ACTIVISM FOR THE LONG HAUL – Living For It, Not Just Coping Out by DYING for it.

When you see injustice happening, often increasing, your impulse is to jump right in and give 100% of yourself tryng to change it, often in company with interesting others.
Before you plunge in and let this cause gobble your whole self, consider that there will be other causes. Is this the one for you? Yes, you CAN be an activist without being chewed up and spit out by the opposition machines that are in the busines of chewing up & spitting out the mostly young people who rush to lay their lives on the line. As I did mine.
Rachel in front of the bulldozer is a hero to us all. But even she did not realize how valuable to us all living her life out might have been.
That great activist, Tooker Goomberg has always been my anti-model. He left a note, as so many bright flames do, that talked about how he wished he’d had BALANCE in his activist existence – a life completely apart from chaining himself to things, denouncing in public, running for office, getting headlines but gradually all of who he was as a person, trickling out till there was nothing left.
You can be a successful activist your whole life if you practice these principals: 1) keep your private self going. Interests and yes, even close friends who are NOT activists, who support and love you as a person quite outside your political career. 2) Keep your personal flame alight, pets, concerns, training, wide reading especially, yes, even light stuff, comic novels, anything to keep you from being Wally Onetrack, 3) Stay healthy and ready for anything. Especially get enough sleep to keep your thinking clear. 4) Don’t let your emotions influence your behaviour in the cold light of morning.
Of course I’m thinking especially of Occupiers these days and their heroism which will have to be paced over a long period. Just as heroic but less obvious will be those who influence government and economic policy in other ways. Far better were they to take turns, spelling one another while the activist rests from her labours and turns to something completely different.
Hot-headed activism can kill – not just the activist but the ill-considered plan conceived at midnight and put into frantic, desperate doings. The Weathermen didn’t set out to kill people but to make a point. Those who make bombs or even just come on down because they want to ‘bop a cop,’ are fighting with icons who don’t exist. Every face is that of a human being with family, friends, a dog or cat waiting at home, a heart full of hopes of their own. Their beliefs may be as strong as yours. Their own story may be more compelling.
Tooker said he’d do it differently, were he to do it over. He said he didn’t even have a favorite food. He’d given it his all and his all had failed.
Of course he was wrong about the failure, given his inspiration but he was right about the balance. Writing as an old activist, sometimes on the front lines, in the papers, giving the workshops, wishing the young could see how valuable the whole life is, not just the start, how many good things come from years of being built on, how the world opens up to your understanding, connections begin to be made, small kindnesses become important.
Standing in a crowd with the police on their way, teaching a new song that makes fun of the particular perpetrators of this injustice, giving off hints that life gets so much better as you age, yes, even with the aches and pains, continuing to Live This Life, despite injustice, always on every hand, learning to see Which Causes Are Yours and Which Ones Belong To Someone Else, rather than rushing at every windmill – all these are fruits of planting a life when young and living to see the thing a tree that others will climb and launch rom there.
If there’s one thing I believe about activism, it’s that it needs BALANCE. Also THOUGHTFULNESS, seeing EVERYONE IS A HUMAN BEING, especially those who oppose you, who probably seem evil, selfish, greedy, callous and just Wrong. BUT THERE ARE NO ICONS.
I know. I’ve been there. I am there still. With love.
About 10 years ago I wrote a song to encourage other women who were discouraged and thught maybe their raging against government policies and repression hadn’t been noted. The last verse was:
“Protest, just a thing that happens?
Or activist your whole life through?
Is it time to be a leader?
Won’t a follower always do?
Will we see change in our lifetime?
Who remembers that we care?
History already tells us
That it mattered, we were there.”
(Tune: Old union song, changed by the churches into Whatta Friend)

1 Comment


  1. ps I think you could visit this topic on a weekly basis as we see the different forms of activism face new hurdles and quandries all the time. Ever more necessary!

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