No matter which side of the great political divide you find yourself, there are causes close to your heart. Things you’d like to see improved and people you’d like to help. Activism is about finding ways to make a difference in the world around you, for yourself and others who don’t have a voice. But how can little ol’ you make any kind of difference at all when sometimes, it probably feels like you don’t even have a voice?
Let’s break down some forms of activism. Not all of them will work for you. Maybe none of them will and you’ll have to clear your own path. Hopefully this list will at least give you some ideas on where to start. The important thing is to try to appeal to as many groups of people as possible. There’s no need to alienate someone who may feel closer to the way you do than you would first believe. The more the merrier; and effective.
Volunteer: I’m sure there is a local organization that wants to help the very same group you do. Google them, then get to work. Just remember, you’re there to help what they’ve already started, not swoop in to save the day. Listen, learn, do. If you want something more exotic, there are organizations all over the world for all kinds of causes. Pick one and give them a call.
Grassroots activism: Spread the word. Let people know the problem exists and that you know a group that helps.
Set up a table at your school, print some pamphlets, make some brownies, and start chatting. People need someone to show them the way, to let them know there is, in fact, something they can do. Make sure your message fits the group you are trying to reach. Remember, the more groups you can get on board, the better.
The best part of our current age of technology is you can put your cause on shirts, mugs, bags, your car. It’s easier than ever to wear your message on your sleeve.
Letter writing and petitions: Send letters. To everyone. Especially your representatives. Here’s some tips:
Remember that table you set up? Maybe you could put some pre-typed and addressed letters or post cards to give to people. They fill out their info and stick it in the mail. If you use postcards you can use sites like Vista print or Moo to add your images to the front. You could also go even cheaper and buy some to print yourself. Go door to door and hand them out too.
Direct lobbying: You can march into the Senate or House office buildings, and request an on the spot meeting with your senators and congresspeople. If you can’t go to D.C., go to the state capitols or their offices when they aren’t in D.C. Your local officials too. They have public meetings once a month usually. you will probably end up meeting with their aides, but these are the pretty good people to meet with. After explaining your position, ask them to help you. If they say no, ask why not. At the very least you will find out what your opposition thinks or any weakness in your argument.
They have to listen to you. It’s what their elected position is all about. Who wouldn’t want to give one of those out of touch government elitists a piece of their mind? Politely and with respect of course. After all, you’re asking for their help.
Litigation: Lawsuits, with the help of wonderful lawyers, are filed against institutions and their executives. These can be long and drawn out and emotionally taxing. Not for the faint of heart, it’s probably the most definitive way to reach change, though.
Consumer boycotts: We all know this one. Put your money where your mouth is. You don’t have to go it alone though. Contact any groups that may want to get involved, even if they have different reasons than yours. Say you’re against the use of child labor a company practices and the company also mistreats animals. There are a lot of groups who will get on that train even if, for some insane reason, they don’t care much about child labor.
Turn up the pressure!
Selective purchasing ordinances: If a group, say a university or organization, has large buying power, you can try to get a law enacted that prevents the organization from doing business with any company whose practices you don’t agree with. This is another extreme measure, but can also be extremely effective.
Ethical investing: Not only can you do this with your own investments, but if you are part of an organization, you can help control what investments they make. You can choose how to invest based on negative actions by a company or positive actions.
Economic sanctions: You can help lobby the government to put sanctions on countries that have unethical practices.
Demonstrate: Demonstrations include marches, strikes, sit-ins, sleep-ins, teach-ins, performance art and street theater, and, hunger strikes. You can even cause websites to crash by getting large groups of people to access the sites at the same time.
Social media is a great place to find where protests are happening or to start your own.
Civil disobedience: This one is for all you people who like causing a bit of mayhem with your movements. Sometimes, politeness just doesn’t cut it so you have to block traffic, sit in front of bulldozers, vandalism etc. You’ll probably get arrested or maybe just pepper sprayed.
More, More, More
Agitate: We in these here parts like to call this “stirring the shit.” If you see people or groups being exploited and otherwise treated inhumanely, help them help themselves.
Make a career of your activism: Get a job, you lazy hippie. Just kidding, but seriously.
Give this a read too.
Here’s 5 unconventional ways to practice activism from Elephant Journal:
Autonomous Zones: Think Occupy Wall Street and read this about Fiume.
Daily Acts as Protest: Think boycotting on a smaller lever….population: you. Grow your own food or buy local instead of using big farms that mistreat animals. Make small changes that support your beliefs.
“…in 2011 in Belarus, a country north of Ukraine. As the economic crisis reached a tipping point, the president outlawed political protest. Citizens were not willing to give up the battle though. They would show up in public places in large numbers, collectively setting their ringers off on their cellphones or banging pots and pans. Not a single sign was needed to make a large and dramatic show of their disagreement with the political system.However, large scale participation like this is not necessary! During the Gay Right movement in North America in the 60s and 70s, same sex couples would make their mere existence a form of protest by kissing in front of political buildings. Another example of this is the Dance Liberation Front, which organized small group dances in the street in the late 1990s to protest the 1920s “anti-dancing” law which was still in the books and being reinforced by Mayor Giuliani.”
Okay, this one sounds pretty fun.
Changing your profile pic to show your support for certain causes and using hashtags is another way to use activism in your daily life.
Creative Demonstrations: Kind of like performance art or street theater, this includes “flash mobs, dances or even something as simple as ‘glitter bombing’ a city counsellor at a Q and A session… the poor guy had to spend the rest of the meeting covered in glitter, which made his homophobic stance seem quite ridiculous.”
“Another cool example came out of the Ukraine last year when protestors simply held mirrors, reflecting the images of police officers back to themselves. Many officers ended up joining the side of the protestors after seeing themselves in such a negative and aggressive light.” Well, I think we all know a group who could use this idea…..
Art: Writing, drawing or painting , music, dance, acting, poetry slams.
“The possibilities are infinite because every artist will express themselves in different ways.
“The very essence of this was captured during the civil rights movement through the use of freedom songs and political poetry and is still seen today via individuals like Banksy or groups like Rising Appalachia (a musical cooperative based out of the Appalachian mountain region who use their music to protest against environmental issues).
This doesn’t have to just be used to point out the problems either! Lots of artists use their passion to spread hope for the future, something that is necessary when the future may seem dim.”
Could not have said it better myself, so I didn’t.