Thursday, February 25, 2021

From Political Hobbiest to Political Activist: Why and How to Make the Shift



My Shift from Political Hobbyism to Activism


January 21, 2017 was transformative for me. It was on that day that I went from political hobbiest to political activist. On that day (the day after Donald Trump's inauguration) I joined an overwhelmingly female multitude of my fellow citizens who simply couldn't believe that Trump had become president. Representing my wife and daughter and granddaughters I attended the first Women's March in downtown Los Angeles, resolved to do everything I could to resist Trump's presidency. I went alone, not as part of any group. I had no idea what I was going to do to actualize my desire for resistance. I just knew I had to do something. 

Luckily, I bumped into (literally!) a smart young couple who invited me to join their local Indivisible group. Within a few weeks I had a meaningful assignment on the team, began attending regular organizing meetings and was taking my first baby steps as a political activist. In the years to come I would attend advocacy meetings with politicians and elected officials, participate in more marches and demonstrations, help with get-out-the-vote campaigns, etc. 

That's me, at the Women's March in Downtown LA, Jan. 21, 2017

As we would soon see in the 2018 midterm elections, many of those born-again-as-activist women who attended that first Women's March would run for office and win political positions. And a vast army of us would continue pushing an anti-Trump, pro-democracy progressive agenda at all levels of government -- local, state and national. 

Soon, to my surprise, my noisy political rants on Facebook and Twitter dwindled down to almost nothing. They just weren't that much fun anymore. As my energy shifted to real, meaningful political action, my need to bluster and debate had all but disappeared. And better yet, I began to see a direct connection between my tangible work as a budding activist and actual, real-world political progress.  

 The Problem with Political Hobbyism


From "College-Educated Voters Are Ruining American Politics" in The Atlantic

I know from personal experience as a political hobbiest that it can be addictive to follow the cable talking heads, dig into opinion pieces, quote the pundits and wax profound via memes and social media link-posting. I get it! I've been there and I know it can feel good to raise hell online -- especially if you are raising hell alongside a core group of like-minded ranters (a.k.a. an "echo chamber") who have targeted and do regular combat with opposing ranters from "the other side." But eventually you have to ask yourself: What is this accomplishing? Am I making a difference or just letting off steam? Or worse... Is this just about getting attention and proving how profound I am? And, finally, if I have the energy to do this stuff, then why not channel it into concrete action that has a chance of getting meaningful results?  

In the short video below Hanz Harkir reviews Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change by American political scientist Eitan Hersh. In the process, Hanz summarizes the distinction between political hobbyism and political activism.

 

Want to dig a little deeper? In his podcast interview with Eitan Hersch, Chris Hayes (of MSNBC fame) asks Hersch to explain "what he diagnoses as 'political hobbyism,' what real political engagement looks like, and .. how this self-gratifying online hobbyism can be detrimental to the real political activism needed to create change." Check it out.


Okay.  So if political hobbyism is the problem, what's the solution?  

The solution: Channel that rant energy into political activism!


You might be surprised how easy it is to become politically active! In fact, most of us who helped get nation-wide results in the 2020 election were able to work from home, on our own schedules (mostly part-time) with not much more coordination than occasional phone calls and Zoom meetings. The work itself usually consisted of simple stuff like phone banking, text banking, calls to voters to help them figure out how to get registered, etc. And yes, from time to time, we made calls to our local or national elected officials as part of one initiative or another. The bottom line: All of this was much more fun and rewarding than merely ranting on social media. 

Action, in a democracy, means making phone calls to the office of your elected officials, hitting the streets (masked, these days, of course!) to take part in a political action or demonstration, joining a group of volunteers (in person or virtually) who are working for change or (Do you dare?) running for local office.

In her article "How to get involved in an activist organization and become a valuable volunteer — starting today," Laura Casado elaborates on these action items for the newbie activist:
  • Go to local meetings [safely, of course!]
  • When you find the right fit, introduce yourself to leadership and other volunteers
  • Be humble about how you can help
  • Know that every volunteer is valuable
  • If you can, make the long-term commitment
  • Commit to life-long learning
And, though it may be a bit dated (2017), you might want to check out CNN's link-filled "25 ways to be politically active (whether you lean left or right).

