Participatory Governance - Activism
For people who want to make the world a better place, there needs to be a balance between trying to do everything, and completely withdrawing from the often frustrating responsibility of being an active citizen of a democracy.
"To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns; to surrender to too many demands; to commit one's self to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence." (Thomas Merton)
"Instead of trying to be responsible for all the problems in the world, we should take on what we love and care about. Then we honor both our inner world and the outer world at the same time. There's no separation between the two, and there is no hesitation, no self-doubt. This will help us develop great faith that others are taking care of their piece. People who don't know the details about climate change may care deeply about the forests, the animals, and the children. It is very important that we share, not only our merit, but also the responsibilities. Somehow we have to relieve ourselves of the enormity, which is so debilitating." (Paul Hawken, author, activist, businessman)
In the same vein, Jim Hightower encourages us, "Joining with others to achieve the great possibility of America is as much fun you can have with your clothes on."
We know that being a citizen in a democracy is a job. Occupy Wall Street launched thousands of ordinary citizens into doing our job, joining with others who are angry about how our government is run. It is good to be reminded that our Declaration of Independence tells us "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, [the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness] it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles..." We need to change the present form of our government from plutocracy back to democracy.
Democracy starts wherever we are: electing people to school boards, county commissions, as well as state and Congress and the presidency.
Activism--engagement in civil affairs--can be hard to get motivated about. Many of us feel so marginalized, so ignored, so helpless and hopeless, so cynical, so despairing, that engaging seems pointless. But we have seen in recent months how citizen protests have changed decisions made by corporations (Netflix, Bank of America, Verizon are examples). It's proof of our power.
We have the power of our convictions and the power of our numbers to make change. Take small steps. Speak up. Do stuff like write emails, sign petitions, call Congresspeople, join others to protest and demand change. Democracy starts wherever we are. The important thing is to start.