When it comes to the betterment of humanity, activism is perhaps the most important yet most controversial element in society. Activists are the free thinkers, the system busters, the loving warriors, the boat-rockers, and the truth tellers. These visionaries are the vanguard of social reform, acting as the warning system for a society out of balance. Activists are often criticized, ostracized, and even killed, yet their legacy stands among the most virtuous of contributions throughout history. Whether in the form of social media outcry, boycotts, protests, public art (Banksy), sit-ins, or armed insurrection, activists have undoubtedly been a major driving force of progressive social change.
Yet despite the intensity of external focus typical in most activists, honorable and necessary though it is, internal focus for the purposes of Self-Work, tends to be lacking in the majority of activists. This explains why there are social REVOLUTIONS (revolution = revolve = circular spin = going in circles) instead of social EVOLUTION, which transcends the violent, divisive, authoritarian paradigms which has enslaved humanity for centuries.
If activists integrated Self-Work as part of their transformative process, not only would they be more effective and healthier on all levels, but their impact on society would move beyond minor accommodations to a deeper paradigm shift. Due to this deficiency of Self-Work, many well-intentioned activists, swept away by their righteous anger in the “revolutionary mindset”, become just as aggressive and power-hungry as the tyrants they vehemently oppose. Violence is all too often met with violence as police brutality is met with rioting (an understandable yet self-defeating reaction), and “in-fighting” by activists against other well-intentioned activists exacerbates our challenges rather then allowing for a peaceful exchange of ideas. This hyper-aggression only serves to perpetuate violence which could otherwise be resolved with responsible self-awareness, compassion, critical thinking, and a broader perspective. This is the obstacle humanity has yet to overcome through Self-Work, and, as the saying goes, “When people do not learn their lessons, history repeats itself.”
There are many people speaking out about the atrocities and injustices of the world. Oftentimes activism comes with a lot of finger-pointing and hostility. Understandable. Who wouldn’t be upset? The problems of the world often seem insurmountable and sometimes the weight of life wears down even the best of us. As important as honoring our healthy boundaries and anger is, dwelling in anger causes us to miss out on the richness of higher understanding. It’s important to keep in mind that the moment we demonize or vilify those who disagree with us or do things differently, we commit an act of violence by severing an opportunity to learn and find loving empathy and compassion to resolve conflict. We cannot hold on to spite and vengeance, for the problems of the world are too enormous, and hostility, no matter how small, simply creates more violence. We must become more mindful, understanding, and conscious in our behavior if we are to ask others to do the same.
Time shows us that even in the most dark of circumstances, there is understanding and love to be found, within and without, for all things serve a purpose in objective reality. As difficult as it can be to come to terms with, all moments of life are like lessons in the school of Earth. It is rightfully natural to be angry, afraid, sad, and defensive, passively or aggressively, but for the sake of transformation and growth, we must not stop there.
Justice is neither avoidance or vengeance; it is taking responsibility by utilizing the opportunity to see things clearly through gaining knowledge, healing, and, ultimately, understanding and finding forgiveness by seeing the greater context, which ultimately leads to compassion. With communication comes new perspective. With new perspective comes new understanding. With understanding comes connection. With connection comes love. And in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
If we, as activists, ever want to realistically live in a world wherein people are well-educated, empathic, and responsible enough to be sovereign and easily resolve (or avoid altogether) social injustices, we must embody the very maturity and virtue we ask from others. We must strive to be a living example of the principles and ideals we uphold.