This is the number one question we get asked. There are two ways to answer it. One way is quick and shallow; the other is complicated but much more accurate.
The first way of getting involved is to just find out what activist organizations are at work in your neighborhood or city, and join them. There might be a local chapter of large organizations like Amnesty International or Greenpeace. Or there might be a unique group dedicated to a particular issue, like fighting corruption on the local police force, or protect a certain forest or lake from construction companies. Look around your city, ask the people you know, search the internet, you’ll track these folks down. If you need help, you contact us and we’ll try to assist you.
The second way of getting involved is a longer, yet more fulfilling process.
Getting involved in activism is a very personal decision. Unlike school, no one is forcing you to be an activist. Unlike work, no one is paying you to be an activist. Your involvement and commitment are completely based upon your own feelings, your own morals, and your own passion.
There are thousands and thousands of issues a person could choose to focus on: poverty, racism, environmental destruction, war, corporate power, police brutality, democracy, free speech, etc. Or some people look away from separate issues and look at broader social patterns, seeking to move towards a new economic system, change the way people relate to each other, abolish governments, etc.
And for each of these general areas, there are hundreds of ways to attack the problem. Should you have protests and rallies? Write the editor of your paper? Organize a fundraiser? Lobby elected officials? Write a song? Break the law?
With so many important decisions to make, I say that step one is to educate yourself. Read a lot. Ask questions. Think. Try to see the world as it really is, not as you’ve always been taught to see it.
Then, think about the sort of world you’d like to live in. What would be different? What would be the same?
Then — and this is the tricky part — figure out how to make the real world more like the perfect one in your head.
This should be both scary and liberating. On the one hand, there are so many ways that you could take action, so many things you could try to change, and the infinite possibilities could seem overwhelming. On the other hand, that can be a very freeing feeling! You are free to do exactly what you want to do. Being an activist doesn’t mean repeating what’s already been done, going to protests, making signs, and chanting slogans. Of all the millions of possible actions, you come up with a plan that you think will move you closer to your goals.
Think about the things that matter most to you. What drives you? What angers you? What are you passionate about?
Then think about your capabilities. What are you good at? How can you use your skills to get from point A to point B?
You don’t need to ask or answer these questions alone. If you look around, you will find many people wrestling with these same concerns, who care about the world and where it is headed. Activism is usually the work of many people, choosing to take action together, out of their own desires and free will. It’s about openness, teamwork, cooperation and courage. You’ll meet a lot of interesting, passionate, creative people who might become your best friends. And even though it might be a lot of hard work, it sure as hell is more satisfying than spending the night watching television.
For more thoughts about activism, try some of the following.
- Activists Handbook by Protest.Net
- Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky
- All the Power by Mark Andersen
- An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire by Arundhati Roy
- The Gandhi Reader by Gandhi
- The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther, Jr. King
- Disobedience and Democracy by Howard Zinn
- This is What Democracy Looks Like
- Recipes for Disaster by CrimethInc.