Tuesday, June 19, 2012
40 Pieces of the Happiness Puzzle - Part 8
Being happy is a state of being most of us want to experience, though not everyone is skilled at reaching and prolonging this state. There are a range of ways to experience feelings of happiness, with certain methods being better for some than others.
This is the 7th post in a series of 40 on the techniques you can employ to experience and prolong the feeling of happiness. The first post was on Sensory Hedonism, followed by Achievable Challenges, Serving Others, Expertise, Fake it Till You Make It, Stay Busy, and Aligned Integrity.
#8: Constructive Activism
Taking up a cause, finding something to believe in that you're prepared to champion, or joining a charity are all ways to take positive action, from which many people derive immense happiness and satisfaction.
It's up to you whether you choose to "fight" against something (i.e., corruption) or "support" something (i.e., women's rights).
Activism, taken to the extreme (like anything), results in chaos and tragedy, which is why protests, even peaceful ones, conjure up images of crazed youths attacking the police - or visa versa - or crowds indulging in scary social disorder and criminal acts. This does not need to be the case. Staying lawful and keeping passions in check can keep you (and your friends) out of jail.
Those who engage in destructive activism are often too angry and emotionally aroused to be really happy. However, people who engage in positive, constructive activism of some kind find happiness in the sense of achievement they gain when they make even a small difference for the better, particularly on behalf of those who they think deserve and need their help.
Overcoming the challenges created by outdated systems and processes allows for direct participation in growing our civilization.
The systems we have today were created to support society, though many are now antiquated and in need of reform. Remembering that we are the recipients of these systems is good counsel as we collectively work toward evolving outdated systems into more relevant ones.
At some point, future generations will no doubt protest the changes (later dubbed: outdated systems) that we're making today "in the name of change".
Every day the word changes and with it the need for adjustments to support these new changes. If we're led by a vision for a better future for all the world's citizens, then that awareness, which brings about passion for change with a sense of responsibility to take action, can lead to much good.
Being realistic about your own needs, being persistent, and reading books on the subject matter can help you understand what type of activist you want to be. For example, you can be a radical activist or a reformer activist. The radical activist is something who needs to push for fundamental change by using protests, boycotts, alternative summits, etc., and generally tends to be wary of those people who sit in the institutions they want changed.
A reformist is someone who is happy to work with those institutions they'd like to see changed, using tools of democracy to work within the existing structure to encourage social or political progress.
Sometimes you have to go right to the "belly of the beast" as they say to posit the changes that are needed. As such, having detailed knowledge of the institution and how it works, as well as ideas on execution strategies for deploying a smooth transition, can help you partner with the necessary "powers that be" to reach your goal much quicker.
Also, knowing your own role and what you bring to the table as an individual - besides a loud, boisterous criticism (anyone can complain, that's easy) - is important if you really want change. Some people just want to complain and be heard, for which there is now Facebook.
Most causes already have some action going on at the local, regional, national, or international level. Find out what exists, and again, know where you fit in. There's no need to reinvent the wheel or confuse things with fragmented activism, this usually results in derailing the very change you're trying to procure. It's important to be organized and know from the beginning your goals and role.
At this point, it's time to learn how to message effectively. Telling people who are already stressed and overworked that they're making mistakes isn't an effective communication strategy. This kind of communication is bound to make the very people who are in a position to make changes reject the change due to the packaging of the message. This leads people to think that "they" don't want change, rather than recognizing their own role in slowing it down.
Let's get real, most of the people who work in these institutions are simply people like ourselves who bought into the American dream, went to college, worked to get themselves into the political sciences, and kissed a lot of you-know-what in the process until they finally landed their "dream" job. When someone threatens that, they're within their right to fight back. This solves nothing and we all lose.
In a nutshell, if you or people you know, are not being treated fairly, take educated action, learn what's going on, and use discretion and diplomacy to endear those who are in a power to help change the systems and processes to you and your cause.
Making the world a better place for everyone, rather than a small majority, should be our collective goal. Tearing down institutions designed by the people for the people isn't the best strategy for true change, whereas working together is...