There have always been people who stand out on their own, who buck “the man,” who stand up to authority. Well, perhaps that isn’t entirely true — there may have been a time in the distant past when people were so focused on mere survival, they didn’t have the luxury to protest, or when “the authority” was so much more powerful than the common man, it was too dangerous or difficult to stand up to it.
But in the 70’s large scale activism really got going! Rallies and protests became common and they have been going on in one form or another ever since. Most of the time, their goal is to gain awareness of the problem by getting lots of media attention.
There is a slight problem with these type of protests, however.
We will do things in large groups we would never do individually, because, as everybody knows, there is strength in numbers. But that strength is artificial; it is bolstering our egos; it is the courage of the masses. To be truly courageous, stand on your own. Take action when no one else is. Do something in complete privacy or anonymity to make a difference.
Let’s take the Occupy movement as an example. Why not do something personally to take some power away from Wall Street? Stop investing in the money system. Stop giving it power. Stop treating rich people differently. Don’t do things just for the money.
Whatever cause you believe in, can you figure out a way to single-handedly make a real difference? Not just get lots of media attention. Not just meet a whole bunch of like-minded people — those things are fine, but they often, unfortunately, do not actually make a difference. Could you instead work towards becoming an elected official, or upper management in a corporation, and get into a position where you really can make changes in laws and policies? People in those positions sometimes do not even use the power they have, and they probably didn’t get into those positions to be activists… but what if some did? What if you stood up as a leader?
What sorts of changes could you make privately or anonymously? Could you just silently stop buying products you don’t agree with? What about treating people differently — personally being the change you want to see in the world.
Or, what if you made a personal change but perhaps mentioned it on Facebook? Doing so could call others to take their own, personal action. It isn’t private or anonymous, but it could very well be an individual thing. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying rallies are demonstrations are bad. I’m just saying they are not the only way, or the best way, not by a long shot.
The New Activism
This winter, my awesome roommate and I discovered the new way of activism.
A friend of ours was driving back from Yellowknife when he came across a family having truck trouble. He piled them all in his pick-up and drove them to Fort Simpson where he gave them his second truck to drive back to Yellowknife, a distance of over 600 km. He had to go back to Yellowknife in a few weeks, so he would get the truck back then. That made a difference. That kind of thing changes the world. Giving cinnamon buns away to hungry, tired truckers changes the world. Driving a co-worker 400 km so she can pick up the new vehicle she bought changes the world. The man who drove his vac-truck from Saskatoon to Calgary after the flood and pumped out basements for free is changing the world!
It makes no sense to get people angry for peace. Using fear to fight fear is backwards. Rallying just for show is pointless.
The new way of activism is this: frequent and surprising random acts of kindness that are big, individual, and life-changing.
It’s a bit like paying it forward (remember the movie?). It’s an explosion of caring, a flurry of friendship, offered freely and fully, to strangers and family alike. If it gets some media attention because it is so big, then fine, but that’s not the purpose.
Want to join me? : )