Rounding Up

Re-posted from my friend’s blog (miriamswell.wordpress.com):

How To Activate Your Inner Activist

by Miriam Sagan

Since Trump’s election, many folks have felt depressed or paralyzed. But we don’t have to suffer that way. You’ll have to forgive me—but I once made a big chunk of my living as a freelancer writing How To articles. So I’m just going to continue…

How To Be Politically Active

First off, settle on this as you goal. Your goal is not to save America—or even yourself. Your goal is to engage in an activity that might be new to you, or that you might be out of touch with. The following steps aren’t that different than those you’d take towards a healthier diet or a good exercise regime.

Then, decide on what you—and you alone—count as resistance to tyranny and fighting for justice. Make a list of everything and anything. Voter registration? Food equity? Land preservation? Fighting racism? This is your list.

The Jewish philosopher Maimonides said there were four levels of ethical action:

1. Ordinary kindness (holding the door for someone)
2. Following a formal commandment/good deed—known as mitvot (visiting the sick)
3. Social Justice
4. Charity

It’s fascinating that charity is the highest, but I’m guessing that is because it has the spiritual element of sacrifice, even a small one. We’re going to focus on levels 3 and 4, in large part because I’m guessing you’re already engage in 1 and 2.

Now, make a giant list of anything you might do from fundraising to letter writing to marching to joining a group to clicking on a donation link. You can prioritize the things you like best. And respect your own strengths and character—introverts will chose differently than extroverts, moms with little kids are different than childless folks, etc. I’m actually going to allow you self-education as part of your program. This is about reading a book on history or theory—not checking Facebook (or articles on line).

OK—now here is the important part. Decide exactly how often you are going to engage in these activities. I suggest starting off with twice a week. Write this down. Concretize it. Actually, quantify it. This technique is something I learned in twenty plus years of peer coaching with my friend Ana.

Frequency is more important than duration (you wouldn’t brush your teeth for 30 minutes once a week). Also, a minimum frequency can always be extended or added to.

If you do this, you will have activated yourself. You won’t have met a grandiose goal, but coaching is made up of attainable sized ones. In the book “Designing A Life” the authors say that something is not a problem if it doesn’t have a solution. Rather, these things are conditions of our existence—like suffering, death, and the human inclination to do evil as well as good.

But many things do have solutions, including our own passivity.

My last piece of advice: have some fun.

Let’s say you go to a rally or protest march. Will this make America the country you want to live in in fifteen minutes? No. Will it give you super powers to save the world? No.

It will, however, meet several goals:

1. You can check an activism item off your list for the week
2. You will get fresh air and exercise
3. You may enjoy some music or poetry or something edifying
4. You may see your friends—you might even do some networking
5. You will get out of the house and enjoy your city or town
6. You will most likely have your thoughts provoked and learn something
7. It will make the news
8. It will put pressure on your elected representatives
9. It will bring people together

Do remember. To take positive action, you do NOT have to
1. Provide a complex solution
2. Be perfect
3. Blame anyone

By analogy, if you were diagnosed with diabetes, you would not have to find the cure. You would not need to be a poster child of compliance. But you should do what you need to do to take care of yourself. You already have the skills to be an activist—because they are your usual problem solving skills.

Let me know how it goes!

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