The Activist Conundrum

So you want to be an activist and save the world? You want to affect change and see the world improve before your eyes. You are a results based individual and a doer. You are anxious to start. The moment is now. Time is of the essence and youth’s idealism fleeting; so they tell you. You see hunger, violence, death, disease, inequality, destruction and hate. It tears you apart; makes you scream with anger; you tear your shirt and hair and face. Your heart bleeds, your muscles tighten and you – Step – forward.

You leave your room and enter the world – paintbrush in hand – to paint over the old, the stagnant and rotting canvass; your colors are bright and you desire to invigorate, to beautify, to harmonize. You picket and protest, yell and scream, negotiate and compromise, rebel and revolt, petition and sue, challenge and argue. You fight to end all injustice, all pain, all suffering.

But the fires you dose, someone else reignites; the people you save, someone else destroys; the flower you nourish, someone else steps on; the church you build, someone else knocks down.

You experience unmerciful disillusionment. Your paintbrush is used and abused and all run dry. The colors smeared across the canvas – the work of many forces – and you do not recognize the world of your dreams. You step back into your room and close the door. You sit down and sigh. Maybe it’s time to take up reading again. But what for. You had a dream. It was beautiful and honest and true. What good are books. They are full of dreams – beautiful and honest and true – but they are illusions. You know. Your paintbrush resting in the corner of the room is a silent reminder.

You are not dead yet, that you know. What to do? Think? Think!

You think: I created peace but wars continued to start. I saved lives but people continued to die. I righted injustice but people continued to hate.

I fought for freedom but here I sit again, in my room, confined.

What to do, what to do?

You think and you think and maybe open a book and at one point you come across something referred to as –  ‘context sensitive analysis’. It sounds strange and bookish and dry. At first it does not arouse any spark. But then you come across another term – historical memory. Your mind starts to work and you walk and then run and finally jump up mental steps to arrive at new ideas. You play with the concepts of collective consciousness, cultural identity and conditioning. The C-words begin to dance in your mind’s eye like a puppet show on speed. Did I stumble on something, you think and you pant.

Trying to form a cohesive idea, you mumble: the world is what we make of it. The way we teach and interact and communicate affects our surrounding. Our surrounding in turn affects us. Feedback loops are everywhere, spinning in circles and don’t seem to end.

You think: The world I am in now is thousands of years old. People have been shaping and forming and affecting their surroundings for many years. Their surroundings have pushed back and have in turn shaped them. What I see now is a result of years and years of shaping and conditioning. The environment I am in now has been created through thousands of interconnected individual acts.

If wars and famines and hatred and violence and fear and anger and greed…..exist on this world, at this time, in this moment, then society has been actively involved in shaping the nature of these problems for many ages.

You bring that thought process to completion and realize that war or famine or violence is not the problem; therefore, why fight them?

The solution lies in the individual and the community. People are undervalued; relationships underpriced. Power, money and honor appear as the currency of this world. Communities are fractured, individuals isolated.

You jump up in ecstasy and dust of your paintbrush. You run down the street and call to your neighbor. He happens to have a trumpet! He dusts it off. Together you enter the world.

You paint people in parks and in streets and in houses and on mountains and in fields and in forests – holding hands, talking, laughing, dancing, loving. You paint people filled with compassion and empathy and overflowing with awareness. You paint them with smiles and with hearts and with ears and with eyes and with dancing shoes. You paint them as poets and musicians and writers and scientists and thinkers and clowns. You paint and your friend plays his trumpet. His sounds and his music – they ripple and grow and surge and flow and they enamour  and charm and embrace. They inspire and warm and uplift and they sing “I love you” for the people in parks and in streets and in fields and in forests.

And the Wars and the Hate and the Destruction and the Mistrust and the entire bag of No-goods – they look on and smile as the two of you weave society, one individual at a time. They doubt your approach and wait you out.

But ripples make more ripples and a snowflake causes avalanches and a butterfly’s wing beat inspires tornadoes halfway across the world and nuclear reactions are powerful and self-perpetuating and soon –  the world changes. The sun rises and light emerges and shadows flee and the view is clear and the cave empties and people see and are aware.

Wars and violence and abuse and destruction vanish like fog tendrils on an autumn day. People relate and their relating is strong and is beautiful. People feel and their feeling is empathetic. People act and their acting is whole. Communities are no longer fractured and people no longer isolated.

Your neighbor and you sit in a field and you smile and you laugh and you realize that youth’s urge to act and to change and to save was – beautiful and honest and true –  but in a dark world a candle can only burn so long and the shadows exist and are haunting and…. the candle fades.

People have shaped an environment and the environment has shaped the people. Life is context sensitive and to end wars you must erect the ramparts of peace in man’s heart and mind and being and show him to relate and paint and sing and dance a new reality into existence – free of darkness and shadows and fear.


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