How to Stay Politically Active When Everything Is Overwhelming
The news loop is enough to make you lose hope. Each day brings a new horror, or updates on the ongoing horror, or the rumble of the horrors to come. It’s as if I’m being hit in the face several times with a teaserball. The events of the past two years have pushed some of us to become more politically active, which obviously leads to more political awareness … which can lead to discouragement. (See Tetherball, above.) Long-term entrenched activists must learn to control their pace and maintain their mood.
This is the question Tanzina Vega, host of WNYC The Takeaway , asked a few weeks ago at the Washington Prosperity Summit: How can we act in the face of what appears to be massive indifference to human suffering? She asked activists and self-proclaimed “hopes” Gloria Steinem and DeRay McKesson to “maintain hope and optimism” over the long term.
Steinem began her response by stressing that just listening to people “is the most revolutionary thing we could do.” You don’t have to storm the castle every day to change something. In addition, she said, “Part of the desperation comes from what I ‘have to’ – what to do, rather than getting up every day and thinking that I will do my best.” It means speaking and reaching out to those who need you.
You – on your own – can make a difference.
McKesson said to remember that “the status quo flourishes when people don’t believe they have power.” If you think your voice really matters, you will use it as soon as you can. Don’t let the bad guys tell you that no one person matters. “Know that you have more power than you think.” \
Be the “hope”
This is why you must not allow yourself to despair: “Hope is a form of planning,” Steinem said. “Hope is a vision of what you are going to do tomorrow and tomorrow.” Even if you are Eeyore by nature, allow yourself to be inspired by the hopes and energies of others. McKesson said that you can “not live in someone’s shadow, but live in their radiance” of people who inspire others to be active.
Find people who lift weights and support them
A Facebook friend of mine said, “You don’t need to be a genius in organization or logistics to bring about change. You just need to find those who are. ” This friend took me to Julie Schwitert Collazo, founder of Immigrant Families Together , which provides logistical and financial support to parents who are forcibly separated from their children at the border. I am definitely not a genius in organization or logistics, but I can donate money to those who do it. These people, of course, are boots on the ground, but they still need money and volunteers.
Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.
The fight for human rights is as old as the times. There will be real life epic battles between good and evil forever. We will never be “finished.” Ongoing small cumulative efforts are just as important as flashy events, so take breaks when you need to: “What matters is how your sustained, consistent, proactive efforts lead to cumulative impacts, so take a step back when you need to.” and come back when you can, ”Collazo said in an email.
Even on bad days, when it seems like there’s no progress, you can still talk and can still listen, even if comfortable on the living room couch, Collazo said, “While this is ideal if your activity isn’t limited to sharing posting on social media, don’t believe the idea that posting on Facebook is ‘underdog’ – getting visibility and voicing people and reasons that are overlooked and unreported is extremely important. ” So maybe today you volunteer, call and collect money, and tomorrow you just retweet. Fight with the tools you have, take inspiration where you can get it, and take a break from the teaserball – I mean the news loop – when you need it.