Activism

Why the Progressive Movement Should Think Longer Term

A better future starts with your vision for the future—not tweeting or posting to Facebook or Instagram.

Photo Credit: Stephen Melkisethian/Flickr

Whenever the conversation turns to our country’s current situation and immediate future, people say we're screwed. I hear that over and over again. 

It’s like we’re on a mad train to Crazy Town, our government is the conductor and there’s not much we can do about it except vote Democrat. Or restrict freedom of speech. Or resist Trump. Or bully others into thinking the way we do.

#TheResistance!

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Except prominent Democrats don’t seem to be doing much resisting. And the rest of us? As political cartoonist Ted Rall writes:

“Actual resistance requires actual organization. It requires actual people getting off their actual butts into the actual streets every actual day... Revolution isn’t a dinner party and Resistance doesn’t spring up spontaneously like a weed in the crack between two slabs of sidewalk. We don’t have actual organizations ready, willing, or able to organize actual resistance; without those there can only be sporadic, unfocused political tantrums, like the Occupy and anti-WTO protests and the Women’s March, that fizzle out in the face of police brutality or the passage of time. We haven’t even begun to think about what a real resistance movement would look like, much less build one.”

Rall is right.

It seems oppression is moving faster than strategic organizers, and at this moment, few seem ready, willing or able to lead, or to follow, a tangible, real-world movement that makes the force of the people’s needs felt.

Friends, if all you’ve got is “Not Trump” or “Not a sexual predator,” you’re lacking the substance of meaning and vision. Social media can create a false sense of actually doing something. But tweeting isn’t resisting. Neither is posting to Facebook or Instagram. 

I’ve spoken with people in the real world who can talk for hours about what they are against, but when I ask them what they are for, they are unable to answer the question. Then they continue their list of things they are against, and what they are resisting.

So let’s start there: Off Facebook, in the real world, with all the stuff we are, together, against. Write it down. Do it now, please, before you finish reading this article. Seriously. Write down every single thing in the world that you are against.

Got it? You’ve made your list of everything you’re against, from Apple corrupting your iPhone, to nuclear war, racism, Trump, Harvey Weinstein, white supremacy, and xenophobia?

Cool. Now throw the list away. Burn it.

Yes. Burn it. Flush it. Whatever. Just get rid of it. All that resistance—that anger, that hate, that focus on what you are against, what you don’t want, gives all your energy away to what you don’t want.

So get rid of it. We don’t need any more of that garbage. You flushed it? Awesome.

Now, let’s envision the world we do want, and put our energy into that.

Think for a moment about the future—the future you want for your community, your country and the world. Not Trump’s future, not the dystopian future of Hollywood, not the Fox News future, and not a Sharia law or fundamentalist Christian future.

Imagine, for a moment, the future you want. What does it look like? What’s good about it? What are your grandchildren enjoying? What are they delighting in? What are you delighting in? What does your community look like? What does your environment look like? What are you eating? What are you creating? What are you contributing to your community? To your family? To your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and their children? What does it feel like?

We’ve become so programmed to accept a dystopian, diseased, disconnected, dehumanized future that envisioning a free, healthy, vibrant, peaceful, soulfully connected and verdant future is a challenge. But it is possible. And if it’s possible, we can choose each day to take steps and actions that move us closer to a peaceful, healthy vision.

It starts with right now: Have a clear vision of what you want for the future, and let that vision guide your actions today.

That might mean less time on social media and more time connecting in the real world with others. It might mean learning more about your community, your environment, your neighbors, and taking actions to help them. It might mean learning new skills. It might mean a myriad of new things for you and your family. What should you do today to help achieve your vision for the future?

Having a constructive vision for the future that you move toward every day can empower you, giving you a sense of control over your present. It might just change the course of future events, bending the arc of the moral universe into a just and peaceful world you can have a hand in creating.

That’s where a better future starts. Not on Facebook, not at a protest, not in the comments section. It starts with your vision for the future, and the actions you take to make it happen.

What can you do, today, to help create a better future for yourself, your family, your community and the world?

It’s so simple, and yet it is so much harder than being angry, than tweeting or retweeting or liking or posting or commenting. Envisioning a different world is supremely difficult—and taking the steps to create it is even more difficult. Yet that is the only way forward, for each of us. As Eugene Debs said, “I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.”

So take the time. Imagine a better world. Practice that vision. Invest your energy daily in what you want for the future. After all, you are already changing the world every day. Try purposefully changing it for the better, with your vision and your actions, and let’s see what happens.

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Valerie Vande Panne is an Independent Media Institute writing fellow who contributes to Columbia Journalism Review and Reuters news service, among other outlets. She is the former editor-in-chief of Detroit's alt-weekly, the Metro Times, and the former news editor of High Times magazine. She is the founder of Blackbird Literacy, an organization providing books to residents and literacy programs in Detroit. Connect with her on Twitter @asktheduchess.