Double Double, Toil and Trouble: A Pump-up Letter to Activists

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Caring is hard work.

As all my activist and ally friends know, it can be depressing to open up a newspaper, watch TV, or generally absorb any media about the sorry state of our universe (yes, universe - I get sad reading intergalactic news as well). We forget how our small contributions affect people and make change in all of its local ways; we burn out and think we're not doing enough; we lie awake at nights agonizing about how the next event/protest/workshop will go and whether it will be acceptably radical enough. But, having finished reading Poe as of late, I believe that he has some choice words on this subject.

One of Poe's recurring themes (amidst all the senseless crime, terror, and unexplained torture) is material opulence. There are just a lot of rich people in Poe's writing. Weird rich people who commit murders and such (and no, this is not a commentary on how all rich people are psychopaths). In one of his milder stories, there is a man who inherits great fortune and yet doesn't donate to charity (which is a little too reminiscent of current times; go support that Robin Hood Tax if you feel me). As Poe puts it:

"In the possibility of any improvement, properly so called, being effected by man himself in the general condition of man, he had (I am sorry to confess) little faith."

"Little faith," I think, is a mass opinion that keeps us powerless unless we have inherited privilege. Activists, however, must always be people of great faith.

If you ever need a motto to pick you up, remember that you are of great faith. Faith in humanity, change, progress, or even just in a good day's work. You have belief enough to look around and say "how can I help?" when a situation looks dire rather than "how can I get out of here?" You have the desire to learn about tough situations even when they are gross, sad, frustrating or atrocious. And, most importantly, you do not give up and murder people as an easy out (Poe!)

Congratulations to all of you, and thank you again for your hard work.