Millions have awakened to activism in these times. What is everyone else waiting for?
Growth is usually incremental, hard to discern, and easy to overlook. There are times, however, that are fueled with the kinetic energy of rapid change, that drive us ever-forward on the constant high of the “rightness” of our actions as new paths surge hurriedly before us, rushing to keep apace with our progress.
Worlds unfold when we act with love.
This year has been one of those times for me, and I daresay, for many who are engaging with activism in a more profound and intimate way than ever before.
I’ve always been an activist, but my interaction has waxed and waned with the demands of my own life. I understand and empathize all too well with how the mediocrity of everyday demands can wring us of our intent to work towards higher, collective goals. Most of us are too exhausted trying to keep up with our own lives to expend time and energy we don’t have to fight for causes we believe in.
But until we stand up, it’s almost impossible to realize how much energy is created in action, catalyzed by the passion of battling for our ideals.
Yet so many of us find it easier (more convenient, more comfortable) to look away.
We choke down (or throttle others with) assuaging lies:
“What can one person do?”
“The system is too big to fight against.”
“Protest has never changed anything.”
How conveniently we blind ourselves (and each other) to the massive changes effected by “just one person” throughout history, that systems rise and fall at the pleasure of the people, that nothing has ever changed for the betterment of ordinary people except through protest.
If not for protest, children would still be working 18-hour days, women and POC would still be considered property and not be allowed to vote, even certain forms of rape would still be perfectly legal.
If not for apathy, we wouldn’t find ourselves in this moment, with an unfit President sold out to wildly fascist ideologies running roughshod over what’s left of our illusion of democracy.
Most of us have forgotten the power we have. We quietly, almost unknowingly, exchange the responsibility dictated by such power for a little snatch of apathy, a little bit “but it’s not in my backyard”, a little more indulgence in the delusion that everything’s ok — or at the very least, that it’s “ok enough for us”, and that we don’t have to do anything about it.
Everything is decidedly NOT ok.
As for inaction, as Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”.
That is what has driven millions to advocacy in the last few years. Many are first-time activists who just knew they couldn’t take it anymore, that they had to do something, anything, to speak out against the increasing tyranny and criminality in this regime.
We’ve already achieved so much together. We educate, inspire, and embolden each other. We forge deep and unwavering friendships around our common goals. We bring our own causes to each other and raise awareness and recruit warriors for wider issues. We lobby, organize, write letters, make signs, rally, march, protest, engage in civil disobedience, canvass, run for office. But most of all, we glory in the Fight, in finding our voice, in snatching back our own dynamism from those who would suppress us.
We revel in the self-perpetuating, effervescent glee of self- and mutual-empowerment, of finally DOING something about society’s problems instead of just sitting at home, paralyzed with fear or depression in our perceived helplessness in the face of things.
But many are still sitting at home.
Still saying, “I don’t care about politics”.
But politics really cares about you.
Politicians are depending on you to sit still, not claim your power, not care. They’re hoping and betting on the fact that the inhumane pace, crippling costs of living, and general expectations of our society will keep you tired, disinterested, and seeking escape. Most of all, they are snickering at your apathy, that apathy that allows them to suppress votes, exploit humanity, and dismantle democracy and legal protections with each noxious bill.
How much longer will we indulge in procrastination? How much longer will we wait for “someone else” to take care of it? How much more are we willing to allow our society and our country to fracture while we build ever-wider blinders to shield our eyes?
How much is too much?
Let’s not kid ourselves here. Like all procrastination, the task only gets harder the longer we wait.
If we don’t stand up now, in community, solidarity and with the full force of our collective power, to speak out against the multitude of injustices that exist, those injustices will continue to gnaw at our human family. More black and brown bodies bleeding out in the streets. More impoverished people losing housing. More women whose healthcare choices narrow with every passing law. More people losing healthcare altogether. More of our children fed into the gnashing jaws of our injustice system. More of our blood spilled in pointless wars to enrich the oligarchs. More murderous, profit-seeking indifference to our planet’s delicate ecosystems.
Are we to meekly submit to being devoured, resigning ourselves to the discomfort of the million little nibbles, or will we sharpen our disused claws, bare our hidden teeth, and rise up with righteous fury and indignation at being abused by a system that was created “for the people”?
Some people have been fighting their whole lives, because marginalization dictates necessity, because they have to. More and more people are awakening to this fight every day. But those of us who continue to studiously avoid engagement, what lies will we tell ourselves to rationalize why? What impotent excuses will we use when our children ask us what we did in these times?
Fight for you, for humanity, for your own conscience, for your children, for any reason that makes sense for you.
So maybe when the series you’ve been bingeing on is over, when you’ve beaten the last boss in your video game, when you finally lay down to sleep, the existential dread won’t creep in as it always does.
Because if you tolerate injustice, you choose it with every breath.
It’s a truth we can never outrun.
For the conscientious, active resistance is more than just the best way to manage rage, to forge inspiration, to effect positive change.
Activism is the sole sustainable path to inner peace.