Friday, October 29, 2004

Activism and Coping on the Happy Planet

I just came across an excerpt from Claire Wolfe's little book, Think Free to Live Free: A Political Burnout's Guide to Life, Activism and Everything. Below is her list of the raw material, the characteristics, if you will, of an activist:

We're devoted to knowing the truth. This doesn't mean you never let a lie pass your lily lips. Some activists are, in fact, championship liars. But we all tend to want to blast away veils of official secrecy, to demand accounts and accountability from politicians, to launch the spin into outer space so we can get at the down-to-earth reality. We don't like people in power hiding things from us. We hate plots and cabals, closed-door meetings and old boy networks.

We find ethical significance all around us. We value morality, ethics, or proper action. It's true even of we who see ourselves as pretty nihilistic or unusually open-minded. We make value judgments in places where most people don't even bother to glance.

We want to make a difference. It's why we're here.

We see potential for positive change. For some of us, this means visionary thinking, utopian dreams or actions to alter the nature of society. For others, it may mean no more than having a hope of undoing devastation or evil. If we didn't believe positive change was possible, we'd be over there with Mr. Beer Gut, taking a nap.

We have a tendency toward self-sacrifice. This shows up in the very fact that we're here, getting involved instead of hanging back. Some would say that's not self-sacrifice at all: "I'm doing this to build the kind of world I want to live in," but as a practical matter, we tend to sacrifice money, time, pleasures, and peace of mind to do what we do. Occasionally we put our lives or well-being at risk for our ideals.

We have very strong egos. We have to, to believe we can make a difference. We must, to endure living in a world that frequently tells us we're wrong-headed goofball extremist incredibly annoying wing-nuts.

We are concerned with social systems. We direct our energies toward reforming, revolutionizing, replacing, or sabotaging institutions -- governments, societies, churches, businesses, and schools. Activists on the left may put the emphasis on social, while their compadres on the right may focus on systems. But as activists, even we libertarians (who see everything in terms of individual freedom) usually focus our political efforts on the institutions that can support -- or destroy -- what we most care about.

We have a strong work ethic. If not in our vocations or our home lives, at least in our activism.

We are empathetic. Unlike a certain snake-souled former president, many of us truly do feel others' pain -- be it flood victims in Bangladesh, beleaguered taxpayers, inner-city mothers, or the family of a child shot dead by DEA agents in a botched raid.

We value action, not just words.

We worry about society falling apart. Or man's inhumanity to man. Or moral decay. Or the destruction of nature. In other words, we tend to see sweeping danger (and sweeping ethical implications) beyond every individual cause or issue.

We want to be of service. For some, this may mean direct, recognized service to humanity. For others, it may simply mean knowing in our hearts that the world is a better place because we were here.

We are driven by principles. Though some of us may be very pragmatic in action, we're always aware of the values that underlie both our actions and our goals.

You and I may otherwise be so different we couldn't find a word to say to each other if we were thrown together in a crowded room. But I'm as certain as I can be that every reader of this book shares at least 10 of those 13 traits.

You can read the rest of this excerpt from the book here: Doing Freedom: Information for Living Free. And... has the book.

Now. About coping to fight another day... One of the things I have done in the past, and am trying to do again, is break glass. Not by chucking rocks through windows. No, friends. I break stained glass and mirror pieces with a hammer and construct rough mosaic canvases with the pieces... rather like a jigsaw puzzle I create as I go along. The photo above is of one I did in 1991. It's about 2 X 3 feet. Hair of figure is goldish, the body is mirror, the skirt, blues. The reflection is me. ;-) I'm currently at the work of restoring a much larger piece that is glass and other mixed media elements. Coping. I do whatever works. Sometimes breaking glass helps. Other times it's supper in bed with the covers pulled up to my neck and the television tuned to the "Mindless Channel". What works for you, ASZ-ers?