30 Days, Day 10: Taking Action

One of the common things that I see on Neopagan mailing lists and in Neopagan circles is a call for energy where someone asks for energy either on their own or someone else’s behalf. We see similar things in people calling out to sign this [internet] petition to show your support, or to wear a color in solidarity. We see this sort of thing regularly with events such as Earth Day, Spirit Day, and the like.

Functionally, these all boil down to the same thing: A remote show of support, generally in an indirect manner.

I don’t have a particular problem with these activities so long as they are kept in perspective. They are a mechanism for the participants to feel like they are doing something in a tragedy where they feel helpless, and they are a mechanism by which those on the receiving end can see that there is support out there. The best of these situations is when the person or people who are the target are the ones asking for help: Asking for prayers/energy for yourself, for example. Ultimately, both of these are valuable results, the problem that I have is that they frequently are not enough by themselves, and it feels like people participate in them as a way to feel good about themselves without doing something more directly impacting.

So people send energy to Haiti instead of donating to relief organizations. They sign internet petitions and send energy to residents of New Orleans after Katrina or the recent oil spill instead of donating time or money or writing their Congressional representative or the President.

There is certainly nothing wrong with signing those petitions or joining such campaigns, keeping people in your prayers, or sending energy. Sometimes, a show of solidarity or a reminder to yourself is all you really can do. Most of the time, however, that’s only where things start. As the old joke goes: Pray to God and row for shore. Doing the latter doesn’t mean you just forget the former, necessarily, but you can’t get away with just doing the former either unless that really is all you can realistically do.

So in matters of environmentalism it isn’t enough just to buy things with a green label: seriously evaluate your buying habits, your travel/driving habits, and what you are realistically doing to help the environment. If you replace every bulb in your house with CFLs, great, are you properly disposing of them after they burn out and are you turning them off when they aren’t needed? Do you buy local and/or organic? Do you need to drive as much as you do? Are you recycling–or at least properly disposing of–your electronics? You don’t have to do everything possible (becoming a hermit is more than most are willing to do), but mindfully evaluate what you are doing and what you are realistically able and willing do.

Want to help restore the Gulf coast? Go ahead and sign the Be The One petition. It’s a great idea and maybe enough signatures will get someone to take notice. Keep the fishermen in your prayers and send energy as you will. But don’t stop there. Volunteer time or donate money to one of the various organizations that are helping out if you can and write your Congressional representative or write a letter to the President.

Want to help stop bullying and discrimination? Go ahead and wear purple on October 20th or sign with the It Gets Better Project, but remember to stop it when you see it as well and consider writing letters to emphasize the importance of it to your children’s school, to your local government, or to your Congressional representative. Donate to organizations dedicated to stopping suicide. Start a Stop Bullying Now! campaign. Let’s start treating bullying as a national concern rather than as an afterthought or something that is just part of childhood or something that builds character.

None of this is meant to discourage people from showing support. Showing up at rallies, showing solidarity, etc can be beneficial for our own mental state when we feel that it is all we can do, and I smile (as a Hurricane Katrina survivor) when I see t-shirts that say Make Levees, Not War.

Just don’t let it stop there.

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