Personal Choice, Activism, Organizing
We are wanting to do more. And we are looking for what makes sense to do. That rocks. In living politically, there is a progression. Let’s look at it.
Personal Choice is easy, though often complex (as opposed to simple and hard). Do your part in your own life (easy), but do not do it in a way that is classist, racist, hetero-cis/sexist, ableist, speciesist, et cetera. There is a lot to say here, but there is already a lot of material on this. I am going to focus on Activism and Organizing.
Briefly, personal choice can generally be thought of as not doing things: Do not starve poor people, use racial slurs, assault women or queer folk, institutionalize the disabled without their autonomy, eat animals, et cetera.
The question is, What can we do?
Exerting our influence in the government is, en masse, an effective way to make more systemic change. Calling our reps is among the more effective ways to pressure them, short of showing up at their public events (or donating large amounts). This is because it is harder for them to ignore than an email or letter, because it disrupts their usual routine. A lot of activism is based on disruption.
Find out who your reps are. You can text your zip code to 520–200–2223, and they will send you a text with your federal and state reps, and their phone numbers.
Post it with #MyRepsAre. Tag them in the post. Let them know you are paying attention, and intend to hold them accountable. Both senators, and your house rep, for sure. Mayor, governor, state & district reps too, ideally. Mine:
The more we get active relationships with our most direct representatives, the more our grassroots efforts can and will bubble-up. We often want to pressure the big players like our senators, but local organizing is extremely important groundwork to support those bigger efforts.
This number is the 24/7 switchboard to the Capitol building. They will connect you to your federal reps (senators & member of congress), so you only need the one number for the three of them. Save it in your phone as 24/7 Capitol Switchboard. It will show up early in your contacts, alphabetically.
Find your state/local reps here: http://www.statelocalgov.net/.
One call a day makes a difference.
Sign up for the Daily Action text. Text “DAILY” to 228466 (ACTION). They will send you one text every workday with a call assignment, and guide you through it.
You may not ever get through to them. That means the calls are working. The more inundated they are, the more they get the point.
Look up when your reps are making public appearances. If you can, go. Ask them about some issue.
Swing Left finds your nearest swing district. You can also make calls and otherwise volunteer with them.
Beyond involved citizenry, I would ask, what are your skills?
Artistic? Visual? Literary? Film? Graphics? Media? Branding? Social? Professional? Legal? Nonprofit? Outreach? Networking?
And also, what among those things do you enjoy doing? Because we need to keep it nourishing, or it will drain us. Burnout is a serious problem when we neglect self-care. Remember, in a world that tells us our needs do not matter, self-care is a necessary part of our activism.
If you are ever stuck, there are three things you can do any time:
1) Research: Always be learning.
2) Support Another Activist: This counts.
3) Listen to someone you disagree with: You might learn, and they will feel heard. This means they are more likely to listen to the next activist.
Personally, I love podcasts. You can play them in the background while doing other things. Many podcast apps will let you set the speed. I worked my way to listening at 2X. My favorite sources for justice-oriented news:
Democracy Now!: One hour of current events on weekdays.
Intercepted: Bi-weekly investigative.
Reveal: Weekly investigative.
This is where we need to develop our game, from Activism to Organizing. Get your friends to join. Where organizing used to be regular meetings with larger groups to discuss plans, I think we now need to incorporate organizing into our daily lives in smaller doses. Micro-organizing.
To be clear, we still need the other, original organizing. Most of us, though, do not have the space-time to invest in that. We will, however, need to take five minutes to call our reps every time we get together with friends at a restaurant or at home. Call your reps while waiting for food.
Community makes this far more sustainable.
Just as we go to protests with friends, we need to have #BankExit parties, where we write letters to the banks why we are leaving them, then document it for social media. We need to go out with friends to the latest documentary, instead of the blockbuster. Do both if you need to. We need to go canvassing our nearest swing districts together, with friends. We need activist work-parties, where we work on our individual projects. Cool party to me.
We can engage with people who argue, if we want, if it serves us and the cause. The key to doing this successfully is not to focus on convincing them of anything.
Instead, focus on practicing your communication/outreach skills, and optionally, building your relationship with them. Relationships change heart-minds more than arguments do.
This does not mean submitting to maltreatment to placate them. Just as you would not let your friends do that. Having a full relationship with someone means getting angry with them sometimes, for example. Just focus on the relationship itself over convincing them.
And if the relationship is proving too toxic for us, we can always vote them out of our lives. Just as we will do with the legislators who refuse to represent us.