How to be an Activist: Top Ten things to do to Save the world

Sitting at a spiritual gathering a few years ago I encountered a young man who had been attending these transcendent get-togethers for a time, and was complaining over the fact that he had lost his job. Being a loving assembly of folks, we all attempted to help him out by way of suggestions of what he could do to beat back the beast that is homelessness. He listened to each suggestion and promptly dismissed all that was said, in spite of the fact that many in the room knew what they were talking about.

It was a frustrating experience. Endeavoring to counsel someone who is unwilling to receive the benefits of a collected knowledge can elicit extreme irritation. Not being the most patient of souls, I confronted the young man about what, exactly, he really wanted to do.

“I want to be an Activist.”

What do you want to protest?” I asked

“I don’t want to protest anything; I just want to be an Activist.”

The rest of the conversation deteriorated from there to the point where my patience gave out and my tendency for sarcasm reared its ugly head. I blasted the youngster by way of telling him, in no uncertain terms, that he was an ill-informed idiot and needed to listen when people wanted to help.

“So go ahead…tell me what to do, you pompous punk!”

And I did:

  1. Get yourself a pair of comfortable shoes. The main talent that an activist must have is the ability to stand for a long time. Be it standing in a protest line, waiting in a courthouse line to get information on how TCBY yogurt stores are really fronts for cabals of eco-villains, walking the perimeter of a proposed children’s park to find the one remaining member of a near extinct group of field beetles, or marching in a parade waving a flag in dissent against lowering the legal blood alcohol limit for DWI’s, activists stand…a lot. Not a profession that lends itself to spike heels or $1.00 flip-flops from Target. Doc Martens work just fine. They even look like those that Chinese soldiers wore on the Long March with Mao.
  2. Find someone/somebody you are mad at. Without a focal point for your activism, there is little reason to buy those Doc Marten’s. People who have a rallying point to direct their ire get farther than some fool yelling at the sky for being blue. There are causes abounding in this world and there are also folks yelling at nothing. If you cannot find one that suits you, you can create one at http://www.causes.com/. Seeking the redress for a social injustice is what a good activist should do. Complaining about having to breathe oxygen simply serves to make people think that you should be denied the life-giving element.
  3. Go yell at them. Nothing gets the attention of the perpetrators of injustice more than a bunch of people outside their office/place of business raucously stating their opinion. If you yell loud enough, the news media might show up and…you get your career as an “Activist” started. A word to the wise – make sure that there is some form of injustice being committed. This is where the Doc Marten’s come into play in the standing in line department. Alternately, if you yell at the Salvation Army or American Red Cross for some imagined slight, you will probably fall into the category where folks would desire to deny you any or all access to indispensable molecular elements.
  4. Find friends that think like you. Misery loves company, and there is much misery in yelling at people. Usually most people react negatively when yelled at. If you are by yourself, they simply call the police who deal with you using any of an assorted list of statutes and violations thereof. If you have a hundred likeminded friends, it gets much stickier. Police and fire departments have other things to deal with then a group of people exercising their First Amendment rights.
  5. Stay away from Wal-Mart. They have more money than God and nothing you yell at them will stop them from buying items produced in China and assembled by children. Lawyers are totally useless in any civil case against them. The ancestors of the Sage from Bentonville can fill Yankee Stadium with the lawyers they have on retainer. Go back to the field beetle thing…you’ll get farther.
  6. Now that you have yelled yourself hoarse…make a plan. This appears to be a misplaced step but bear with me. Most true activists have strong emotional attachments to their individual causes. By getting the yelling out of the way, and seeing the success or failure of such an activity the topic of your indignation can finally become, well, a realistic issue. Besides, once you have a plan, you effectively separate yourself from those screaming about free school lunches for low income or poor families.
  7. Become familiar with the technology available that can aid your fight. Certainly the news media is an effective use of technology given the propensity for people to believe these purveyors who purloin the truth in the pursuit of Nielsen Ratings. Letter writings have become more effective with the advent of the Internet. Blogs and webpages give you admission into the Cyberverse, where billions of people surf! A guy on the street in front of the Department of Human services hollering for them to issue actual cash instead of food stamps so he can eat in at McDonalds or Long John Silvers will only get noticed by the police. Who really pays attention to the crazy guy in the parking lot who is not asking for spare change?
  8. Become totally immersed in the issue. Educate yourself about every aspect of the issue. Become the expert. Make Wikipedia solicit you to write an article. Know more than your enemy, and teach your friends what you have gleaned. Make sure that you do not fall into the abyss that is the almost-informed. Those are the folks that believe a single handed attack on Meals on Wheels for not serving Lebanese food.
  9. Have a life outside your cause. It is reasonable to have a cause you feel strongly about, but not to the exclusion of the rest of life. Go to a movie. Ask a new girl/guy for their number. Make sure you do not end up being the guy that drives around blasting from a bullhorn out his window about elected officials using phony birth records to make their case.
  10. Learn the Lyrics. Go to YouTube or watch a late night infomercial selling 80’s Rock Legend band collections and get Journey’s song, “Don’t Stop Believing.” Learn the music and lyrics and apply the message to your cause. You cannot be a genuine bonafide Activist without this song.

So there it is. If someone asks about becoming an Activist, give them these rules. The ridiculousness of these commandments will make them think. The most successful Activists I know have welcomed this piece. They know it is unhealthy to take yourself too seriously. They also know that Doc Martens are most definitely the essential tool to go out and save the world!

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