Activism: What is helping me cope

  1. Changing the goal posts.  My focus isn’t on making the world incrementally better or keeping it the same, but limiting the damage that is being done.  Everything I do makes progress towards that goal.  I cannot lose.  And, unlike normal times, there isn’t a chance that I’m making things worse.  It’s all uphill from this perspective.
  2. Not reading the news at all.  I’m paying for news, but I am not looking at headlines.  Instead, I am reading @wandsci and @scalzi and, when I’m feeling up to it, various indivisible twitter accounts or @decaro_nick.  They provide a filter for what’s important and what’s actually going on vs. what’s rumor.
  3. Linking troubling information to actions.  I feel better when I’m doing something about the thing that’s bothering me.  Even if it doesn’t get anywhere, I tried.  I call, I give money, I fax, I send letters.
  4. Talking with other people who are also being active and doing things.  Especially people who are doing even more.  They inspire me.
    1. Keeping abreast of the amazing amount of organization that’s happening.  Groups are meeting with other groups.  They’re coordinating.  People are joining them.  People are starting them.  At midterms it won’t matter that the official democratic party is a disorganized mess because we WILL elect moderate republicans in the primaries and flip districts to democrats where possible.  Indivisible will do that.  Groups with the name Alliance or Warriors etc. will do that.  They’re organized.  They’re strong.  They’re growing.  They’ve got money.  If we’re not fascist yet, things are going to happen.  The newly complacent tea party won’t know what hit them, nor will they particularly care now that there’s no longer a black president.
  5. Asking people who tell me that activism in my red state doesn’t make any difference to shut up.  Because even if I know my senator is never going to vote against a racist bigot because he himself is a racist bigot, my calls and the protests I attend send a message that he can’t go as far as he wants in that direction.  He needs to think twice about doing worse things.  Having second thoughts about doing horrific things at the very least slows them down.  AND I’m not the only person who has suddenly become politically active.  A year ago my voice wouldn’t have mattered, but today I am part of a chorus, and that chorus is growing stronger.  Every week I’ve been calling, my representative’s opinions have changed, and they’ve changed because of people like me calling for the first time because it matters and we know we’re stronger together.
  6. Getting my actions each week from one of the weekly lists we mention in our activism tab.  I’ve been going broad instead of deep.   This way I don’t have to be exposed to the entire world of media out there and can just focus on something someone I trust has already curated (I like Actions for Americans because they have a paragraph and links explaining each issue) and get my voice out there efficiently.
  7. Practice and habit.  Calls are WAY less anxiety-producing now.  I have a habit.   I go through Actions for Americans each week.  Later in the week when I get hit with news, I check out what @decaro_nick or my local indivisible groups say to do (if it’s local) and I do that.  I know which of my senators’ local office numbers have a non-zero chance of working and which ones try to make it more difficult to leave a message.  It’s much more matter of fact now than it was when I first called with my voice shaking.  It’s just part of my weekly routine.  Protest whatever atrocities are on the plate for this week.  So that 4 years from now I won’t have to anymore (hopefully then I’ll start calling to support positive change).

What is helping you cope?

Activism: Should you go broad or deep?

A lot of the taking care of yourself while fighting for America recommendations out there say to go deep on one or two issues.  Not because the other issues aren’t important, they are.  But because you’ll get burned out if you try to focus on too much stuff.  Better to pick an issue, join a specific-interest group, and do things for that issue.

We at grumpy rumblings have been recommending a different approach.  We’ve been telling people that if you have 15 min a week, to sign up for one of the weekly mailing lists going around (see our activism tab) and just do what it says on that list for that week (if you agree with the items, etc.)  We argue that doing this is a way to compartmentalize all the craziness and use your limited time and attention to make your voice heard.  Someone else has done all the research, made decisions about what to focus on most immediately, and needs you to provide the power of your voice and beliefs.  If you’ve got more time, you can subscribe to more lists or follow one of the twitter accounts that provides daily actions.

We don’t think that going deep is wrong either.  We think both are needed.  We need the people willing to go to meetings and do the initial research.  We need people willing to aggregate across those different groups and figure out what is most timely.  We need people to do the finger work to make calls across a wide variety of issues.  And we need those people to not burn out.

So do whichever works best for you and whichever fits with your life and personality best.

I can’t focus on just one issue– there are too many.  But I also get overwhelmed just looking at CNN.  So… I’m letting @Wandsci, @ActionsUSA, and others do that reading and aggregating and figuring out who to call for me.  And then I mostly do what I’m told.  (I’ve also been doing weekly proofreading for one of the groups in my state and I’ve been keeping and adding to a list of progressive groups in our county which I then give to groups so they can connect with each other, and I’ve been helping people figure how to do the activism they want to do.  So I guess you could say I’ve been going deep on networking.  Even though I’m a total introvert.).

DH is currently drilling down on a project to protect immigrants because that’s what the local democratic party has decided to focus on and DH was willing to figure out who to talk to to get the the information they need to set up their own program in conjunction with an immigrant group.  He’s also making weekly phone calls.

So no, I don’t think you have to go deep to avoid burnout unless that’s what you want to do.  You probably can’t dive deep into every issue, but you can dive deep into one or two, or you can be an intermittent voice for a broad array of issues.  Not burning out is important, but you don’t have to focus on only one thing to avoid it, you just can’t focus on everything.

How do you avoid burnout?  Do you prefer broad or deep (or a little of both)?  Do you think one is inherently better than the other, or does it depend on the person?