Thursday, 4 June 2020

3 Simple Ways To Advocate For Long-Term Change In Your Daily Life

If you've been living here on planet earth, chances are you've heard it countless times that we are in the midst of "unprecedented times". Unprecedented which means never known or never been done before. Last Monday's protest was the first time in Irish history a crowd of people of that size marched against racial injustice both in solidarity with America and against systemic oppression in Ireland. That March was unprecedented but racism and oppression are not. Amidst all this, there were a lot of people throwing around the term 'virtue signaling' as a way to describe those whose outward actions were merely in line with the majority for face value. 

I personally believe this concept of virtue signalling falls into two categories. The first category, and most problematic, would be those who share or speak on the issue of race and oppression while holding an opposing view. The spiral of silence is always strong when there is a large majority speaking out on a divisive issue. In this category, virtue signalling is a false outward action to mask a belief or opinion which lies with the minority view. The second category is the individual who lacks the factual knowledge to be confident in their opinion but wants to show support. In this category, virtue signalling is an empathetic outward action based on human emotional connection but lacking in factual knowledge. Overall regardless of what category you fall into, there is a social pressure to make that known especially online.

In my last post, I highlighted an observation. The anger of the protests, the media attention, the clicktivism and the heightened motivations for change seen in individuals and groups will soon die down when the media move on. You may yourself already be feeling mentally, emotionally or physically drained. You may start saying to yourself 'there's not much I can do', 'I have to get on with me life', 'I can't fix the world's problems' etc. There is nothing wrong with wanting to detach from issues that seem much bigger than our individual selves. At times, I disappear into my room and spend the day watching films. The difference between those who can detach themselves completely and those who can't is the same as the difference between something directly affecting you or not. I can't detach from my skin or the oppression that come with it.  

While your rage is raw and your energies are high, it is the perfect time to commit yourself to long-term action by addressing how you plan to be an agent of change once the media stage lights go off. You've very likely seen this or even shared it but 'let's not go backwards' is a very difficult thing to do when we haven't really gone forwards.  Franz Fanon (1952) highlighted that understanding or theorizing doesn't equate change. Change requires aspiration. Below are three simple things you can do now to ensure you can continue to advocate for change the way your Instagram or Twitter page says you do. 


1) MAKE YOUR AWARENESS VISIBLE IN YOUR FEED

Staying informed requires actively seeking and subscribing to the organisations that will keep you informed.

There are plenty of organisations and groups being thrown around right now. It is incredibly overwhelming at times swimming in this pool of information. With that said, your social media algorithms aren't going to push the kind of content you are seeing amid all the global discussions at present to your front page feed. Just have a look at your Instagram discover page and see how many posts you see about the protests. So to help with this you can ask yourself: 1) Have I made myself aware of the groups and organisations in my country/globally actively advocating for change? 2) Have I made these groups visible in my media consumption? In today's technological world, it is incredibly easy for things you may feel passionate about to be drowned in the distractions of entertainment and popular culture. Distractions that mass culture theorists Adorno and Horkheimer claimed impede people from taking political action. Not every group or organisation will be relevant to you. Global change is a combination of national changes. But you have to subscribe to your awareness. Out of sight, out of mind.

2) MAKE YOUR AWARENESS INFORMED

By actively seeking to learn more you will have the knowledge to do more. 

Once your media consumption is set to maintain your awareness and provide you the vision to see the changes through, it is time to inform that awareness. People who can afford to say they are not political are often people whom their society or their systems do not negatively impact. If you see the injustice of housing prices, corporation tax and complain about them while doing nothing, you are passively political. If you see these injustices and take the time to learn about the various political parties and how they have dealt with these issues in the past so as to inform your voting practices, the you are actively political. You can be content with your life but cannot assume that equates to the lives of those in your local, national or global community. There are plenty or academic resources both for the everyday reader and the academic minds that'll provide you with the knowledge to fill in the gaps. 

When you learn more, you can do more but don't expect the people of colour in your life to be your teachers. More often than not the only lessons we can share are experiences. Not everyone has the academic history or facts to give you a breakdown of their own historical oppression and some people may just not be comfortable with that. So if you want to sit down with a person of colour, come having laid down the foundations of your knowledge because you won't learn that listening to my racist experiences. I can't tell you the changes you can make because I do not know your resources be they emotional, mental, physical or financial. But if you seek to learn you will know how to make that change. To get you started, below you'll find further below a list of things to read, watch or listen to.


3) DONATE TO YOUR AWARENESS

Be it physical, mental, emotional or financial, dedicate yourself to acting on your awareness.

1) Physical: Volunteer. What can you physically do in your community to be an agent of change. Want to help the homeless? Volunteering in soup kitchens isn't just a Christmas thing. Volunteering your time to community groups for change can be a valuable way of bringing change to the present.

2) Mental: while you're learning, share your experiences with those around you. Write and talk about it in a respectful way. You're not boasting about how great you are but trying to lead by example.

3) Emotional: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another is called empathy. It's surprising to see schools having to actively teach these in classes because we are forgetting these important values in our drive for worldly possessions. Connect emotionally with others through thoughtful actions such as listening and checking yourself when needed. You may not be able to understand but we've all felt pain enough to empathize. This can get uncomfortable especially when encountering responses that challenge your own views or prior learning.

4) Financial: money can't solve everything and not everyone has the money to contribute but donate where you can. Sometimes this is the hardest thing of all. We live in a society that glorifies and celebrates material wealth. However, if you objectively can afford to commit to spare some financial resources to an organization or group dealing for something you care about, just do it.

Beware of thinking that by fulfilling any one of these three things on their own you are making change. You can have all the injustices plastered on your social media feed but seeing isn't action. You can learn as much as you want but if you don't apply your knowledge to your actions, its like reading the manuals to machinery and never using it. What's that going to do for anyone? And if you don't apply your resources, you are well and truly doing nothing for anyone. These are not mutually exclusive categories. They are simply ways to bring about long-term change. It's really up to you.

I am sharing very easily accessible content below for a light introduction to race and oppression discussions. Your individual learning should go much deeper than this. You can find more readings here.

Read

1) The Fact of Blackness by Franz Fanon
2) Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr. (Penguin Modern 01)
3) The Master's Tool Will Not Dismantle The Master's House by Audre Lorde (Penguin Modern 23)
4) Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
5) Africa's Tarnished Name - Chinua Achebe ( Penguin Modern 28)

If you are in Dublin, all the Penguin Modern books are €1.25 in Chapters Parnell Street.

Watch

1) 13th
2)Do The Right Thing - Spike Lee
3) Boyz N The Hood - John Singleton
4) If Beale Could Talk- Barry Jenkins
5) Malcom X - Spike Lee

Listen

1) To Pimp A Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar
2) Ear Hustle Podcast - Radiotopia

Donate

Black Lives Matter (US): You can donate to a collective bail fund to be split across the various organisations here.
DIRECT PROVISION: In Ireland you check out MASI and DORAS

There are many other sources circulating social media but I don't feel comfortable sharing the ones I am not too familiar with. If you find any good ones, share below.

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Till Next Time
xxx


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