How to become an activist? 10 tips
Activism is not an easy 9 to 5 job. It can be hard, frustrating and disappointing. It takes dedication and courage to change the world. At the same time, it’s one of the most rewarding things to do. Activism is not only difficult, it also involves joy, deep friendships and a sense of purpose. To be an activist means to relate to the problems our world faces in a meaningful, productive and creative way. Becoming an activist is a way of becoming who you are. And not just individually, but through empowering relationships with others. Simply said, the point is trying to make the world a better place. And who doesn’t want to do that? As with everything, however, this is easier said than done. So to help you get started, we present you with 10 tips on becoming an activist!
- Get together. Activism is not a solo activity. We’re not born alone, and we don’t live alone. Individualism is a construct that separates human beings from each other. We’re all in this together, and if we’re going to get anywhere, we’ll need to work together. Find like-minded people and work out ways to join forces.
- Pick a cause. The world is a big place and changing it is, well, a big thing. But don’t be discouraged by the overwhelming size of it all. It’s not like you’re only “successful” when the entire system is replaced by something new. Find your cause, no matter how local or seemingly small, and start there. Or begin by seeking out existing organisations or groups and see if you can join. Just a handful of examples: there are very well-organised movements in anti-racism, feminism, and climate activism. Start anywhere, but focus on a cause.
- Make time. Activism can be very time and energy consuming. If it weren’t, everybody would be out there demanding change. This is part of how our society works. We’re forced to work hard and take care of ourselves, so we don’t get “side-tracked” by collective issues. Making time for social and political struggles is already an act of resistance.
- Be prepared for the long haul. Change takes time. The anti-racism movement in the Netherlands started protesting against Zwarte Piet almost a decade ago and is only now on the verge of winning the battle. Institutional problems take a long time repairing. Setbacks and delays are part of the process. Don’t expect quick wins, but stay focused on your goal.
- Celebrate your struggle. You don’t have to be a monk or a saint to be an activist. You’re not prohibited to have fun, you’re not obliged to live fully and only for The Cause and neglect everything else. Activism involves emotions, negative and positive ones. But you’re doing it with others, and you will find your strength and joy in celebrating with them.
- Make some noise. Unfortunately, things usually don’t change when you ask the authorities politely. You have to make yourself heard. Be creative in discovering ways to get attention. Let Extinction Rebellion’s eye-catching climate protest be an example. Don’t be afraid of possible reactions, just stick with your message. Your comrades and allies will be with you.
- Learn from others. Activism has a very long tradition, full of examples of epic victories and regrettable defeats. Many brave people have come before you and their experiences contain inspiration and lessons that you can apply in your own struggle. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Heed the lessons from the past.
- Don’t give up. It can be difficult, it can be hard. And it’s completely okay to admit that. You don’t have to force yourself to cross boundaries you don’t want to cross. Also, there are many ways of being an activist, apart from organising marches and demonstrations. Strengthening your community, talking to people about political issues, taking care of others: it’s all equally important. But what matters most is to not give up.
- Read up. Although reading is not quite en vogue anymore, it is crucial for changing yourself and how you relate to the world. Books are our friends. They explain and they inspire. There is an enormous amount of theory and analysis about pretty much every subject you can think about, and it will help you in your struggle. Of equal importance is reading fiction and poetry. The power of the imagination is one of our biggest strengths as human beings. Nurture it. Although you can start literally anywhere, Audre Lorde’s works are particularly powerful and cover a range of genres.
- Use the existing infrastructure. There are a lot – really, more that you think – organisations that want to help you. Need money for a protest? Go to Het Actiefonds. Need a sound system or other props? Go to Theaterstraat. Need all sorts of trainings and courses? Go to Stroomversnellers. Need professional help with a campaign? Go to De Goede Zaak. You’re not alone, is the point, and we must all help each other to create the world we want to live in!
More info: www.newactivism.world
Written by Jarmo Berkhout