Friday, July 27, 2018

How To Become A Better Revolutionary

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Activist circles often involve infighting, abuse, and other toxic behaviors because as activists, we’ve all taken on the political role as the mythological hero. As the hero goes on their mission to do good in the world, they need to decide which people to pick as allies and which people to cut themselves off from, they need to keep their ego on check, and they need to figure out how to fight for good without inadvertently doing damage. It’s endlessly complicated, and it’s too much for a lot of people to handle.

In many cases, it’s definitely been too much for me to manage perfectly. But I’ve been able to learn from my experiences in activism, and I think others can benefit from these resulting pieces of advice.
Direct your anger where it matters most
Throughout much of last year, I had a habit of writing about the onslaught of virulently pro-establishment Democrat comments that could often be found throughout online threads. I was a bit fixated in that moment; the toxicity of the online environment was overwhelming to me, and the hostile political agenda of the online commenters I was clashing with made me habitually upset.
After I managed to stop focusing on that issue and started consistently covering things like warneoliberalism, and government propaganda, I discovered that my online foes had largely consisted of artificial accounts which were created with the aim of antagonizing people like me. David Brock’s Correct the Record troll farm has continued since the 2016 election, and it’s still paying people to disrupt online forums with recycled DNC talking points from the 2016 Democratic primary. I’d not only forgotten the important internet rule that you shouldn’t get too worked up about what happens in online threads, but I’d fallen for the Brock troll operation’s manipulation tactics.
It’s easy to become obsessed in this way with fighting something that doesn’t really effect the world. Activists often fall into this pattern because when you’re trying to fight against the world’s evil at every opportunity, less significant troubles can seem as important as the bigger things. So we get caught up in the minor battles, often in ways that end up hurting our own cause and doing damage to our emotional health.
At that time last year, if I’d stopped to weigh how much my online experiences mattered next to issues like record wealth inequality and impending climate catastrophe, I would have directed my anger in an infinitely better way. Others could also benefit greatly from carefully choosing which fights to put their time and energy into.
Build up your comrades
Often on my social media timeline, I see activists getting involved in angry feuds with each other. Confrontations like these are no doubt legitimate and necessary when someone has engaged in abusive behavior that should be called out. But as always happens within political movements, activists often attack each other only because they aren’t on the exact same ideological wavelength.
People can make their own judgements about when it’s worth breaking ties with others. But in my experience, it’s wise to think twice before cutting off a potential ally; if you think they’re wrong about an issue, talking to them may change their views. And in a lot of cases, people who disagree about certain issues can effortlessly unite around the common cause of creating a better world. “[Not] everyone who has done a lot of inner work will necessarily share the same ideology,” recently wrote the political blogger Caitlin Johnstone. “I often feel like I have more in common with someone on the other end of the political spectrum who has engaged extensively in self-discovery than I have with a fellow socialist who has not.”
So always try to find common ground up your fellow revolutionaries, and to encourage them along the way. It not only helps our cause, but it ultimately puts humanity in a better place.
Emphasize the thing you’re working towards
The best way to keep yourself motivated and happy as you do your activist work is to always emphasize the goals you’re working towards. The battles of activism can divert our attention towards only focusing on the negative, which is a mindset that always exhausts and hollows out a person. It also takes us further away from the better future that we’re trying to create; if you aren’t thinking of the outcome you want, you’ll only be reacting to the bad while neglecting to build up the good.
I keep myself in a more productive state of mind by always trying to visualize the outcome that I’m hoping my efforts will create: a world where poverty and war no longer exist, where human beings coexist with the ecosystem, and where people can speak and access information freely. I’ve gotten fairly good at avoiding the many pitfalls of activism by using this in decision-making; when I consider whether an action will help bring things closer to my vision, or if it’s only a waste of my time, I can avoid the counterproductive activities and get back to working on what has impact.
As Johnstone also observed in the piece I quoted above, “[there are] so many well-intentioned people who want to help, and are so crazed by mass media psyops and cultural mind viruses that their energy seemingly goes everywhere but where it needs to.” All it might take for all of these people to break out of their counterproductive patterns is some brief reflection about which actions will do the most good for the world. I’ve engaged in this self-questioning to a large extent, and I hope others do the same.

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