Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Idealism, activism - who needs it?

In the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed that I've posted links to the World Urban Forum and the World Peace Forum in Vancouver. I like to keep in touch with these things in my effort to stay informed and view the world in more of a global sense.

It's too easy to get caught up with the mundanities of our personal lives and forget about the bigger picture. There's nothing wrong in being engaged with our immediate surroundings -- it's a necessity. But I think we need to strike a balance between what's going on here and what's going on out there in the broader world.

I know some people roll their eyes when they read or hear about peace conferences, rallies or anything that smacks of activism and idealism. It seems "activism" and "idealism" has fallen into disfavour. Not exactly bad words, but viewed similarly to feminism – seen as unnecessary, irrelevant, a purview of the radical fringe these days.

Most distressing is that so many people my age, who grew up with the women's movement, anti-segregation rallies and the peace marches of the sixties, would be so disdainful of the similar today. Surely, they all can't have become totally disillusioned and abandoned their ideals for a house in suburbia and an SUV. As a matter of fact, I know those people are still around. They may have gone underground (or to suburbia) for awhile, but they still have those old ideals buried somewhere inside. If we care about the world we want to leave for our children and grandchildren, now would be a good time to come out and re-activate that old idealism.

I guess what I'm saying is that the world has gotten itself into a bit of a pickle and it's time for everyone to look around and see what needs fixing and actually do something about it. Whether it's the environment, world peace, the homeless, a new community centre or just cleaning up the neighbourhood, everyone can act positively for change. Figure out what's important to you and take action.

The action doesn't have to be big or monumental. For those who don't think they can make a big difference, I like the phrase, "think globally, act locally". It's borrowed from environmentalists, but can easily apply to politics (policy-making), peace and almost any other social problem. In effect, it says you CAN make a difference at the local level. So, you can't stop all the child and women's abuse in the world, but you can support your local women's and children's shelters. So, you can't stop wars single-handedly, but you can elect and support politicians who reflect your ideals.

THAT's what activism is about – taking direct action to effect political or social change. A little idealism thrown into the mix doesn't hurt either.

So ends my lecture for the day . . .

Here's a link to a great blog about effecting change (of particular interest to Americans). TCK- the Blog


Joy said...

Once again, I agree with you. And once again, you wrote about it eloquently, articulately, and compassionately. I like the way you think and write! :-)

naomi dagen bloom said...

so true...but it's hard to get comfortable mature women unglued from their narrow zone. also, i think there's a problem in how professionalized so much of "doing good" has become

ell said...

Naomi, thanks for stopping by. I feel people in general, not just mature women, get stuck in a certain comfort zone and fail to engage in something else, even when they know in their hearts that they should. I suppose the trick is to find ways to tip them over the edge to become doers instead of apathetic watchers.

I agree that the professionalization of charities and other social advocacy issues might be a problem for some people. In a way, when campaigns get too slick and professional looking, it almost lets people off the hook. They think there's no need to get personally involved or think just writing a cheque is all that's needed.

In reality, especially at the grass-roots level, everday individuals are needed to make things run. There's a lot of room for the average person to participate and make a difference.