For some, “activist” is a naughty word. For others, it’s provocative. Yet still, for others, it is a hair-trigger sound that turns one off so readily and automatically that not another iota of attention, energy, or consideration is granted to she or he who utters it.
The implications are broad and decidedly negative: extremism, narrow-mindedness, hostility, political murkiness, high-risk, non-neutrality, and other unsavory ideas come to mind the moment when one identifies oneself in such a way. It goes against dinner-table manners and first-date talk. It’s frowned upon in business circles. It’s certainly provocative in nearly all aspects of modern life without due explanation and a detailed clarification of exactly what you mean when you refer to yourself as an “activist”.
So, let’s get back to basics. Let’s work under the New Oxford American Dictionary’s operating definition of activism as, “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.”
That’s a little less scary, no?
So when I say I’m a “femme” activist, “animal rights” activist, or “pro-union” activist, I mean that I incorporate campaigning (through social media posting, in-the-streets protesting, letter-writing, senator-calling, vocal advocating, striking, boycotting, congregating, manifesto-penning, and maybe generating some healthy mayhem ;)) to bring about actual change in the world into my every day life. I’m “living” my ideals. I’m producing a physical expression of my beliefs and my convictions. Merely giving expression to something internal.
I’d like to shift the focus from me, however, to you. I’m one small example of one expression of an “activist”. What I am now challenging you to do, is live an expression that is your own.
What do you care about? What can you care less about?
If you’re a broke comedian living in the city, and your favorite wing-shack around the corner where you improv at has switched from supporting local farms for their organic free-range chicken to a cheaper, steroid-injected franken-chicken, — I hope to see you picketing outside and opposing the new management or whatever happened to have caused the switch.
If you’ve never voted in your entire life, and the upcoming election of 2016 depresses the hell out of you, I hope to see you writing letters to your representatives, peacefully protesting in the streets, and exploring every available option to express your opposition to the candidacies.
If you work a minimum wage job (maybe two) full time and still cannot afford to support yourself, let alone your family, I hope to see you protesting, striking, and linking up with the others across the country who are fighting for the $15 minimum wage and a union.
If your child is suffering and/or dying from something that cannabis oil treatment has been proven to reduce (or cure?) in clinical studies, —I hope to see you travel across whatever state lines you need to in order to treat your child and be a legitimate voice of advocation for that treatment.
If you believe that being a rude, mean, and spiteful human being is just plain tacky, —I hope to see you infusing every human interaction with graciousness, kindness, and tolerance as your personal advocacy of human gentleness.
I’ll clap for you. I’m an actor. It’s my job to understand every perspective of experience of the human condition while refraining from judgement. Do I judge those who do not passionately advocate what they believe in? No. I don’t.
What I know is, if you don’t take a responsible part — no matter how large or small — in creating or altering the world you live in, someone will do it for you.
And it might not be pretty. It might not be what you want. It might not be what you approve of. It could be downright despicable.
So, I encourage you, support you, and challenge you (whatever you respond to best!) to decide on ONE THING this week that you play “activist” for. Pretend you’re me, pretend you’re an actor. This week, you must research a role of an activist. So for an exercise, practice advocating one little thing you care about in your personal life, or opposing something you do not care for in your personal life. And take one small action for or against it.
Post a picture with a thoughtful or informative caption on Instagram.
Sign a petition online.
Write a letter to your state rep/alderman/etc.
Post your support or opposition to something going on in the world on your Facebook page.
All of the above things can be done from your phone. And you know what? It’s you campaigning to bring about change. Yes, it’s that simple. No, it’s not that scary.
Inspired? Try buying local and supporting local businesses. Try boycotting GMO’s. Check to see what people are protesting in your city this month and see if anything resonates.
Activism doesn’t have to mean extremism… It just means that you care.