Being actively involved in democracy, engaging with our government and policy-makers on a daily basis can be a furiously frustrating process. The challenges you are taking on are so dangerous and important and serious that almost everything you do can end up feeling ineffectual, inconsequential, small. You want to take action that matches your outrage, or your fear – and the genuinely impactful action that’s available to you frequently just doesn’t seem equal to it.
The lack of emotional reward for the work that’s most effective at helping an individual pull the levers of power is a serious problem for staying motivated, and I don’t really know how to fix that.
One thing I do think is important to bear in mind when it gets hard is that just because it’s not emotionally rewarding in and of itself doesn’t mean it’s not working. The feedback you get from advocacy is almost never immediate. You build to it.
The feedback you get from advocacy is almost never immediate. You build to it.
Winning an election, winning a policy change, winning over a population to your point of view – it’s like throwing sticks in a rushing river. If you just toss in yours, the water carries it away and seconds later it’s like nothing ever happened, like you didn’t do anything at all.
But if you throw in yours, and I throw in mine, and your friend from high school who follows your Facebook feed throws in hers, and your neighbor who hasn’t been paying much attention to politics but who has been asking you more questions throws in his, and that swing state infrequent voter whose door you knocked on throws in theirs, and that frequent voter who never volunteered for anything before you phonebanked them throws in theirs, and we all do that day after day after day after day after day after day… somewhere, downriver, the sticks start to pile together, and a dam forms. And the water which absorbed them with barely a ripple when you threw them in is stopped as surely and as sharply as if you turned off a faucet.
It’s time-consuming. It’s draining. It’s often unclear whether it’s actually working, and oftentimes it’s not. But if everyone keeps doing their own little piece of it, eventually the sticks will add up.
This guest post is brought to you by Joe Katz, an activist ally and all around awesome human being. Thanks for sharing, Joe!