The world that we live in makes it difficult for us to be shocked by anything or even genuinely concerned because there’s always something else happening. Hit singles and new movies and high-school shootings and natural disasters are treated the same way on TV. It’s always been like that, though. I don’t want to be one of those awful people that blame everything on the younger generation. But the apathy is the same and for us, there is no excuse.
‘The ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in, becoming narcissistic.” (Rob Serling)
Writing pieces like this one and sharing articles online is what I do while I wait impatiently for the autonomy that comes only with age that will let me do more. I am sixteen. People won’t be able to pass off my convictions as the words of a child who doesn’t know what she’s saying for much longer now. I have been ready to defend the causes I believe in, for so long.
I realize that I am not like most kids my age. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be an activist. I’ve always had some cause or the other that I was obsessed with. First it was endangered animals, and the environment and now its pacifism and feminism.
When I read books about or memoirs by people like Gloria Steinem, Dr. Ida Scudder, or Andrea Johnston, where they’re talking about why they started to do the amazing things they did, I can totally relate. They’re like superhero origin stories.
Some remember a clear instance of injustice that they either witnessed or were subjected to, which made the difference in their lives while others just always were uneasy with the reality of the society that they lived in and just when they couldn’t take it anymore, when their tipping point tipped, they did what they had to do. Some people spent years buying into whatever lies they had been fed their whole lives and had a total paradigm shift. Some others had been brought up with certain truths and when faced with discrimination they knew exactly what to do.
What makes people be like this? According to research done by psychologists “parental beliefs, individual personality and a sense of community can all prime someone for a role as an activist.”
There’s also the emotional quotient. Some people have a great capacity for empathy- they see other people’s sorrows almost as their own.While all of us may not be like this, we’ve all felt anger when something wrong and unfair happens. We’ve all experienced it, the rage and frustration when someone abuses the position they hold, or maybe if someone says or does something hurtful or even maybe when another atrocity like a rape or an honour killing is committed.
We’ve all experienced that burning desire for revenge and absolute payback. Activism is the ender’s game of that vengeance because activism aims much higher that simple retribution, activism means wanting to make sure it never happens again.
While emotions can inspire you to act, they can’t guarantee that you always will. Another factor of activism is consistency and if you depend only on your feelings, some days you just may be too tired or busy or just not interested. The only way to counter that is to make a conscious choice. It needs to be deliberate, your choice to act and speak out. It’s the spider bite to your superhero story. It’s one of the things that will define you. So why should you be an activist? Let me try and convince you.
First off, doing good things so that good things will happen to you is a stupid reason. It’s not possible to control your circumstances and anyway, you should do good things because they’re the right things to do. I routinely speak up and call out sexism, not because I’m going to get anything out of it, but because I would not be able to live with myself if I didn’t.
The world we live in has so much bad in it. Wouldn’t you rather be one of the people that do something about the atrocities in the newspaper rather than turning over the page and going on with your life?
There is so much you can do that no one else ever can, so much change you can effect right where you are. This is why you should act. We talk about borrowing this world from our children and not inheriting it from our parents, and I would like to think that it means making it better for them and not leaving it exactly, if not worse, than it is for them. We owe it to the people who will come after us to build a better world that is not only healthy to live in but free of violence and hate and fear and most of all injustice.
Even if we do not succeed (and we probably will not), I would want us to be people who at least tried. One of my favourite quotes is about what the word ‘endeavor’ means, which is ‘trying to do something even though you might be beaten before you start’.
(Cressida Cowell, How to Steal a Dragon’s Sword)
Take your rage and your youth and try to do something. And think about what that something might be. Don’t pick a cause just because it’s cool or because it sounds nice, get into something that speaks to you. It doesn’t have to affect you directly and even if it does, that does not make it any less worthy. Think deeply about it. Read up on criticisms of it even. Research it for yourself, but please, only from reputed websites and good books because (sorry, for being your parents) there are a lot of psychos out there.
Activism requires conviction. You need to be sure of why exactly you support whatever it is that you are supporting. You need to be determined no matter what other people say. You need to be ready and willing (and possibly eager) to share information about it. Confidence. Certainty. Assurance. Sincerity. Passion. Fervor. Belief. Principles. Faith. These are words you will need.
From a career perspective or in terms of monetary benefits I can’t really tell you much as it has so much to do with the cause you take up and what exactly you do. I can’t even tell you whether your family or peers will approve. What I can promise though, is that as a lifestyle it is honorable to act. The way I see it, it is important to be connected to something apart from yourself. It is good to stand up for other people. It is brave to care.
Here are some links, some of which are my favourite organizations, campaigns and even articles where you can get information and resources about some of the most important issues (in my opinion). But these are just starting points, okay? Go through them and then discover better stuff, read books, think deeply, talk to people, and most importantly get involved!