We believe that we have a role to play in effecting change. The role may include spending time and energy mobilising others and building a sense of community, persuading publicly and privately for the cause. It may involve empowering the marginalised to live well, be seen and speak up.
We believe that things will get better with our contributions. Progress may take decades and it may be slow, but change will happen.
Unlike social workers, philanthropists and teachers, we may not be directly aiding beneficiaries. We are trying to address the systemic faults, ignorance and apathy which have given birth to a cause. Perhaps the word ‘activist’ simply recognises a role being played, not the extent to which one cares about the issue.
Last night at dinner, a guest remarked that she is just ‘a partner of a lesbian’, because she is not very involved with the local queer community, although her partner is. A friend reminded us it is like that t-shirt which read, “I’m not lesbian – my girlfriend is.” Our guest was self-deprecating; it belies her personal contributions in supporting her partner, writing empowering articles and a book for lesbians in her country.
So what if she were not an activist in name? She is an example of how everyone can play a part, whether apparently large or small, public or private:
Without being affiliated to an environmental organisation, we could consume less and recycle waste.
By choosing to buy eco-friendly, non-animal testing products, we are sending a signal to producers to make them.
Without being an activist, we could tell our friends and politicians that we support the recognition of queer rights. Collectively, our personal choices affect and make the world around us, because we are connected. It affirms an aphorism attributed to Gandhi, “Be the change that you want to see in the world”.
We may get discouraged by apathy and wonder when enough people will care about our pet cause, that is, when public support will become sufficient to tip the scale. In fact, many of our problems – poverty, war, discrimination, abuse, neglect, abandonment, ecological threats – are linked to one another. They could be resolved by a fundamental practice of awareness, compassion, respect and care for the people and world around us.
The truth is, it does not take a superheroine to save the world, just enough human beings being humane.