Note: Before you take action, ensure that you understand an issue!
This doesn´t mean you have to become an intellectual expert on the issue. It means you understand its importance and relevance to people and why the particular issue is harmful to people and society. Simply, why is this particular issue a ¨bad thing¨?
Do not stress yourself in being an expert on the matter, but it is helpful to know as much as you can about the issue. However, this is not a requisite for taking action!
Now, let´s face a few things.
One – There are no particular and necessary steps to taking action. There is no guidebook. Some methods work in some areas and are laughable in others. So, take the action that you believe will result in progress.
Two – An action being popular does not mean the action will result in progress. Take the action that you believe will result in progress.
Three – Most progress will realistically arise from authorities (institutions and governments). Road-building in rural communities, for instance, is a mandate of a government and an activity that only they can realistically achieve. Influencing an authority, who is usually a legislator, is called lobbying. We´ll look at lobbying in a moment.
Four – There are indeed still actions that you can undertake that will directly lead to progress. For instance, when William Kamkwamba created windmills in Kenya. To take these actions, you have to understand what you are capable of.
Five – There may be existing groups for particular issues. If the group speaks to your politics, you may join the group. The actions you take in contributing to that group will depend on its needs and your abilities. Generally, existing groups will have established needs or opportunities. For instance, if they are putting pamphlets in postboxes (need), then that´s the action that they´ll need you to undertake. If they are struggling with social media (opportunity) and you happen to be good with social media, then that´s an action you could take. Importantly, you must become knowledgeable about the group, its beliefs, the specific issues it challenges and the methods it uses before joining. Do not allow public perception of the group influence your joining. You should be joining because it speaks to your politics and because you believe the group will create progress.
Six – If there does not already exist a group for a particular issue, you will have to start a group. Engage with other members of the community and whatever resources you have available to you to determine what you will require to create and maintain the group. Depending on what kind of group you create, what resources you have available to you and what kind of issues you challenge, you will face varying difficulties. However, persevere! If your group is not advancing progress, then seek out help from others to ensure that your group becomes effective.
Social movements, even one of your creation, require diverse groups of people with different abilities, especially in modern times. The only person that is aware of what abilities you can use to take action is you. In this view, it is independently your responsibility to understand ways in which you can help and then pursue those ways.
There may be avenues that are unique to you as a person, your identity and your location, that only you could creatively imagine using. There may be useful skills you have spent time developing or that have naturally developed. It is most important to be aware of your nature and abilities because these are your tools for advancing progress.
This is most important for actions that lead directly progress. You can only take these kinds of progressive actions if you understand yourself, especially if you are starting a new group.
Follow your beliefs
If a group advances an important issue but its methods or beliefs are against yours, you do not have to join the group, even if it is popular. However, the alternative to this cannot be silence or nonactivity. The alternative to this should also not be actions that do not lead to progress. If the actions you take do not lead to progress, it may be important to rethink what kind of actions you should take.
Also, ends often do not justify means. Solving a particular issue but sacrificing just principles is regress, not progress. Such an action is certainly not to be considered progress.
Start with struggles that will win
Choose issues that can grant you victories. These victories will give your group empirical value and this will be important for gaining support and influence. They will also keep you motivated. Mostly, they will also be advancing actual progress. The victories can also be used to catalyse further victories and advance further progress. It is crucial to understand which struggles to start off with.
Slavoj Žižek gives this advice in this YouTube video.
Search for needs and opportunities
A lot of your activism will be fulfilling the needs and opportunities of a particular group. These are extensive and should not be underestimated. The bulk of the work toward progress will be doing the behind-the-scenes drudgery.
Understand that real action leads to progress
This does not mean that the progress will be instantaneous. Sometimes, it will take longer. However, understand that some actions simply do not lead to progress.
Sometimes, it is great to be actively voicing opinions and arguing with people, but often this does not lead to progress. Sometimes, only being active on social media does not lead to progress. Just watching the news does not lead to progress. This doesn´t mean that opinion-voicing or social media are bad and do not lead to progress, it just means we should be discerning and understand when our activity is not leading to progress.
If you believe in a revolution to overthrow power-holders than you do not need to worry about lobbying to them. In fact, often an authority is corrupted to the point where they must certainly be removed. Here, the best option you have is to support the people challenging this authority. If there are no alternatives that speak to your politics, then you may have to become that alternative.
Otherwise, lobbying can be a powerful tool for advancing meaningful change. Understand that successful lobbying is not easy. It is time-consuming. It requires substantial resources, including finances. Consider that there will be other groups lobbying. Some may have more money and resources. Some may be established power-holders. Even the biggest of progressive lobby groups often fail to impact politicians.
The strongest advantage that progressive movements have to lobby are people. If a significant number of citizens campaign consistently for a particular issue, it is likely to be considered by politicians. These campaigns should include organised protest, advertising and rallies. Lobbying is effective when it is conducted by masses of people.
This is another reason it is important to start with struggles that already resonate with people. Consider how Bernie Sanders chose Healthcare as his signature struggle and was effective at rallying millions of people behind his political campaign. Similarly, lobbying could have similar results. Generally, these may be referred to as populist campaigns.
Reasonably, this is not easy. Populist campaigns require a charismatic leader to act as an organising force. This leader must have strong moral convictions, a strong record of civil service and must be liked by a significant number of the population. Their identity and nature need to resonate with a significant number of people too.
A charismatic leader is also necessary for amassing the volunteer labour and finances for the campaign. So, once the campaign succeeds in identifying a strong charismatic leader and consistently puts in the work, it can surely succeed in influencing authorities or even deposing of elected authorities.
When a campaign already exists, you are certainly taking action by joining that campaign. Within the campaign, continue to search for needs and opportunities because a lot of work is required to sustain the effort.
- Know Thyself
- Follow your beliefs
- Start with struggles that will win
- Search for needs and opportunities
- Be discerning
- Join a lobbying campaign