Positive Ways to Take Action In A Post Trump, Post Brexit World
The Debrief: The world might increasingly feel like it’s going to shit but giving up is not an option, nor is wallowing in bed
A year and a half ago, I got angry. I’ve always been engaged in politics – always felt pretty switched on – but in the summer of 2015 the fury I had always felt towards politicians, the elite, bankers, and the myriad of other People In Charge? It suddenly became more directed at myself. It was easy to talk the talk, but what was I actually doing to make the world a better place? Since then, I’ve tried to ask myself that question every single day, and I think (or at least, hope) that it’s done me a lot of good. The world might increasingly feel like it’s going to shit, but the anger I felt back then feels a lot more directed. I’ve channeled it towards attempting to be more active in my own community, doing more with activist groups and talking about the things that matter to me more.
I wish I could say I’ve done this all out of the goodness of my heart, but it’s not true. While I wouldn’t consider myself privileged in every respect, I do readily recognise the many privileges I do have. I can feed myself and pay my rent, and so I am, in a word, guilty. Guilt, however, is a useless emotion if you’re not backing it up. Your guilt is only useful if it propels you to make change to destroy the inequalities that might push you towards the top of certain ladders, so I’ve given up on trying not to feel guilty. Instead, I try not to bore people with my guilt, and just try to do more to make the world a tiny bit better.
So, where to begin? There are so many groups out there; look them up and get in touch asking how you can help. Worried about toxic immigration rhetoric in the news? Look up the Anti-Raids Network that gets people together to protect vulnerable migrants at risk of deportation. Google what an immigration van looks like, and next time you see one, stay and watch what the officers do. Look up Movement For Justice, a grassroots campaign against the UK’s practice of detaining vulnerable people, including pregnant women, in the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Look up Yarl’s Wood – read about the women who have told the government they were raped in detention, read how the government hides this publicly known abuse, don’t forget about the women. Tell people about them, and go on a Shut Down Yarl’s Wood demo. Take a friend or two or ten.
Look up Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, Black Lives Matter UK, the Abortion Support Network. Look up Sisters Uncut (and the many, many regional groups they now have), and read about the two women a week killed by a partner or ex-partner in the UK. Join a union if you haven’t got involved in one already. If you’re not sure which union to join, search online. Look up My Body Back, and Rape Crisis, and Women Against Rape, and read about the epidemic of sexual violence in this country. Look up how unlikely it is that women lie about sexual assault, and defend the casual sexist comments about women in high profile cases. Look up the Sex Worker Open University, and read more about the sex worker’s rights movement. Listen to sex workers and survivors, and generally don’t be complacent in your beliefs. Continue to question yourself, and don’t just go along with what feels easiest.
Volunteer. Volunteer your time, your money, your expertise, your abilities. Volunteer at your local food bank, give them food, volunteer with Crisis at Christmas. Volunteer with homeless charities, especially as it gets colder. Look up the United Friends and Families Campaign, and read how it supported the Hillsborough families in their search for justice, and raise awareness about the many other families looking for justice. Look up Sarah Reed, and be angry. Watch the police when you see them stopping and searching people, especially young kids or black and brown people. Use your phone, film things.
Activism isn’t just going on demos or waving placards, something that a lot of us can’t always do. If you want to help any charity or activist group, there is more than one way to do it. Donating money is often one of the biggest ways you can help. All of the groups I’ve mentioned are accepting donations, and in a lot of cases even a few pounds can make a difference. Share fundraisers, spread awareness, be public about your anger. Saying that, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the past year is to be selective with my energy. I’ve stopped arguing with strangers on Twitter, mostly because I realised how drained it would make me. Lots of people I know can argue online then go back to fighting the good fight straight after, but I’m more fragile than I once thought and I just cannot do both. So I don’t. I save my arguments for the times it matters, for racists on buses or the articles I write.
Then there are the boring aspects of activism, the stuff we don’t talk enough about. Behind every seemingly well-oiled machine is a network of people answering the phones, doing the emails. Painting placards, sewing banners, working out routes for demos. Making the spreadsheets, sending the press releases to try and get media attention, talking to journalists for interviews. Running social media accounts, writing blogs, keeping websites updated. Typing up the minutes during meetings, uploading said minutes to a laptop or online platform, collecting numbers and looking after sensitive information. Organising meeting space, cleaning meeting space, welcoming new people to meetings, hosting meetings, doing the teas and coffees at meetings, offering to babysit for parents and cares while they go to meetings. All of these things need to be done, and are being done, but there is always a need for more people on the ground, making things happen. Be one of those people.
Activism and social change are built on the backs of people willing to give up their time and labour for nothing. We might be scared by Trump, or angry about Brexit, but to be clichéd: change starts at home. Work your way out, and celebrate the small positive changes you can make. We all can make a difference. Sometimes, though, the hardest part is just getting started.
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