And then, there's Indivisible, the umbrella organization of grass roots teams that got me started on my road to political activism.  According to this quick WikiPedia summary: 
"Indivisible is a progressive movement in the United States initiated in 2016 as a reaction to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. The movement began with the online publication of a handbook written by Congressional staffers with suggestions for peacefully but effectively resisting the move to the right..."

Not ready to join an activist group? Okay, then. If you prefer individual activism, a good way to start is to simply pay attention to what your elected representatives are preparing to vote on. You gotta track the bills that are scheduled to be voted on, then make some noise and let them know how you want them to vote! On the national level, GovTrack.us is a great tool for this. 


Specifically, 
GovTrack.us tracks the United States Congress and helps Americans participate in their national legislature. From their website: 
"We publish the status of federal legislation, information about your representative and senators in Congress including voting records, and original research on legislation. We’re one of the oldest government transparency websites in the world."
GovTrack databases and search tools can help you find out who your representatives are, how to contact them, their current and historical congressional activity as well as provide automatic updates on Congress. Then it's up to you to let them know what you want!
And if you already have an issue that is urgent for you and you’re burning to call your senator or congressperson immediately, use the links below to get their contact numbers and go get ’em!
Finally, you can always take the leap and Run for Something yourself!  

Check out these encouraging words from the Run for Something website:  
"Throw everything you know about politics out the window. You’re qualified to run for local office – we’re here to help... Since launching in January 2017, Run for Something has recruited 70,000+ young people across all 50 states who want to run for local office... We provide a safety net for new and exciting progressive candidates — at all stages of their journey — to help them run efficient, grassroots & voter-contact driven campaigns and not feel alone in the process."

So just do it!

As you can see from the resources above, there are plenty of ways you can channel all that political energy of yours away from pointless political hobbyism and move it into meaningful, change-the-world political activism.  As anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."

So... if you think the world sucks, why not stop complaining and do something to fix it? 


Bonuses: Need a little pep talk to nudge you to action? Check out these articles & podcasts:

Friday, January 29, 2021

From the archives: How to stay positive, stay engaged & expand your comfort zone.

If you're finding it hard to maintain a positive attitude following month after month of pandemic isolation, an exhausting election year and now the cold and darkness of winter, you're not alone! But when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I like to remind myself of this colorful wake up call from that legendary pep-talk king, Dale Carnegie:

"Spit on your hands and get busy. Your blood will start circulating; your mind will start ticking – and pretty soon this whole positive upsurge of life in your body will drive worry from your mind. Get busy. Keep busy.”  

And he's right! It's hard to feel gloomy while you're busy doing something.  (For more on this, see "Overwhelmed by Angst? 'Spit on Your Hands & Get Busy!' (Including a Quick Start Guide to Banishing Angst)."

In this article, I've pulled together some "get busy, stay busy" stuff from my WORTH SHARING archives. It's a collection of odds and ends that can help you banish angst by nudging you to learn something new and maybe get you out of your comfort zone. Enjoy!

Challenge Yourself with Some New Skills 


Everybody knows the web is loaded with "how to" guides of all sorts. Over the years I've reviewed many of them at this website. Here are a few of my favorites. 

How to Be a Gardener or Urban Farmer: Three Excellent (and Free) Resources 


Food for the body, enrichment for the soul... even a potential income source! Gardening can give you all of these, depending on how much time and energy you decide to invest.  In this article I share three great resources to help you get started with planning and managing your window box, your home garden, your urban farm or your "all-in" urban agriculture business. (Go to article.)

Exercise Your Right Brain & Improve Your Life with Art Lessons from Artyfactory.com [Video Tour Included]  

Behavioral psychologists have long identified these benefits of painting and drawing: Improved creativity, memory, communication skills, problem solving skills, stress relief, more positive emotions, release of hidden emotions, increase of emotional intelligence, better mobility, better observational skills. (Go to article.)

