“This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists. Our planet teeters on the brink of annihilation; dangerous passions of pride, hatred, and selfishness are enthroned in our lives; and men do reverence before false gods of nationalism and materialism. The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
“All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. […] The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.”
~ H.L. Mencken
When it comes to the evolution of humanity, activism is perhaps the most important yet most controversial element in society. Activists are the free thinkers, the system busters, the loving Warriors, the boat-rockers, and the truth tellers. These visionaries are the vanguard of social reform, acting as the warning system for a society out of balance. Activists are often criticized, ostracized, and even killed, yet their legacy stands among the most virtuous of contributions throughout history.
Against the bloodstained backdrop of human history, activists proactively put themselves on the front lines, advocating social awareness to bring justice and peace through diplomatic, philosophical, and non-militaristic resolutions of territorial or ideological disputes through nonviolent means whenever possible. They initiate and facilitate public dialogues in order to reform various irrational, violent, habitual, and historically fearfully thought-processes residing at the core of conflicts with the intention of bringing about a peaceful, more enlightened resolution. Whether in the form of social media outcry, boycotts, protests, public art (Banksy), sit-ins, or armed insurrection, activists, often exercising righteous anger, have undoubtedly been a major driving force of progressive social change.
Yet despite the intensity of external focus typical in most activists, honorable and necessary though it is, internal focus for the purposes of self-work (as described in the previous section: “Self Work”) tends to be lacking in the majority of activists which may explain why there are social REVOLUTIONS (revolution = revolve = circular spin = going in circles) instead of EVOLUTION.
If activists integrated Self-Work as part of their transformative process, not only would they be more effective and healthier (physically, psychologically, and spiritually), but their impact on society would move beyond minor accommodations to a deeper paradigm shift. Due to this deficiency of self-work, many “well intentioned” activists, swept away by their righteous anger in the “revolutionist mindset” become just as aggressive and as the aggressors they vehemently oppose. Violence is all too often met with violence as police brutality is met with rioting (an understandable yet self-defeating reaction), and “in-fighting” by activists against other well-intentioned activists exacerbates our challenges just simply having a difference of opinion. This hyper-aggression only serves to perpetuate violence which could otherwise be resolved with responsible self-awareness, compassion, critical thinking, and a broader perspective. This is the obstacle humanity has yet to overcome, and, as the saying goes, “When people do not learn their lessons, history repeats itself.”
There are many people speaking out about the atrocities and injustices of the world, and oftentimes it comes with a lot of finger-pointing and hostility. Understandable. Who wouldn’t be upset? The problems of the world often seem insurmountable and sometimes the weight of life wears down even the best of us. As important as honoring our healthy boundaries and anger is, dwelling in anger causes us to miss out on the richness of higher understanding.
It’s important to keep in mind that the moment we demonize or vilify those who disagree with us or do things differently, we commit an act of violence by severing an opportunity to learn and find loving empathy and compassion to resolve conflict. We cannot hold on to spite and vengeance, for the problems of the world are too enormous, and hostility, no matter how small, simply creates more violence. We must become more mindful, understanding, and conscious in our behavior if we are to ask others to do the same.
Time shows us that even in the most dark of circumstances, there is understanding and love to be found, within and without, for all things serve a purpose in objective reality. As difficult as it can be to come to terms with, all moments of life are like lessons in the school of Earth. It is rightfully natural to be angry, afraid, sad, and defensive, passively or aggressively, but for the sake of transformation and growth, we must not stop there.
Justice is neither avoidance or vengeance; it is taking responsibility by utilizing the opportunity to see things clearly through gaining knowledge, healing, and, ultimately, understanding and finding forgiveness by seeing the greater context, which ultimately leads to compassion. With communication comes new perspective. With new perspective comes new understanding. With understanding comes connection. With connection comes love. And in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
If we, as activists, ever want to realistically live in a world wherein people are well-educated, empathic, and responsible enough to be sovereign and easily resolve (or avoid altogether) social injustices, we must embody the very maturity and virtue we ask from others. We must strive to be a living example of the principles and ideals we uphold.
However, some people give activism a bad name, over-generalizing and over-emphasizing issues by expanding a conspiracy (from the small clique which it is) to include every person who may have some association. Because of racial or religious bigotry, they will take small fragments of legitimate evidence and expand it into a conclusion that will support their particular prejudice, i.e., the conspiracy is totally “Jewish”, “Catholic”, or “Masonic”. These people do not help to spread knowledge and raise awareness, but sadly play into the hands of those who want the public to believe that all activists who recognize legitimate conspiracies are over-generalizing, prejudiced “screwball conspiracy theorists”. In fact, there is a long history of government-sponsored disinformation agents known as “COINTELPRO” (Counter-Intelligence Program) through which agents are implanted to, in the words of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, neutralize, or otherwise eliminate” the activities of progressive social movements and their leaders. Sometimes these agents are purposefully planted, and sometimes they are “useful idiots” who have been influenced by the disinformation program and carry on the propaganda zealously through their own misguided ambition to derail others who are associated. Al always, discernment is key. The importance of understanding how subversive government manipulation works is an absolute necessity for any activist to defend against disinformation and disruption. It’s CRUCIAL that each one of us recognizes the necessity of researching for ourselves, taking nothing at face value by cross-referencing and networking with others to gather further information.
