It has been made pretty clear over the last decade that activism is making a very prominent comeback in American society.
As it was a prominent means of expressing dissatisfaction with the political landscape in the 1960s and 1970s, I guess we could say that what is retro is now becoming trendy. Marches in various cities to protest or speak out in support of some group of victims or oppressed individuals has been a hallmark of American life (consider how the Revolutionary War started – by people who felt “oppressed” by the King), and now with our population perhaps even more splintered into varying factions of grievance, the activism has been more apparent and more specialized than ever before.
But the word activism or activist has come to mean only those who protest in the streets when actually there are many ways that we can be activists. Activism, as it is described denotatively, is about taking an opinion or stance and being active in expressing that opinion or rallying others to your side – virtually anything more than just voting in an election. Here are 12 types of activism that most of us do when we care passionately about a cause or issue.
- Pro bono – This is known as volunteerism, where we spend our time working for free for our favorite political party, political candidate, charity, non-profit or other organization because we believe in the mission or platform.
- Grow grass – This is activism that can be called “grassroots,” where a person gathers like-minded people together with a unifying message and gets them all doing the same things for the same cause. Also called “community organizing.” For better or worse.
- Written word – Write articles for major blog sites, write letters to the editor and/or letters to elected representatives expressing your support for either side of an issue or piece of legislation that matters to you.
- Handshake – This is called direct lobbying, where you get a meeting with an elected official and discussed your most important issue(s) with him or her on a personal, one-to-one basis.
- Holding court – O f course, there is always litigation, taking someone to court to draw attention to your cause.
- Money walks – If you don’t like what a company is doing, execute a boycott and don’t spend money at that establishment until the policy changes. (Think about Target and what happened there since implementing a policy allowing men and women to use the same bathroom.)
- Money talks – This can be called “purchasing ordinance,” where a government agency or legislative body is led to impose heavy regulatory burdens with the intent of crippling or shutting down a business or industry. (Think about the damage to the coal industry by federal regulations, and perhaps why there are few casinos in America.)
- Ethos – Is a company acting ethically in a way that you like and want to support? Invest in that company, and divest yourself of any companies that do not act ethically. Ethical investing can make a huge impact on bottom lines.
- Chokepoint – A country is going rogue and doing things that challenge national security? Impose economic sanctions, either against the general economy of that country, or targeted sanctions against political and/or military leadership and other key officials.
- March – Ah, the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble in full display. The key word is “peaceably.” Grab signs and banners and take a walk down a sidewalk or street, expressing your support or protest.
- Resist – This can be a march, but it’s mainly some level of civil disobedience, such as a sit-in in front or inside of a business, disrupting business; or it can be blocking traffic by sitting in front of trucks or cars, or marching in a public park without a permit.
- Chaos – This is the ultimate of lawlessness, also called rioting. This is about confronting police, destroying property and acting in a way that goes against all standards of maturity, decency, and civility, not to mention discourse. But it does get your cause on television, so there’s that.
With all these ways to be an activist, you can pick a cause and find the “right” way to take action (or multiple ways) so that your stance gets across in the most impactful way to as many people as possible who need to hear your message. Numbers bring change, so your name will create a bigger number.