Yesterday I wrote of how seeing the video of Palestinian children being tortured by Israeli soldiers bothered me so much I couldn’t sleep. When something affects me that strongly, I guess I hope that others will share the concern and we can work on ways to address the situation.
The decided lack of response when I wrote about that caused me to consider, once again, what the point of activism is. One of the things I learned from Alvin at KI is to ask, “what actually changed as a result?”
I don’t think anyone remains an activist very long if they measure what they do by immediate effects. What most often “actually changes” is more likely to be other people’s awareness, which may lead them to some sort of change in their lives, and/or an action that does result in a measureable change, like passage of a certain piece of legislation, or change in public policy. And we ourselves often aren’t aware of those things happening as a result of our initial action.
One example relates to our weekly peace vigil. Week after week it can seem we are invisible. And then, one day walking through the library, a librarian, seeing a sign I’m carrying, will ask if I’m going to the vigil, and express appreciation for that. Maybe she will someday say or do something herself as a result of her awareness that there is a community that continues to support peace efforts
Another example might be my refusal, for the past 40 years, to own a personal automobile, mainly for environmental reasons. I don’t think I’ve convinced a single person to give up their car. But in this particular case, what “actually changed” was my entire lifestyle. Rather than being much of a hardship, my health has greatly benefited by years of running as a means of transportation (and pleasure and mental health). My photography has developed to a much, much greater extent than it ever would have otherwise, since I nearly daily carry my camera as I walk to and from work.
Probably most importantly, things I do for activism are crucial for my spiritual health. Trying to live and act in accordance with our beliefs is fundamental to how I believe we should live our lives. What “actually changes” is a deeper sense of connection to God. What effects that might have beyond myself are beyond my control. But I think God often finds ways to use our witness.