Autonomy and the Flaw of Activism

I believe this one thing is the greatest fundamental driver of human behaviour. Every single person on the planet is either engaged in the intense pursuit of it, or in the unyielding defense of it. It’s theme is scattered throughout the documents that govern our politics, and in our greatest movie scripts. It is universally desired while almost as equally misunderstood.

It is our sense of autonomy. Or more commonly called freedom.

It is the essence of any great invention you’ve ever heard of. Facebook allowed us all the freedom to catch up with those old friends that otherwise we never would’ve heard from again. The VCR/DVD/Blu-ray gave us the freedom to have the movie experience without ever leaving our homes. The light bulb expanded our potential productive & leisure hours into the entire day. And the airplane gave us the freedom to go wherever we wanted on the entire planet.

It is always about freedom.

It’s why the world sprang into action when Trump got elected. There was/is this huge anxiety that many of the freedom’s we enjoy today are going to be taken away from us. And while the resulting overwhelming amount of activism has given me hope that the people can keep this government in check, it has also pointed out an enormous flaw within some of these movements.

There is this trending tactic of shaming people into becoming an activist for the cause that a particular person holds most dear. Like the BLM internet meme asking where all those Women’s March on Washington people were during their protests. Or when people who choose not to become politically active at all are told that their privilege is showing.

Being on the receiving end of shame definitely feels like an attack on who you are, and your sense of autonomy. The person shaming you is basically saying “Even though I truly have no idea about who you are, what you’ve been through, or what motivates you, you still have no right to behave this way.” If that doesn’t get your back up I don’t know what will.

However, please understand that this post is not a commentary on each movement as I am sure they are all just causes, but it takes all kinds of people to make this world go around. And to shame someone for not taking your approach to progress, requires the mistaken assumption that you, or anyone else for that matter, fully understands how progress happens.

There is merit in many approaches. I could form a human chain around the US embassy. Or I could simply make efforts to get along better with my neighbours and coworkers. Or maybe I could spend more time in meditation so I carry around less anxiety on daily basis. Everyone has their own way of impacting the world in a positive way that fits with who they are.

If you want to gain numbers for your particular cause you would have the greatest success by appealing to this sense of autonomy. To shame someone for not yet supporting your cause will definitely not encourage them to join you. You can never know why they aren’t down on the front lines protesting right beside you, but you can honour their right to do so. Because the front lines in the battle to protect our freedom are not down on the Washington mall, they are within our own minds.

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