Activists tend to be seen as formidable. Serious people, they deny themselves pleasure based on a strict moral code, and are hell-bent on stripping you of all your luxuries. They are seen as acting out of, and through, guilt, theirs and yours.
Before I felt comfortable identifying as an activist I felt this guilt daily. I quietly tried to live my values, but I rarely voiced them for fear of being called out as a hypocrite. I didn’t call myself an activist for the simple reason that nothing I was doing seemed active enough. When I met activists, I watched them for the inconsistencies I found within myself, wanting the comfort of finding them as fallible and human as I, while simultaneously waiting for judgement.
It never came. Each day that it didn’t I became a little more secure, a little more open, and a lot happier. Somewhere, I’m not sure where exactly, I crossed a line. I became an activist.
It wasn’t that I suddenly began protesting and letter-writing, although I do feel much more comfortable voicing my opinions. It was a recognition that everything we do in life is an action, a choice, an opportunity to do something positive. And therein lies the seldom voiced truth about activism. The wonderful thing about committing oneself to creating positive change is it is inherently a joyful process. Once you’ve looked inequality and pain in the face and decided to live a life of intention you are free. Free of guilt, free of apathy, free of despair. Of course, there are days of anger and sadness. But if you know you are doing something positive, then there must be other people also doing something, and the more you keep to this path of intention, the more of these people you will have the pleasure to meet, and fill your life with; sooner or later it becomes a joyful process of collective resistance.
Whether you are working for ecological justice, freedom from poverty, or disease, or from or the social ills of racism, sexism, homophobia, ablism – the list goes on – what you are really doing is protecting joy, and working to ensure that joy is possible for all of life on Earth.
In committing myself to the freedom of others, I have found something I didn’t know I was missing: my own freedom.