On Activism

There was a time in the past when we as Americans were better educated about political issues an candidates. People were more active in local government as well. I think we could be back there again, but that is another post.

Today, most people feel overwhelmed. It seems like everyone has an issue they patronize, and every issue is the issue. Global warming, inflation, immigration, net neutrality, terrorism, the list of crises goes on and on. Every one is touted as the foremost threat to our way of life, our health, our prosperity. I think a lot of people would like to do something, even if it is something small, to help, but they don’t know where to start.

Of course, one option is to do a tiny bit everywhere. Contribute a few dollars to a good cause when you hear about it. Sign a petition. I’m not sure this is a good option, though. Foremost, I don’t think many people will be satisfied with this. Also, its something of an invitation for sensationalism. Supporting whatever cause is fashionable this hour isn’t guaranteed to lead you to any worthwhile cause, and even a few dollars at a time they can easily bleed you dry. A certain amount of focus is necessary. So where should it go?

I would suggest looking for a cause which aids political activism. I’m sure that sounds a little circular – you can’t decide where to put your activism, so you put it towards activism – but here is my reasoning. There are important issues relating to the environment, social issues, etc., but there are also issues relating to politics and our rights, things like free speech and corporate regulation. I would advocate for putting your emphasis on the latter category, because they are so necessary to continue the fight for the issues in the former category.

It could be that everyone could do some small thing and by next year we would be on our way to fixing global warming. What if, at the same time, our ability to protest, unite, and speak out disappear in the face of warrantless searches and  illegal detentions. We would be stuck, one issue down and all the rest forever out of reach.

In short, what I am suggesting to the arm-chair activist is to work towards enabling other activists. This requires a certain amount of faith in the system – adding to free speech ultimately means hearing many things you don’t want to hear in addition to those you do – but it also means keeping ultimate power out of the hands of the self-interested few and with the people. I think that is something everyone can support.

If you’re interested, here is a good place to start. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is working to keep the net neutral. In short, this means keeping access to the internet equal for everyone, both to distribute and view content. They’ve already done a lot of good work. Get My FBI File is a cool place too, which helps you, of course, to get your FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act (as well as your file from the CIA, NSA, DIA, etc). It’s a good way to remind the government that we can still keep tabs on them.

I will try to add to this list as I come across worthwhile causes. In the meantime, pay attention to current events making sure to get both sides of the story. An educated citizen is difficult to control.


2 Responses to “On Activism”

  1. Cliff Says:

    Interesting stuff. As a liberal, I must suggest MoveOn.org to check out.

  2. doug Says:

    As a conservative I would say your too liberal already.. 🙂

    just kidding cool sites

    Not about the conservative part!

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