What Are The Meaningful Actions?
January 3, 2012 § 15 Comments
“So – what can I do?”
This may be the most frightening question we campaigners get asked.
One exchange this week typifies how it plays out. Glyn Jones asked tax-avoidance expert Richard Murphy on twitter;
Imagine you are Glyn Jones – does this help? He probably feels as if he doesn’t know enough to talk or write about the issue, and what does ‘occupy’ even mean to those new to the movement? I’m picking unfairly on Richard – an absolute hero – but this exchange captured so well what we change-makers struggle with: enabling meaningful action.
Watching the biopic Gandhi this week, it struck me how careful the man was in choosing what he asked fellow activists to do. In South Africa, the burning of identity passes, in India, the collecting of salt on the beaches and boycott of British-made clothes. He didn’t want to belittle the commitment he was asking for, and he didn’t want to waste people’s time.
Each of the meaningful actions were:
- Practically useful – what I’m doing has a real (if nominal) impact
- Symbolic – it tells a story
- Public – others can see what I’m doing
- Communal – I don’t do it on my own, I do it with others
- Clearly messaged – if I’m telling my friends what happened, I can do it in one sentence
Other successful examples are everywhere – refusing sugar when drinking tea, burning bras, picket lines, blocking of petrol stations by angry truckers. So surely we can come up with some good actions for the campaigns and movements we’re working in?
Though I’m pretty sure it’s gotta be better than these:
- change your bank account or energy provider
- install clean energy solutions on your house (unless it’s done like this)
- become a vegetarian on your own
- run a marathon and raise some money wearing fancy dress
There are thousands of people asking campaigners everyday ‘what can I do?’. It’s time we came up with some better answers.