Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Dave Pollard: It’s Our Turn to Eat: Why Activism Is So Important

Guest-blogging over at The Oil Drum, author Dave Pollard (Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work) looks at the reasons people become so easily discouraged from personal and political activism—and why political activism has always been an absolutely crucial driving force in enacting social justice throughout history. Real change comes with struggle, and if something is easy to do, it’s probably not worth doing.

There’s a new book out about government corruption in Kenya called It’s Our Turn to Eat. The title refers to the appeal of each elected government to its own tribal supporters that they have to seize power and gorge themselves quickly because after the next election some other tribe will be in power and they too will look after ‘their own’. The twist is that the elite in Kenya, across all tribal groups, exploits this tribal animosity and fear to distract the electorate from the fact that, whoever is in power, the elite still pull the strings, pay off the politicians, and hoard the resulting wealth. The objective is to subjugate and discourage the people, because that allows the elite to continue to rule unopposed. Then it all becomes a game of perpetuating power and wealth — stealing elections, ever-increasing disparity, police state laws, bribes, pork, subsidies and payoffs, propaganda, intimidation, media control, divide and conquer, and massive corruption. US 2000, Kenya or Iran 2009, it doesn’t matter. To think that this is a struggling-nation problem only is pure conceit. Thanks to distance, size, and scale, the benign inclinations of human nature are coopted, perverted and corrupted. Everything that works at a community level fails at the level of corporation and nation. We have shown, all over the world, again and again, that once we reach a certain size we become depraved, ungovernable.

The role of the activist is to act as a counterbalance to this perversion, to speak truth to power, to bridge the distance, to hold those who are irresponsible and unaccountable, responsible and accountable. To intervene. To break down what is already broken. To enable what the people really want to be realized, despite everything. A step forward for every step back. A holding action. [. . .]

All of us must be activists, if we are to give this world a fighting chance.

What should you do? Picking your cause is just like picking the work you’re meant to do, as I explain in my book Finding the Sweet Spot. This is not work for the half-hearted or easily-discouraged. So, just as in choosing the paying work that gives your life meaning, you need to identify and choose a cause that’s in your ‘sweet spot’ — something you love doing, and that you’re good at, and that is needed in the world, and that you care about. If you are no good at it you’ll get discouraged or burned out. If you don’t love the cause, you’ll end up disengaged. If it’s not really needed, if the world’s not ready for it, you’ll be unappreciated and frustrated.

To find this, you must learn something about yourself, and then do some research about the world, about what’s really going on, about the points of intervention that will allow you to make a difference. There are a few ideas in the brown box in the top chart above, but it’s only a tiny segment of the work that needs to be done. Whether your cause is health or corruption or energy or pollution or water or food or conservation or animal welfare or urban despair or suburban sprawl or power or inequity, the process is the same: Find partners, a community of people who share your purpose and your cause and whose work and strengths complement your own, so that you get to do what you love and are good at and so that the sum of the team’s work is greater than its parts.

Next, you need to be for something, not just against something. Always fighting against, as important as that work is, will drain your energy unless you also have a vision of a better way, something to replace what you’re battling. So you need to be not only an informed warrier but also an innovator, an entrepreneur, a visionary.

And you need to be prepared to search insatiably and undogmatically for the truth, because ultimately that is your most powerful, and sometimes your only, weapon. Without it, your belief and passion are not enough.

Read the whole article here.

Related Articles:

Q&A with Kate Raworth about her radical new book, DOUGHNUT ECONOMICS

Q: First things first: Why did you want to write this book? A: I studied economics at university 25 years ago because I wanted to make a difference in the world and believed that economics – the mother tongue of public policy – would best equip me to do that. Instead, its theories left me […] Read More

Slack and Taut: Defining a System’s Resilience

A resilient future (or a resilient present, for that matter) needs to be slack, not taut. What do we mean? Core to the concept of a Lean Economy is understanding the need to move toward a “slack” market rather than one that is “taut.” When British economist David Fleming died unexpectedly in 2010, he left […] Read More

Prehistory of the Next American Revolution

What now? A new Revolution? If we are to counter the dangers both of corporate domination and of traditional forms of socialist statism, decentralization is essential—both of economic institutions and of political structure. We are at a point in our nation’s history that could, decades from now, be taught as the prehistory of the next […] Read More

The Seven-Point Protocol for a Lean Economy

In the future, what will our local economies look like? How will they function if there is little, to no, state or national support? The late David Fleming envisioned a post-capitalistic society that we could call “deep local” — in which all needs are met at the local level — from income to social capital […] Read More

The Six Vital Capitals of the Future

There is an increasing demand on businesses and governments to evaluate their impacts on multiple forms of capital – natural, social, and economic— and this book explains how they can make it happen. The MultiCapital Scorecard’s open-source methodology has been endorsed by the United Nations Environment Program, and it has been shown to help public […] Read More