Guest column by Alex Bacon
I don’t really care what your excuse is. There are a million and one causes, and no excuses.
Activism isn’t hard, but in a world as apathetic as ours appears, sometimes making a difference feels like jousting with windmills and trying to move mountains simultaneously.
As apathetic as the world seems to be, it’s easier than ever to be an activist and take interest in making a difference. There are endless causes to get behind and so many different ways to show support and be a force of change.
The first, and hardest, part of activism is finding a cause to be an activist about, or just choosing an issue that makes you want to take a stand. It’s also the most crucial part of being an activist. Taking a stand about an issue you only vaguely care about is like trying to paint a portrait with your eyes closed; it won’t be very effective. Passion is a key ingredient. What drives your life? What do you care most about?
For some, it’s the environment, human rights, education or health. These are big issues with many different points of view, but they can be broken down into smaller issues that are easier to deal with and have passion for. Break the “environment” issue down into endangered species, recycling, sustainability, eco-friendly cars and houses, animal rights, rainforest restoration and wildlife management. Break “human rights” down to issues about race, gender, sexuality and ability. I could go on, but the lists would never end. It’s no challenge to find an issue.
I care about food. I care about where my food comes from. I’m a big fan of the local food movement because by supporting local agriculture I support my community and reduce my carbon footprint. I like the idea that I can see where my food comes from and talk to the person who grew what I put in my mouth. I don’t have time to do extensive research, go to protests or stand on street corners with signs, but I do have time to buy food at the farmers market and eat at restaurants that have local products on their menus. I do have enough time to talk to my friends and family about eating local food.
I make my difference by putting money into the system I believe in and spreading knowledge about the issue. That’s where activism really starts.
There are different levels of activism, because honestly, how many of us can put all of our time and energy into picketing on the sidewalk? I sure can’t.
There is a version of activism that has emerged called “slacktivism.” It’s where activism starts and stops with Facebook or a one-time action. Slacktivists join a cause on Facebook, change their status or profile picture to a color, wear a specific color on one day, sign a petition or forward messages from someone to their other contacts.
There’s nothing wrong with this level of activism, but if we all stop here, nothing significant will ever get done.
I’m asking you to move from slacktivist to activist. The word activism has “act” in it, which is the most important thing you can do for a cause. Get involved with a club or an Associated Students office. Start a club. Get involved with a Bellingham or national organization. Collect money for your cause or donate what you can. Tell everyone who will listen about your cause, and listen to what they have to say. Whatever it is you are passionate about, don’t let it be a one-time thing. Don’t let yourself go through the motions and just give lip service to a cause. Get behind a movement and help push the issue until change happens.
Alex Bacon is a Journalism/Public Relations major and works in the AS Publicity Center.