Thursday, April 8, 2010

Empowering Civic Activism?

I greatly admire those who dedicate themselves, not only to championing important social causes, but also to the effort of engaging others in the democratic process. It seems as though more and more people and organizations are jumping on the bandwagon, which bodes well for the future IMHO. Change.org and Care2.com are leaders in this area, with millions of participants who regularly join together to engage in petitioning legislators and others to help bend the arc of history toward justice. Case Foundation is helping nonprofits spread their messages through on-line networking and philanthropy. And organizations like Pepsi and Ben & Jerry's have competitions to identify worthy activities and activists who can benefit from corporate backing and financial support.

But even with all of this effort to get people involved in the political process to help shape our society, many remain on the sidelines, for a variety of very personal reasons. Paul Loeb, author of "The Impossible Will Take a Little While," posted an article on Huffington Post entitled "Learned Helplessness", in which he explains some of the reasons many citizens withdraw from participating in the political process. He attributes much of this to the "how can I possibly make any difference" frame of mind that comes either from personal experience in the political arena or from watching others try and "fail".

"We're led to believe that if we can't instantly solve every one of these problems, we shouldn't bother to become socially active at all--an outlook that's helped create the difficult situation we now face. We feel we lack the time to properly comprehend the issues we care about, and fear that no one will listen to what we say. Our impulses toward involvement face a culture that demeans idealism, enshrines cynicism, and makes us feel naive for caring about our fellow human beings or the planet we inhabit."
The lopsided playing field dominated by well-paid professional lobbyists certainly doesn't help, does it?

Personally, I like the spirit that the Peace Alliance works to instill in its Department of Peace campaign activists - the effort is closer to a marathon than a sprint, and we need to take the approach of marathoners to be able to stay in it for the long haul. Everyone has their ups and downs and ebbs and flows (including yours truly) when it comes to activism, depending on what else is going on in their lives. But if we continue to dedicate and rededicate ourselves to the causes we care most deeply about, the sum total over the course of years will be a very positive thing.

Press on!


1 comment:

  1. Well said. Thanks for the "marathon" reminder.

    ReplyDelete