Amidst all the Year in Reviews and New Years Resolutions and post Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus consumerism hangovers, I’m thinking a lot about the power of hope. The power of dreaming a better world. The power of dreaming and then doing something concrete to help bring about a better world. Direct service, political advocacy, and activism: we need a healthy combination of people involved in all three areas of civic engagement. And just because we might be drawn to one area (like direct service) and repelled by another (like in-your-face activism) doesn’t mean that they aren’t all equally as important.
Brought to you by the U.S. government (with the amusing tagline “Government made easy”) is the website page “Popular New Year’s Resolutions.” They list thirteen resolutions with the first being the all too familiar ‘lose weight’ and the second being ‘volunteer to help others.’ The ‘volunteer to help others’ links to the Tumblr blog for the Corporation of National and Community Service, the federal agency responsible for national service programs like AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps. Continuing with the hope-inspiring web-surfing, I discover Tublr’s Year in Review 2014/top blog posts and sites. Under ‘activism’ I find some terrific blogs, including Seattle-based Citizenship and Social Justice, CultureStr/ke (arts and activism around immigration), Pioneering Justice (photojournalism on human rights issues), and 100 Days of Activism. There are also some amusing blogs, such as Cats Can’t Be Vegan, Idiots.
Art and writing as activism. The living writer who best exemplifies what it means to dream a better world (and to write great literature about it) is science-fiction writer Ursula Le Guin. This year at the National Book Awards, Le Guin received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In her powerful acceptance speech (YouTube video of it here), she states:
“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom — poets, visionaries — realists of a larger reality”
For a good article related to her speech, read Bill Moyer’s article “Ursula Le Guin’s viral video: we will need writers who can remember freedom” 12-27-14. And for a link to the complete transcript/copy of her speech, Le Guin has it on her author website here.
Happy New Years. Resolve to dream (and write and create and serve and agitate) a better world.
A terrific training module/activity guide I use (in an adapted form) in my undergraduate community health course is the Bonner Foundation’s Bridging the Gap Between Service, Activism, and Politics.