Searching for a Picture: How a Camera in Your Hands Can Improve Your Vision  



There’s something about that device in my pocket, with all its lens settings and editing tools and pixel-power, that keeps nagging at me. It keeps asking, “Now what do you see? What’s out there that’s amazing? … that’s beautiful?” (Go to article.)

A Dozen Free Google Apps to Keep Your Family or Team Organized [Part 1 of 2]



Does your family or team have documents, photos, plans & maps scattered all over the place? Google’s free apps help you consolidate, share & get organized! And they're especially valuable while we're all staying separated "safer at home." (Go to article.)

6 Podcasts to Help You Become an Amateur Tech Geek  


One of the easiest ways to immerse yourself in tech stuff is to subscribe to a few tech podcasts and replace some of your time spent scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or Twitter with time spent listening to (and learning from!) tech experts. (Go to article.)


Got downtime? Teach yourself project management with these free videos and tools! 


Are you isolating due to the raging pandemic? If you have downtime, why not teach yourself something valuable so that when you emerge from your cave... and you will eventually emerge!... you will have some "added value" in the workplace?  And project management (PM) is one skill set that provides lots of value in almost any industry! (Go to article.)


Re-Introducing My YouTube Channel (A 10-Video Sampler)



Over the years I've collected quite a lovely pile of videos in my YouTube Channel.  In fact, as of this writing, there are well over 100 videos organized into five different playlists(And there are absolutely no annoying ads! ☺👍) You're sure to find something here that will inspire you to stay positive and engaged!  (Go to article.)


Bored passively consuming content? Feeling anxious? Maybe it's time to create something!  


Here are some specific creative challenges, along with a couple of pep talks, that could get you started. (Go to article.)


Explore Some Unusual Content Sources

If none of the suggestions above appeals to you, and you'd rather just kick back and consume content, how about nudging yourself gently outside your viewing/listening comfort zone? After all, not everything is on Netflix and YouTube!  Check out these content roads less traveled:

Acorn TV: Netflix for Grownups!  



"... some of the best British, Australian, Canadian and Irish TV series and stand-alone films!" (Go to article.)


Get award-winning movies & TV shows, audio books, graphic novels, & ebooks FREE (no ads!) from your local library. 



Here's how it works: Libby, Kanopy and Hoopla are services that have set up relationships with most libraries to stream content to their library card holders. Since we are already supporting our local public libraries with our taxes or our college and university libraries with our fees, we can get all this content for free and with no ads or commercials! (Go to article.) 

My Inspired Project Teams Podcast (downloadable audio) Collection



Some sample topics: 

  • 10 Specific Actions That Can Help You Become Happier
  • Consciously Choose Your Attitude
  • Accept What Is
  • Train Yourself to be Happier
  • Get High on Kindness
  • Take Charge, Stop Playing the Victim ... and 25 more!
(Go to collection.)

Travel Back in Time, Through the Mountains of France & Around the World with Robert Louis Stevenson 



From the article: "What do you get when one of the best writers of all time sets out on a personal odyssey with a donkey and documents his travels?  You get delicious prose like the paragraph below, describing a night under the stars in the CĂ©vennes mountains in France, circa 1859..."  (Go to article.)

Bonus: Check out Project Gutenberg



I got all those rare Robert Louis Stevenson travel books named in the article above absolutely free from Project Gutenberg. You can explore (and download, listen or read for free) the works of Stevenson and most other great authors from around the world at Project Gutenberg.  They currently claim to have over 60,000 free ebooks just waiting for you to download! I haven't yet published a review of this incredible website, but it's definitely worth checking out! 

How to Get Comfortable Doing Nothing: 3 Simple Strategies



If none of the preceding inspires you to stay positive and engaged, maybe you should consider simply getting comfortable doing nothing! Yep. I've got some strategies to help you do that.  (Go to article.)