We keep reacting in shock at these big events that seem to threaten our survival: the election of fascists to public office, the general resurgence of misplaced and dangerous nationalism, millions of desperate people fleeing conflict, the conflicts themselves, terrorist attacks from the right and left, and the geopolitical mistakes and environmental disasters that fuel the murderous acts of sociopathic individuals and warmongering governments.
We rightly react with horror but once the headlines disappear many of us who are lucky enough to live in relatively stable societies simply carry on with our lives of self enrichment. Low voter turnout (like the paltry 50% of people who voted in the latest US election) plays a role, but that’s only part of the story. The other — possibly more important — part is about the decisions we make and actions we take every single day. These are the building blocks of our broken system: where our discretionary spending goes; in which industries our savings gets invested; and how the nature and volume of what we consume affect others and impact the planet.
It’s easy to blame others: from “stupid” voters to “corrupt” politicians and “greedy” corporations, but nothing will change until each of us takes personal responsibility.
That may sound negative, but it’s actually incredibly empowering, because there is so much that each of us can start doing — right now — to bring about change. We don’t need preparation, we don’t need time and we don’t need training.
All we need to do is act.
- Concerned about the economic inequality that drives so much of the political anger that is finding its expression all around us? One, stop being a customer of companies that exploit their workers or dodge their taxes, and spend your money in support of companies and industries that take care of their workers (and the planet) instead. Sites like http://www.ethicalconsumer.org can help. Two, consider financially supporting organisations that work to equip young people with the skills they will need to prosper in a fast-changing world of technology
- Upset about climate change? Switch to a green energy supplier and eat less meat
- Disgusted by global conflict? Stop investing your money with banks or funds that finance arms companies
- Tired of the influence peddled by self-serving press barons? Tell big companies to cut their advertising links with newspapers that spread lies and hate
- Worried about the monied dominance of special interests in politics? Shop a little less this month and donate the difference to a crowdfunding campaign supporting a candidate that stands for ideas that transcend the tired old left/right, socialism/capitalism, us/them tropes. Get active even if you have no money to spare. There’s a new generation of forward-looking politicians and organisations that are willing to listen. Do some research – they’re out there.
Recent events may leave us feeling powerless and despondent, but we can’t give in to these defeatist beliefs. We must use this as an opportunity to turn the tide rather than an excuse to feel sorry for ourselves. It’s time for each of us to be a leader through taking some of these small, positive actions over things that are 100% in our control. And once we realise how good it feels just to be doing something, even in a small way, we must share the experience with others around us, and encourage them to do the same.
We must all be activists now.
It may not solve all of our problems tomorrow, but it can certainly create the momentum we need to stand a fighting chance.