic to have the chance to do something about it…I actually felt empowered! My father dropped me off on the day at the meeting point. I was issued equipment and I cleaned up local public spaces with some of my teachers, local groups and members of the local community. I must have been in or approaching my early teens and look back on this as my first independent volunteering decision and action. I realised I was the sole student volunteer when the headmaster called me to stand at the front of assembly the following week and thanked me for my participation before pointing out to the sea of people before me with a very obvious sense of disappointment that I had been the one and only pupil to put myself forward. I’m recounting this story because after more than 2 decades of “doing” in one way or another, this was an early awakening which showed me that while people all around say much, they often do very, very little.
Statistics for formal volunteering in the UK are pretty poor and membership of a political party is surprisingly rare. Just 2% of the electorate….not population…electorate are members of political party and yet the grumbling on the state of the nation the and extreme disappointment that “my” party didn’t win is at peak levels.
The Trump win has seen many raise fears in relation to equality in society. Raise those fears by all means, but also ask yourself, what equality causes do you fund?… what equality groups or organisations do you volunteer for? … when did you last write to your MP or representative about equality concerns?… when did you last attend a march, vigil or solidarity event concerning equality? Thinking Equality thoughts and having Equality feelings does not an Equality activist make…I don’t care how passionately you express yourself online, as a friend put it, ranting on social media is slack-tivism not activism. It’s lazy to equate feelings with actions.
If you’re not taking any action from one years end to the next be big enough to acknowledge that to yourself at least, understand to you’ve left the work to others, understand that you took it for granted that someone else would do what’s right in your absence. Yes, I know you’re busy, I’m busy too!
It’s a concern that those whining today raise the next generation without volunteering being a normal activity?…without a focus on action over inaction?… without an understanding of how we can positively effect change and use our political systems?
Take stock, and once you have done realise that you can make a different choice and involving yourself in the things you claim to care about. You can’t change everything but you can shape some things.
I sometime wonder if the level of anger raised at times like the US election, Brexit or similar events is really an anger at ourselves. We witnessed it’s arrival on the horizon and sat idly by. We saw it coming and chose conversation over doing something, heaven forbid that we should send a donation, door-drop a few leaflets or see if a local group wants any assistance for a couple of hours this month.
Where ever you are on the political spectrum is not what I’m debating here. I’ll still speak to you whatever you politics because I think we’d all do better to listen a bit more to each other and try to understand each others view even, if we cannot agree. I’m no follower of the singer Katy Perry but I have admired her call to do something when she tweed. “Do not sit still. Do not weep. MOVE”. I couldn’t agree more