Conversely to this prejudice, some people go the opposite direction, mistaking “political correctness” with being polite and kind, which is something completely different.
“When we talk about compassion we talk in terms of being kind. But compassion is not so much being kind; it is being creative [enough] to wake a person up”
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Political correctness keeps the power structure secure by stultifying conversation, which is perhaps why it’s been pushed so much in “polite society”. Political correctness is the new bandwagon. It’s the new religion that prefers bland, shallow, “safe” contrivances over the deeply passionate outpouring of genuine expression needed to grab someone’s attention and rouse them to take action. Sitting on the fence has become very desirable in today’s society, especially since employers have the ability to discriminate over the basis of a person’s opinions on social media. People are hesitant to admit to even having an opinion in this culture of imposed insecurity. People hold back out of fear of confrontation and its consequences, as if apathy were better.
Political Correctness doesn’t support social progression or individuality. If anything, it accelerates the attainment of mediocrity by an obsessively herd-minded society. We’re beginning to pursue neutrality and indifference to such a degree that we’re becoming a very meek, paranoid, knee-jerking bunch of people. We’re taught everywhere to avoid conflict for fear of being wrong, for fear of putting ourselves on the spot. In our “culture of cool”, where expression-less celebrities and models are idolized, complete emotional withdrawal has been sold as a virtue. How can we learn and develop character without experiencing feelings, failure or fault? How can progress be made without putting ourselves on the spot? Without risk and exploration? Do yourself a favor: have an opinion, take time to read, respectfully network your thoughts, get feedback, express yourself, inspire, provoke thought, get off the fence, and help weave the fabric of history! A society too afraid to express itself and hear the voices of others is a society that will never be free.
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Some may not see themselves as “activists” simply because they aren’t constantly gathering information, publicly expressing themselves, or going to protests since they have jobs, children, and other obligations. Regardless of the reasons, there are numerous ways anybody can practice activism, from donating food and goods to families in need, to financially funding independent researchers and organizations that do good work and won’t squander your money on the bloated overhead of managerial expenditures, like many large scale “charities” do. However, before donating, it’s your right to inquire the deeper intricacies of the cause you’re donating to, knowing how that money is truly spent. It’s your responsibility to ask for information. Administrative costs and advertisement, while understandable, should be extremely marginal in comparison to the direct donations being made for a specific cause.
An increasingly popular form of activism is social media. It often gets belittled as “just talking about problems but offering no real solutions”. Consider that sometimes the solutions aren’t yet apparent to the person, yet discussing the problems allows people to gain perspective and awareness around an issue which may then help facilitate a solution to emerge from discourse.
Social media is powerful. Spreading important information to raise awareness IS activism, no matter how many “likes” it gets, because there are always “the watchers” who don’t feel comfortable “liking”, commenting, or sharing, yet are in the process of gathering information.
Providing others with clear, concise information to streamline their education is extremely powerful, because, as stated in the introduction, until a person truly understands the problem, they will never present a good solution, nor will they understand one if they see it. Without researching history and understanding “how the game works”, the same problems will eventually pop up in different ways. So don’t be discouraged simply because you’re a keyboard crusader for now.
Sharing ideas is how great movements begin. Keep educating yourself, sharing with more people, and come together under common cause to redefine community outside the status quo in ways which empower healthy people. Like many great architectural accomplishments, most of the important work is underground and internal, so keep building and striving. One day, brick by brick, the greatness of these efforts will be self-evident with time, effort, and proper preparation.
“The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed, must not, wait for his community to cast off it’s slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. ‘Live,’ Nietzsche said, ‘as though the day were here.’ It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal––carries the cross of the redeemer––not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.”
~ Joseph Campbell, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”
There’s no reason to wait and no time to waste. Now more than ever, peaceful personal secession, sovereignty, and sustainability can be made a reality. We have the vision, the knowledge, the resources, the technological innovation, the environmental understanding, and the love to create an incredibly new way of living- if only we first have a solid foundation within. Make no doubt about it, there are ways that the darkness can be transmuted with light. For too long humanity has been polarized, paralyzed, and self-interested. It has been struggling to heal, fumbling in the dark without the light of greater knowledge to guide it. Society has relied on institutions run by sick people in government and religion to guide it through destructive means. Humanity, wounded and confused, has consequently stumbled through history in to a legacy of authoritarianism, anger, and self-righteous destructiveness. But life always offers an opportunity to create change, and if you’ve been paying attention, you can see that the world is screaming for change.
And when we speak of “the world”, it’s not just the people that need to be considered, but something far more fundamental to all life…