I am not an activist. I say this because I do not take part in any sort of “activist” activity at the moment, nor have I ever had any inclination to do so. While I’ve always loved Gandhi’s message, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, my main mode of change has always been to arm myself with information and make conscious educated decisions that first do no harm. After that, I determine what I think is best and live my life according to that belief. My naive expectation is that everyone will do the same and the world will then do exactly what I want because everyone is always thinking about how they can best please me. I kid, I know that’s a naive assumption but I do not have the emotional energy or tolerance to make other people change, even if it is for the better.
Not having enough emotional energy or tolerance is the main reason I am not an activist but there is another determining factor. I believe that if something is broken, it should be fixed post haste so that we can all move on. I am a fixer. And, to me, a lot of what passes for activism today is talking ad nauseum about X issue and ignoring the fact that, while talking is good, it rarely effects change in any measurable fashion.
If I am unhappy with something, I fix it, I change it, to the best of my ability, and then move on, secure in the knowledge that the old way has been subsumed by a new and better way. I may complain while I am in the midst of forcing a change but that is different than just complaining. And that is what a lot of activism amounts to today; seeing something that you see as an injustice and then complaining about it to anyone who will listen. We all listen to those people who stop you on the street to talk to you about deforestation, right? WRONG. No one listens to them, we simply ignore them and go about our lives and NOTHING CHANGES BECAUSE EVERYONE IS STILL ATTEMPTING TO DISCUSS THE ISSUE.
At some point, you have to stop and think, is endless complaining making anything better? And in case you’re not sure of the answer, the answer is ALWAYS no. Endless complaining is annoying as all get out and makes people more likely to ignore you.
It’s no wonder that if endless complaining results in being ignored that change rarely happens from talking. No, change happens when YOU change. If you’re worried about deforestation, only buy things made out of Forest Stewardship Council certified or reclaimed wood. If you’re worried about pesticides, only buy organic, from sources that you have personally researched (I cannot stress this part enough) to make sure that they live up to your ideals. There are so many actions that you, personally, can take. There is no excuse for endless talk and no action.
I myself have rather strong feelings about the health of our planet. As a result, I have modified my buying habits to only support companies which I have personally vetted to determine if they live up to my (high) expectations. While it’s not always feasible to do this, things like cost can get in the way, I can proudly say that 95% of the companies I buy from live up to my ideals regarding how I believe our planet should be treated. Whether it’s from a production company or an organization like Out of the Closet that resells used stuff (instead of putting it in the landfill) I make conscious purchasing choices. This means that I am largely only supporting companies that not only believe our earth is valuable and needs to be protected but that also take that ethos and apply it to their business models and their own lives. It’s a model that bears a remarkable resemblance to a boycott. Rather than frame it in the negative and give companies I loathe any sort of publicity (even bad publicity is still publicity) I choose to simply find, research and ultimately buy from companies that I believe make changes in how the fundamental structure of our culture works. If someone asks me about my chosen companies, I will happily evangelize and what people notice is that I am not just buying from companies that effect change, I buy from companies that effect change through their business practices and make a great, long lasting product (I told you I had high standards. I figure if I’m going to pay for something, I might as well pay a little bit more and get everything I want in the bargain.)
Ok, maybe what I was really trying to say at the beginning of this post is that I want the definition of activist to be refashioned because I am an activist in the sense that I actively effect change when making personal choices. So let’s stop talking about the issues and start living the issues.
Make your choices count. Tell me in the comments what you do to make the world change for the better.