“I can’t really change anything, anyways!”
Whenever a conversation touches upon the point – or lack thereof – of political activism, this sentence is sure to come up. Well, whoever utters it certainly takes the easy route.
After all, if you can’t make any difference whatsoever, there’s no point in even trying, right? But the thing is, we have reached a point where we absolutely do not have the luxury of remaining passive anymore. History as well as the present teach us that individuals can make a world of a difference. Greta Thunberg is just one example, a girl who sparked an entire movement. A single human being can be the cause of a societal avalanche. But real, lasting change is only possible if it is backed by a large group of people. Together we are strong.
In short, we MUST act. But how?
What options do I have to make a difference, small or big, in order to contribute to creating a better society? How do I overcome the resistance of taking the first step towards politics? In this post, I show you 7 ways to sharpen your political conscience and to integrate politics into your life. Please feel free to post comments if you have more ideas or recommendations!
The easiest way to actively partake in the democratic process is to cast a vote. Whether it’s a natiional parliamentary election or an EU vote, we should consider the trip to the ballot box our duty as citizens. Not casting a vote means giving radical forces more room on the table. Voting is the least we can do to support our democracy. The next opportunity in Germany is in about two weeks time, and I’ll write a text about it next week, but if you’re uncertain try Wahl-O-Mat or the app Voteswiper. Both provide you with a pretty good indication of which parties represent your personal values.
My recommendation: anything but right wing, ideally pro environment.
Join a party
In order to really become active on the political stage, in order to help shape the actual processes from the inside, it is best to join a party. It doesn’t necessarily need to be one of the big parties either, you could also invest your idealism and energy into helping to build smaller movements. That said, it is not realistic that you’ll find a party which is 100% aligned with your world-view and values – and the bigger the party the less likely you’ll fully agree with every aspect of the party line*. If you decide to join a party, you should be up for discussions, for the process of conviction, and you should also be able and willing to accept the occasional compromise. But that’s exactly what shapes the process of real-life politics. *This is another topic I’m planning to write on more extensively next week.
Take to the streets
Some issues are so crucial that it is important to raise immediate awareness in support of them together with others who support the same cause. This, in fact, is the nature of protest marches. They are a way to transport hot-button issues from cyperspace into the real world. We should make use of this tool instead of leaving it entirely to radical forces. Never underestimate the power and dynamism that can be created in a large group of people! The “Fridays for Future” movement is a great and timely example, and following weeks of massive public protest the environment is now back on the agenda. Want to support a cause by joining a march? The newsletter of Tagesspiegel includes a list of marches scheduled all over Berlin.
My recommendation: the “Fridays for Future” marches every Friday are for grown-ups as well as teenagers, and it’s always a great and welcome move to stand up for equal rights on women’s day.
Apart from pro bono work, there’s always the direct option of supporting individuals, media, associations and movements with money, to help them keep up their important work. We live in a country with many liberties, but at the end of the day we all need to pay our rent and make a living. If you can afford it, you should definitely consider financially supporting a cause you believe in. There are many brave people out there who could use a little bit of financial support to further their ideas and visions.
Utilize the forces of the market
If there’s one language that politicians understand than it’s that of the market. Our daily choices give us the power to communicate. It is in our hands to opt for less meat, sustainably sourced products and products made and traded fairly. It’s up to us to buy a yearly public transport ticket instead of a car. We can fly less and take the train more often. And our power is by no means limited to our decisions as consumers: as employees, we may be able to choose to work for a fair employer, and as entrepreneurs we can live up to our responsibilities and set our enterprises on sustainable courses. The decisions we make on a daily basis make a world of a difference.
My recommendation: Einhorn condoms are really delivering in this respect, in a great many ways, and so do companies like Dr. Hauschka, Stop the Water and Armed Angels. Let me know in the comments which companies you feel deserve support!
Talking about politics on the internet, the concept of filter-bubbles is a central one. With that in mind, we often act like the politics that plays out online has no effect on politics in real life. That’s actually not entirely accurate. True, exchanging opinions and entering discussions online among like-minded users may not be a political activity per se. But it is an effective first step towards reaching a much bigger group of people, with the potential consequence of inspiring thoughts and action in them further down the line. A large part of political campaigning and societal discourse now takes place online, news of scandals and abuse often reach us through social media, sometimes prompting us to sign petitions and to take a stand. Publicly voicing your opinion is more difficult than ever before. And we don’t even have to put our convictions into words, it is often enough to simply share messages, thus helping to spread them. The “sharing” function on social media is underrated. By sharing content, you signal support, and this support can be crucial for the success of a mission – and I speak from personal experience here. Apart from everything else, you simply help an idea to grow. So don’t be shy to share posts and other content, and help spread messages you believe in in the world.
My recommendation: Luisa Neubauer, Greta Thunberg , and I’ll also go for some self-advertising here – I posted a Q&A regarding the EU election here, with the aim to draw attention to this important election in a playful way. You find the empty template, created in cooperation with ProjectTogether, in my story or right here as a direct download. Feel free to share it :)
There’s a lot you can do in your immediate circle. Discuss subjects that move you with your friends and family, let them know how you feel about certain issues, and give political topics room in your daily life. If you manage to ignite a spark of passion for politics in a friend, or if you manage to convince a family member to reconsider a questionable conviction, you have already achieved a great deal!