One of the greatest strengths you possess as a human being is the ability to change things for the better.
By using your privilege and good fortune to improve the lives of others, you can achieve truly valuable and wonderful things.
While it may not always seem like your voice is being heard or that progress is being made, recognize that not all change is obvious. Never underestimate the quiet contemplation of the unheard public known as “the silent majority” – the people who are engaged with current issues, but don’t voice their opinions as activists. Most importantly, believe that reform is possible.
We should feel secure in standing up for an issue we care about
The key to becoming an effective activist is to truly understand the topic you are campaigning about. After all, if you hope to educate others on the subject, it is best to have a wealth of factual information, statistics and examples to back up your reasoning. Read widely – from books to verified news sources – listen to podcasts and watch documentaries and films on the topic you are supporting. If in doubt: research, research, research.
Talk to people who have experienced the issue in question – even if you already have a personal understanding. Listening to different perspectives will help to build a well-rounded idea of the subject from various viewpoints and highlight the areas that need prioritizing for action.
If you speak with confidence, people will listen and value the factual information you are sharing.
However, you don’t have to know everything about the issue straightaway, especially as causes evolve with time. Be open about your desire to learn, understand and listen – and practise all of these things.
Many of us are driven toward activism because of a personal connection to a social issue. Perhaps we have experienced a form of prejudice or we have seen the devastating human suffering resulting from the rising sea level and climate change.
But what if we don’t have a direct connection to a cause? Should we feel we have no business in showing support? Is it “not our problem”
Ideally, we should feel secure in standing up for an issue we care about because everyone is responsible for creating a better world. Everyone will reap the benefits if we strive for social good and to create the foundations of a secure and contented society.
The best way to establish your stance on a topic is to come up with a personal mission statement. It doesn’t have to be more than a sentence or two, but it should encapsulate why you care about the issue. Doing this will also help you to communicate your feelings to others.
It can be nerve-wracking to introduce a conversation on a serious social issue to friends and family – especially if you know they may disagree with your point of view.
However, you should have confidence in your opinions. Remember: the reason many people are detached from a cause is often simply because they haven’t thought about it from a personal perspective, aren’t aware of it or don’t understand it, so most are likely to welcome an enlightening discussion.
An example is the continuing anti-racism movement and the question of whether those who haven’t experienced racial prejudice should offer observations or speak up on the issue. The truth is that the more allies willing to stand against every type of prejudice, the better, so don’t be afraid to show support.
After all, we have one collective goal – to make the world a friendlier place for everyone. To make that happen, we need more advocates for kindness, inclusion and positive change.
Regardless of your experiences, be proud to stand for a cause that is compassionate, progressive and, ultimately, good.
This article is an edited extract from The Little Book of Activism: A Pocket Guide to Making a Difference (Paperback) by Karen Edwards and published by Summersdale