Activism…this is something that most Americans pursue in some form or another, regardless of beliefs or political affiliation. It can take the form of traditional activism, charity work, or even humanitarianism. There are several steps to activism that we need to understand before we can discuss the problems.
1. Awareness – You’re aware of the issue, and maybe willing to discuss it.
2. Action – Here you may donate money, attend a protest, write about the issue, or support larger organizations that work for the issue.
3. Actual change – This is where you’ve left your comfort zone and pushed for real change in the world around you.
The majority of people don’t go beyond awareness. They’ll talk about an issue and belief strongly about it, so long as it doesn’t cost them any money or time. A good example of this are the people believe they are saving the environment by recycling, while they drive their SUV and eat fast food.
The second section, action, is where the majority of actual activists stop. They will donate money, they’ll write, they’ll protest, so long as it doesn’t affect their way of life. Now, this is important. Let’s consider a few examples.
Bill Gates donates huge amounts of money to various causes, which is great, and people see it as great. The problem is that Bill Gates could single handedly eliminate poverty in many impoverished nations, or even in America, but it would require his lifestyle to change. It would require him not to be nearly as rich anymore. That’s why it will likely never happen.
Many of your average white left wing activists will speak out, protest, and fund initiatives that say that minorities should have more opportunities and not have to live in poverty for the crime of the color of their skin…so long as they aren’t moving into their own neighborhoods, or working at their own companies.
Many right wing activists insist that we don’t need government run social programs because tending to the poor is the domain of the church. How many of them do you see trying to unite the religious organizations and denominations in a concerted effort to eliminate poverty in America? The churches combined wealth could do so ten times over, but it would require changing how they live, and doing away with some of the luxuries they have.
We see this often in the public discourse, as well. You can call out people with opposing views all day long and get cheers from your side of the political or religious or whatever ideological aisle. The moment you call out one of your own to hold them accountable, however, the crowd turns on you in a heartbeat, because it messes with the status quo.
Now, consider this while we talk about the third step, actual change.
If we want change to happen, we need to make it happen, and we need to be willing to throw away the status quo to do it. The point of activist should be to break the status quo, not to appear righteous while unwilling to give anything up. Think about that next time you share a Facebook post, donate to a charity, or hold a sign somewhere. Think about when you go and buy that new iPad after walking past the homeless man begging outside the store.
Just think about it.
Contributor: Robert Sacerich
Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.
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